Need a weekend chill pill? think Colombo. Sri Lanka’s capital with its laid-back vibe, dining and retail hotspots is just two hours away from Mumbai. It’s easy to cover good ground in 24 hours in Colombo and our list is a great place to start.
1:30 pm / Land in style in Vistara’s premium cabins: Colombo marks the fourth destination in Vistara’s global footprint. It’s the only private carrier that offers Business and Premium Economy cabins out of India. With flights six days a week from Mumbai (except Wednesdays), Vistara’s Business cabin offers multiple meal and beverage options aside from Lounge access before you board. You can sample Vistara Blue, the airline’s signature cocktail crafted with White Rum and Blue Curaçao. You get a choice of wines and meals even in the Premium Economy Cabin aside from the extra leg room and boarding privileges. You’re also among the first out of the flight once you touchdown and head to your first stop in Colombo.
2:30 pm / Lunch at Dutch Burgher Union: Burgher translates to ‘citizen’ in Dutch, this term was used to distinguish the Dutch from a group of people with mixed Sri Lankan and Dutch descent. The Dutch ousted the Portuguese from Colombo in the 17th Century and stayed until the British occupied the island. The Dutch Burgher Union is a colonial era social club set up by the Burghers and is one of Colombo’s quaintest heritage buildings. While the top floor is members only, you can access the ground level and the atmospheric garden area for lunch or dinner. Most regulars come here to dig into lamprais, a Burgher specialty cooked with mixed meat and rice and wrapped in a banana leaf.
4:00 pm / Retail therapy at One Galle Face: located along the city’s most famous beach promenade, Colombo’s glitziest mall debuted in November. It’s home to the country’s most celebrated retail destination – Odel. The perfect spot to pick up Sri Lankan souvenirs or tea. Aside from luxury brands – the Diesel store is worth checking out, One Galle Face also offers an array of culinary diversions including the Michelin-starred Crystal Jade Kitchen.
5:30 pm / Sundowners at Vistas Bar: Colombo’s Mövenpick hotel is one of the city’s finest hotels. We’re partial to the hotel’s large junior suites, among the best appointed in Colombo. Once you’ve checked in head straight to Vistas, the hotel’s 24th floor rooftop bar with panoramic views of the city and the ocean. Sunsets are extra special in Colombo, you can also head to the Shangri-La or Ce La Vi, the rooftop Asian lounge at the Kingsbury Hotel for that perfect Instagram shot that needs no filters.
7:00 pm / Dinner at Ministry of Crab: Mumbai might have its own MOC but this is where it all began, about seven years ago. To call this a seafood specialty restaurant might be an understatement. It’s promoted by two of the country’s most accomplished batsmen – Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene but it’s Dharshan Munidasa who’s put this restaurant on a strong wicket. He’s half Japanese and Sri Lanka’s most celebrated chef. I’d recommend the Garlic Chilli crab that finds the balance between fragrant Italian Olive Oil, Sri Lankan chilli flakes and Japanese Soy.
9:00 pm / Post dinner drinks and dessert at Park Street Mews: this hip F&B strip might transport you momentarily to a European capital. Hidden in a cul-de-sac with cobbled floors and fairy lights, this was once a warehouse district. Today its home to some of the trendiest restaurants and and bars in Colombo. Kuraku, an authentic Japanese eatery and the casual Italian diner – Park Street Trattoria, are some of the popular spots here.
8:00 am / Sri Lankan breakfast at the Mövenpick: from delicate hoppers and string hoppers that are paired with spicy chutneys like the Pol Sambol and the Sreeni Sambol to flavoursome curries including the popular dal curry, the Mövenpick offers one of the best traditional Sri Lankan breakfasts in town.
9:00 am / Heritage walk around the Fort Area: Mark Forbes is an accomplished photographer and historian, his walking tours are a big draw. There are hardly remnants of the Portuguese period that began with the construction of a fort in 1517. There’s no fort now, but it has lent its name to Colombo’s oldest district. The Dutch ejected the Portuguese from Colombo in 1639 and stayed until 1815. One of the highlights is the Dutch Hospital Precinct; back in the 17th Century, this tiled structure with a large courtyard was a lifeline for the occupying Dutch forces. Now it’s a painstakingly restored dining and retail hotspot. The Fort area is a treasure trove of British colonial architecture. From the original Post office (GPO) built in Renaissance style in 1896, to the famous clock tower that dates back to 1856, the Fort Area is full of architectural treasures. It’s why this area was used as the backdrop for 1960s Bombay for Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet. There’s also the Grand Oriental Hotel, a shadow of its formal self, with a bar that still offers sweeping views of the Colombo port, once among Asia’s busiest. Make time for a quick G&T, a ritual for British sailors in the past.
10:30 am / One for the road: stop at the T-Lounge at One Galle Face before you head to the airport. Dilmah’s brand new lounge and tea bar offers a selection of specialty teas and tea-inspired drinks aside from café favourites. You can also opt for a stronger fix, try one of their interesting tea-infused cocktails; the perfect end to a frenetic 24-hours in Colombo. But the thing with Colombo is you can always find your zen moment or chill zone in the middle of a rushed trip. For me it was a magical Colombo sunset.