Sri Lanka’s buzzing, bustling commercial capital is too often overlooked by travellers eager to hit the golden sands of the south coast, the lush greenery of the Hill Country and the ancient ruins of the Cultural Triangle.
Yet any attempt to unpick the complexities of the teardrop isle ought, in our opinion, to include a sojourn in the city – not least because it’s home to a burgeoning arts scene, a growing collection of chic eateries and a whole host of hip spots to shop.
Whether you’re keen to soak up some culture, taste fabulous food or indulge in some tropical retail therapy, Colombo is well worth a visit. Need a place to lay your head? Here are some of the city’s hotel highlights.
Paradise Road Tintagel
Chic sophistication in a heritage mansion
From £78 a night | Check availability here
Previously home to one of Sri Lanka’s leading political dynasties, Tintagel has since been transformed into an opulent, ten-room boutique residence. Boasting big four-poster beds, antique furnishings and the striking monochrome design which characterises the Paradise Road brand, this stately property is one of the city’s finest hotels.
Slick grown-up decor and an enviable location in the city’s most exclusive neighbourhood – Cinnamon Gardens – make Tintagel especially attractive to corporate travellers and couples keen for an intimate luxury experience.
Work up a sweat at the gym, take a dip in the pool and unwind at the on-site spa. Expect excellent service, brilliant breakfasts on the courtyard terrace and terrific cocktails in the romantic Red Bar.
The island’s first female Prime Minister and first female President once lived here, while The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall were guests of the hotel in 2013 – so you’ll be in great historic company.
The Galle Face Hotel
The timeless style of an iconic Colombo landmark
From £75 a night | Check availability here
Hands-down Colombo’s most famous hotel, the red-roofed Galle Face has stood alongside the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean since 1864 – making it one of the oldest hotels east of the Suez. 158 rooms, along with beautiful ballrooms, restaurants and bars, lie behind its majestic cream facade. Illustrious former guests include Prince Philip, Mahatma Gandhi and Che Guevara, amongst an impressive list of others.
Overlooking Galle Face Green, a promenade popular with local families for kite-flying, impromptu cricket matches and deliciously spicy street food, the hotel is ideally located for early morning or evening rambles.
The bars and eateries of Colombo Fort are within walking distance and the markets of Pettah just a short ride away, along with many of the city’s sights – from Viharamahadevi Park to Gangarama Temple.
Take a dip in the saltwater pool, sip a cocktail at trendy King of the Mambo and catch the lowering of the flag to the sound of bagpipes each evening. Infused with old-world charm, The Galle Face is a grand place from which to explore the city.
Modern luxe in a family-run haven
From £40 a night | Check availability here
Set on a leafy residential street in a trendy part of the city, Villa Raha’s six suites promise contemporary cool with all the friendliness of a family property. Highlights include a small central pool, a verdant outdoor terrace and a superb courtyard café, perfect for a tropical brunch or tasty afternoon tea.
Chic rooms are decorated in stylish, soothing tones, with big rain showers, cosy beds and Netflix subscriptions for surviving late-night jet-lag.
Poised within ambling distance of Galle Road – home to a whole host of hole-in-the-wall restaurants, saree shops and snack outlets – to one side and the chic cafés and boutiques of Colombo 5 on the other, Villa Raha is perfectly positioned to offer an unrivalled insight into this multi-faceted city.
Step into iridescent Hindu kovils and white-painted Buddhist pagodas before hopping in a three-wheeler to Fort, Pettah and Cinnamon Gardens. The in-house team are a treasure trove of local know-how – ask them to point you in the right direction to make the most of your stay.
Boho chill for yoga & wellness lovers
From £64 a night | Check availability here
With five generously sized, recently refurbished rooms tucked above a yoga studio and holistic centre, bohemian travellers need look no further for the perfect place to snooze in the city.
A century-old villa in the heart of sought-after Cinnamon Gardens, this spot has retained much of its original charm, including striking latticework above doorways and smooth wooden floorboards.
Beautiful decor abounds, with lovely antique furnishings and pops of colourful texture. Nab a room with a free-standing tub for the ultimate in bathroom bliss.
Yoga and meditation classes take place throughout the day, whilst on-site massage, homeopathy and energy healing treatments with expert therapists can also be arranged. Cool cafés, galleries, shops and bars are also within easy reach, as is Viharamahadevi Park and the nearby Town Hall, amongst other local sights.
Aathma Colombo House
Quirky creativity in a lush lakeside hideaway
From £84 a night | Check availability here
Hidden away on the outskirts of Colombo proper, Aathma offers eight beautifully appointed suites in a striking tropical garden. Originally the home of creative co-owner Dushy Kumar, the property has been reconfigured and effusively furnished with bold colourful textiles, bright prints and carefully chosen antique pieces.
A secluded lakeside location ensures the blare and bustle of the main road are forgotten in favour of floating around the pool and spotting monkeys in the treetops across the water.
Feast on fabulous fusion fare at a terrace table, retreat to your reading nook or relax with a magical massage.
Thoughtful hosts are on-hand with local recommendations, and the city centre is just twenty minutes away by three-wheeler or Uber – near enough for days of discovery, yet sufficiently far away for Aathma to feel like a luxurious oasis. And one with impressive mosaics to boot.
Residence by Uga Escapes
Lavish opulence in the heart of the city
From £187 a night | Check availability here
Housed in a nineteenth-century villa – originally the private home of Sheikh Salehboy Moosajee – this swanky eleven-suite property offers a stylish stay in an super-central location.
The popular bars and eateries of Park Street Mews are just next door, whilst a five-minute stroll will have you exploring Viharamahadevi Park and Gangarama Temple or picking up artisanal souvenirs at Urban Island and Paradise Road.
Chill by the pool, hit the gym or retreat to your sumptuously-appointed suite for a cool-down in the enormous rain shower, before sipping a cup of tea on your private terrace.
Sink into the leather armchairs of the Residence Bar with a cocktail and round off an evening with a cracking candlelit dinner in the courtyard, with the beautiful frangipani tree blossoming overhead.