Travel guide: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's best neighbourhoods, shopping, bars and restaurants and more

The tiny island nation of Sri Lanka has much more to offer than its capital of Colombo. See ancient temples, lush vegetation and extraordinary wildlife in the country’s incredible jungles.

We asked the crew at Time Out Sri Lanka to share the best of their 'hood. Read on for the hottest neighbourhoods, the best shops, bars and restaurants, what to see and where to explore and much more.

Hottest neighbourhoods


The hub of Sri Lanka, Colombo has everything that an itinerant traveller would need.



A cultural hotspot, the town is renowned for the Kandy Esala Perahera and the Temple of the Tooth.


A one-stop-shopping destination with a range of items sourced both locally and internationally for all your personal and household needs.

101, D S Senanayake Mawatha, Colombo 8 (+94 11 215 4555).

Spa Ceylon

The place to purchase amazing Sri Lankan Ayurvedic products. The brand has its own spas to provide a rejuvenating experience.

Multiple locations; For more information check out their website.


A place to purchase some of the choicest Ceylon tea blends, ranging from English breakfast to good old plain tea. Multiple locations.


The Ministry of Crab is aptly named, as its policy is to serve the finest, export-quality crab only found in Sri Lanka. Following its opening in a restored old hospital building (now given over to restaurants and craft shops) in 2012, the restaurant rapidly became a trendsetter. This is the place to try delicious crab dishes – both international and local cuisine – with a great ambience.

Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct, Colombo 1 (+94 11 234 2722).

Upali’s by Nawaloka

Upali’s is a great place to try out authentic local cuisine, where meals are served on banana leaves alongside curries and side dishes in clay pots. The Roast Paan with pol sambol is a dish worth seeking out.

65, CWW Kannangara Mawatha, Colombo 7 (+94 11 269 5812).

Galle Face Green

There are countless vendors at this ocean-side promenade selling a variety of local street food such as vade (deep-fried fritters), kottu (shredded roti bread) and much more.

Colombo 3.


A restaurant and lounge bar located at the Independence Arcade Square, Asylum is a great place to relax and unwind.

Arcade Independence Square, Colombo 07 (+94 11 406 1761).


A Japanese restaurant-bar inside the Taj Samudra Hotel. The ambiance is excellent, with sleek polished tables and plush orange chairs, opulent hallways and high ceilings.

Taj Samudra Hotel, 25 Galle Face Centre Road, Colombo 3 (+94 11 244 6622).

See and explore


Considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, this ancient rock fortress was built by King Kashyapa (477-495AD). The 600-foot rock was also his palace, ornamented with what was believed to be over 500 frescoes of women. These have now faded, however a few are still visible on parts of the rock faces.

Matale (via Colombo-Katunayaka expressway or via Kandy).

Kumana National Park


Located in the eastern district of Ampara, and 12km south of Arugam Bay, this park is renowned for its migrant birds, herds of elephants and leopards. While on safari, watch out for the elephants and sambhur deer. They are quite active around watering holes and in pockets of lush foliage.

Hambantota (turn off just before the town of Panama; +94 63 363 5867).


If you’re here on a pilgrimage, your first stop should be Kataragama. This town is considered home of ‘true sanctity’, with shrines and stupas dating as far back as the 1st Century BC. Kataragama, Uva Province.

Hidden gems

Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa

A hotspot with countless temple ruins and palaces built by kings some 2,500 years ago.



An island off the coast of the Jaffna Peninsula, there are wild horses and ruins from the Dutch period to see.

Talalla in the south and Whisky Point in the east

Both these places are becoming increasingly popular as year-round surfing spots.

Don’t miss

A trip to a wildlife national park, especially to the Yala National Park, to catch a glimpse of the elusive leopard, majestic tuskers and the sloth bear.

Tissamaharama 82600.

Local’s tip

Go on a tuk tuk ride around the city. Negotiate a price before you start the journey.

For more great ideas of where to go, check out Time Out Sri Lanka.

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