Sri Lanka is enjoying unprecedented levels of tourism as Asia’s leading tourist destination at present. Colombo, the commercial capital, is relishing the best part of this new influx of visitors. Luxury hotel chains have taken over the coast line and there is an air of jubilance as Colombo enjoys what has eluded many – the end of a war. In fact, hardly anyone mentions the war any more as there is too much to look forward to in what is arguably one of the most exciting times in its history.
This is the city I was born and raised in for 13 years. As such, returning here feels akin to a pilgrimage. I celebrate new Colombo’s ever-evolving landscape as a tapestry which unfolds at each visit.
ON14 Rooftop Bar and Lounge
Ozo, Colombo remains one of my favourite places in the city. The hotel sits on scenic Marine Drive which runs 3.6km along Colombo’s coast. The rooftop pool here offers views across the ocean on one side and the Colombo skyline on the other. Sit here from sun rise to sun set and you will still never be bored. With striking views across Colombo, a roof top lounge and bar serving perfect breakfast, brunch, lunch AND dinner accompanied by phenomenal cocktails you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere more suited for watching over the city.
Food and Drink
As the sun goes down ON14 Rooftop Bar and Lounge serves palatial cocktails and rich, exquisite food. I spent a wonderful evening here and enjoyed the most delightful chicken and barracuda dish. It was sublime on the tongue. Served with a perfectly chilled rose´ from the bar’s extensive wine list I couldn’t think of a better way to round up my evening.
However, I couldn’t leave without ON14’s traditional chocolate biscuit pudding. It was a wonderful nod to Sri Lankan cuisine. This childhood favourite was served with an adult twist of strawberries, white chocolate and fresh mint leaves and I could have easily eaten one more.
Five Things You Must See Around Ozo, Colombo.
Ozo, Colombo is perfectly located for exploring one of the most authentic parts of Colombo. A 10 minute taxi journey will take you to Colombo Fort which is an area of the city fraught with history. Its proximity to Colombo Harbour which has served as a port for over 2000 years carries a colossal bearing to the way Colombo Fort has evolved over centuries.
Here are my top five picks of things to see in Colombo Fort.
Fort Railway Station
Fort Railway Station connects the capital’s rail network to the rest of the country. Even if you have no intention of taking a train from here the station itself is worth a visit. It opened in 1917 and has retained most of its original charm from wooden counters and ceiling beams to quaint purple train tickets. I bought a platform ticket for Rs. 15 which allowed me to walk on to any platform (but not board trains) and see inside the station. It’s an exceptional place to experience an unadulterated insight into the cultural diversity of Colombo. It’s also undoubtedly one of the busiest places in the city.
Colombo Fort Clock Tower
Colombo Fort Clock Tower (1857) also known as Khan Clock Tower at the entrance to Pettah Market is the starting point for measuring distances from Colombo to the rest of the country. It is effectively, km zero for Sri Lanka. When it was first constructed it was the tallest structure in Colombo and even served as a light house until 1952 and only ceased this duty after other surrounding buildings obscured its view.
In more recent times, during the civil war, the area surrounding the clock tower was a high security zone. The tower was not accessible until 2015 when roads reopened to the public.
Pettah is a multi-ethnic district of Colombo within a short distance of Fort Railway Station. Pettah Market has always been here due to its proximity to Colombo Harbour. Very few tourists go to this market and it’s frequented by locals for their daily needs. So a visit here is as an authentic an experience as you could ever want.
I walked the labyrinth of streets within, each dedicated to a different trade including clothing, fruit and veg, fish and seafood, electronics and even gold jewellery. The noise, the crowds and the aromas were overwhelming and a little stray dog accompanied me everywhere. There is plenty of street food here too if you’re peckish and brave. Get here before nine o’clock in the morning before the heat of the sun hits the streets. It’s far less crowded then too and makes walking around relatively stress free.
Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
Travel bloggers have already made this magnificent mosque famous due to it’s striking red and white brickwork. It was built by the Muslim community of Pettah in 1909. Today it’s become a Colombo landmark amongst the travel community.
If you plan to visit, as with all places of worship, you will need to be dressed appropriately. I was able to walk into the the corridor of the mosque but not enter any of the prayer rooms. Enjoy the stunning architecture which rises from the inner courtyard up several storeys towards the sky.
Dutch Hospital Shopping Complex
This old Dutch hospital building which dates as far back as 1600s is the oldest building in the Colombo Fort area. The hospital was set up to serve the health and well being of the workers at the Dutch East India Company and Dutch seafarers from Colombo Harbour during the Dutch occupation of Ceylon.
Today, its architecture has been preserved and it’s a shopping and dining precinct. There are shops, restaurants and cafes served by two open courtyards. In the evenings there is live music and the many restaurants serve dinner under the stars.
In collaboration with Ozo, Colombo and Ozo Hotels. Prices for a Dream Room at OZO Colombo Sri Lanka start from approximately £76 per night (B&B) exclusive of VAT and service charge. For more information or reservations, visit www.ozohotels.com/colombo-srilanka.
Photo credit unless otherwise stated: Kosiwick