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Swanky sky-high hotels and colonial-era architecture stand side by side in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. The port city is steeped in culture and has up-and-coming pockets of nightlife and chilled out cafés. Take in the Dutch colonial-style buildings near Colombo Fort before wandering among the skyscrapers and parks of Galle Face Green. You can taste the local street-food flavours at one of the many markets, with specialities including milk rice and curry.
When it comes to hostels in Colombo, there’s a diverse mix on offer. Stay just outside of the city in a spot that overlooks a serene beach, or one with environmentally-friendly up-cycled bunks. Look out for a Colombo hostel that will introduce you to the city with pub crawls or leisurely walking tours. Nightly entertainment such as live music makes it easy to socialise. Most Colombo hostels offer free Wi-Fi, and many will give you a free breakfast too.
The area around Park Street is a great place to explore temples by day and party by night. Slave Island is all about peace and quiet – a visit here lets you take time out to relax on the shores of Beira Lake. The city's best-known neighbourhood is Cinnamon Gardens. It was once the site of a cinnamon plantation, but is now known for its boutique hostels and cafés.
You can catch a breeze at Mount Lavinia Beach, a sandy stretch lined with seafood restaurants. For a culture fix, there's the Colombo National Art Gallery, which houses three wings of works by local artists. Gangaramaya Vihara is a must-see: a mix of Buddhist temple and eclectic museum, it offers lots of photo ops. To get a feel for local life, stop by the Pettah Bazaar. This colourful market is richly scented with spices and is an ideal spot for trying local delicacies, picking up trinkets or simply people-watching.
When you arrive into Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport, you’ll find taxis at the front of the terminal. You could also take the E3 or 187 bus, which goes to the central Colombo Fort Station. Buses run every 30 minutes and the journey takes about an hour. Inter-city trains also run in and out of Colombo Fort Station regularly. To get around the city, taxis and tuk-tuks are the easiest option, though there are bus routes too.