Colombo is a confusing city. There’s no single focal point, and it’s more helpful to think of it as a collection of disparate neighbourhoods than as a single, coherent urban space. At the heart of the old colonial city, the moribund and bomb-afflicted Fort district, Colombo’s former administrative and financial centre, offers a stark reminder of the conflicts which have beset modern Sri Lanka, while to the east and south lie the bustling mercantile district of the Pettah and the engaging temples and old-fashioned street life of Slave Island. From here, it’s a short walk or tuktuk ride to Galle Face Green – perfect, after a hard day’s exploring, for an evening stroll along the seafront promenade and a sundowner at the historic Galle Face Hotel.
South of the Green, the sulphurous Galle Road runs through the suburbs of Kollupitiya and Bambalapitiya, the heart of the modern city, and home to many of Colombo’s best shopping and eating venues. Inland, the leafy streets of Cinnamon Gardens conceal further places to stay, eat and drink, as well as the tropical oasis of the Viharamahadevi Park and the city’s excellent National Museum. Further south are the more downmarket suburbs of Wellawatta and Dehiwala, home to the national zoo, and the attractive beachside suburb of Mount Lavinia, 10km from the city centre.