Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital is usually never on a traveller’s list of ‘must visit places’, as most feel that there isn’t much to do in the city and would rather travel to the more touristy hotspots outside of the city. However, you might be missing out on quite a bit of fun the big C can offer you, which just might make your time in the city a highlight of your trip.
The bustling city offers some of the friendliest faces, an active social scene and some of the best street food experiences for those on a budget, and adventurous foodies. It would take a minute to get used to the chaotic traffic, and tuk-tuk flooded streets, but if you choose to hang around, you’ll discover a city that is full of zany energy with its underrated history, it’s people, food and of course the party life!
Colombo can take on a complete 360 after nightfall. The streets get somewhat calmer as most of the city folk call it a night, but in most corners of the commercial capital, especially on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, the strobe lights begin to flicker, and hole-in-the-wall eateries start prep for a busy night. Everybody has their favourite spot – the kadé that’s always open for some delicious late night/early morning snacking at 4a.m, the clubs and the pubs where socialites and those simply looking to destress gather to bid adieu to a long week and say hello to the weekend.
Colombo City, although compact, is fun sized with lots to do at night and isn’t limited to only the nightclubs and bars. If this is your first time in the city, a must do on any night or evening out is to try the delicious Sri Lankan food, and a definite must have is the kottu, the island’s iconic street food dish consisting of chopped rotti fried with vegetables, spices, cheese and any meet of your choice, and flush it down with a hot kadé tea.
If you want to explore some rhythm and booze, there are several nightlife hangout spots conveniently located around the city centre. You can easily start your night with some refreshing sundowners atop one of Colombo’s most laid-back rooftop bars, head over to treat your taste buds with some tantalizing cuisine options, and then make your way to one of Colombo’s hot spots to party the night away!
We’ve highlighted a few of the great nightlife spots you must try while visiting the vibrant yet unpredictable city of Colombo.
1. Ward 7
Looking for that perfect spot for some indulgence with a view? Ward 7 at Jetwing Colombo Seven is one of Colombo’s most sophisticated rooftop bars built for complete relaxation with a drink in hand. With an array of tapas, eclectic dishes, an exquisite wine list and a 21 strong Single Malt collection, Ward7 really sets the tone for a fabulous night with unobstructed views of a buzzing metropolis.
Best time to go – any day of the week, in time for sunset.
2. Dutch Hospital Precinct
Just as the name suggests – this used to be a hospital during the time of the Dutch colonial era that has been restored and is now buzzing with shops, cafes, restaurants and bars.
A great place to meet several other travellers both foreign and local over a cold beer, and funky live bands to get your feet tapping in no time.
With indoor and outdoor seating, you are most likely to find yourself spending a prolonged period here especially if there is a band playing outside. Be it sushi, seafood or even just a regular pizza and coffee, there are plenty of places inside the precinct to choose from to satiate your cravings including Tap House by RnR, Colombo Fort Café and Ministry of Crab.
Best time to go – Any time of the week, but if you are looking to chill with a beer and hot bites along with some exciting live entertainment, get there by 6pm until closing (12am) on Fridays.
3. Cricket Club Café
If you are looking to have a laid-back evening with good drinks make your way to one of Colombo’s most popular themed restaurants and bars. From fascinating memorabilia to bats and balls that have been signed or used by famous cricketers worldwide, to pictures and pages with details of cricketing milestones, you name it, it’s truly a cricket lover’s haven. However, you don’t have to be a cricket fan to truly enjoy your evening here, the food and drink here is topnotch and will definitely put you in the right state of mind to simply stay and indulge in the relaxed atmosphere and you don’t even have to dress up!
Best time to go – 7pm to 11pm any day of the week.
4. Park Street Mews
The beautifully lit up restaurant and bar strip of Park Street Mews is another watering hole, but for the more sophisticated laidback night owls. With several bars and restaurants like Curve Bar and Café Français serving up some great cuisine, wines and cocktails and cute cake shops like Butter Boutique to an array of eclectic restaurants like Monsoon, you are most definitely spoilt for choice here at Park Street Mews. This street is one of the most ideal places to enjoy a relaxed evening complemented with a charming ambience.
Best time to go – 7.30pm (for dinner) to 12am on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
This chic bar spread out on 2 floors is compact with nothing but great vibrations and some refreshing sundowners with mouthwatering food options (they have sushi too!). This fun spot is the ideal place to unwind after a hectic city adventure as it is conveniently located right in the city centre.
Best time to go – 6pm to 12am on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays (they have some great happy hour deals and Wednesdays are Ladies’ Night!).
6. Ask for Fern and The Chiller Room
The slogan “come to the little flower shop and ask for Fern” belongs to Colombo’s latest addition to the night scene. Tucked away in a quiet street corner, you enter through a “flower shop” and you are immediately greeted by an antique looking staircase elegantly lit with candles, walls adorned with old portraits and dimly lit ambience.
The place has a vintage feel and offers up some unique cocktails and spirits (must try – Mr Miyagi) and the best thing about this “flower shop” is the great ambience and sweet vibes to keep you on your feet all night long.
Best time to go – 11pm on Fridays or Saturdays.
A door’s walk through and you are welcomed by blue lights and sparkling chandeliers; The Chiller Room is an all new innovative nightclub located right inside Ask for Fern, guaranteed to offer you yet another magical time till the wee hours of the morning.
Best time to go – after 12am on Fridays and 11pm on Saturdays. Great ladies’ night deals (free drinks for the ladies) on Wednesday nights.
In the mood for some good vibes and great cocktails overlooking the business hub of Colombo? Botanik is one of the most popular rooftop bistro bars in the city. Ideal for a hearty meal at the restaurant and then some great cocktails and chills while listening to the trendiest and most popular bands and artists keeping you entertained throughout the night.
Best time to go – 8pm until 12am on Fridays and Saturdays.
8. The Love Bar and Attic
Everyone’s go-to watering hole, with quirky décor and the most ‘insta’ friendly signboard that reads “WITH YOU I AM HOME” brings everybody together with a great mix of genres be it R&B, Hip-Hop, EDM, you name it, there is something for everybody! Not forgetting their cocktail jars that never seem to end, you’re bound to find yourself here till the wee hours of the morning.
If you want something more upbeat (and more compact), make your way upstairs to the “Attic”. As the name states, a full-blown party happening inside an attic like space is surely going to keep you on your feet.
With strobe lights and upbeat hip-hop music upstairs, and warm lighting and chilled tropical house and EDM downstairs, here you can be at any one of these two venues in a matter of seconds and get the best of both spaces.
Best time to go – 11.30pm to closing time on Fridays.
9. KAVA and Tribe
Taking inspiration from the Tiki bar movement of the past with an undertone of black magic, Kava moves away from the traditional formalities of the Colombo bar scene, into an immersive rooftop island bar and restaurant with a relaxed dress code and an affordable food and beverage offering. This ‘Tiki noir’ experience promotes a relaxed atmosphere during the late afternoon, but when the sun goes down the bar lights up and the DJs spin some jungle inspired beats.
Best time to go – 6.30pm in time for sunset (any day of the week), Saturdays are best for a sublime Tiki experience.
Just upstairs from KAVA is Tribe Colombo, a sanctuary for those seeking a sophisticated social gathering, dancing to tribal infused tropical beats in a modern state-of-the-art club. Equipped with a smoking room, surreal surround systems, and stimulating visuals and lights, Tribe is the perfect midnight-mixer, an all-inclusive nightlife experience for those seeking something different.
Best time to go – after 12am on Fridays and Saturdays.
10. Rhythm & Blues
One of Colombo’s long-standing nightclubs is the place to end a long night. With a great mix of Hip-Hop, R&B and EDM, you are bound to be dancing away into the early hours of the morning as R&B is one of the only places open till 5am! A great crowd of expats and locals gather at this venue boasting a soothing yet hyped-up ambience in the form of an outdoor seating area and a very happening long bar with a lit tree hovering above, giving the place a magical ambience.
Best time to go – after 12am on Tuesdays (Traveller’s Night), Fridays and Saturdays.
There is so much to do in Colombo after dark but if you have only a little down time in Colombo and looking to have a quiet night by the Indian Ocean, make your way to the beach in Mount Lavinia or Dehiwela. Laid back restaurants and bars like Sugar Beach and Shore by O, serve up some delicious seafood, beer, cocktails and juices complemented with some tropical tunes. Take a stroll on the beach or make your way through the not so busy streets (at night) and be sure to experience the street food.
There’s always something to do in the vibrant city of Colombo. All you need is to look in the right direction.