Diverse, vibrant and wildly unique. That’s the only way you could describe Colombo nightlife. There is literally something for every one of all ages and groups.
Young gaggle of 20-somethings looking for a lively party? Tick. Family of four looking for excellent food and maybe some live local music? Tick. Elderly couple looking for some quiet drinks with spectacular views overlooking the city? Tick. I could go on, but you get the idea…
There is no denying that most people head to Sri Lanka for the incredible beaches where you can both relax and ride the notorious waves, or to catch glimpses of leopards and elephants at Yala National Park. Seeing the animals usually means a quick departure from the hustle and bustle of the largest city on the island (although the beaches here are still pretty good!).
But trust me, it’s worth sticking around, even if just for a few cheeky nights to experience some drinking (and non-drinking!) holes that you’ll see nowhere else in the world.
Intrigued? Read on for my breakdown of the different kinds of places you can find in Colombo.
Rhythm and Blues is a nightclub in the Milagiriya district that stays open till late seven nights a week. The DJ may well end the party, but to begin with, you’ll always find local bands playing tunes to dance and sing away to.
You will hear everything from soul to rock ‘n’ roll to jazz. The crowd definitely gets lively, and with reasonably-priced drinks, you'll find it tough not to have fun.
Oh, and they do have pool tables, so you can boogie with a cue in hand. Really, they make a great pretend microphone substitute when you’re belting out one of your favourite songs…
Up by the Cinnamon Gardens in the Park Street Mews complex, you will find Curve Bar. Polar opposite in substance and style to what you'd get at Rhythm and Blues, but still a great place to enjoy live music.
Predominantly, it’s a chill-out bar, which doubles up as a restaurant that serves some delicious tapas. But from around 9 pm Wednesday to Saturday, you can find relaxing and foot-tapping music by local Sri Lankan artists.
You will find neo-jazz, soul and variations of '80s/90's classics being played here, so it'll always be diverse. The ambience reflects the music as it's set in this deep purple (the colour, not the band) mood lighting, which you have to agree is especially perfect for a date.
A real gem that I think needs more attention is an elegant and beautiful restaurant called Agra.
Just a 5-minute walk from Independence Square, this Indian eatery is the perfect place for everyone – whether it’s a family meal, friends or even a romantic dinner date. The food is excellent, the décor has a genuinely upmarket feel, and it won’t come close to making a dent in the wallet either.
But why have I suggested it in the live music section?! Well, every night there’s an authentic local band that plays traditional tunes that can take you and your senses to a whole new world.
So, while it may not be an upbeat singing and dancing place like some of the others, it is an excellent way to listen to something different. Plus, if you’re not in the market for food, there is a nice bar you can prop yourself up against as well.
Ahhh, the nightclubs. These are for the real party people. No denying that places like Rhythm and Blues written above could be considered a nightclub, but there are a few places that are for those true revellers who only need the magic three combo to have a good time – Bar, Dancefloor & DJ.
The Chiller Room is a new addition to the scene and is within perfect walking distance from Galle Face station. You’ll find some very cool and trippy lighting while all sorts of classics are spun on the decks.
Because of its 21+ policy, the crowd is lively but not over the top (no offence to anyone younger than 21, I am only comparing it to me and how I was at 18 – loud would be an understatement). You can boogie on down till 4/5 am Tuesday to Saturday.
Another new club that opened up in 2018 is 2Zero6 Music Factory, which is round the corner from the Colombo Colts Cricket Club.
Here, you will find your typical booming beats and a growing mix of travellers and locals dancing the night away. It’s open till 5 am, seven days a week, so there’s always something going on here.
But to accurately sum this place up, I nudge you towards an Instagram post they put up recently – “We play tunes to make your body move!” I need say no more.
One club that has been a mainstay for years, and I sincerely plead you try it out, has to be Amuseum.
It has been one of the most successful brands in the city and has been welcoming ravers for coming up to two decades now. Situated on the 9th floor of the Green Lanka Towers, right around the corner from the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, this eclectic and stylish venue is perfect for anyone wanting to dance the night away.
Open from Wednesday to Saturday; the sound system is perfectly complemented by the high ceilings - meaning you can get your groove on!
There is also a pretty cool boutique bar downstairs, so you can have your pre-club drinks there before really letting your hair down.
Within Colombo city, high-rise buildings tower over the landscape, which can only mean one thing - rooftop bars. Well, and hotels. But in Colombo, the two are often combined.
There is an abundance of these types of combined establishments, so it’s tough to whittle down. The Botanik Bistro Rooftop and Bar (what a mouthful!) is an excellent place to start.
Although not far from the financial district, and many other buildings in the way, the views from here are breath-taking, especially when the sun goes down and the lights get turned on. And as I’m sure you would’ve guessed from the name, the décor is vibrantly floral, so perfect for an Instagram snap if that's your thing. Also, a great place to go for a few leisurely drinks.
Tucked away in the Mount Lavinia district, On14 has a large outdoor seating area where you can stare at the beautiful ocean views for hours. Sip on expertly-made cocktails and munch away on what is a pretty varied menu.
They also have decent music and different nights - do check out the site to see what's on. They even have a pool to soak up the atmosphere. That is for special occasions though; you can’t just be in your best outfit and nosedive straight in. Trust me.
At the Kingsbury Hotel, you used to find the aptly-named Sky Lounge. But in 2018, they closed down and refurbished, paving the way for the also aptly-named Ce La Vie.
There is an upmarket feel everywhere you look inside, and then when you stroll to the balcony, you'll be faced with fantastic ocean views. I love the fact that you get a fresh sea breeze that can be embraced while tucking into some exceptional Asian cuisine.
The drinks are well made, and they insist on their pride in having trained mixologists; I can't deny they taste good!
There are actually quite a few casinos in Colombo, and if you’ve got this far on the list, or are even reading it at all, I have to assume you’re old enough to gamble. While going to a casino isn't the first thing you’d think of when visiting Colombo, there is definitely an appetite for it here.
You've got the Continental Club, The Ritz and Bally's all offering a good night at the tables or roulette wheel, but the 'older brother' Bellagio is the one that should really be ticked off.
There are hundreds of tables with all your favourite games and nightly entertainment to enjoy after grabbing your winnings. With the worldwide MGM name behind them, they basically know what they’re doing. And I do like the idea that they have the low-stake tables upon entrance and the high rollers at the back - it makes it clear and obvious where everyone stands.
24/7 and serving complimentary meals on a delightful little mezzanine, you can’t go wrong here.
However, coming away from the MGM giants, you have the delightful Casino Marina.
This place is huge. Like, seriously huge. A sprawling, specifically-designed gaming mecca that caters for very differing needs on each of its four floors. Whether you're VIP, a high roller or just fancy throwing down some small change on red or black, this casino has it all.
Plus, you will always have fantastic views overlooking the ocean. From the quality food to the impeccable service, this relatively new addition to the casino market is worth a look for sure.
If you love getting up and belting out a cheesy classic in front of complete strangers, why not try one of the infamous karaoke bars in Colombo.
Making a beautiful clash of two very different stereotypes, we have Stella’s Karaoke Bar, which can be hilariously found in the 5* Hilton Hotel. They stay open till 4 am, which means you can sing your hearts away with lyrics projected onto a wall – one or two may have the microphone, but after a while, the madness ensues and everyone just starts singing.
The clientele is a beautiful juxtaposition of hotel guests, locals and walkers from the street - nothing brings people together more than sing-alongs.
I love the fact that on the website they boast it’s also a ‘Chill out bar.’ Said no one ever about a karaoke establishment.
Sopranos, however, is the headline karaoke bar in the city. Situated perfectly on Maitland Crescent, you can head on over anytime after 7 to really let go of all your inhibitions.
Plus, with over 20,000 English-speaking songs to choose from, there’s plenty of fun to be had. There are specially themed nights, so potentially call up and see what they have in store, but otherwise it’ll be one big free for all.
Hopefully, this Colombo Nightlife Guide is enough to get your juices flowing and makes you want to stay in Colombo an extra day or two. There is a different experience awaiting anyone and everyone.
I didn't even have a chance to write about places like The Traveller's Bar at the famous Galle Face Hotel. It’s nothing special to look at, but there’s a balcony overlooking the ocean. And trust me, you won’t be able to pick up your jaw off the floor when you see the sunset from this view.
I would also check out King George Hall at the University of Colombo and The Lionel Wendt Art Centre to see if there are any events on. Both host great theatre - from musicals to cultural Sri Lankan dance to live traditional music.
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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