Here are what to do and see in Peetah, a cultural, religious, and urban neighborhood in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It is also a crowded market that sells everything you could ask for – from kitchen wares to tools and to beauty products. In my first 10 minutes of strolling around, it was pretty overwhelming bumping into elbows and shoulders as I led myself through the crowd and onto my destination.
Best time to visit. I think the morning is the best time to explore and roam the area. I was there at mid-afternoon and the boy, the crowd was at its peak, especially that it was a weekend.
Let’s dig in the list of some of the activities you can do in the district.
Related: 8 Days Travel Itinerary in Sri Lanka
Constructed and completed in 1757, this church exhibits the grandeur of the colonial architecture. The building represents Dork styles with a shape of a Greek cross and has many mural decorations that slightly resemble that of the Byzantine murals of Ravenna. Services are still offered here in both English and Tamil and you’d spot some tombstones of notable Sri Lankan personalities.
A trinket of the Dutch rule on Sri Lanka, the Dutch Museum offers insights into the colonial era of the land through the 17th-century furniture, coinage, and other relics that it houses. It initially served as a residence of Thomas Van Rhee, the Governor of Sri Lanka from 1692 – 1697, a military barracks, a hospital, a police training center, and finally a museum from 1977 onwards. Unfortunately, this museum was in under renovation when I was there.
Although it is not the kind of market you’re imagining, it does serve the purpose of letting you mingle in the local scene of Colombo. It is here that I got a chance to see the locals in action. From jewelry to clothing and beyond, everywhere you could see haggling locals and tourists making the atmosphere all too overwhelming. Save by bargaining but not too hard. 😉
Built in 1909, the Jami-Ul-Alfar mosque has a peculiar red and white brick construction that can be spotted from a distance. The candy stripes intrigued me particularly and I managed to peek inside its vaulted interior to see what local Muslims were doing. They were respectful but they did eye my bare knees. I was embarrassed not to have dressed accordingly.
Hindu temples in Sri Lanka are known as “Kovils” and almost all of them have a unique character. The temple’s facades have conical entrances that team with the statues of Hindu Gods and their deities. It almost seemed to me as if each temple is carved out of a giant stone and every little detail is chiseled out of its fabric. Of course, that could be a speculation, but overall, it does give you that feeling. There was a slight sadness lingering on the face of each statue. They weren’t maintained enough and I could only imagine how grand they’d look if they are kept with care.
In contrast to the old Kathiresan Hindu Temples, the new ones were garishly painted and comparing both of them gave me an idea of how beautiful the old temples would have been.
The Pettah region of Colombo is an amalgam of old, new, and the mediocre. Besides the main attractions above, there’s a street food in the winding paths of the district, a clock tower known as The Khan Clock Tower that was built in the 20th century, and a floating market where you can experience the bustle again. My stroll in Pettah had been a wonderful experience – getting into the pulsing heart of the city that is Colombo.
I had a fabulous stay at Mahazen by Foozoo. The place feels like home and welcoming. If only I had known that they could help me in renting a car and driver, too, I would have done that. So, when you book, ask them if they could help you with the itinerary. You can book accommodations from Booking, TripAdvisor, Expedia, and HostelWorld.