Popular cities in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, an island nation located in South Asia, is home to a number of popular cities that attract visitors from all over the world. One such city is Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. With a population of over 5 million people, it is the largest city in the country and holds great historical and cultural significance. Colombo’s strategic location along the ancient trade routes made it a major port and trading hub for centuries. Today, it serves as the economic and political center of Sri Lanka, with bustling markets, modern skyscrapers, and a vibrant nightlife.

Another popular city in Sri Lanka is Kandy, nestled amidst lush hills and tea plantations. Kandy was the last capital of the ancient Kings’ era and is home to the revered Temple of the Tooth Relic, which houses a relic of Lord Buddha. This city holds immense religious importance and attracts pilgrims and tourists alike. Kandy is also known for its scenic beauty, with the picturesque Kandy Lake and the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens being major attractions.

Galle, a city located on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, is renowned for its colonial architecture and fort. Built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and later fortified by the Dutch, the Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and serves as a testament to Sri Lanka’s colonial past. The city also offers stunning beaches, charming narrow streets lined with boutique shops and cafes, and a vibrant arts scene.

Jaffna, situated in the northern part of Sri Lanka, has a rich cultural heritage and is the cultural capital of the Tamil community in the country. Despite the devastation caused by the civil war, Jaffna has been experiencing a revival in recent years, with its famous Jaffna Fort being restored and reopened to the public. The city is also known for its unique cuisine, influenced by both Tamil and Sinhalese traditions.

Negombo, located just a short drive away from the international airport, is a popular beach destination known for its vibrant fishing industry. With a blend of colonial charm and modern resorts, Negombo offers a relaxing atmosphere for tourists looking for a beach getaway. The city’s bustling fish market and the iconic St. Mary’s Church are must-visit attractions.

Sri Lanka’s popular cities offer a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether it is exploring ancient temples, strolling along scenic beaches, or indulging in delicious local cuisine, these cities provide a captivating experience for travelers seeking to unravel the rich tapestry of Sri Lankan life.

Popular cities in Sri Lanka

What are the top cities to visit in Sri Lanka?

When planning a trip to Sri Lanka, it’s essential to know about the popular cities that offer remarkable experiences. From vibrant cultural hubs to pristine coastal retreats, Sri Lanka has it all. Discover the diverse charm of the Pearl of the Indian Ocean as we explore the breathtaking beauty and rich heritage of its top cities. Join us in the next segment to delve deeper into each city and learn about their unique attractions, cultural landmarks, and must-visit destinations.


Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, is one of the most popular cities in the country. It is a vibrant and bustling city that offers a mix of modern and traditional attractions. As the financial center of Sri Lanka, Colombo is home to numerous corporate offices, banks, and government institutions.

One of the must-visit attractions in Colombo is the Galle Face Green. This promenade is perfect for an evening stroll, with beautiful views of the Indian Ocean and plenty of food vendors offering delicious local snacks. Another iconic landmark in the city is the Gangaramaya Temple, known for its stunning architecture and collection of Buddhist artifacts.

In recent years, Colombo has also become a hotspot for shopping. The city is dotted with malls and shopping centers, offering a wide range of local and international brands. Popular shopping destinations include Odel, House of Fashion, and Arcade Independence Square.


Kandy, often referred to as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, is a city that is steeped in history and tradition. It is home to the Temple of the Tooth, which houses the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha. The annual Esala Perahera, a grand procession honoring the relic, attracts thousands of tourists from around the world.

Aside from its religious significance, Kandy is also known for its lush greenery and beautiful landscapes. The Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, located just outside the city, is a must-visit attraction for nature lovers. With its vast collection of plants and beautiful pathways, it provides a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

For those interested in history, a visit to the Kandy Museum is highly recommended. It showcases artifacts and exhibits that highlight the rich cultural heritage of the city. Another popular spot is the Kandy Lake, where visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk or take a boat ride.


Situated on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, Galle is a historic city that boasts a well-preserved Dutch colonial fort. The Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the main attractions in the city. It is a maze of narrow streets lined with beautifully restored buildings, art galleries, and boutique hotels.

Within the fort, visitors can explore the Dutch Reformed Church, the Galle Lighthouse, and the National Maritime Museum. The fort also offers stunning views of the Indian Ocean, making it a popular spot for sunset viewing.

Aside from its historical charm, Galle is also known for its beautiful beaches. Unawatuna Beach, located just a short distance from the city center, is a popular destination for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. The beach is dotted with beach bars and restaurants, offering a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere.


  • According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, the number of tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka in 2019 was approximately 1.9 million.

FAQs for Popular Cities in Sri Lanka

1. Is Colombo the largest city in Sri Lanka?

No, Colombo is not the largest city in Sri Lanka. The largest city in Sri Lanka is actually Colombo’s suburb called Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia. Colombo is the commercial capital and the largest city by population.

2. What are the top tourist attractions in Kandy?

In Kandy, some of the top tourist attractions include the Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy Lake, Royal Botanical Gardens, and Udawattekele Forest Reserve. These attractions offer a mix of cultural, natural, and historical experiences.

3. What is unique about Galle?

Galle is known for its well-preserved Dutch fort, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort is a testament to the city’s colonial history and offers stunning views of the ocean. Galle is also famous for its vibrant art scene and beautiful beaches.

4. What are the must-visit places in Nuwara Eliya?

Nuwara Eliya, often referred to as “Little England,” is famous for its tea plantations. Some must-visit places in Nuwara Eliya include Pedro Tea Estate, Horton Plains National Park, Gregory Lake, and Victoria Park.

5. Which city is best for beach lovers in Sri Lanka?

The city of Bentota is considered one of the best choices for beach lovers in Sri Lanka. It boasts pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a range of water sports activities.

6. What can I explore in Anuradhapura?

Anuradhapura is an ancient city and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Visitors can explore ancient ruins, sacred Buddhist sites such as Ruwanwelisaya and Sri Maha Bodhi, and beautiful man-made lakes like Kuttam Pokuna.

7. Is it safe to visit Jaffna?

Yes, it is safe to visit Jaffna. Over the years, the security situation in Jaffna has significantly improved, and the city has become a popular tourist destination. However, it is always advisable to stay updated on the latest travel advisories before visiting any destination.

8. What is the best time of year to visit Trincomalee?

The best time to visit Trincomalee is during the dry season, which is from May to October. This is when the weather is sunny, and the sea is calm, allowing visitors to enjoy activities such as snorkeling and diving.

9. Which city is known for its authentic Sri Lankan cuisine?

Kandy is known for its authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. The city offers a variety of local delicacies, including Kandyan curries, milk rice, and sweetmeats like Konda Kavum and Kokis.

10. What is special about the nightlife in Colombo?

Colombo has a vibrant and diverse nightlife scene. From rooftop bars offering panoramic views of the city to clubs featuring live music and DJ performances, there is something for everyone. The city also has a range of restaurants serving international and local cuisine.


In conclusion, Sri Lanka is a country that boasts several popular cities that are worth exploring. Colombo, the capital city, offers a mix of historical and modern attractions, including bustling markets, colonial-era buildings, and vibrant nightlife. Kandy, known for its cultural heritage and breathtaking landscapes, is home to the Temple of the Tooth, a significant Buddhist site. Galle, with its well-preserved Dutch colonial architecture, is a charming seaside city that allows visitors to step back in time. Nuwara Eliya, also known as Little England, offers a unique experience with its lush tea plantations and cool climate. Jaffna, in the northern part of Sri Lanka, offers a glimpse into the Tamil culture and heritage, with its vibrant temples and delicious cuisine. Lastly, Ella captivates travelers with its stunning views of the Ella Gap and mesmerizing hikes to popular spots such as Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock.

Each of these cities has its own unique charm and attractions, providing visitors with a diverse range of experiences. Whether you are seeking cultural immersions, historical landmarks, natural beauty, or a mix of everything, Sri Lanka’s popular cities have it all. From the hustle and bustle of Colombo to the tranquility of Galle, each city offers something special to its visitors. With its hospitable people, delicious cuisine, and an array of attractions, Sri Lanka’s popular cities are sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who ventures to explore them. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable journey through the popular cities of Sri Lanka.

Read more about backpacking in Sri Lanka