The city of Colombo is the most populous and commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Situated on the western shore of the island and surrounded by a natural harbor, it was an important port for Sri Lankan trade with India, China, Africa, Europe, and the Arab world for more than 2,000 years.
Today it is a modern city and economic center of the island. Through centuries it has lived through many changes, and today offers many sights any visitor absolutely must see when traveling to Sri Lanka.
The best place to start or end your travels around Sri Lanka is where so much of the island’s history is on display.
Founded in 1877, and housed in a purpose-built colonial-era building, this museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts covering almost the whole of the history of Sri Lanka.
Here you will be able to see various historical art pieces, elaborately carved decorative elements and statues. But also the regalia of Kandyan kings, and traditional attire of Kandyan era court.
The Fort is one of the oldest quarters of the city and covers the area of former Portuguese fort and settlement, founded in the 16th century during their control of the coastal areas of Sri Lanka.
Today it is the place where among many modern commercial buildings you can find beautifully restored gems of the colonial-era architecture.
Among them, most notable are the President’s House, former residence of governors of Ceylon and today the official residence of the President of Sri Lanka; and the Old Dutch Hospital, one of the oldest buildings in the city and former hospital, today it is a very popular shopping and dining precinct.
The neighborhood of Pettah is named after the Sinhala expression “pita kotuwa” which means “outside the fort”, and just as its name suggests it is located right outside the Fort area.
It is probably the most diverse area of Colombo, where you can see the influences of many nations Sri Lanka traded with through centuries and whose members settled in Colombo looking for trade and work.
It is famous for the open-air markets where you can buy a wealth of local produces and products. Most notable of these are the Floating Markets. Wandering around the streets of Pettah you will find the Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque, a stunningly beautiful and one of the oldest mosques in Colombo.
Here is also the Wolvendaal Church, the oldest still functioning protestant church in Colombo, dating from the mid-18th century.
Gangaramaya Temple is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Colombo. It is located near the placid Beira Lake and consists of several buildings constructed in the 19th century, featuring a mixture of traditional and modern architectural styles.
The most popular part of it, among the tourists, is the Seema Malaka shrine located on a platform in the Beira Lake itself.
This is the oldest Hindu temple in Colombo, being constructed in the late 18th century. Its striking architecture is different from other Hindu temples on the island and features a classical sacral style.
The main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva, and shrines dedicated to many other deities exist as part of it.
One of the things which is popular among visitors to Colombo is going shopping. Whether you are looking for some small handmade souvenir or local art at Viharamahadevi Park, or some local high street clothing at Independence Square Arcade, you will be able to find something to your liking.
Tuk-tuks are the ubiquitous three-wheelers and most popular mode of transport among visitors and locals alike. When exploring the city of Colombo you will most likely do it by one of these vehicles. And they are quite a bit fun to ride with and zip around the busy streets.
The very popular seaside promenade has started its life as a simple clearing near the waterfront made by Dutch to create a clear line of fire for the guns of the Fort.
Today it is one of the most popular leisure spots for visitors and locals. Besides having a relaxing walk in the afternoon, here you will find many street food vendors selling their delicious mostly deep-fried snacks.
On most days at Galle Face Green, you will be able to see and experience how Sri Lankans spend their leisure time here, and in the evening enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets on the island.
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