Places to visit in Colombo
Colombo is the bustling capital city of Sri Lanka, a tropical paradise nestled in the Indian Ocean. Known for its vibrant energy and unique blend of cultures, Colombo is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the beauty and diversity of this island nation. Colombo has a long and fascinating history, shaped by its strategic location on the Indian Ocean trade routes. From the ancient Sinhalese kingdom of Kotte to the colonial era of the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, Colombo has been a hub of commerce, culture, and political power for centuries. From its bustling streets and colourful markets to its stunning architecture and delicious cuisine, Colombo offers something for every type of traveller. For foodies, Colombo is a paradise, with a diverse range of culinary options that reflect the city’s multicultural influences. From spicy curries and seafood to international cuisine and gourmet dining, there is something to suit every palate and budget. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the best places to visit in Colombo.
1. National Museum of Colombo
The National Museum of Colombo, established in 1877, is housed in a majestic colonial-era building. Its collection is divided into several galleries, each offering a unique glimpse into the island’s past. One of the most popular galleries is the Archaeological Gallery, which features a wide range of artefacts from Sri Lanka’s ancient kingdoms, including statues, carvings, and pottery. Here, visitors can learn about the island’s rich history and gain insight into the lives of its early inhabitants. Another fascinating gallery is the Natural History Gallery, which showcases Sri Lanka’s diverse flora and fauna. The museum also features galleries dedicated to the island’s art and craft traditions, as well as its colonial history. One of the highlights of the museum is the stunning throne room, which features intricate carvings and paintings that offer a glimpse into the opulence of Sri Lanka’s ancient kingdoms. Visitors to the museum can also take part in guided tours, which provide a deeper understanding of the collection and its historical significance. Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or simply interested in learning more about Sri Lanka’s fascinating past, the National Museum is one of the best places to visit in Colombo.
2. Viharamahadevi Park
Viharamahadevi Park is a tranquil oasis in the heart of Colombo. The park was originally named Victoria Park after Queen Victoria but was later renamed in honour of Queen Viharamahadevi, a revered figure in Sri Lankan history. Spread over 27 acres, the park offers a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. With its lush greenery, tranquil lakes, and colourful flower beds, the park is the perfect place to relax and unwind. One of the highlights of Viharamahadevi Park is the stunning golden Buddha statue, which stands tall at the centre of the park. For those interested in history and culture, the park also features a small museum dedicated to Queen Viharamahadevi, which houses a collection of artefacts and exhibits that showcase her life and legacy. In addition to its natural beauty and cultural significance, Viharamahadevi Park also offers a range of recreational activities for visitors of all ages. From paddle boats and pony rides to a children’s playground and a food court, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Don’t miss out on this gem of a park, one of the top places to visit in Colombo.
3. Mount Lavinia Beach
Mount Lavinia Beach is one of the most popular places to visit in Colombo. The beach is named after Lovina, a gypsy dancer who had a secret romance with Sir Thomas Maitland, a former British Governor of Sri Lanka. Today, Mount Lavinia Beach is a favourite destination for both locals and tourists alike. The beach features soft golden sand, crystal clear waters, and a stunning view of the Indian Ocean. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities, including swimming, sunbathing, and beach sports such as volleyball and cricket. The beach is also known for its lively nightlife, with several bars and restaurants that offer delicious local cuisine and refreshing beverages. In addition to its natural beauty, Mount Lavinia Beach has a rich history and cultural significance. Visitors can explore the colonial-era Mount Lavinia Hotel, which was once the Governor’s residence and is now a popular luxury hotel. The hotel has a rich history and has hosted many notable guests, including Queen Elizabeth II and Mahatma Gandhi. Overall, Mount Lavinia Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to Colombo.
4. Lotus Tower
The Lotus Tower is a striking new addition to the skyline of Colombo. Standing at an impressive height of 356 meters, the tower is the tallest in Sri Lanka and one of the tallest in South Asia. The tower was designed to serve as a hub for broadcasting television and radio signals, as well as providing a platform for mobile phone and broadband services. Lotus tower was officially opened to the public in September 2019, and it quickly became a popular tourist attraction. The design of the Lotus Tower is inspired by the lotus flower, a symbol of purity and enlightenment in Buddhist culture. The tower features a sleek, modern design with three main sections: the base, the shaft, and the crown. The base of the tower is a circular structure that houses the main entrance, ticketing counters, and a variety of retail outlets. The shaft of the tower is made up of several levels of observation decks. Whether you’re looking to take in stunning panoramic views, the Lotus Tower is one of the top places to visit in Colombo.
5. Gangaramaya Temple
Located near the scenic Beira Lake, Gangaramaya Temple is a unique blend of modern and traditional architecture. The temple was founded in the late 19th century by the famous Buddhist scholar Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera. Since then, it has undergone several renovations and expansions, and today it stands as a testament to the country’s rich Buddhist heritage. One of the most striking features of the temple is its eclectic mix of architectural styles. The temple’s main building showcases a blend of Indian, Thai, and Chinese architectural elements, while the library and museum buildings display a more traditional Sri Lankan design. Inside the temple, you will find an impressive array of statues, paintings, and other artworks that depict Buddhist teachings and stories. One of the highlights of the temple is the massive Seema Malaka meditation hall, which sits on a small island in Beira Lake and can be accessed via a bridge from the temple. Gangaramaya Temple is not just a religious site, but also a cultural hub. The temple hosts several cultural events throughout the year, including the annual Navam Perahera, a grand procession that takes place in February or March. So, add this beautiful temple to your list of places to visit in Colombo.
6. Galle Face Green
Galle Face Green is a popular public park situated in the heart of Colombo. The park stretches for 5 hectares alongside the Indian Ocean, and it’s one of the most popular places to visit in Colombo. It’s a great place to relax and unwind after a long day of sightseeing or to simply enjoy the ocean breeze. The park is especially popular during sunset, as locals and tourists alike gather to watch the stunning view of the sun setting into the ocean. The Galle Face Green is also home to a variety of food vendors, selling a range of delicious street food, including traditional Sri Lankan snacks, ice cream, and fresh coconut water. The park is also a popular spot for kite flying, with vendors selling colourful kites in various shapes and sizes. Visitors can take a stroll along the promenade, which runs along the length of the park and enjoy the view of the ocean. In addition, the park is a popular spot for outdoor events, including concerts, cultural festivals, and political rallies. If you’re looking for a place to unwind, enjoy the ocean breeze, and sample some delicious Sri Lankan street food, then Galle Face Green is worth a visit.
7. Pettah Floating Market
Pettah Floating Market is a unique shopping experience that is not to be missed when exploring the bustling streets of Colombo. It sits on the edge of Beira Lake and is home to a variety of vendors selling fresh produce, handicrafts, clothing, and souvenirs. The market is named after the floating stalls that are set up on the water’s edge, adding to the market’s charm and uniqueness. Visitors can stroll along the walkways, taking in the colourful sights and sounds of the market, while enjoying the cool breeze from the lake. In addition to the shopping, the market is a great place to sample some of Sri Lanka’s delicious street food, with a variety of stalls offering local specialities such as kottu roti, hoppers, and spicy curries. Whether you’re looking to shop for souvenirs, sample local cuisine, or just soak up the vibrant atmosphere, Pettah Floating Market is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring places to visit in Colombo.
8. Red Mosque
The Red Mosque, also known as Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque, is a beautiful and historic mosque in Colombo. Built-in 1908, the mosque is known for its striking red and white candy-striped facade that catches the eye of all who pass by. The mosque was designed by a local architect, H.L.S. Hallock, and it has become an iconic symbol of Colombo’s Muslim community. The mosque’s interior is just as impressive as its exterior, with intricate designs and patterns adorning the walls and ceilings. The mosque’s main prayer hall can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers at a time, and it’s an impressive sight to behold. Visitors to the Red Mosque can learn more about the history and significance of this beautiful mosque by taking a guided tour. The mosque is open to visitors of all faiths, and modest attire is required. In addition to the mosque’s religious significance, it also serves as a popular cultural and architectural landmark in Colombo, attracting visitors from all over the world. With its stunning architecture, vibrant colours, and rich history, the Red Mosque is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the places to visit in Colombo.
9. Independence Square
Independence Square is one of the most iconic landmarks in Colombo. It was constructed to commemorate Sri Lanka’s independence from British colonial rule on February 4, 1948. The square features a tall statue of Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister, D.S. Senanayake, who played a significant role in the country’s struggle for independence. The statue stands tall at the centre of the square, and it is a popular spot for visitors to take photos. The square’s design is inspired by the ancient architecture of Sri Lanka, and it features intricate carvings and reliefs that depict the country’s rich cultural heritage. The square also features a ceremonial walkway, which is flanked by statues of Sri Lankan leaders who played important roles in the country’s independence movement. One of the highlights of Independence Square is the Independence Memorial Museum, which is located on the site. The museum showcases Sri Lanka’s history and culture and is home to an impressive collection of artefacts and exhibits. Independence Square is one of the must-visit places to visit in Colombo, and a great spot to relax, unwind and enjoy the city’s natural beauty.
10. Colombo Dutch Museum
The Colombo Dutch Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the history of Sri Lanka during the colonial era. The museum is housed in a magnificent Dutch-style building that dates back to the 17th century and was once the residence of the Dutch Governor. As you step into the museum, you will be greeted with a beautiful courtyard that leads to a grand staircase. The first floor of the museum houses the main exhibits that include furniture, ceramics, coins, and other Dutch artefacts. The second floor features exhibits on the history of the building, including the restoration process, and an art gallery featuring works by contemporary Sri Lankan artists. One of the most interesting exhibits in the museum is the room dedicated to the history of Dutch rule in Sri Lanka. The exhibit showcases important events and figures from this era, including the treaty between the Dutch and King Rajasinghe II in 1638, which gave the Dutch permission to establish a trading post on the island. Colombo Dutch Museum is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Colombo and is sure to leave you with a newfound appreciation for the country’s rich and diverse history.
Places to visit in Colombo