Highrise buildings and houses in Colombo

Colombo – The Commercial Center of Sri Lanka

This post was last updated on June 4th, 2020 at 08:07 pm


Colombo is the largest city in Sri Lanka and has been gaining popularity in recent years. It is the commercial center; the official capital of the country is Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte (Kotte), which is right next door. Where it used to be a city where travelers had to go “on their way” to the south, today it is a versatile city that is increasingly regaining its glory of the past. The city is a mix of colonial houses, modern office buildings, cafes, temples, and mosques.

 

Almost everyone traveling to Sri Lanka arrives in this capital so it’s great if you know something about the city. On this page we tell you the following about the city;

 

You Must Visit Colombo

Do you have to visit Colombo during your trip or not? The vast layout of the city and the congested streets make it difficult to understand why people come here at all. The lack of charm that you find in Ubud, Hanoi, or Bangkok makes it a strange city.

 

Colombo is often skipped by travelers.

 

We have stayed in Colombo for 1 day. Just like many other tourists, we went straight to other places in Sri Lanka. It is not the most beautiful city in Asia, certainly not the city with the most sights, but give it a few days and you will certainly appreciate the little things in the city.

 

Coastline with narrow beach and buildings
The coastline of Colombo

 

7 Best Things to Do in Colombo

Colombo is not Hanoi, but that does not mean that there is nothing to see. Honestly, you won’t find many spectacular sights there, but the city is nicer than many people think. A fun way to discover all the sights is to explore the city with a guide!

 

1. Visit the National Museum

The National Museum is located in one of the most beautiful buildings in Colombo. This was built in 1876 by the British governor of Sri Lanka. It is the largest museum in Sri Lanka. There is a beautiful and peaceful inner courtyard around the building.

 

Inside the museum are statues and exhibitions that tell the story of ancient Sri Lanka. The museum also displays articles owned by the former royal family of Sri Lanka, such as the golden throne and crown.

 

TIP – Entrance is 600 Sri Lankan Rupees (US$3.40) p.p. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 

Front view of white museum building with green grass in front
Even the outside of the museum looks great!

 

2. Go to the Independence Memorial Hall

It’s one of the nicer places in Colombo. Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain in 1948, and this large stone building, surrounded by a peaceful garden, is a monument to that.

 

You will also find a statue of Sri Lanka’s first president, “The Father of the Nation.” Today the room is used for religious events and the annual national holiday. It is a nice place to escape the crowds.

 

TIP – Entry is free!

 

3. Watch the Sunset at the Galle Face Green

This is THE place in Colombo to spot the most beautiful sunset. In the evening it is cozy with stalls where you can buy food and Sri Lankan families who come together to end the day. Galle Face Green is a long piece of green grass next to the narrow beach and promenade in Colombo.

 

Originally the land was lifted by the Dutch to give the cannons a better view, but today it is a nice and quiet place that is ideal for walking, running, playing football, kite flying, and playing cricket.

 

Colombo aerial view with patch of grass next to the beach
Galle Face Green is the stretch of grass on the right side

 

4. Enjoy the View at Mount Lavina

Mount Lavina is not in Colombo, but half an hour away. It is a nice getaway from the city. This beach has a number of nice beach bars and the seawater is cleaner than in Colombo. You also have beautiful sunsets here!

 

5. Go to the Gangaramaya Temple

The Buddhist Gangaramaya Vihara temple consists of different buildings. It is a beautiful temple complex filled with a lot of shrines. Some are somewhat strange and you wonder what it was being used for.

 

There is a library, a museum and a room full of gifts that have been received by devotees over the years.

 

The temple has many Buddha statues made of stone, white plastic, and gold. It is the most beautiful temple in the city.

 

TIP – Take off your shoes when you enter and wear appropriate clothing. Tickets for the museum are 100 Sri Lankan Rupees (about US$0.60).

 

Wooden jetty over the water towards a temple
View of the Gangaramaya Temple complex, very beautiful!

 

Beira Lake

Close to the Gangaramaya Temple, in the heart of Colombo, is a large lake; The Beira Lake. In the middle of the lake is a small island with the Simamalaka Shrine, which is built from donations.

 

6. Get a Bite to Eat at the Old Dutch Hospital

You should not miss the Old Dutch Hospital, especially if you have any Dutch roots. After visiting all the sights and walking through the busy and busy streets of Colombo it is nice to have lunch at the Old Dutch Hospital.

 

This building is considered to be one of the oldest buildings in the Colombo Fort area, dating from the Dutch colonial era (1681). Today you have nice restaurants, cafes, and shops here. We recommend taking a look here!

 

7. There’s Even More!

There are more places of interest in Colombo, but we will not describe them all extensively. The sights that we still want to mention are the following:

 

Slave Island

If you want to learn something about the cities’ history with the Dutch, Slave Island is a great location. Slave Island is where the Dutch held slaves. It is one of the oldest parts of Colombo.

 

Viharamahadevi Park

It is the largest park in Colombo and is actually called Victoria Park. The park is in bloom in March, April and May and it is nice to spend a day hanging around here.

 

Water in a park with trees on both sides
Beautiful scenery in Viharamahadevi Park

 

Swimming

Colombo may be located near the water, but that does not mean that you can also swim here. The water is quite polluted. If you want to swim you better go to Mount Lavina or book an accommodation with a swimming pool.

 

Accommodation in Colombo

It is a very busy city. You have a lot of traffic and different regions. Tourists mostly choose to spend the night at the coast. There are plenty of accommodations available in the city. You have the choice between simple hotels to the most luxurious hotels. An attraction in itself is the Galle Face Hotel.

 

It’s a luxury hotel with an ocean view and an impressive colonial atmosphere. Costs for accommodations in Colombo differ a lot. There is something for everyone. For US$11 a night you can sleep in a private room in a hostel. However, you can also sleep in a luxury hotel for US$100.

 

TIP – Check out all current prices and available accommodations in Colombo on Booking.com.

 

Best Time to Visit Colombo

The best time to visit Colombo is from December to March (the high season). During these months you will have the least chance of rain and the temperatures are pleasant. In theory, you can visit Colombo all year round. The city has enough to offer to entertain you with good or bad weather.

 

Average temperature and rainfall in Colombo
Average temperature and rainfall per month in Colombo

 

Read more about the best time to visit the different parts of Sri Lanka and about the different monsoon seasons in the country.

 

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