The pearl of the Indian Ocean or Sri Lanka, the wonderful tiny island in South Asia is a popular tourist hotspot worldwide for countless reasons. Not only its beautiful beaches to have fun and relax, or the wonder-arousing ruins of its graceful history, the amazingly incredible natural wildlife, and the botanical gardens, but also business, shopping, health, education, and many other reasons make millions of tourists yearly choose Sri Lanka . Hence, Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital or the sleepless city as it is popular among the Sri Lankans, is a place where you have anything and everything within the same city limits.
And yes, thus it is worth exploring. So, why not? Come, let’s virtually tour around and find out why this city is so popular among the tourists who visit Asia before your next physical visit to this beautiful island, Sri Lanka!
Where is Colombo found in Sri Lanka?
Colombo, the city of social and commercial diversity, is located on the beautiful west coast of Sri Lanka. To be exact, it is around 32-35 km away from Bandaranaike International Airport. Generally, it takes only 35 minutes to get to Colombo from the airport using the E03 expressway. Moreover, this city belongs to the Colombo district.
Besdies, ‘Kelani’-one of the main rivers in Sri Lanka flows bordering this city from the North. When entering Colombo on the E03 expressway, an aeroplane monument is there which is a landmark at the city entrance. Further, there is a notably large image house at the round-about when you enter this city, travelling on the regular Chilaw-Colombo highway. In this image house, there is an image of Lord Buddha in the seated position.
Also, it is a must note that Colombo is the most populated city in Sri Lanka. To be specific, around 5.6 million people live here.
Is Colombo the Capital of Sri Lanka?
Like some other countries, Sri Lanka also has two capitals: the Judicial capital and the legislative capital. In brief, Colombo is the judicial and Executive capital of Sri Lanka, where the high court of Sri Lanka is located. Meanwhile, Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte is the country’s legislative capital, where the legislative council is situated.
Geography and Climate of the City
Of course, Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, is a coastal area that borders the Indian Ocean. Further, Colombo’s land side is a combination of land and water with several canals, lakes, and even rivers.
However, among the several canals in Colombo, below are significant.
- Dutch Canal
- Hamilton Canal
- Kirulapona canal
- Kolonnawa canal
Also, the Beira lake holds a vibrant place in the lives of the Colombo people. And yes, await for a detailed description of the Beira lake that will be shared later in this article under Colombo’s unique and famous places.
Meanwhile, the climate of Colombo is usually hot and sunny. Of course, it has a climate that belongs to the tropical monsoon type. On a typical sunny day, the temperature would be around 30-31 Celsius, whereas it would be about 22 Celsius on a rainy day. Besides, this city receives rain through the monsoon from April to June and again between September to November.
A Brief History of Colombo
In brief, Colombo is a city with a remarkable history like no other! Of course, its history runs as far as around 2000 years back towards the period of Colonization.
Arabians in the City
The city of Colombo then belonged to the Kingdom of Kotte. In brief, it was first prominent in history for its harbour, which is now popular as the Colombo Harbour. It is a natural harbour, and those who first came to the Sri Lankan ports are the Arabians. Of course, they started to use it as a commercial exchange point in Asia. Further, several businesses took place between the Sri Lankan Kingdoms, and the other countries, through the Arabians who visited the Colombo fort. Besides, the same reason made Sri Lanka the hub of seafarers in the olden days. Also, there is something interesting to note! The sellers who descended from those merchants are in the industry even today, especially at Pettah shops.
Portuguese in Sri Lanka
In brief, according to the colonization timeline of Sri Lanka, followed by the Arabians, the Portuguese first came to Colombo in 1505. At that time, the King of Kotte was King Parakramabahu VIII. However, there was only a short distance from the Colombo Port to the Kingdom of Kotte; nevertheless, the villagers accompanied the Portugueses to the King using another path to let them feel that the Fort and the Kingdom are far apart. Moreover, there is a parable among Sri Lankans even today as “Parangiya Kotte Giya Wage”, which means taking a long way when there is a shorter way of doing something or going somewhere.
However, in this era, there were acres of cinnamon as a crop along the coastal line. Of course, the remains of those lands could be seen even today in some parts of Colombo. King Parakramabahu VIII agreed and let the Portuguese trade the cinnamon crops of Sri Lanka with the promise of providing security to the country from the invaders. Accordingly, little by little, the Portuguese started invading the Kingdom of Kotte. With the King being shifted from Kotte and establishing another Kingdom called Seethawaka, the Portuguese gained control of the coastal areas.
Besides, the place which is famous today as Fort In Colombo is where they made their capital. Fort has been an area with all the luxuries. Moreover, the outer Fort was a commercial area where there were shops as today. Thus, there is nothing wrong in mentioning that it was the Portuguese who made Colombo a commercial space first.
Dutch Arriving in Colombo
Meanwhile, in 1658, the Dutch entered Sri Lanka through the Colombo ports. The King then took the most foolish decision in Sri Lankan colonization history. In brief, it was the incident of building a friendship with the Dutch to chase away the Portuguese from the country. Also, it was with this incident that the Sri Lankan proverb ‘Inguru Deela Miris Gaththa Wagey’ emerged. In English it means, ‘It’s like giving Ginger and taking Chilli’, giving the idea, ‘It is like getting rid of something bad only to take something worse.’
However, there are shadows of what the Dutch left in Colombo even today. Of course, some of such Dutch memories are the Old Dutch hospital, a luxurious restaurant complex and the old Dutch Museum, which is now named an archaeological monument of Sri Lanka.
British Colonising in the City
Subsequently, Colombo was occupied by the British. It was in 1796. Unlike today it was a time when it was a frequent sight of the tram cars moving around the streets. Of course, even today, if you seriously look at the old roads, you can see the tram cars’ tracks and the granite floors constructed years ago by the British left in ruins.
The Colombo municipal council was established in 1865 by British when they were occupying Colombo. Furthermore, the British made many changes in the city, unlike the other European invaders.
Besides, after Sri Lanka achieved independence in 1948, the British left Colombo. However, they left many of their memories in Colombo in the means of architecture, culture and education, etc. Thus, as a city that has been under the Europeans for many years, most people here reflect the attributes of Western clothing, behaviour, and attitudes even today.
Five Top Places of Attraction in Colombo – Sri Lanka
Of course, Colombo is a place where there are a lot of important and attractive spots to visit and enjoy. Below are some of those places which are prominent.
1. The Colombo Harbour
Having been recognized as an international port in 1505, Colombo fort has been controlled under the Colombo Port Commission of Sri Lankan government since 1918. Further, it is the main port in Sri Lanka. Thus, Colombo harbour delivers many services related to sea transportation including cargo handling , docking and shipping.
2. Diyatha Uyana
Diyatha uyana is a beautiful escape of relaxation with greenery all around where you can stroll, do some jogging, hang out with friends and family, etc. It is located in Kotte, Rajagiriya near the Water’s Edge hotel. Besides, there are a number of stalls, at this place which sell Sri Lankan products such as pottery, coir and plants, etc. Further, the food court here is the most famous among fun loving people who come here. Of course, you can try food of your choice to a reasonable price and enjoy your time under the beautiful green shades or have a boat ride on the lake. And the premises are open for public visit between 8 am to 11pm daily.
3. Viharamahadevi Park
This is a beautiful park, located at the heart of beautiful Colombo 07, in front of the old town hall. Further, Viharamahadevi park spreads over a large area of land and is very well- maintained by the Colombo Municipal council. Of course, it is an ideal place where you can take your little ones to the play area there, relax , walk and enjoy! However, the opening hours of the park is 6am to 6pm everyday. And something interesting! At the colonial era Viharamahadevi Park was known as Victoria Park.
4. National Museum
Next to Viharamahadevi park is the famous national museum of Sri Lanka. The history of this great museum runs as far as to January 1877, when it has been established. Of course, you can see hundreds of different important things in Sri Lanka which belong to its very long and proud history. In brief, some of them are the real clothes of the ancient kings, old pottery, some real remains of special animals In the history, etc. Besides, you may need nearly 3 hours to walk in all parts of this museum and watch those amazing stuff which are well-preserved and kept for exhibition. However, the National museum is open for the public visit between 9am and 5pm.
Generally, any tourist who visits Colombo would not miss visiting Laksala at Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 07. In brief, it is a beautiful store full of Sri Lankan crafts and handmade decorations and souvenirs. Most of the items are made of nature-friendly material such as wood, coir, cane etc. that add more value and beauty to the things which are sold at Laksala. Besides, it opens at 9am and closes usually at 5.30 pm.
Nightlife in Colombo
Of course, Colombo is a perfect hub of gambling, and an ideal place to enjoy the nightlife that you look forward to!
In brief, there are hundreds of good quality pubs, dance and disco clubs, casinos, restaurants and hotels of any level for a person to choose in here. Moreover, the well-trained staff and the colourful and classy and cosy ambience of many of such places readily offer you the best nightlife experience under the Colombo skies! Further, the delicious dishes of Sri Lankan cuisine including Sea food would definitely top up your joy to the maximum!
Is Colombo Safe at Night?
Colombo is not a very crowded place like Bangkok at nights. Yet, it is a live place where local or foreign people come and enjoy at the designated places. It is not unsafe here, but it is always the best option to avoid night walks alone and hanging around late at night. However, the Sri Lanka police night patrol is always on the watch. In case of emergency you can always rely on the emergency response centre of Sri Lanka Police through the number 119.
How Many Zones of Colombo are there?
The vast city of Colombo is divided into 15 parts or sub-units for administration and postal purposes. Each zone holds some importance; thus, as a tourist, a shopper or a person who comes to Colombo for business purpose, it is vitally important to know about each zone or division in detail.
The below sections highlights about each part of Colombo including the religious places, special places, hotels, government and other offices, schools etc. in each area.
Colombo 01 – Fort / Kotuwa
As mentioned at the beginning, Fort was first the Portuguese trading post in history. The Portuguese, who later settled down in Colombo, developed a fortified city and set up a harbour. Eventually, the Dutch invaded the area. While they gained control of Sri Lanka’s coastal areas, Dutch made Fort their controlling centre. Later, when the British invaded the country, they changed the Fort’s layout under urban development. However, the Fort’s walls have been considered a disturbance to this development; thus, most of the fort walls were demolished by the British’s.
Today, when you go to the Fort, you can catch a glimpse of the old colonial buildings which are still in use, such as the Cargills building, the Dutch Hospital complex, the railway station and, the delft gate (one of the main entrances to the Fort before). Besides, the table will help you have a quick glance over the important places in Fort, or Kotuwa.
Offices belonging to famous brands located at the Fort.
– Leading ticketing and sales office of Srilankan Airlines
– Bank of Ceylon head office
– The head office of HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited)
– Telecom head office
– The customs head office
– Radio / TV stations. (Most of them are located in the WTC (World Trade Centre Tower) at Echelon Square.)
|Five-Star relaxation at Fort that offers you a top class and luxurious service!|| |
– The Kingsbury
– Cinnamon Lakeside
– Galle Face Hotel
– There is also the Colombo city hotel in the Canal Road which offers you a four- star service.
|Dine-in style!|| |
There are several such restaurants such as
– The Ministry of Crabs in the Dutch hospital complex
– TGI Fridays in front of the World Trade Centre building
– Chinese Dragon
– The Grill
Colombo 02 – Slave Island/ Kompoagngne Veediya
In brief, the Portuguese have used this area to hold the African slaves in the olden days. Thus, the site is famous from the olden days as the Slave Island. However, in the present, there many important places in Slave Island. Some of them are as follows.
The Railway station
There is a railway station which has attributed the ancient victorian era architecture
Colombo City Centre
The famous shopping mall and the food court of Colombo City Centre are located in Colombo 02. You can find what you are looking for in high quality and style here.
1. The Thai embassy of Colombo
2. Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Cyprus
3. Honorary Consulate of Madagascar
A Temple to visit, watch and worship!
The Gangaramaya Temple is one of the leading Buddhist pilgrimage sites located at Beira lake.This religious place’s importance is to create a mixed architecture of Sri Lankan, Thai and Indian and Chinese. Another feature to watch at this temple as a tourist is the Simamalaka Shrine. The speciality of it is that a Muslim sponsor has raised donations for building this structure. That reflects Sri Lanka is a country that had a history of unity between races.
Colombo 03 – Colpity / Kollupitiya
Of course, Colpity is currently an area for shopping. It has several popular shopping malls and other shops, especially for clothing and accessories. Apart from that, several other important places also rest in this town. The highlights of this town are as follows.
|Five Star Shopping|
– Liberty Plaza
– Crescat Boulevard
– Marino Mall
|Prime- Minister’s House|
It is the famous ‘Temple trees’ or ‘Araliya Gaha Mandiraya’, the prime minister’s official residence. The building belongs to 19th-century architecture.
|Other government offices|
Colpity or Colombo 03 is an area where there are several government offices. Some of them are;
– National Savings Bank Head Office (Savings House)
– Sri Lanka Tourism headquarters
– Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka
– Department of Economic Development
There are embassies of several leading countries in Colombo 03.
– Honorary Consulate General of FinlandHonorary
– Consulate of Belgium (België/Belgique/Belgien)
– High Commission of MalaysiaEmbassy of Germany
– Honorary Consulate of Malta
– Honorary Consulate of Bosnia and Herzegovina
– High Commission of the Republic of India
– Embassy of the United States of America
– American Centre
– Honorary Consulate of Botswana
– Honorary Consulate of Chile
|Leading Schools|| |
– Bishop’s College
– Mahanama College
– Methodist College Colombo
– St. Thomas’ Preparatory School
Colombo 04 – Bambalapitiya
Bambalapitiya or Colombo 04 is an area along the Galle road bordering the Indian ocean from the West. It is also very famous for shopping. Besides, below are some of the important places in this town.
– Honorary Consulate General of Greece
– Consulate of New Zealand
– Consulate of Singapore
– Honorary Consulate of Ireland
Schools and private universities
There are a number of private universities and schools in Colombo 04. Thus, it is very popular in Sri Lanka as the educational hub.
– Lindsay Girls School
– St. Peter’s College
– Holy Family Convent Colombo
– Hindu College
– Muslim Ladies College
– Visakha Vidyalaya
– ICBT Campus
– IDM Computer Studies
– ESOFT Computer Studies
There are three areas which fall under Colombo 05. They are, Narahenpita, Havelock Town, and Kirulapone North.
Important Places in Narahenpita
Below are some of the main locations in Narahenpita, Colombo 05
Kelani Valley railway station
Narahenpita is famous for a number of leading hospitals of Sri Lanka.
– Asiri Hospital
– Asiri Surgical Hospital
– Ninewells Hospital
– Army Hospital
– Police Hospital
– Lanka Hospital
– Oasis Hospital
|Other major government institutions|| |
– National Blood Bank
– Labor Ministry
– Survey Department
– Some other departments under the Health Ministry
Important Places in Havelock Town
‘Havelock town’ has been given its name to memorize a British governor of Ceylon in the name of Arthur Havelock. However, it still remains as a significant city in Colombo suburbs. Below are some of the main locations in Havelock Town, Colombo 05
|One of the historical and oldest Temples to worship|
Isipathanaramaya Temple was built in 1916 by a rich merchant called Disan Pedris in the memory of his son who was alleged and executed by British for false reasons. Further, it is a place to watch due to its greatly and delicately done murals. Moreover, Isipathanaramaya spreads over 4.9 acres. Besides, it is after building this temple that the Greenlands road and the Greenlands College were changed into Isipathana Road and Isipathana College.
– Honorary Consulate of Serbia
– Embassy of Italy
– Embassy of Cuba
– Honorary Consulate General of Sweden
– Honorary Consulate of Ukraine
There are a number of private, semi-government, and schools located at Havelock Town as follows.
– Isipathana College
– Lumbini Vidyalaya
– Wesley College Colombo Primary School
– Royal Institute International School
– St.Peter’s College
– Hindu College
– Ramanathan Hindu Ladies College
Important Places in Kirulapane North
Some of the highlights in the town of Kirupalane are as follows.
|Railway station||Kirulapana Railway station|
|Government offices||Kirulapone South/Pamankada/ Wellawaththa|
Colombo 06 can be further divided into three main cities such as Kirulapona South, Pamankada, and Wellawatte South. The below table features the most important places in these towns.
In brief, Kirulapona South is an area where there are a lot of Sri Lankan Tamils. Further, the percentage of Sri Lankan Tamils here is around 31% whereas the percentage of Sinhalese people in Kirulapona South is 57%.
Balapokuna RajaMaha Viharaya –an ancient Temple
Balapokuna Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient Temple built during the Kotte Kingdom of Sri Lanka. It is a temple mostly on a rock surface. However, the specialty of this ancient temple is an ancient natural pond which is in the premises which is said to be used by the Kotte King’s soldiers and one exit from the Kotte tunnel according to folklore. The other exits are at the Ananda Sastralaya at Kotte and the other one is located at the PitaKotte Gal Ambalama. Besides, the higher rock in the premises is said to be the lookout point of the soldiers.
|Wellawatta South||A place to worship|
The specialty in the ethnicity of Wellawatta South is that, the majority here are Sri Lankan Tamils than Sinhalese. The percentage of Sri Lankan Tamils is around 57% whereas there are only around 26% Sinhalese live here.
Wellawatta is famous for its Roman Catholic Church. Namely, St. Lawrence’s Church. It was built in 1968 and continues to be worshiped by many Catholics of the area.
Colombo 07 – Cinnamon Gardens /Kuruduwatta
Of course, Colombo 07 or Cinnamon Gardens / Kuruduwatta is the most perfect and beautiful area in Colombo! Moreover, it has been attributed this name Cinnamon Gardens for the cinnamon plantation which has been in this area long time ago.
Besides, Colombo 07 is a blend of nature and office! You can see the most beautiful roads in this area filled with gigantic trees which are older than a decade or more. The below section will prove its fascination furthermore.
|Special places|| |
– Prime Minister’s Office
– Colombo Town Hall
– National Museum
– Independence Hall
– Department of Meteorology and observatory of that
– Viharamahadevi Park
– Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre
– SSC Cricket Ground
– Colombo Race Course
– Arcade Independence Square
– Colombo public Library
– National Art Gallery
– Sri LankaWorld War Memorial Park
– Lionel Wendt Art Centre
|Schools and Universities|| |
– Bishop’s College (Sri Lanka)
– Buddhist Ladies’ College
– Carey College
– Colombo International School
– D. S. Senanayake College
– Ladies’ College, Colombo
– Musaeus College
– Royal College Colombo
– Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya
– St Bridget’s Convent, Colombo
– Thurstan College
– Wycherley International School
– University of Colombo
– University of the Visual & Performing Arts
Colombo 08 – Borella
The history reveals that Borella was a cart track in the olden days when it was not much populated like today. Further, it has been a terminal for Tram car service in the old Colombo. However, in the present it is home to several important institutions.
– Wesley College
– Bandaranayake Vidyalaya
– Devi Balika Vidyalaya
– C. W. W. Kannangara Vidyalaya
– Susamaya Wardana Maha Vidyalaya
– Rathnawali Balika Maha Vidyalaya, Colombo
– Overseas School
– Gateway International School
– Oxford Overseas School
– Honorary Consulate of Zambia
– Embassy of Turkey
– Embassy of Afghanistan
| Famous general cemetery |
There is one of the oldest and the most famous general cemeteries in Borella. It has been an establishment of 1840. Borella cemetery is a burial ground for any nationality. You can find the graves of many famous personals in Sri Lanka, even those who lost their lives during world wars here with their description engraved on the headstone.
Colombo 09 – Dematagoda
The majority who live here are Muslims and Sri Lankan Tamils. There are not much important places in this town, and the Veluwana College is a highlight here.
Colombo 10 – Maradana
Maradana, or Colombo 10, is simply one of the most important areas in the Colombo suburbs. It houses several important places, and some of them are as follows.
|Maradana Railway station|
Maradana railway station is a major railway hub in Sri Lanka. Several intercity, express and normal trains start from Maradana railway station to many other parts of the country.
– Ananda College
– Asoka College
– Nalanda College
– St. Joseph’s College, Colombo
– Zahira College, Colombo
– Ananda Balika Vidyalaya
– Viharamahadevi Balika Vidyalaya
– Brighton International School
– Unique International
|Famous Elphinstone Theatre|
The Elphinstone theatre is one of the famous theatres in Sri Lanka and it is located in Maradana closer to the Maradana railway station.
Colombo 11 – Pettah
Pettah is the area outside the fort. It is the most famous place in Sri Lanka when it comes to retail and wholesale trading. Moreover, the most significant are the bazaars and the open air stalls in bigger numbers in cross streets here.
|Importance of each cross street at Pettah|| |
Each cross street at Pettah is popular for some kind of item such as clothing, stationary, decorative items etc. Those streets have shops in hundreds where you can compare and choose what you are looking for.
1. Maliban street – Stationery and wedding invitations/cake boxes
2. Gabos Lane – Baking ingredients and equipments
3. Prince street – Glassware and electronics
4. Bankshall street – art and craft materials, artificial flowers, pharmaceutical supplies and chemicals.
5. China street – party decorations and glassware
6. Kosala lane – paper and stationary
7. Malwatta road – Shoes, bags, CDs and DVDs.
8. First Cross street – Mobile phones and accessories such as webcams.
9. Main street/second cross street – Clothing and materials with other supplies related to clothing.
10. Third cross street – Fabrics
11. Fourth cross street – wholesale food supplies
|Pettah Central Bus Stand|
The central bus stand of Pettah is the hub for all bus rides in Sri Lanka. The buses of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) operate from Pettah to many areas across Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Transport Board Head Office, No.200, Kirula Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka.
+94 112 581 120
|Places to see|| |
– Wolvendaal Church
– Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
– Kayman’s Gate – a bell post from the colonial era former Colombo Town Hall
– Colombo Dutch Museum
– Khan Clock Tower
– Sammangodu Sri Kathirvelayutha Swami Kovil
– Old Town Hall Market
– Federation of Self Employees market
– Manning Market
– Pettah Floating Market
Colombo 12 – Hulsdorf / Aluthkade
Hulsdorf / Aluthkade remained an important area in Colombo suburbs, from the Colonial Era of decades ago. The significant places is houses at present are as follows.
- Sri Lanka Law College
- Aluthkade High court
- Hameed Al Husseinie College
- Grand Mosque of Colombo
- Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development
- Trace City
- Wolvendaal Church
- Maligawatta Methodist Church
- St. Thomas Church
Colombo 13 – Bloemendhal
The name ‘Bloemendhal’ comes with a Dutch origin. It means the ‘Valley of Flowers’. This itself proves that this area had been important from the Colonial era itself. However, the below places will help you get an idea about its present significance.
- Sugathadasa Stadium,
- St. Benedict’s College,
- St. Lucia’s College
- St. Lucia’s Cathedral
- Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo
- Kelanitissa Power Station
Colombo 14 – Grandpass
Grandpass is a town in Colombo suburbs with a comparatively high Moor and Tamil population. This town does not feature that much of important places. Yet, the R. Premadasa Stadium, is indeed a highlight of this town, as it happens to be an International Cricket Stadium in Sri Lanka, that hosts several International Cricket tournaments annually.
Colombo 15 – Modara / Mattakkuliya
This area is also known as Mutuwal, and the important places it houses are as follows.
|Places of importance|
– Rock House Army Camp
– St Thomas College
|Schools|| – Razik Fareed Muslim Vidyalaya|
– Northshore College of Business and Technology
|Temples and Churches|
– St. Mary’s Cathedral
– Al Masjid
– Al Dhaniya
– Sri Kalyani Gangarama Temple
– New Apostolic Church
– Al Masjid Ul Ilahiya
– Open Heaven Life Church
– St. John’s Church
So, if you visit Sri Lanka, do not forget to include Colombo in your list of places to visit. It is not merely the capital of this beautiful Island in the Indian ocean, but also a blend of anything and everything you wish to enjoy in the means of shopping, relaxation, fun and comfort. Happy and Safe Travelling!