Introduction

Colombo isn’t one of the biggest metropolis’s in Asia, but it’s certainly full of character. All of the the various colonial rulers – the Portuguese, Dutch, and British – coveted Colombo as an important port. Each of these nations left a mark in the city that’s still visible today through the architecture of various government buildings and churches.

In addition to churches, the architecture of the city is influenced by the ancestry of its people and the other various religions in the city. There are South Indian Hindu temples and mosques, and of course, Buddhist temples, all incorporating elements from various cultures. Lastly, there are modern buildings reflecting the growth of the city in the 21st century.

In terms of knowing how much time to allocate for Colombo sightseeing, a full day should be sufficient for getting around Colombo and seeing the sites. This doesn’t include time inside the museums. If you’d like to see the museums, add another half-day or full day, depending on how many museums you want to visit.

I didn’t have too much time to spend in Colombo (especially with the driver getting lost), so I’ll cover what I’ve seen, even if I only saw it from the outside, as well as well list what I know about the other sites.

General Tips

Although I didn’t stay in Colombo, but based on the proximity of the sites, I would recommend staying either around the Fort district or somewhere close by to Beira Lake.
The best way to get into Colombo from outside of Sri Lanka is to fly in (CMB).
Colombo isn’t a walkable city. Although there are clusters of sites where you can walk between them, you’ll need to take either a bus or car to get to the different clusters of sites, or to the relatively isolated site within the city.
There are a number of food options in Colombo, including popular fast food chains, like Pizza Hut, Burger King, and McDonalds. Meals can cost anywhere between USD 6 per person (for fast food) and USD 7 and higher for non-fast food.
Credit card acceptance is poor. However, there are several ATMs that accept foreign bank cards.
Colombo is a hot, sunny, and humid city, though it’s not the most humid city in Sri Lanka. It’s also prone to cyclones during the summer.
There’s no specific health information for Colombo, but there is some safety information. Use caution when crossing streets, as Colombo drivers tend to be aggressive.

Sites

Cost: Free

Hours: N/A

Time to spend: 30 min

Description:

This is a monument commemorating Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain.  There are 28 carvings on the walls, near the ceiling depicting Sri Lanka’s history.

The Independence Museum is located underneath the hall, though I didn’t visit it. (The cost is Rs. 300 for adult foreigners, and it is only open on Sundays, Mondays, and public holidays from 9AM – 5PM).

Verdict: Worth it.
Cost: Rs. 100 (museum donation)

Hours: 5:30 AM – 10PM

Time to spend: 45 min – 1hr

Description:

Gangaramaya is a Buddhist temple is one of the famous, must-see Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. The temple is a mix of modern architecture and classical Indian, Sri Lankan, Thai, and Chinese temple architecture. The temple itself has many functions. It is a museum with an eclectic mix of Buddhist and non-Buddhist items from different time periods and cultures, a library, and it also serves as a Buddhism educational institution and cultural center. Additionally, there are living quarters on the temple grounds.

Verdict: Worth it – Don’t miss.
Cost: Free

Hours: N/A

Time to spend: 30 – 45 min

Description:

Beira Lake is located in the center of Colombo, near the Gangaramaya Temple. What’s striking about the lake is that the lake is surrounded by classical temples and tall, modern buildings that are part of the Colombo skyline as well the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Center.

Verdict: Nice views, but skippable.
Cost: Free.

Hours: 24 hours

Time to spend: 15-30 minutes.

Description:

The Red Mosque is a mosque in the Islamic neighborhood within Colombo’s Pettah district. It’s a pretty distinct mosque; it has a more Russian Greek orthodox look with the red and white pattern.

Be aware that although visitors can go inside, most of the inside is strictly men-only. Also, all visitors need to take off their shoes.

Verdict: Worth it.
Cost: Free.

Hours: 24 hours

Time to spend: 15-30 minutes.

Description:

Formerly known as Victoria Park, this is the oldest and one of the largest parks in Colombo. The park has a big statue of the Buddha, located near the street dividing the park and the National Museum. There’s also a sizeable portion of the park that has a children’s playground.

Verdict: Don’t go out of your way to come here.
Cost: N/A

Hours: N/A

Time to spend: N/A

Description:

I went to see the theatre due to its unusual architecture, and saw it from the outside. I didn’t go inside because firstly, it wasn’t open, and even if it was, I was low on time.

Verdict: Might be worth it to see the inside if the theater is open, but skippable.
Cost: Rs. 100

Hours: Depends on show; closed on Sunday, Monday, and public holidays

Time to spend: Time of planetarium show (30 min?)

Description:

This is the first and only planetarium in the country, and was built in 1965. It’s an understandably small planetarium, which I went to visit to see the outside because of the architecture and to take pictures of it.

Verdict: Not worth the visit.

Resources for Information to Visit Points of Interest that I didn’t get a chance to visit:

For museum information and hours and cost, visit Sri Lanka’s Department of National Museums page and the Ticket Prices page.

I’m not sure how accurate those prices are since the site hasn’t been updated in two years, but the current prices should at least be in the ballpark.

Galle Face, Pettah Floating Market, and the churches should be free, while the other sites – Town Hall, the stadium, and the Clock Tower might not allow tourists.

Gallery

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *