About the City
Sri Lanka’s bustling commercial capital Colombo is the country’s busy business hub. Historically known as the garden city of the East Colombo sits about an hour’s drive south of the Katunayake International Airport Colombo and holds a variety of activities for the urban visitor. Busy daytime traffic, high rise buildings, commercial centres and modern infrastructure found in the heart of the city has made Colombo not much different from any other developed city in South East Asia, however still retaining its character and authentic nature. The other unique aspect of Colombo is that it surprisingly has lots of greenery left within the city and the suburbs than in other similar cities in the region.
The natural sea port in Colombo has been used in international trade from as far as the 5th Century. Chinese, Roman and Arab trades have been involved in trade through the Colombo harbour since the very early days and the Arabs have settled in the area during the 8th century and have become the middle men in trade between the international trades and the Sri Lankan Kingdoms in the interior of the island. However, Colombo received much more prominence after the arrival of the sea traders from the west. Portuguese arrived in Colombo in 1505 and gradually took control of Colombo and the trade done through its harbour. In 1659 the Dutch defeated the Portuguese and took over Colombo but in 1796 they had to surrender their trade autonomy to the British who arrived and took over full control of all coastal areas of Sri Lanka controlled by the Dutch.
At present, Colombo is famous for its world class five star hotels, restaurants and shopping arcades. Almost all visitors to Sri Lanka spend at least a night or two in this busy city either at the beginning or the end of the tour in Sri Lanka. However, you find many business travellers from all around the globe spending lengthy periods in Colombo on corporate visits. The accommodation in Colombo is mainly the classy 5 star hotels and the luxury boutique hotels, the few mid range hotels in the city and the suburbs too offer good value for money. However, the lacking point is basic budget accommodation that is clean and reliable. Several nice budget places are found in Mount Lavinia and few other places but it is always best to use the known hotels during a short stay in Colombo.
Colombo has much to offer and fascinate any visitor with its mix of influences from the colonial period, variety of food and restaurants, religious places, architecture, spas, monuments, museums, night life, sopping, beaches, classy hotels and much more.
Visitors could still see remaining building from the colonial period, some more than 250 years old. The Dutch Church of Wolfendhaal dating back to 1749, Galle Face Hotel, Grand Oriental Hotel, The famous Cargills & Millers building, Old Dutch Hospital and several other buildings are still to be seen in a well preserved condition in the Fort and Pettah areas, which were the main administrative and commercial areas during the colonial period. Many other mansions of former British officials are also seen in the heart of Colombo, not to forget Mt. Lavinia Hotel just a few kilometres south of Colombo, another famous British period building.
Visitors both local and foreign enjoy a visit to the Galle Face Green bordering the sea, adjacent to the historic Galle Face Hotel. Especially in the evenings and weekends this promenade is full of happy people, families with children from many different places of the country, kite fliers, food shops, vendors, lovers, children playing sport and much more. The Pettah Bazaar and Sea Street, the Goldsmith’s quarters are also nice places to visit and experience the busiest areas of the city.
The Buddhist Temple in Kelaniya dating back to the 6th century, Gangarama Temple in Slave Island with the Seemamalaka Meditation Island in the Beira Lake in front, Gothami Temple in Borella with splendid paintings, St. Pauls Church in Milagiriya one of the oldest churches in Colombo, The Mosque in Devatagaha, Murugan Hindu Temple in Slave Island along with other Hindu Temples in Wellawatta area are some important religious buildings in and around Colombo. These buildings represent the multi religious and multi cultural mixed society in Colombo and are visited by many, from various parts of the world. The replica of the famous Aukana Buddha Statue in Borella and the Bandaranayake International Convention Center (BMICH) in front it are also considered as landmarks in Colombo.
There are three museums in Colombo, namely The National Museum of Colombo and The Natural History Museum, both located in Colombo 7, and the Dutch Period Museum located in Pettah. Visiting the Zoo in Dehiwala, playing golf at the Royal Colombo Golf Club or bird watching at the bird sanctuaries in the nearby suburbs of Thalangama and Attidiya are activities that could be considered by visitors opting to stay longer in Colombo.
Map of the City