The largest and most modern city, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. What to see in Colombo, full of hustle and bustle …
The dilemma: to stay in Colombo or not? Many tourists coming to Sri Lanka ask themselves this question. I did not use to have enough time to get to know Colombo better. However, it attracted me like a magnet, regardless of other people’s opinions, never ending traffic jams and it’s hustle and bustle. There is something in the atmosphere of big cities, which despite the inconvenience makes us want to immerse in the streets buzzing with noise, explore the secret corners or see some of the most famous places.
What to see in Colombo?
The first place we reach in Colombo is usually Colombo Fort, where there are a bus and railway stations. Although there is no fort here for a long time, this district is still called Fort or Colombo-1.
The first fort, built by the Portuguese in 1517, was later expanded by the Dutch to defend the trade of spices, precious stones and ivory. Under the British rule, the fortifications were demolished and replaced with magnificent representative buildings. Today in the Fort we can see only some remains from the colonial era. Part of them was destroyed by terrorist attacks during the last civil war.
In the heart of the old fort there is the Victorian Clock Tower, which once served as a lighthouse. On the North of the clock tower, there is the President’s House, a beautiful residence erected at the end of the 18th century by the last Dutch Governor. As I read on the official website of the President of Sri Lanka, 29 governors and six presidents resided at this palace. The current president does not use it as an official residence. It is used mainly for special occasions, including visit of official guests. At the beginning of June 2016, for the first time in history, the Presidential Palace was opened to the public for several days. On daily basis, it is not available to visitors.
Contemporary Fort Colombo combines hotels, government buildings, corporate offices, banks and restaurants.
On the North of Colombo Fort Railway Station there is a unique shopping district called Pettah. It is a place full of narrow streets, each of them specializing in different kind of products. You can buy and sell everything there, from electronic equipment to rare spices. Due to the location close to the railway station, there are a lot of goods from all places from all parts of the island. Pettah is like an anthill. There is rush movement here. The sellers offer goods and invite to their shops or street stands. Among them there are the vendors who unload goods from large trucks or transport packages on small vehicles, navigating between others ones and between people shopping or hurrying to pray in a nearby temple. This place has its own unusual ambience. It times with life and it must be visited on foot, not in a hurry … to have time to feel its atmosphere.
There are also several places from the colonial period In Pettah:
The Jumiul Alfar Mosque – one of the most characteristic and recognizable places in the Pettah, due to its red and white mosaic pattern, a combination of traditional Muslim and English architecture. It is also called the Red Mosque
The Old Town Hall – the former Town Hall
Entrance to Murugan Hindu Temple
Galle Face Green
On the South of the Fort district there is a long seaside promenade called Galle Face Green. It is the largest open space in Colombo, intended rest and recreation. A great place for kiting or playing cricket. It is also nice to have a walk attach sunset or a family picnic at the weekend. You can also try local fast food from the stands along the coast. In the evenings, especially at weekends and holidays, it can be very crowded. Galle Face Green is surrounded by four- and five-star modern hotels, among them the majestic the Galle Face Hotel with colonial past.
Near the promenade is the Old Parliament building, which houses the Presidential Secretariat. A new headquarters of The Parliament of Sri Lanka is located in Sri Jayewardenapura Kotte, new administrative capital of the country.
When we look at the Colombo map, it turns out that Slave Island is not really an island and of course there are no slaves on it. It is surrounded on three sides by Beira Lake, created in the 16th century by the Portuguese as an additional obstacle on the way to the fort built by them.The island was inhabited by slaves who worked as dockhands and soldiers. Currently, Slave Island is an ethnic and religious mix, a shopping district and a place where there are several luxury hotels and still growing new onces.
The Slave Island attractions:
This is the most exclusive district of Colombo. It took its name from the cinnamon plantations established here during the Dutch colonization. When the plantations collapsed, their place was taken by horse racing, and the elite of the time began to settle in the area. Walking through wide, shaded streets you can observe beautiful old villas hidden between giant, exotic trees. Currently, there are foreign embassies and elite schools. In the cinnamon gardens you can still see: The National Museum and Viharamahadevi Park (Victoria Park)
As you can see, Colombo has many attractions to offer. Is it worth spending one or two days to see at least a few of them? The decision is yours. I do not regret the time spent here. Maybe it is a tiring piece of our holidays, but also exciting.