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The skyline of the Fort area. The twin towers of the World Trade Center building are in the background, with the Bank of Ceylon tower to their left and the Presidential Secretariat in the foreground.

Map of Colombo showing its administrative districts.
Colombo is located in Sri Lanka
Map of Sri Lanka showing the location of Colombo.
Coordinates: 6°56′04″N 79°50′34″E / 6.93444°N 79.84278°E / 6.93444; 79.84278
Country Sri Lanka
Province Western Province
District Colombo District
 - Municipal Council Colombo Municipal Council
 - Mayor Uvais Mohamed Imitiyas
 - Deputy Mayor S. Rajendran
 - Headquarters Town Hall
 - City 37.31 km2 (14.4 sq mi)
Population (2001[1])
 - City 647,100
 Density 17,344/km2 (44,920.8/sq mi)
 Metro 5,648,000 (2,006)
Time zone Sri Lanka Standard Time Zone (UTC+5:30)
 - Summer (DST) Summer time (UTC+6)

Colombo (Sinhala: කොළඹ, pronounced [ˈkoləmbə]; Tamil: கொழும்பு) is the largest city and commercial capital of Sri Lanka. It is located on the west coast of the island and adjacent to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, the capital city of Sri Lanka. Colombo is a busy and vibrant city with a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings and ruins[2] and a city population of 647,100.[1] The Colombo Metropolitan Region, defined by the districts of Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara, has an estimated population of 5,648,000, and covers an area of 3,694.20 km².[3][4]

Due to its large harbour and its strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes, Colombo was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. However it was only made the capital of the island when Sri Lanka was ceded to the British Empire in 1815,[5] and its status as capital was retained when the nation became independent in 1948. In 1978, when administrative functions were moved to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Colombo was designated as the commercial capital of Sri Lanka.

Like many cities, Colombo's urban area extends well beyond the boundaries of a single local authority, encompassing other Municipal and Urban Councils. The main city is home to a majority of the Sri Lanka's corporate offices, restaurants and entertainment venues.[6] Famous landmarks in Colombo include the Galle Face Green, the Viharamahadevi Park as well as the National Museum.



The name "Colombo", first introduced by the Portuguese in 1505, is believed to be derived from the classical Sinhalese name ඛොලන් ථොට Kolon thota, meaning "port on the river Kelani".[7] It has also been suggested that the name may be derived from the Sinhalese name ඛොල-අම්බ-තොට Kola-amba-thota which means "Harbour with leafy mango trees".[6] However, it is also possible that the Portuguese named the city after Christopher Columbus,[citation needed] the sailor who lived in Portugal for many years before discovering the Americas on behalf of the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. His Portuguese name is Cristóvão Colombo. Colombo set sail for to look for India westwards around the same time Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama set sail eastwards, landing at the Port of Calicut in India on 20 May 1498. Colombo discovered the Americas six years before that on 12 October 1492 and was already a famed sailor and explorer, celebrated both in Portugal and Spain by the time Dom Lourenço de Almeida accidently landed in the port of Galle in 1505.[8]


As Colombo possesses a natural harbour, it was known to Romans, Arabs, and Chinese traders over 2,000 years ago. Traveller Ibn Batuta who visited the island in the 14th century, referred to it as Kalanpu.[9] Arab Muslims whose prime interests were trade, began to settle in Colombo around the 8th century AD mostly because the port helped their business and controlled much of the trade between the Sinhalese kingdoms and the outside world. Their descendants now comprise the local Sri Lankan Moor community.[5][10]

The Portuguese Era

Colombo's colonial heritage is visible throughout the city, as in the historical Wolvendaal church, established by the Dutch in 1749

Portuguese explorers led by Dom Lourenço de Almeida first arrived in Sri Lanka in 1505. During their initial visit they made a treaty with the King of Kotte Parakramabahu VIII (1484–1508) enabling them to trade in the islands' crop of cinnamon, which lay along the coastal areas of the island, including in Colombo.[11] As part of the treaty, the Portuguese were given full authority over the coast line in exchange for the promise of guarding the coast against invaders. They were also allowed to establish a trading post in Colombo.[11] Within a short time, however, they then expelled the Muslim inhabitants of Colombo and began to build a fort there in 1517.

The Portuguese soon realized that control of Sri Lanka was necessary for protection of their coastal establishments in India and they began to manipulate the rulers of the Kotte Kingdom in order to gain control of the area. After skilfully exploiting rivalries within the Royal Family, they took control of a large area of the Kingdom and the Sinhalese King Mayadunne established a new Kingdom at Sitawaka, a domain in the Kotte kingdom.[11] Before long he annexed much of the Kotte kingdom and forced the Portuguese to retreat to Colombo, which was repeatedly besieged by Mayadunne and the later Kings of Sitawaka, forcing them to seek reinforcement from their major base in Goa, India. However, following the fall of the Kingdom in 1593, the Portuguese were able to establish complete control over the entire coastal area, with Colombo as their capital.[11][12]

The VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie) logo of Dutch East India Company on the gates of Wolvendaal church

This part of Colombo is still known as Fort and houses the presidential palace and the majority of Colombo's five star hotels. The area immediately outside Fort is known as Pettah (Sinhala පිට කොවුට piṭa koṭuva, "outer fort") and is a commercial hub.

The Dutch Era

In 1638 the Dutch signed a treaty with King Rajasinha II of Kandy which assured the king assistance in his war against the Portuguese in exchange for a monopoly of the island's major trade goods. The Portuguese resisted the Dutch and the Kandyans, but were gradually defeated in their strongholds beginning in 1639.[13] The Dutch captured Colombo in 1656 after an epic siege, at the end of which a mere 93 Portuguese survivors were given safe conduct out of the fort. Although the Dutch initially restored the captured area back to the Sinhalese Kings, they later refused to turn them over and gained control over the island's richest cinnamon lands including Colombo which then served as the capital of the Dutch maritime provinces under the control of the Dutch East India Company until 1796.[13][14]

Dutch engraving of Colombo in about 1680

The British era

The old Legislative Council Building, Colombo fort. Today houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Although the British captured Colombo in 1796, it remained a British military outpost until the Kandyan Kingdom was ceded to them in 1815 and they made Colombo the capital of their newly created crown colony of Ceylon. Unlike the Portuguese and Dutch before them, whose primary use of Colombo was as a military fort, the British began constructing houses and other civilian structures around the fort, giving rise to the current City of Colombo.[5]

Initially, they placed the administration of the city under a "Collector", and John Macdowell of the Madras Service was the first to hold the office. Then, in 1833, the Government Agent of the Western Province was charged with the administration of the city. Centuries of colonial rule had meant a decline of indigenous administration of Colombo, and in 1865 the British conceived a Municipal Council as a means of training the local population in self-governance. The Legislative Council of Ceylon constituted the Colombo Municipal Council in 1865 and the Council met for the first time on the January 16, 1866. At the time, the population of the region was around 80,000.[5]

During the time they were in control of the Colombo, the British were responsible for much of the planning of the present city. In some parts of the city tram car tracks and granite flooring laid during the era are still visible today.[14][15]

Post Independence

The formal ceremony marking the start of self rule at Independence Square.

This era of colonialism ended peacefully in 1948 when Ceylon gained independence from Britain.[16] Due to the tremendous impact this caused on the city's inhabitants and on the country as a whole, the changes that resulted at the end of the colonial period were drastic. An entire new culture took root. Changes in laws and customs, clothing styles, religions and proper names were a significant result of the colonial era.[16] These cultural changes were followed by the strengthening of the island's economy. Even today, the influence of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British is clearly visible in Colombo’s architecture, names, clothing, food, language and attitudes. Buildings from all three eras stand in their glory as reminders of the turbulent past of Colombo. The city and its people show an interesting mix of European clothing and lifestyles together with local customs.[16]

Historically, Colombo referred to the area around the Fort and Pettah Market which is famous for the variety of products available as well as the Khan Clock Tower, a local landmark. At present, it refers to the city limits of the Colombo Municipal Council. More often, the name is used for the Conurbation known as Greater Colombo, which encompasses several Municipal councils including Kotte, Dehiwela and Colombo.

Although Colombo lost its status as the capital of Sri Lanka in the 1980s, it continues to be the island's commercial centre. Despite the official capital of Sri Lanka moving to the adjacent Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte, most countries still maintain their diplomatic missions in Colombo.[17]

Geography and climate

Colombo's geography is a mix of land and water. The city has many canals and, in the heart of the city, the 65-hectare (160-acre) Beira Lake.[18] The lake is one of the most distinctive landmarks of Colombo, and was used for centuries by colonists to defend the city.[18] It remains a popular attraction, hosting regattas,[19] and theatrical events on its shores. The Northern and North-Eastern border of the city of Colombo is formed by the Kelani River, which meets the sea in a part of the city known as the Modera (mōdara in Sinhala) which means river delta.

Colombo features a tropical rainforest climate under Koppen's climate classification. Colombo’s climate is fairly temperate all throughout the year. From March to April the temperature averages around 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit) maximum.[20] The only major change in the Colombo weather occurs during the monsoon seasons from May to August and October to January. This is the time of year where heavy rains can be expected. Colombo sees little relative diurnal range of temperature, although this is more marked in the drier winter months, where minimum temperatures average 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit). Rainfall in the city averages around 2,400 millimetres (94 in) a year.[21]

Climate data for Colombo, Sri Lanka
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 30
Average low °C (°F) 23.3
Precipitation mm (inches) 83.8
Source: [22]


Colombo is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural city. The population of Colombo is a mix of numerous ethnic groups, mainly Sinhalese, Moors and Tamils. There are also small communities of people with Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, Malay and Indian origins living in the city, as well as numerous European expatriates. Colombo is the most populous city in Sri Lanka, with 642,163 people living within the city limits.[23] According to the census of 2001 the demographics of urban Colombo by ethnicity is as follows.[23]

No Ethnicity Population % Of Total
1 Sinhalese 265,657 41.36
2 Tamils 185,672 28.91
3 Moors 153,299 23.87
4 Indian Tamils 13,968 2.17
5 Malay 11,149 1.73
6 Burghers 5,273 0.82
7 Sri Lankan Chetty 740 0.11
8 Bharatha 471 0.07
9 Other 5,934 0.96
10 Total 642,163 100

Government and politics

The Seema Malakaya of the Gangarama Temple in the Beira Lake in the Slave Island area, is one of many religious structures in Colombo
The Beira Lake: the Seema Malakaya temple and the gallery island can be seen in the lake

Local Government

Colombo is a charter city, with a Mayor Council form of government. Colombo's mayor and the council members are elected through local government elections held once in five years. For the past 50 years the city had been ruled by the United National Party (UNP), a right leaning party, whose business friendly policies resonate with the population of Colombo. However the UNP nomination list for the 2006 Municipal elections was rejected,[24] and an Independent Group supported by the UNP won the elections.[25] Uvais Mohamed Imitiyas was subsequently appointed Mayor of Colombo.[26]

The city government provides sewer, road management and waste management services, in case of water, electricity and telephone utility services the council liaises with the water supply and drainage board, the Ceylon electricity board and telephone service providers.

Official Vision and mission


Colombo being a model city in Asia, a caring organization looking after interests of citizens and users with an efficient quality service for creation of safe, healthy and wealthy life.[27]


Organization achieving excellence in providing citizen centred services to the public / customer, optimizing the use of available resources through a competent, motivated and dedicated team.[27]

National capital

Colombo was the capital of the coastal areas controlled by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British from the 1700s to the 1815 when the British gained control of the entire island following the Kandian convention. From then until the 1980s the national capital of the island was Colombo. During the 1980s plans were made to move the administrative capital to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte and thus move all governmental institutions out of Colombo to make way for commercial activities. As a primary step the Parliament was moved to a new complex in Kotte and several ministries and departments were also moved. However the move was never completed. Today many governmental institutions still remain in Colombo. These include the President's House, Presidential Secretariat, Prime Minister's House (Temple Trees), Prime Minister's Office, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, important government ministries and departments; such as Finance (Treasury), Defence, Public Administration & Home affairs, Foreign affairs, Justice and the Military headquarters, Naval headquarters (SLNS Parakrama), Air Force headquarters (SLAF Colombo) and Police national and field force headquarters.[28][29]


The Neo-baroque style Old Parliament Building, which is now the Presidential Secretariat
The Colombo City Town Hall in Cinnamon Gardens houses the Town Council and other municipal offices

Colombo is divided into 15 numbered ares for the purposes of postal services. Within these areas are the suburbs with their corresponding post office.

Postal zones Suburbs
Colombo 1 Fort (Colombo)
Colombo 2 Slave Island and Union Place
Colombo 3 Kollupitiya
Colombo 4 Bambalapitiya
Colombo 5 Havelock Town and Kirilapone
Colombo 6 Wellawatte and Pamankada
Colombo 7 Cinnamon Gardens
Colombo 8 Borella
Colombo 9 Dematagoda
Colombo 10 Maradana and Panchikawatte
Colombo 11 Pettah
Colombo 12 Hultsdorf
Colombo 13 Kotahena and Bloemendhal
Colombo 14 Grandpass
Colombo 15 Mutwal, Modera, Mattakkuliya and Madampitiya


Colombo is the hub of Sri Lanka's economic activity, with many major events taking place around the Galle Face Green

The great majority of Sri Lankan corporations have their head offices in Colombo. Some of the industries include chemicals, textiles, glass, cement, leather goods, furniture, and jewellery. In the city centre is located South Asia's second tallest building - The World Trade Centre. The 40 story Twin Tower complex is the centre of important commercial establishments, situated in the Fort district, the city's nerve center. Right outside the Fort area is Pettah which is derived from the Sinhalese word pita which means out or outside as it is outside the Fort.[citation needed]

Pettah is more crowded than the fort area. Pettah's roads are always packed and pavements are full of small stalls selling from delicious Sherbat to Shirts. Main Street consists mostly of clothes shops and the cross roads, which are literally known as Cross Streets where each of the five streets specializes in a specific business. For example the First Cross Street is mostly electronic goods shops, the Second, cellular phones and fancy goods. Most of these businesses in Pettah are dominated by Muslim traders. At the end of the main street further away from Fort is the Sea Street, Sri Lanka's Gold market - dominated by Tamil interests. This mile-long street is full of jewellery shops.[citation needed]

The Colombo Metropolitan Region (CMR) encompasses the country's administrative capital Kotte and Colombo. Found within the borders of the CMR is 80% of the country’s industries and over 60% of all vehicles plying Sri Lankan roads.[citation needed]

At one time Air Lanka (now SriLankan Airlines) had its head office in Colombo.[30]

Law enforcement & Crime

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka is located in Colombo

The Sri Lanka Police the main law enforcement agency of the island liaise with the municipal council, but is under the control of the Ministry of Defence of the central government.[31] Policing in Colombo and its suburbs falls within the Metropolitan Range headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police (Metropolitan), this also includes the Colombo Crime Division.[32] As with most Sri Lankan cities, the magistrate court handles felony crimes, the district court handles civil cases.

As in other large cities around the world, Colombo experiences certain levels of street crime and bribery. In addition, in since the 1980s there have been a number of major terrorist attacks.[33][34] The LTTE has been linked to bombings and assassinations in the city.[35] Welikada Prison is situated in Colombo and it is one of the largest maximum-security prisons in the country.[36]


Colombo street in the early 20th century with a tramcar

Colombo has most of the amenities that a modern city has. The majority of the major shopping malls in Sri Lanka are located in the city, of which all are wi-fi enabled. In recent times there's been an outpour of high rise condominiums in the city, mainly due to the very high land prices.

Port of Colombo

The largest and one of the busiest ports in Sri Lanka, the Colombo Harbour is located in this city. Colombo was established primarily as a port city during the colonial era, with an artificial harbour that has been expanded over the years. The Sri Lanka Navy maintains a naval base, SLNS Rangalla within the harbour.

The Port of Colombo handled 3.75 million twenty-foot equivalent units in 2008, 10.6% up on 2007 (which itself was 9.7% up on 2006), bucking the global economic trend. Of those, 817,000 were local shipments with the rest transshipments. The port is close to its capacity for container handling. An expansion project, the South Harbour project, will increase the port's capacity.[37]


Main Street in the Fort with the Ghaffoor Building in the background

Colombo has an extensive public transport system based on buses. The bus service is operated both by private and government own Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB). Train transport within the city is limited since most trains are meant for transport to and from the city rather than within the city and are often overcrowded. However the Central Bus Stand and Fort Railway Station functions as the islands primary hub for bus and rail transport respectively. Up until the 1970s the city had a trams service, which was discontinued. Other means of transport includes auto rickshaws (commonly called "three wheelers" in Sri Lanka) and taxicabs. Three wheelers are entirely operated by individuals and hardly regulated whilst cab services are run by private companies and are metered.

Construction of the Colombo Metro Rail, a Mass Rapid Transit railway system, similar to that of other advanced Asian cities has begun. The project was established to control the excessive traffic in the city. The project is carried out by NEB Rapid Infrastructure Projects Pvt.Ltd., an Indian and Singaporean collaboration.[38] [39]

Bandaranaike International Airport serves the city for all International flights while the Ratmalana Airport serves all local flights.

  • Main Line – Colombo to Badulla.
  • Southern Line – Colombo to Matara
  • Northern Line – Colombo to Kankesanturai deviates from the Main Line at Polgahawela junction - presently operating only up to Vavuniya
  • Puttalam Line – Colombo to Puttalam
  • Kelani Valley Line (Narrow Gauge) - Colombo to Yatiyantota - presently operating only up to Avissawella
  • Mannar Line (Earlier Indo-Lanka Line) Colombo To Talaimannar - Divides from Northern Line at Medawachchiya junction - Not operational


The Jami Ul Alfar mosque, Pettah is one of the most visited landmarks in Colombo
St.Paul's Church Milagiriya one of the oldest churches in Colombo
The Murugan Hindu temple in slave island area

The two World Trade Centre towers use to be the most recognized landmarks of the city. Before these towers were completed in 1997, the adjacent Bank of Ceylon tower was the tallest structure and the most prominent landmark of the city. Before the skyscrapers were built it was the Old Parliament Building that stood majestically in the Fort district with the Old Colombo Lighthouse situated close to it. Another important landmark of the city is the Independence Hall at Independence Square in Cinnamon gardens.

Even before the parliament was built some claim that the Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque was recognized as the landmark of Colombo by sailors approaching the port. The mosque is still one of the most visited tourist sites in Colombo.

Another landmark is St.Paul's Church Milagiriya, one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka, first built by the Portugese and re-built by the British in 1848.

The Fort district also has the famous Cargills & Millers complex that is protected by a special government law from demolition. This is done mainly to preserve the historic beauty of the Fort area.

The Galle Face Green is the city's largest and most elegant promenade. Lined with palm trees and adjacent to the coast, this mile-long stretch in the heart of the city is a constant beehive of activity. The green is especially busy on Fridays and Saturdays. In the evenings it plays host to families and children playing sports and flying kites, lovers embracing under umbrellas and health enthusiasts taking their daily evening walks. There are numerous small food stalls and a small stretch of beach to get wet. The green was recently given a make over and since then has been even more popular with the local community. The Green also frequently hosts numerous international and local concerts and performances, such as the recently concluded World Drum Festival.

Cannons that were once mounted on the rampart of the old fort of Colombo laid out for observance and prestige at the Green, giving a colonial touch to the city. The famous colonial styled Galle Face Hotel, known as Asia's Emerald on the Green since 1864, is also adjacent to Galle Face Green. The Hotel has played host to distinguished guests including the British Royal Family and other Royal Guests and Celebrities. Apparently after having stayed at the hotel, Princess Alexandra of Denmark had commented that "the peacefulness and generosity encountered at the Galle Face Hotel cannot be matched".[40] Around the corner from Galle Face are prominent coffee bars, chic bars and boutiques.


Royal College Colombo, the oldest public school in the city.

Education institutions in Colombo have a long history. Colombo has many of the prominent public schools in the country, some of them government owned and others private. Most of the prominent schools in the city date back to the 1800s when they were established during the British colonial rule,[41] such as the Royal College Colombo (1835). Certain urban schools of Sri Lanka have some religious alignment, this is partly due to the influence of British who established Christian missionary schools,[42][43] these include the Anglican, Bishop's College(1875); the Buddhist, Ananda College (1886); the Muslim, Zahira College (1892); the Catholic, St. Joseph's College (1896) & St. Peter's College. These religious alignments do not affect the curriculum of the school except for the demographics of the student population.[42]

Higher education in the city has a long history, beginning with the establishment of the Colombo Medical College (1870), the Colombo Law College (1875), School of Agriculture (1884) and the Government Technical College (1893). The first step in the creation of a University in Colombo was taken in 1913 with the establishment of the University College Colombo which prepared students for the external examinations of the University of London, this was followed by the formation of the University of Ceylon, which had a campus in Colombo.[44] Today the University of Colombo and the University of the Visual & Performing Arts are state universities in the city. The Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology also has a metropolitan campus in the centre of the city. There are several private higher education institutions within the city.


Colombo has wildly varying architecture that span centuries and depict various styles. Many colonial buildings influenced by the Portuguese, Dutch and British exist alongside structures built in Buddhist, Hindu , Islamic, Indian and Contemporary architectural styles. No other place is this more evident in the heart of the city the Fort area. Here one may find new towering skyscrapers as well as historic buildings dating far back as the 1700s.[45][46]

Colombo Fort

The Portuguese were the first colonist to settle in Colombo, establishing a small trading post they had laid the foundations for a small fort which in time became the largest colonial fort in the island. The Dutch expanded the fort thus creating a well old fortified harbour. This came in to the possession of the British in the late 1700s and by the late 19th century the seeing no threat to the Colombo Harbour, began demolishing the ramparts to make way for the development of the city. Although now there is nothing left of the fortifications the area which was once the fort is still refereed to as Fort and the area out side the fort; Pettah or pita-koutuwa in Sinhalese which means outer fort.[45][46]

Dutch era buildings

There are none of the buildings of the Portuguese era and only a few from the Dutch period. These include the oldest building in the fort area, the Dutch Hospital, the Dutch House which is now the Colombo Dutch Museum and several churches. The President's House (formerly the Queen's House) have originally been the Dutch governor's house, and successive British Governors made it their office and residence. However, it has undergone much change since the Dutch period. Adjoining the President's House are the Gordon Gardens, now off limits to the public.[45][46][47]

British era buildings

The Sirimathipaya Mansion of Sir Ernest de Silva which is now the Prime Minister's Office is an example of architecture of the British era.

Much of the old buildings of the fort area and in other parts of the city date back to the British times, these include governmental, commercial buildings and private houses. Some of the notable government building of British colonial architecture includes; the old Parliament building which is now the Presidential Secretariat, the Republic Building which houses the Ministry of Foreign affairs, but once housed the Ceylon Legislative council, the General Treasury Building, the old General Post Office an Edwardian style building opposite the President's House, the Prime Minister's Office, the Mathematics department of the University of Colombo (formally the Royal College, Colombo).[48] Notable commercial buildings of the British era include, the Galle Face Hotel, Cargills & Millers complex, Grand Oriental Hotel. Several old clubs of the city gives a glimpse of the British equestrian life style, these include the Orient Club, the 80's Club, the Colombo Cricket Club.[45][46]


Annual cultural events and fairs

Colombo's most beautiful festival is the celebration of Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment and Death all falling on the same day.[49] In Sinhala this is known as Vesak. [49] During this festival, much of the city is decorated with lanterns, lights and special displays of light(known as Thoran). The festival falls in mid May and lasts a week when many Sri Lankans visit the city to see the lantern competitions and decorations. During this week people distribute, rice, drinks and various other food items for free in places what is known as Dunsal which means charity place. These Dunsals are popular amongst visitors from the suburbs.

Christmas is another major festival in the city. Although Sri Lanka's Christians make up only just over 7% of the population, Christmas is one of the island's biggest festivals. Most streets and commercial buildings light up from the beginning of December and festive sales begin at all shopping centres and department stores. Caroling and nativity plays are also frequent sights during the season.

Performing arts

Colombo has several performing arts centers which are popular for their musical and theatrical performances. The most famous performing arts centers are the Lionel Wendt Theater, the Elphinstone and the Tower Hall, all of which have a very rich history and made for western style productions. The Navarangahala also found in the city is the country's first national theatre designed and build for Asiatic and local style musical and theatrical productions.

Museums and art collections

The National Museum of Colombo, was established on 1 January 1877 during the tenure of the British Colonial Governor Sir William Henry Gregory is situated in cinnamon gardens area. Next to it is the Natural History Museum.[50] The museum houses the crown jewels and throne of the last king of the Kingdom of Kandy, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha.[50] There is also the Colombo Dutch Museum detailing the Dutch colonial history of the country. Colombo does not boast a very big art gallery. There is only a small collection of Sri Lankan masterpieces at the Art Gallery in Green Path.


A Test match between Sri Lanka and England at the SSC Ground, Colombo, March 2001.

Undoubtedly the most popular sport in Sri Lanka is cricket. The country emerged as champions of the 1996 Cricket World Cup and became runners up in 2007. In the most recent tournament, the ICC World Twenty20 2009 they became runners up again. The sport is played in parks, playgrounds, beaches and even in the streets of the city. Colombo is also the home for two of the country's international cricket stadiums, Sinhalese Sports Club's cricket stadium and R. Premadasa Stadium (named after late president Premadasa). Rugby is also a popular sport at the club and school level. Colombo has the distinction of being the only city in the world to have 4 cricket Test venues in the past: Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu Stadium, Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo Cricket Club Ground and Ranasinghe Premadasa Stadium. The Sugathadasa Stadium situated in the city, is an international standard stadium for athletics, swimming and football, also held the South Asian Games in 1991 and 2006. Situated in Colombo the Royal Colombo Golf Club is one of the oldest Golf Clubs in a Asia.

The city of Colombo also has its own local football team Colombo FC and the sport is being developed as a part of the FIFA Goal program.


Almost all major media businesses in Sri Lanka operate from Colombo. The state media has its offices in Bullers Road and carry out regional transmission from there, this includes the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), formerly known as Radio Ceylon and the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation. The SLBC is the oldest radio station in South Asia, second oldest in the world. Many of the private broadcasting companies have their offices and transmission stations in or around Colombo.

Sister cities

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Census July 17, 2001 (via
  2. ^ Jayewarden+-e, Mr.. "How Colombo Derived its Name". Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  3. ^ Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka; Statistical Abstract 2007, Estimated mid year population by district, 2002 - 2006 (pdf-file) Total population of the three districts of the Colombo Metropolitan Region. Retrieved on 2008-12-31.
  4. ^; Summary of the CMR Structure Plan Definiton and description of the Colombo Metropolitan Region. Retrieved on 2008-12-31.
  5. ^ a b c d "History of Colombo". Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  6. ^ a b World Executive Colombo Hotels and City Guide
  7. ^ "Colombo - then and now". Padma Edirisinghe (The Sunday Observer). 14 February 2004. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ John, Still (1996). Index to the Mahawansa:Together with Chronological Table of Wars and Genealogical Trees. AES. p. 85. ISBN 81-206-1203-5. 
  10. ^ Prof. Manawadu, Samitha. "Cultural Routes Of Sri Lanka As Extensions Of International Itineraries : Identification Of Their Impacts On Tangible & Intangible Heritage pp 3" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  11. ^ a b c d "European Encroachment and Dominance:The Portuguese". Sri Lanka: A Country Study. Retrieved 2006-12-02. 
  12. ^ Ross,, Russell R.; Savada, Andrea Matles (08/14/90). Sri Lanka: A Country Study. Defence Dept., Army. pp. 360p. ISBN 0-16-024055-7. 
  13. ^ a b "European Encroachment and Dominance:The Dutch". Sri Lanka: A Country study. Retrieved 2006-12-02. 
  14. ^ a b Ross,, Russell R.; Savada, Andrea Matles (08/14/90). Sri Lanka: A Country Study. Defense Dept., Army. pp. 360p. ISBN 0-16-024055-7. 
  15. ^ "European Encroachment and Dominance:The British Replace the Dutch". Sri Lanka: A Country study. Retrieved 2006-12-02. 
  16. ^ a b c Adrian, Wijemanne (03/1/96). War and Peace in Post-Colonial Ceylon 1948-1991. Orient Longman. pp. 111p. ISBN 8125003649. 
  17. ^, Embassies located in Sri Lanka
  18. ^ a b The lake in the middle of Colombo, Lanka Library
  19. ^ 35th boat race and 31st Regatta: Oarsmen of Royal and S. Thomas' clash on Beira waters, Daily News, October 10, 2003
  20. ^ "Colombo weather". Retrieved 2006-12-02. 
  21. ^ Weatherbase
  22. ^ "Average Weather for Colombo, Sri Lanka - Temperature and Precipitation". Retrieved February 8, 2009. 
  23. ^ a b Department of Census and Statistics, Census 2001, Additional source [1]. The totals are calculated through enumerations made from Colombo Divisional Secretariat and the Thimbirigasyaya Divisional Secretariat, which is also part of Colombo Municipal Council
  24. ^ Colombo UNP list rejected, BBC News, February 16, 2006
  25. ^ Independent group wins CMC, BBC News, May 21, 2006
  26. ^ Rotational mayors as Colombo gets trishaw driver as her 1st citizen, Sunday Times, May 28, 2006
  27. ^ a b Colombo Municipal, Council. "Mission & Vision". Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  28. ^ The Supreme Court Of Sri Lanka, Justice Ministry
  29. ^ Ministries of Sri Lanka Government, Government of Sri Lanka
  30. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. 14-20 March 1990 "Airlift International" 57.
  31. ^ Organizational Structure, Ministry of Defence, Sri Lanka
  32. ^ The drama behind the arrest of Sepala Eknayake, by Edward Gunawardena Retd. Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police
  33. ^ Major Conventional Terrorist Incidents 1980s to 2000
  34. ^ Travel Warning, United States Department of State
  35. ^ Jane's Sentinel examines the success of the LTTE in resisting the Sri Lankan forces
  36. ^ President orders SB`s release,, February 16, 2006
  37. ^ Containerisation International, p.26, January 8, 2009
  38. ^ Lanka Business Online. "Light Rail". Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  39. ^ Lanka Business Online. "Light Rail Study Group". Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  40. ^ Galle Face, Hotel. "Princess Alexandra's Visit". Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  41. ^ Historical Overview of Education in Sri Lanka, The British Period: (1796 - 1948)
  42. ^ a b Harsha, Aturupane; Paul Glewwe, Wisniewski Suzanne (July 2007). "The Impact of School Quality, Socio-Economic Factors and Child Health on Students’ Academic Performance: Evidence from Sri Lankan Primary Schools" (PDF). Colombo: World Bank. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  43. ^ Harsha, Aturupane; Paul Glewwe, Wisniewski Suzanne (February 2005) (PDF). Treasures of the Education System in Sri Lanka: Restoring Performance, Expanding Opportunities and Enhancing Prospects. Colombo: World Bank. ISBN 955-8908-14-2. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  44. ^ History of the University of Colombo
  45. ^ a b c d Colombo Fort
  46. ^ a b c d Tintagel, Colombo
  47. ^ Dutch Colonial Remains
  48. ^ Our History , University of Colombo
  49. ^ a b Venerable Mahinda. "Significance of Vesak". Retrieved 2007-02-19. 
  50. ^ a b "History of Colombo National Museum". Retrieved 2007-02-02. 

Further reading

The following books contain major components on colombo;

  • Changing Face of Colombo (1501-1972): Covering the Portuguese, Dutch and British Periods, By R.L. Brohier, 1984 (Lake House, Colombo)
  • The Port of Colombo 1860-1939, K. Dharmasena, 1980 (Lake House, Colombo)
  • Decolonizing Ceylon: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Space in Sri Lanka, By Nihal Perera, 1999 (Oxford University Press)

External links

Coordinates: 6°56′04″N 79°50′34″E / 6.93444°N 79.84278°E / 6.93444; 79.84278

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Colombo (Sinhala: කොළඹ, Tamil: கொழும்பு) is the largest city and the financial and commercial capital of Sri Lanka.

Colombo skyline
Colombo skyline


Colombo is the commercial and financial capital of Sri Lanka after the administrative capital was moved to Sri Jayewardenepura-Kotte, a suburb east of the city.

Weather wise, the best time to visit is during the North East monsoon season, which is November to April.

Get in

By plane

There is air service to and from Colombo, provided by the national airline Sri Lankan Airlines. Flights are available from origins throughout Europe, United States, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, the Middle East, India, and Pakistan. Other airlines, include Qatar Airlines and Emirates. If you were to fly Emirates, you can stop over in Colombo on your way to Singapore (e.g. Dubai - Colombo - Singapore)

Sri Lanka's only international airport, Bandaranaike International, is at Katunayake, close to Negombo, on the coast north of Colombo. The journey to Colombo will take about an hour by taxi.

Air Asia has now begun to fly to Colombo from Kuala Lumpur with very cheap airfares. Flights start 15 August 2009

By train

You can take a train from Ja-Ela to Colombo. Ja-Ela is located approximately 7 kilometers south of the airport.

By bus

The Sri Lanka Transport Board is the nationalized bus service. Buses are the principal mode of transport in the county. If you cannot speak or understand Sinhalese, however, traveling by bus is not advised.

Route No 187 connects the Katunayake Airport to the city of Colombo, and buses are available throughout the day.

By boat

Indian Ocean Cruises [1] operates a cruise liner to Colombo as part of its itinerary along the West Coast of India and to the uninhabited Lakshwadeep Islands.

Getting into Colombo from Katunayake airport

By taxi

Local Taxi (mini van)

The taxi service provided by the taxi counter in the arrivals hall is one option. They provide a mini van without air conditioning, but it will be about a third cheaper than taxis provided by 'hotels'. It is worth noting that this service is primarily intended for the locals, so the counter staff may try to persuade you to go to one of the 'hotel taxi' counters outside the arrivals hall but insist that you only want a mini van.

Hotel Taxi

Most 4 or 5 star hotels have their own counter just outside the arrivals hall. You can get a taxi from one of these places. They will provide an air conditioned car. As of May 2009, the cost to Galle Face (Colombo Fort) could be about Rs 2,800 (approximately 25 US$).

By bus

This is the cheapest way to get into Colombo, but will take some effort and time. The public bus (number 187) to Colombo Fort leaves from the airport bus depot. You can get there by free shuttle or walk (about 10 - 15 mins). To catch a shuttle bus, come out of the airport, turn left and walk all the way to the end of the building. You will not find any signs, so be sure to ask airport personnel. The 187 bus to Colombo costs 40 rupees (although the bus collector may try to make tourists pay more 'for luggage' etc) to Colombo Fort station.

The journey into Colombo Fort could take anything between an hour and fifteen to two hours. The bus will stop at major towns en route . They also have collapsible seats along the aisle which will get used as the bus becomes busy so, try to get a seat at the front. The one opposite the door is preferable! Ask the conductor to tell you when the bus gets to the Fort station (as opposed to the Colombo bus depot). Note that some buses do not go as far as the Fort station and stop at the bus depot, which is about 5 min walk from the station. Others go via the depot to fort station and then double back to the bus depot.

Once you reach Colombo Fort, you can get a three-wheeler (tuk-tuk) to get to your destination. You will pay a little premium for catching a tuk-tuk from the bus station or outside Fort station (on the main road so there will be a choice of tuk-tuks) but it should not cost more than Rs 150 to go to hotels near Galle Face (e.g. Cinnamon Grand, Taj or Galle Face Hotel).

You can also catch a bus to Galle Face (less than Rs 10) but you will not be welcome on-board with large luggage; however, a backpack may be accepted.

A Tourist Development Authority operated 'tuk tuk' or tri-shaw
A Tourist Development Authority operated 'tuk tuk' or tri-shaw
Colombo Traffic
Colombo Traffic

Getting around by Tri-shaw (Three wheeler, tuk-tuk) is most convenient. Most three-wheelers do not have any meters fitted with them and so you have to always negotiate and agree on a price before you take a trip. Shorter trips can cost you anywhere from Rs. 50 (for around 2 - 3 kms) to Rs. 250 (for 8 kms). Do not settle for first rikshaw you get, they will fleece you that way. Look for at least 3 or 4 three-wheelers before you settle down). Its very difficult to negotiate with the tuk-tuk parked in a tuk-tuk parking area. Best way to do is stop a one traveling to the direction you need to go and negotiate with them.

The Sri Lankan Tourist Development Authority also operates its own fleet of 'tuk-tuks' around Colombo which are tourist friendly and metered to ensure that travellers are aware of the price being paid. Tourist board tuk tuks are distinguishable by their unique paintings. These three-wheelers can be booked 24 hours a day by calling 0712 500 800 or 0772 299 299.

Taxis are also a good mode of transportation. The cars often have meters starting on Rs. 40 and charge about Rs. 65 per kilometer. You seldom pay more than Rs. 200 for a trip inside Colombo. Rs. 500 will get you to Mount Lavinia. Taxis are much safer than a three-wheeler and offer you the option of air conditioning.


Colombo has recently become a major destination for Indian candidates appearing for CFA Exam. CFA exam, held by CFA Institute, USA, has not been allowed to conduct its premier examination in India in past few years. Colombo offers a cheap destination to Indian candidates as compared to Singapore or Bangkok.

The June 2008 exam was held at Hotel Galadari at Galle Road and the December 2008 exam was held at Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM), British Council and Saraswathi Hall. Except Saraswathi Hall, all examination centers are pretty comfortable.

Indian Candidates can take Air India Express from Chennai to Colombo which offers very cheap rates (around INR 6,000 for round trip) and offers food in the flight too.

Buddha Statues, Colombo
Buddha Statues, Colombo
  • The National Museum of Colombo - Department of National Museums, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7. Tel: 11 269-4767. Closed Fridays and all public holidays. 9AM-5PM. Also known as the Sri Lanka National Museum, it is the largest museum in Colombo. Among its exhibits, it contains regalia of the 17th century Kandyan Kings.
  • The Natural History Museum- Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7. Tel: 11 269-1399. Closed Fridays and all public holidays. 9AM-5PM. This museum features Sri Lanka's floral and fauna in dioramas.
  • The Dutch Period Museum- 95 Prince Street, Pettah, Colombo 11. Tel: 11 244-8466. Closed Fridays and all public holidays. 9AM-5PM. Historical museum documenting Dutch colonial rule in Sri Lanka. Houses Dutch-inspired artifacts.
  • The Sapumal Foundation- 32/4 Barnes Place, Colombo 7. Tel: 11 269-5731. The Sapumal Foundation was once home to the late Harry Pieris. Visitors are able to see his studio and art materials that have been left undisturbed over the years. This gallery also contains 200 paintings that follow the development of Sri Lankan art. Special art classes are also available at the gallery.
  • The Lionel Wendt Memorial Art Center- 18 Guilford Crescent, Colombo 7. M-Fr 9AM-1PM and 2-4PM. Tel: 11 269-5794. The Art Center provides a multi-functional creative experience with exhibitions, art shows and stage events. Visitors to the Art Center area also able to purchase various antiques as well as paintings and crafts by contemporary Sri Lankan artists.
  • Visit Galle Face Green Promenade at sundown for a spectacular view. The promenade stretches 13 acres between Galle Road and the Indian Ocean; it tends to attract children, teenagers, vendors, and families. Usually on Saturday and Sunday evenings, the land is filled with day-trippers, food vendors, and people picnicking. The Galle Face Green Promenade was reopened to the public in May of 2001.
  • Colombo Zoological Gardens- Colombo's zoo has a wide variety of animals, birds, and reptiles from all over the world. One of the most popular attractions to the zoo is the elephant show, which is held daily at 5:15PM. The zoo also offers elephant and pony rides. Currently, the zoo is being renovated, and plans to have an open area for the elephants.
  • Barefoot handicraft store, 706 Galle Road, Colombo 03, Kollupitiya. [2]. Has a wide range of good quality souvenirs and handmade items: clothes, bags, and children toys, from some of the most beautifully-colored fabric you've ever seen.
  • Crescat Boulevard, 89 Galle Rd, Colombo 3, Kollupitiya. An up-market shopping mall. Though it is fairly small, it contains a food court on the basement floor.
  • Lakmedura, 113 Dharmapala Road, Colombo 07, Cinnamon Gardens. An organization run by the tour guides association. Offers mass produced products at unbelievably high prices. It is better to omit it from one's itinerary although many tour companies, operators, guides and trishaw drivers will pester you to visit it.
  • Lakpahana [3], 14 Reid Avenue, Colombo 07, Cinnamon Gardens. A non-profit organization run by the craftsman association of Sri Lanka with assistance from the government. Offers all handicrafts and gemstone jewelery. Unique metalware, wood carvings,silver jewelery,batik ,textile products and other crafts. Only member in Sri Lanka of the World Craft Council and winner of several international awards therefore all our products come with an international guarantee.The only place where quality exceeds price.
  • Liberty Plaza RA de Mel Mawatha, Colombo 3, Kollupitiya. Another shopping mall similar to Majestic City however it is smaller in size. You can find various items such as clothing, CDs and DVDs.
  • Majestic City in Kollupitiya on Galle Road has a wide variety of clothing outlets - including a sub-branch of Odel - at very good prices, as well as various electrical goods and toy shops. It's pleasantly air-conditioned and includes a food court on the ground floor.
  • Odel [4] No 5, Alexandra Place, Colombo 7, Cinnamon Gardens. A stylish department store, with its very own Delifrance outlet, clothing, houseware, sporting goods, books and movies, as well as Delight – for sweet indulgences from chocolates to exotic nuts.
  • Paradise Road – 213, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7, Cinnamon Gardens. Tel: 268 6043.Open 9am-7pm. A shop with a small café in a British colonial style building where antiques, home décor items and art can be viewed or purchased.
  • The Pettah Market, this is the place to go for shopping for all kinds of things from fruits to clothes to electronics if you want to buy at wholesale prices. You have to bargain extensively and it is recommended that you take a local you trust along with you. Even if you don't buy anything, Pettah, or Colombo 11 is an experience in itself being a very typical, loud and crowded oriental market place full of all sorts of odds, ends and junk. Each street in the market has its own speciality, for example, in 1st Cross Street you can find electrical items, 2nd Cross Street has jewellery and so on. In the Pettah Market area, some street vendors actively ask passers-by, foreigners and locals to view products they are selling though polite refusal is generally accepted.



Buy a "lunch packet" from street stands practically anywhere in the city. Typically, it will be a filling meal of rice and vegetables for about Rs 80.

Also available everywhere are small bakeries selling rotis (either flat or folded into triangles filled with egg, vegetable or fish), hoppers (bowl shaped pancakes made with coconut milk), and other "short eats" (bread based snacks or fried foods). The price of individual items range from Rs. 10-50.

  • The Cricket Club Cafe, 34 Queens Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 03. This cafe is a must for any cricket lover. The walls are covered in autographed memorabilia and photos with sports (usually cricket) being screened on all the TVs scattered throughout the rooms. They serve authentic Aussie cuisine and a wide variety of drinks.
  • The Gallery Cafe, 2 Alfred House Road, Off Alfred House Gardens, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. Wonderful atmosphere in beautiful building - designed by famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Large food menu featuring many international dishes, decadent desserts and extensive cocktail menu.
  • The Lagoon, The Colombo Plaza Hotel, 77 Steuart Place / 77 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 03, +94 11 243-7437. 12-2:30PM, 7PM-12:30AM. This restaurant focuses primarily on seafood with colorful Sri Lankan flavors. The friendly, professional staff are able to create an enjoyable dining experience. Full meal: 4000 Rs. per person.  edit
  • Mango Tree, 82 Dharmapala Mawatha, Kollupitiya, Colombo 03, +94 11 537-9790, 11 537-9791 (). 12–3PM; 7–11PM, 7 days a week. One of the finest restaurants in the city. North Indian Cuisine, full of innovative dishes. Service is occasionally slow. Full meal: 1000 Rs. per person.  edit
  • The Palmyrah Restaurant, 328 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. Serves excellent Sri Lankan dishes as well as having an "international" menu.
  • Roadhouse Cafe, 335 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. Serves Sri Lankan and Western food. Meals range from 180 Rs. - 380 Rs. The food is excellent, but the service is a little slow. Try the mango milkshakes or one of their specialty coffees.
  • 168 Seafood Palace, just off Galle Road, near Hotel Renuka, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. Serves excellent Chinese food and seafood dishes. Prices start at 250 Rs. but some prices depend on weight (e.g. crabs). The service is very good.
  • Nihonbashi Main Restaurant, 11 Galle Face Terrace, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. There are three Nihonbashi outlets in Colombo. A Sushi Bar at ODEL and a outlet at the Hilton Colombo Residence are the other two. The main restaurant is an airy and spacious restaurant with a blend of modern and traditional in design consisting of 8 private dining rooms also a dine-in wine room. Nihonbashi is owned and run by Tokyo-born Dharshan Munidasa, a self-taught chef.
  • Spoons, Colombo Hilton, Echelon Square, Fort, Colombo 1. Spoons is the flagship restaurant of the Hilton Hotel. It has a show kitchen, and an impressive collection of wine and chocolates.
  • Ginza Hohsen, Colombo Hilton, Echelon Square, Fort, Colombo 1. This is one of the Japanese restaurants in Colombo. They have a sushi bar, the tatami rooms and ever teppanyaki.
  • Chesa Swiss, 3 Deal Place, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3. Representing the best of Swiss cuisine, this restaurant has all your favorites from fresh garden snails to Chateaubriand for two to steak Café de Paris style! The wine list is exclusively Swiss.
  • The London Grill, Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Galle Face, Colombo 3. As the name suggests this restaurant is very British. It probably has the best ambiance of all, and the food is just great.
  • California Grill, Galadari Hotel, Fort, Colombo 01. This is a fine dining restaurant on the rooftop level of the hotel. It offers panoramic views of the Galle Face marina. The food, mostly US-style grills and premium seafood, is excellent too.
  • Royal Thai, 115 Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha,Slave Island, Colombo 02. Located at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel (refurbished and rebranded September 2009), is an authentic Thai restaurant hosting the usual favorites, such as Tom Yam and Chicken Pandan leaves.
  • Thembili තැබිලි (Orange Coconut juice) is the safest, since they cut it open in front of you (uncontaminated).
  • Spring water with SLS certification are safe to drink.


Colombo offers many accommodation options for every budget.

  • Kamvelta Holiday Resort, Kindelpitiya, Welmilla Junction, Bandaragama., +94 38 2293306 (), [5]. General Location: Located in South of Colombo, Bandaragama ,Sri lanka. 5 km from Bandaragama. 6 km from Panadura. 8 km from Piliyandala. 15 km from Mount Lavinia. 18 km from Horana, 25 km from Colombo. 56 km from Katunayaka International Air port.  edit
  • Hotel Ranmuthu, 112, Galle Road, +94 11 243-3986. Hotel Ranmuthu is comprised of 54 rooms, which are available in single, doubles, or suites. The hotel is located 45 minutes away from the airport. Rooms are air-conditioned, and there is 24-hour security on the premises. The hotel also offers currency exchanges and room service.  edit
  • Hotel Janaki, 443, Fife Rd, Havelock Town, Colombo 5. This 3-star hotel offers its guests rooms with air-conditioning, cable/satellite tv, and a room safe. There is a restaurant and bar on site, with 24-hour room service.  edit
  • Sapphire Hotel, 371, Galle Rd, Wellawatte, Colombo 6, +94 11 258-3306, [6]. Located 5 minutes away from the ocean, Sapphire Hotel is a luxurious accommodation that offers its guests an on-site restaurant and bar. Each room includes air-conditioning, 24-hour room service, and satellite television. The hotel also has two reception halls for those wishing to host a convention or wedding reception. Reservations are required.  edit
  • Hotel Sansu, 651/31, Sir Oliver Gunathilake Gardens, Havelock Town, Colombo 05 (off of Elvitigala Mawatha), +94 11 236-8450 (, fax: +94 11 535-4348), [7]. Hotel Sansu offers luxury that will not break your budget. The hotel is comprised of 26 rooms and self-service apartments, each of which includes cable television. It offers its guests 24-hour front desk services, as well as wake-up calls and an on-site juice bar.  edit
  • Berjaya Mount Royal Beach Hotel, 36 College, Mount Lavinia, +94 11 273-9610 (, fax: +94 11 273-3030), [8]. Experience the exotic charm of Sri Lanka at Berjaya Mount Royal Beach Hotel, famed for its mystical ancient cities, natural beauty, cultural diversity and historical heritage that spans over 2000 years old.  edit
  • Hotel Renuka & Renuka City Hotel, 328 Galle Road, Kollupitiya Colombo 3, +94 11 257-3598 (), [9]. One of the more famous hotels in Colombo, these sister hotels offers their guests comfortable rooms and friendly service. Each room is equipped with flat screen televisions with local and cable channels, 24-hour room service, safety deposit lockers, and internet connections. The hotels themselves house one of the most famous restaurants in Sri Lanka, the Palmyrah, which serves authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. A favorite dish among travelers and locals alike is the Iso Thel Dala, spicy prawns sautéed with onions and tomato. The hotel also offers its guests two bars on site: the Palmyrah Bar and the Water Hole bar.  edit
  • Galle Face Hotel, 2 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3, +94 11 254-1010 (), [10]. A famous, old fashioned colonial style grand hotel. Most rooms come with a view of the ocean or the Galle Face Green. The hotel also has a variety of restaurants on site to choose from, including: The 1864 and Verandah. Spa and butler services are also available for guests.  edit
  • Garden Guest House (, 7 Karlsruhe Gardens, Borella, Colombo 8, +94 11 269-7919. This three-room guest house offers its visitors attached bathrooms, free internet services and laundry facilities. The staff at the guest house can also arrange island tours and airport pick-up.  edit
  • Palm Village Hotel, 262, Old Colombo Road, Uswetakeiyawa (Hendala), +94 11 479-5114 (, fax: +94 11 293-0766), [11]. Located close to the airport, this hotel consists of 50 air-conditioned rooms with either a balcony or a terrace. A restaurant and bar are located on the hotel grounds. There is also a jewelry and souvenir shop for guests.  edit
  • Hotel Topaz, +94-114-710063 / +94-114-714630, [12]. Kandy, the last royal capital of Sri Lanka is a major tourist destination which is 115km from Colombo, at an elevation of 465 meters above sea level, famous for the Temple of the Tooth and many other attractions.The stunning vista of Kandy's lush mountain ranges is the backdrop of Hotel Topaz's elegant accommodation. Marvel at the scenery from your room's private balcony/ deck, or cool down with a drink from the mini-bar or refrigerator. Your room is also fitted with a toilet and bath with shower. No 284, Vauxhall Street, Colombo 02, Sri Lanka. Rates start at USD $34.  edit
  • Park Street Hotel, 20 Park street, Slave Island, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka, +94 11 2439977, [13]. Park Street Hotel is located in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It’s near major shopping centres and business establishments. The hotel is also just a 45-minute drive from the airport. Decked with colonial touches, like antique furniture and high ceilings, our rooms bestow ample luxuries – a Jacuzzi, DVD player, refrigerator, and more.  edit
  • Tintagel, 65 Rosmead Place, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka, (94) 11 4602122 / 060, [14]. Tintagel is situated in Rosmead Place, Colombo’s classy neighbourhood. Once a stately home to the political Bandaranaike family, Tintagel has been transformed into a stylish and sophisticated hotel in this district. The 10 elegant suites are defined by high ceilings, timber floors, and luxurious décor. They open to a private courtyard, balcony, or separate lounge area. Each opulent accommodation also boasts deluxe king-size mattresses with non-allergenic pillows and Egyptian cotton sheets, and a bathroom with a rain shower and tub.  edit
  • The Havelock Place Bungalow, 6-8, Havelock Place, Havelock Town, Colombo 5, +94 11 258-5191 (fax: +94 11 258-4655). Colombo’s first boutique hotel, consisting of two restored colonial homes. Tastefully decorated using antique colonial furniture. The hotel provides wireless Internet, pool, jacuzzi, restaurants.  edit
  • Hotel Galadari, 4, Lotus Road, Fort, Colombo 1, +94 11 254-4544 (, fax: +94 11 244-9875), [15]. Hotel Galadari is made up of 446 rooms, including 23 suites. There are special executive level and handicap rooms available. There are a variety of dining facilities in the hotel to suit different palettes. The hotel also offers its guests spa and fitness facilities.  edit
  • Ceylon Continental, 48 Janadhipathi Mawatha, Fort, Colombo 1, +94 11 242-1221 (), [16]. Ceylon Continental is equipped with 250 all with magnificent views of the city or Indian Ocean. The hotel has many restaurants and cafes on site to choose from. The guests are also offered 24-hour room service, fitness facilities, and spa services.  edit
  • Cinnamon Grand Colombo, 77 Galle Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3, +94 11 243-7437. The luxurious Cinnamon Grand hotel in Colombo features nightly turn down services with orchids and chocolates, and spa services!  edit
  • Taj Samudra, 25, Galle Face Center Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3, +94 11 244-6622, [17]. Taj Samudra features a variety of rooms depending on your travel habits; they range from standards with views of the sea and pool to presidential suites with separate dining and dressing areas. The hotel is also equipped with a fitness center, book shop and swimming pool. There are also a variety of restaurants ranging from casual in dress to fine dining.  edit

Stay safe

Colombo is like most other South Asian capitals. Although it is not as dangerous as one would think, tourists should be very vigilant. Many first time travelers to Colombo find themselves falling victim to scams and touts however it is very simple to avoid being a victim of scammers as long as you take precautions such as:

  • Being on guard for anybody trying to help you by giving you unsolicited directions or travel advice. Take any advice from taxi and auto drivers with a grain of salt, especially if they tell you the place you want to go to is closed, dangerous, non-existent etc. If you are unsure, check a map.
  • Not engaging in business with people who have to actively approach you for business such as Tuk Tuk drivers, street vendors etc. If people have to approach or make overtures to you for business without you seeking them on your own volition then they shouldn't be considered for business dealings.
  • If you have been told your hotel is closed or full, give them a call. If you are a first time visitor to Sri Lanka, don't admit it as it will make you a target for the scam artists.

Once you are past the scammers, Colombo is a far more welcoming destination than other South Asian cities. Certainly single women, although not advised to explore every nook and cranny of the city on their own late at night, will not find the pestering attentions of leering men that they may do in some cities in Sri Lanka's big brother to the north - India. Sri Lankan women are also very "western" in their dress sense, so it is very normal to wear skirts, tank tops, etc. You may get a few whistles and hellos from bored school boys, but they are more friendly and not meant to be threatening, so just ignore it and they will leave you alone.

The recent civil war in this country will not affect your journey as this area is mostly off limits to civilians and is hundreds of miles away from Colombo. Furthermore, there have also been some small bomb attacks on Colombo buses and trains in the past. Taxis or private hire cars are advised to be used. Such attacks are noted for their avoidance of tourist spots, mainly due to the severe adverse publicity this would create. However, the country is nowhere close to descending into all out civil war affecting the whole country.

In June of 2009, the Sri Lankan government lifted travel alerts after the military defeat of rebel insurgents in the north of the country though it is advisable to check with the local travel advisory bureau in your country if there is any doubt.

  • Seemingly innocuous public displays of affection between lovers such as kissing and/or hugging is not culturally acceptable in Sri Lanka as it is considered to be secluded behaviour (this does not apply to private functions or establishments designated for adults such as nightclubs, casinos and beach parties). Much lenience is given to foreigners and holding hands and public affection between parents and their children is not frowned upon.
  • In most buses, it is local etiquette to provide or give up the very front passenger seats to members of the clergy such as monks or priests if they are present.
  • No photography of sensitive locations (inside and outside), and inside of shopping malls and tea factories (outside is OK). Be especially careful in Fort, Colombo (except on the beach). If soldiers are guarding something, it probably shouldn't be photographed. Don't rely on signs alone, as sometimes they are old or missing. For example, one end of a bridge may have a "No Photography" sign, but not the other.
  • Do not turn your back to (or be alongside) a Buddha statue when within a reasonable distance (observe what others are doing). This includes posing for photos. It's OK to photograph a statue, but all persons should be facing it.
  • Public nudity is illegal in Sri Lanka. Nude/topless sunbathing and skinny dipping should be avoided at beaches except in the few private beach resorts which allow it.

Get out

Mount Lavinia is a great place to be. The beach and the friendly people always draw visitors there and keep them for awhile. Unlike the South of the island, Mt.Lavinia is only abut 20 minutes away from the city and entertains a good deal of nightlife. Along the beach are a variety of restaurants that serve liquor (by restaurants along the beach I mean they are literally ON the beach, 50 feet away from the water and tables on the sand) have great food catered to suit every budget. The variety of the the beach spots themselves are interesting, from nice little coves for a quiet chat a and a drink to well lit, busy places with dance floors, music courtesy of a live DJ and well stocked bars. Try Jo Jo's, a quiet little place where they serve pretty decent food and drink and has a nice homey feel to it.The Owner Mr Jo, Jo, (Mr Nihal) better know, is a nice person. Buba, on the other side of the Mount Lavinia Hotel which divides the public beach is also a cool hang out.

Mount Lavinia also serves as the gay district of Colombo. Although not home to any gay bars, it is a very gay friendly town and always plays host to Colombo's Gay Pride week in June. Do not be surprised if some bars have the rainbow flag flying on the beach.

On a budget, Berjaya Mount Royal Beach Hotel[18]. For splurge and colonial luxury in a governor's mansion, Mount Lavinia Hotel [19].

Fresco at Sigiriya
Fresco at Sigiriya

Sigiriya, located 100 miles northeast of Colombo, is a very important Buddhist site in Sri Lanka. The remains of the ancient fortress and city date back to 477 AD. Legend has it, King Kasyapa built it in order to protect against attacks from his brother, whom he had stolen the throne from. The only way into the city is through the giant lion's jaws. The site is also famous for its 5th century frescos. Sigiriya is approximately 2-3 hours away from Colombo, and can be reached via train, bus, or car. It is open daily from 8:30AM to 6PM.

Adam's Peak is considered a place of worship and pilgrimage by many religions. The 7,297 foot peak, also known as Sri Pada, is home to a foot imprint on a rock at its summit. Depending on the faith, the foot print has been considered that of Buddha, the god Shiva, St. Thomas, and even, Adam after he was expelled from the garden of Eden. The stairway to the top is believed to be one of the longest in the world. After reaching the top, climbers can ring the bell to mark the journey the just made. The panoramic view that one gets makes the journey well-worth the effort.

Located 75 miles outside of Colombo, Kandy is a small, tranquil town that holds the sacred tooth of Buddha, a sacred relic of the Buddhist faith. According to the legend, the tooth was stolen from the Buddha on his funeral pyre and was smuggled into Sri Lanka hidden in the hair of a princess in the 4th century. The Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth, is a main attraction for pilgrimages. Each July and August, the tooth is carried in a procession. Although one cannot see the tooth, the festivities are a site to see.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

COLOMBO, the capital and principal seaport of Ceylon, situated on the west coast of the island. Pop. (1901) 154,691. Colombo stands to the south of the mouth of the river Kelani. The coast-land is here generally low-lying, but broken by slight eminences. The great artificial harbour, enclosed by breakwaters, is bounded on the south by a slight promontory. This is occupied by the quarter of the city known as the Fort, from the former existence of a fort founded by the Portuguese and reconstructed by the Dutch. In 1869 the governor, Sir Hercules Robinson (afterwards Lord Rosmead), obtained authority to demolish the fortifications, which were obsolete for purposes of defence, and required 6000 men to man them properly. The levelling of the walls and filling up of the moat made the Fort much more accessible and healthy, and since then it has become the business centre of the city. Here are situated Queen's House, the governor's residence; the secretariat or government offices, and other government buildings, such as the fine general post office and the customs house. Here also are most of the principal hotels, which have a peculiarly high reputation among European hotels in the East. A lofty tower serves as the principal lighthouse of the port and also as a clock-tower. On the south side of the Fort are extensive barracks. The old. banqueting-hall of the Dutch governors is used as the garrison church of St Peter.

To the north-east of the Fort, skirting the harbour, are the Pettah, the principal native quarter, the districts of Kotahena and Mutwall, and suburbs beyond. In this direction the principal buildings are the Wolfendahl church, a massive Doric building of the Dutch (1749); the splendid Roman Catholic cathedral of St Lucia (completed in 1904); and St Thomas's College (1851), which follows the lines of an English public school. Close to this last is the Anglican cathedral of Christ Church. The Kotahena temple is the chief Buddhist temple in Colombo. To the north-east of the Fort is the Lake, a ramifying sheet of fresh water, which adds greatly to the beauty of the site of Colombo, its banks being clothed with luxuriant foliage and flowers. The narrow isthmus'[between this lake and the sea, south of the Fort, is called Galle Face, and is occupied chiefly by promenades and recreation grounds. The peninsula enclosed by two arms of the Lake is known as Slave Island, having been the site of a slave's prison under the Dutch. South-east of this is the principal residential quarter of Colombo, with the circular Victoria Park as its centre. To the east of the park a series of parallel roads, named after former British governors, are lined with beautiful bungalows embowered in trees. This locality is generally known as the Cinnamon Gardens, as it was formerly a Dutch reserve for the cultivation of the cinnamon bush, many of which are still growing here. In the park is the fine Colombo Museum, founded by Sir William Gregory l; and near the neighbouring Campbell Park are the handsome buildings of a number of institutions, such as Wesley College, and the General, Victoria Memorial Eye and other hospitals. South of Victoria Park is the Havelock racecourse. Among educational establishments not hitherto mentioned are the Royal College, the principal government institution, the government technical college and St Joseph's Roman Catholic college. Most, of the town is lighted by gas, and certain quarters with electric light, and electric tramways have been laid over several miles of the city roads. The water-supply is drawn from a hill region 30 m. distant.

Under Britishrule Colombo has shared in the prosperity brought to the island by the successive industri e s of coffee and teaplanting. At the height of the coffee-growing enterprise 20,000 men, women and children, chiefly Sinhalese and Tamils, found employment in the large factories and stores of the merchants scattered over the town, where the coffee Was cleaned, prepared, sorted and packed for shipment. Tea, oni the contrary, is prepared and packed on the estates; but there is a considerable amount of work still done in the Colombo stores in sorting, blending and repacking such teas as are sold at the local public sales; also in dealing with cacao, cardainoms, cinchona bark and the remnant still left of the coffee indiustry. But it is to its position as one of the great ports of call of the East that Colombo owes its great and increasing importance. A magnificent breakwater, 4200 ft. long, the first stone of which was laid by the prince of Wales in 1875, was completed in 1884. This breakwater changed an open roadstead into a harbour completely sheltered on the most exposed or south-west side; but there was still liability in certain months to storms from the north-west and south-east. Two additional arms were therefore constructed, consisting of a north-east and north-west breakwater, leaving two openings, one Boo ft. and the other 700 ft. wide, between the various sections. The area enclosed is 660 acres. A firstclass graving-dock, of which the Admiralty bore half the cost, has also been added. These improvements caused Galle to be abandoned as a port of call for steamers in favour of Colombo, while Trincomalee has been abandoned as a naval station. The port has assumed first-class importance, mail steamers calling vL23 d regularly as well as men-of-war and the mercantile marine of all nations; and it is now one of the finest artificial harbours in the world. The extension of railways also has concentrated the trade of the island upon the capital, and contributed to its rise in prosperity.

Colombo was originally known as the Kalantotta or Kalany ferry. By the Arabs the name was changed to Kolambu, and the town was mentioned by Ibn Batuta in 1346 as the largest and finest in Serendib. In 1517 the Portuguese effected a settlement, and in 1520 they fortified their port and bade defiance to the native besiegers. In 1586 the town was invested by Raja Singh, but without success. On its capture by the Dutch in 1656 it was a flourishing colony with convents of five religious orders, churches and public offices, inhabited by no fewer than 900 noble families and 150o families dependent on mercantile or political occupations. In 1796 it was surrendered to the British.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also colombo




Proper noun

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  1. Capital and largest city of Sri Lanka.



Proper noun

Colombo m.

  1. Columbus

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|150px|Hindu temple, Colombo]] Colombo (කොළඹ in Sinhala; கொழும்பு in Tamil) is the largest city of Sri Lanka. It is the city which is economically most important to the country. It has a population of 642,163. It is located on the southwest coast close to the present capital city of Kotte. The name Colombo is borrowed from Sinhala language name Kola-amba-thota which means "harbor with leafy mango trees". Traveller Ibn Batuta in the 14th century referred to it as Kalanpu.

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