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Tourist Places To Visit In Colombo
Colombo has been a city of importance throughout Sri Lanka’s long history. Therefore it is not surprising that to understand the different eras in Sri Lankan history, one only need visit Colombo. But Colombo is not only about the past. The city has been developing rapidly and the best feature of Colombo is how it has been able to integrate its past with its present. While there are many places to visit in Colombo for tourists, a few of them stand out, namely, the Gangaramaya Temple, Independence Memorial Hall, Jami-Ul-Alfar, Dehiwala Zoological Garden and the National Museum. Here is a detailed list of the most popular ones to explore while you are in the city.
A beautiful building resembling Italian architecture stands majestically in a part of Colombo with many such respectable spectacles. This 19th century building is home to some of the most important artefacts of Sri Lankan History. From ancient Sri Lankan scripts, they have on display old manuscripts, statues, carvings, medieval art, masks and an endless list of fascinating antiques. From the colonial era, the most prized possession is the jewelled crown and throne of the Kandyan Kings. They also exhibit guns and other weapons from this era. The museum is, however, not just cultural; there are specimens of a number of interesting flora and fauna as well.
Dutch Period Museum
The complex that houses the Dutch museum has, in the past, served many purposes. The 17th century building was originally the residence of the then governor and thanks to its history, was restored and opened up to the public as a museum dedicated to the Dutch era. The museum is well organised and paints a vivid picture of the said period. They take you through paintings, maps, coins, models of ships as well as artefacts like furniture that were in use in Sri Lanka during their arrival.
By the side of the Beira Lake, is one of the most visited temples in Colombo. The beautiful and complex temple compound includes all the usual elements like the main temple, an assembly hall and many intricate statues decked in expensive jewellery. But there is a lot more to the complex than that. Between the clusters of buildings is a Bo Tree, adorned with prayer flags, which can be directly traced back to the original Bodhi Tree. There is also a museum displaying Buddhist relics. Interestingly, with all the antiques, ivory statues, regal furniture and vintage cars, the whole complex may feel like an extended museum. Something worth appreciating here is the architecture, which is an interesting mix of Sri Lankan, Indian and Thai. The detailed engravings on the wall, depicting the life of The Buddha, also deserves special mention.
Independence Memorial Hall
To commemorate their independence, an elaborate building with massive columns and an architectural design that resembles the ancient audience hall of the Kandyan Kings was established. The Independence Memorial Hall, as it is called, is filled with symbols that justify the name. The ferocious lions are from the ancient Yapahuwa Kingdom, the wood carvings on the pillars are from the Gampola Kingdom and so on. There is also a museum within the building dedicated to independence heroes. Besides the stunning architecture, the hall is surrounded by vast quiet lawns that are a great relief from the bustle of the city.
Arcade Independence Square
Like many of Colombo’s old buildings, what is now an arcade was originally built to be an asylum for the mentally ill. It then served other offices until it became the fabulous shopping complex that it now is. The building was painstakingly restored, making sure the original structure remained unaltered. Within the building is a shopper’s paradise, with branded stores, eateries and a Cineplex. If you decide to visit the Independence Memorial Hall, then this should be on the list as well.
Old City Hall
For architecture enthusiasts this building is a treasure. The late 19th century building was built in a neo-classical style with an exquisite dome adorning it. The many columns only add to the vintage vibe of the place. Within the building many objects are still preserved, like a map of 18th century Colombo, type-writers, vintage trucks and so on. The tinted glass windows accentuate the other-worldly feeling that accompanies visitors to this municipal building.
Dehiwala Zoological Garden
Known as the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens, this 11 acre land is home to over 300 species of animals. The zoo is known for its conservational efforts and also for its animal shows. Though the latter is often considered cruel and for good reason. The zoo does have some wonderful features like a butterfly garden with about 30 different species of butterflies at every stage of their lives. Among mammals, the zoo is home to lions, tigers, jaguars, elephants, chimpanzees, giraffes and many more. Birds found in the zoo include eagles, hawks, ostriches, macaws, pelicans, etc. Other note-worthy inhabitants include a sea-lion, many varieties of snakes, turtles and crocodiles.
One of the best things about taking a walk in Pettah is the number of ancient treasures you will encounter. One such treasure is the Jami-Ul-Alfar also known as the Red Mosque thanks to its elaborate red and white candy stripped walls. It has a prominent dome that is a typical feature of most mosques, but the rest of the architecture is quite queer as it is a mix of Indo-Islam and gothic architecture.
Geoffrey Bawa House
If you are marvelling at Colombo’s impressive architecture, a number of prominent architects are responsible. One such modern day legend is Geoffrey Bawa; the architect whose works include the Sri Lankan Parliament Building. His own house, as one would expect, is blessed with the master’s touch. The bright sun-lit house, decorated with statues and paintings is maintained by the Lunuganga Trust. The house and surroundings are so well kept that it is almost as if it was still inhabited. The tour guides will also conduct a video session that explains the different aspects of the house.