highlights and main attractions of colombo

Although it is Sri Lanka’s largest city, Colombo is technically not the capital city. But because the actual capital of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte is a small satellite town close by, Colombo is often referred to as the capital and is the de facto capital for commerce and finance. The start and finishing point for all adventures in Sri Lanka, it should not be overlooked.

Colombo is a wonderful place to spend a day or two exploring the distinctive colonial heritage and cultural tapestry of the country, blending Portuguese, Dutch and British influence. What many visitors find most surprising about Colombo is its cosmopolitan spirit, with an array of fine dining, modern hotels and sidewalk cafes, as well as smarter districts like Cinnamon Gardens boasting elegant mansions and wide, tree-lined avenues. 

Indeed, Colombo was once known as the Garden City, and now with the return of peace following civil unrest the city is once again in a position to welcome guests with open arms.

Where is Colombo?

location, highlights and activities

Located on the west coast of Sri Lanka, the name Colombo derives from the term ‘Kolon Thota’ which means port on the River Kelani. Today the port is still an integral part of Colombo albeit juxtaposed with the modern skyscrapers that form the skyline. The highlights of the city include some of the Buddhist temples, especially Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, which is one of the most sacred temples in Sri Lanka, containing relics of the Lord Buddha. The Sea Street area also has Ganeshan, New Kathiresan and Old Kathiresan temples and within Viharamahdevi Park, the cities largest and most elegant, you will find the National Art Gallery. The National Museum is also found in this area, housing excellent examples of antique furniture, royal artefacts and demon masks.

The seafront area of the city, known as Galle Face Green, is a great place for an early evening stroll and witnessing local life, with its main green once the location for horse racing, cricket and other activities. Six miles further down the coastline, Mount Lavinia is almost its last southern suburb and is the closest ‘resort’ to Colombo. 

You may also be keen to explore the markets of the city for souvenirs, where you can choose from batiks and silks, artisania or simply take in the sights and aromas of the spice markets.


The excellent Wallawwa is a restored manor house that offers a great base away from the hustle and bustle of the city in a peaceful location, just 20 minutes away from the airport. From here you can easily access Colombo as well as some of the other beach resorts to the south such as Negombo or Bentota. 

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