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Last updated : Nov 2009
Colombo Sightseeing
Colombo Sightseeing Guide -
Colombo is an easy city to travel around. Fort district, Sri Lanka's business and commercial areas is in the north of the city. You can find many shopping malls, bookshops, airline offices here. Fort is also the sight of the Central Bank, which the Tamil Tigers blew up in January 1996. There are considerable sites including the clock tower, a former lighthouse, the president's residence (known by traditionalists as Queen's House), and colonial buildings, which lend the district an air of the bygone Empire.

In the southern part of Fort is Galle Face Green, a seafront expanse of green graced by cricket games, kite flyers and trysting lovers while in the east is the Pettah bazaar district. Visitors can walk through its where there are many different kinds of goods which include fruit, vegetables, meat, gems, gold, silver, brass and tin junk.

Wolvendaal Church

This stone church built in 1749 is found on Wolvendaal Street. It is a relic of the Dutch period and worth seeing are the tombstones, set into the floor, which were moved from a church the Fort in 1813. The dates on the tombs show how risky life could be for the Dutch conquerors: even in the times of peace, the death toll from disease was high and many people died after only a short stay in Colombo.

Dutch Period Museum

Built during the 17th century as the residence of Count August van Ranzow, the Dutch East India Company's governor in Colombo, this old building at 95 Prince Street is one of the few surviving remnants of Colombo's Dutch colonial heritage.

On the outskirts of Pettah, market stalls and antique shops surround it. Its rather chaotic collection includes weapons, coins, pottery, portraits and furniture from the period of Dutch rule, and traces the descent of the dwindling 'Burgher' community. Open Saturday to Thursday from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.

National Museum and Puppetry and Children's Museum

The National Museum was the country's first museum constructed in 1877. Located at Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha (also known as Albert Crescent), the museum's collection covers several centuries and a variety of cultures, from the Sinhala kingdoms through the British era. Some of the most important collections are the royal trappings of the last Kings of Kandy.

There are also superb stone sculptures, including Hindu bronzes and wooden carvings, Sri Lankan and European furniture and ceramics, and a good variety of masks reflecting Buddhist demons and deities.

There is a huge library at the museum with more than 500,000 books which is mainly of interest to scholars. Some of its collection of 4,000 palm leaf manuscripts, created by etching the lettering into the fibrous surface of the leaf, are on show. A small gallery of mid-19th-century paintings and etchings depicts Sri Lanka through the eyes of British artists.

The Puppetry and Children's Museum is within the National Museum. Puppetry is a living part of the country's cultural heritage, and the museum shows traditional Sri Lankan figures and marionettes from all over the world, with weekend performances. Open Saturday to Thursday from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.

The Viharamahadevi Park

The Viharamahadevi Park is located next to the National Museum. It is the National Art Gallery and the Natural History Museum, which is the capital's largest, most elegant and attractive green space. Famous for its flowering trees, fountains and water channels, the Viharamahadevi Park overlooks the pristine white-domed Town Hall. The park is at its best from March to May, before the monsoon arrives, when its trees and shrubberies are in brilliant flower. In the centre of the park a statue of Queen Victoria commemorates her rule, while on the lawns near the Town Hall a golden image of the Buddha represents an older heritage.

Dehiwala Zoo

About 11 kilometres south of Fort, the zoo has a wide collection of fauna from all over the world. The Mini Medura or aquarium displays over 500 varieties of aquatic life is the only one of its kind in Asia. A reptile house has cobras, tortoises and crocodiles. There is a well-stocked Aviary, a Nocturnal House and a Butterfly Park. The highlight is the elephant show in the evening where the lumbering beasts perform for spectators.
Open Hours: 8.00 am to 6.00 pm.

Cinnamon Gardens

The Cinnamon Gardens district, approximately a block inland (east) from Calle Road, is now the city's university and diplomatic quarter and its wealthiest residential area.
With its boulevards lined with jacaranda and frangipani trees, it is in sharp contrast to the visible poverty of the Pettah area to the north. The white-domed Town Hall, said to have been modelled on the US White House, is a major landmark.