The Sri Lankan capital of Colombo combines a dizzying array of cultures and colors, creating an exhilarating atmosphere that charms even the most well-traveled visitors. The city’s colonial heritage can still be seen in the candy-colored buildings, and a dash of urban buzz makes the capital stand out in the largely-rural country. There are many historical and cultural attractions waiting to be explored in Colombo, and visitors will always long for more of the city, no matter how long they stay.
Colombo is home to a number of impressive religious buildings. One of the most beautiful is the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, a Buddhist temple rebuilt in the 18th century after Indian invaders destroyed the original. The site is one of the most sacred in the country, believed to have been visited by the Buddha before he gained enlightenment. The temple’s paintings reflect the history of the religion in Sri Lanka, and the magnificent Duruthu Maha Perehera procession sets off from the temple every January.
The Dutch left a strong religious legacy in Sri Lanka during colonization, and the Wolvendall Church is one of the most important buildings in the country. Shaped like a Greek cross, the church is a stunning example of Dutch architecture, but the real highlight is the interior. Special pews made of carved ebony used to seat Dutch governors, five of which are buried under the stone floor’s elaborate tombstones.
The eclectic St. Anthony’s Church is another must-see in Colombo. The exterior looks like an average Portuguese Catholic church, but the interior is bedecked with dozens of ornate statues prayed to by worshippers. Locals believe the statues protect young women from evil spirits, and there is often a line to make an offering.
St. Lucia’s Cathedral is also worth a visit. It is the Catholic heart of Colombo and the largest church in Sri Lanka. The simple interior can hold as many as 5,000 worshippers under the immense dome.
Other religious sights worth visiting include the Hindu Sri Ponnambalam Vanesar Kovil temple, the Buddhist Vajiraramaya temple and the Jami Ul Alfar Mosque.
The National Museum is one of the most popular attractions in the capital, home to carvings, statues and artwork from the country’s rich past. Colonial swords, guns and other artifacts are also on display, and the excellent collection of antique demon masks is downright enchanting.
One of the ritziest areas of Colombo is the Cinnamon Gardens neighborhood. Once covered in cinnamon plantations, the area is now characterized by posh mansions, a small number of galleries and museums and the capital’s biggest park. Viharamahadevi Park is filled with flowering trees, giving the air a sweet aroma. The white-domed Old Town Hall dominates the northeast corner, and elephants can often be spotted snacking on palm branches around the park.
Other attractions worth exploring in Colombo include the Lionel Wendt Center of Contemporary Art,the Grand Mosque, St. Peter’s Church, the University of Colombo, the sprawling Gangaramaya Temple, the Dehiwala Zoo and the Galle Face Green, a stretch of lawn near the sea that is a favorite meeting spot of locals.
Colombo Geographical Location
Colombo is located on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka facing the Laccadive Sea and surrounds Beira Lake.
The population of Colombo is approximately 5,650,000 in the metropolitan area and is Sri Lanka’s largest city.
Sinhala is the official and national language of Sri Lanka. Tamil is also a national language, although spoken by less of the population, and English is commonly used for official purposes.
Colombo Predominant Religion
- 69% Buddhist
- 10% Other
- 8% Muslim
- 7% Hindu
- 6% Christian
Buddhism is the most common religion, mainly those who follow the Theravada school, as it has a long history in Sri Lanka dating back to the 2nd century B.C.E.
The Sri Lankan Rupee is the official currency of Sri Lanka.
Colombo is hot throughout the year with two monsoon seasons and rainfall throughout the year.
Colombo Main Attractions
- The Fort
- Galle Face Green
Other Attractions in Colombo
- Slave Island
- Mount Lavinia
- Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara
- Wolvendaal Church