Although it’s unlikely it will reclaim its 19th-century moniker ‘the garden city of the East’, Colombo has nevertheless emerged as a must-see stop in Sri Lanka. No longer just the sprawling city you have to endure on your way to the beaches, it has become a worthy destination in its own right and makes an excellent start or finish to your Sri Lankan adventures.
The legacies of colonial Colombo’s garden roots are still very much intact along its often-shady oulevards. Fort is a compelling place thanks to ongoing restoration of its landmark colonial architecture, while Pettah brims with markets and rampant commerce. Even traffic-clogged Galle Rd is getting spiffier with glossy new hotel complexes. Colombo’s cosmopolitan side supports ever-more stylish eateries, galleries and shops. Surprises abound: with a little exploration you’ll find great local food, characterful shops and tiny, convivial cafes. Meanwhile, a building boom like no other is transforming the city’s skyline.
As far back as the 5th century, Colombo served as a sea port for trade between Asia and the West. During the 8th century Arab traders settled near the port and in 1505 the Portuguese arrived. By the mid-17th century the Dutch had taken over, growing cinna mon in the area now known as Cinnamon Gardens, but it wasn’t until the British arrived that the town became a city. In 1815 Colombo was proclaimed the capital of Ceylon. During the 1870s the breakwaters were built and Fort was created by flooding surrounding wetlands. Colombo was peacefully handed over when Sri Lanka achieved independence in 1948.
A new parliament was built in Sri Jayawardenepura-Kotte, an outer suburb of Colombo, in 1982. Bomb attacks in Fort over the years of war caused Colombo’s major businesses and institutions to disperse across the city. With peace, Colombo is changing fast, with a great deal of development north and south along the coast, a building boom of high rises in the centre, and relentless – and mostly charmless sprawl eastward. Huge amounts of money are pouring into the city from China, India and the Middle East.
Rounding up inland Sri Lanka’s sights from Colombo by yourself means self-driving or hopping between trains, buses, and cabs. This private one-day tour takes away the transport hassles: providing a private chauffeured vehicle to ferry you from sight to sight. Discover Colombo’s must-sees, and shpping in its high quality and economical marketplaces all in one tour, Check out four Sri Lankan highlights in one private day trip around the Colombo city. Avoid public transport stresses and go in comfort by chauffeured private vehicle.
- National Museum
- Galle Face Green
- Gangaramaya Temple
- Dutch Period Museum
- Clock Tower
- Old Galle Buck Lighthouse
- Dutch Hospita
- Lloyd’s Buildings