Colombo – the largest city in Sri Lanka


Colombo is the largest city and the unofficial de facto capital of Sri Lanka with a population of over 1 million. Most of its residents are concentrated in a green area that stretches for several miles from north to south along the Indian Ocean coast. This part of the city is called Halle Face Green. To the north of it are the administrative center, the Fort, the Pettah commercial district, and the port. The coastal commercial and residential areas have beautiful Sinhalese names. Galle Road stretches through Kollupitiya, Bambalapitiya, Vellawatta and Dehiwala. The city’s border passes at Mount Lavinia.

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Colombo has long been considered the main trading city on the west coast of Sri Lanka. First the ships of the Arab traders, then the Portuguese and the Dutch and finally the British docked here. Until the early nineteenth century, Colombo was inferior to Galle as a port and Kandy as a cultural center.

The situation began to change after the arrival of the British and the transformation of Ceylon into a British colony. In 1802 Colombo became the capital and in 1815 the last ruler of Kandy was deposed and exiled. In the 1930s, the British began building a network of roads centered in Colombo, and in the 1880s – the creation of a modern, safe, accessible in all weather port in Colombo harbor. In 1907 its construction was completed. Galle finally lost its lead and Colombo became the commercial and administrative capital of Sri Lanka.

Galle Face Green

Galle Face Green can be called the green lungs of Colombo. It is a long open strip along the sea and is very popular with local soccer players, cricket fans, kite flyers and joggers. Gradually the grass has disappeared here despite attempts by the authorities to restore the green cover. This promenade was laid out in 1859 by Governor Henry Ward as “a gift to the women and children of Colombo. On the sea side, the promenade is decorated with antique cannons, and by the parapet you can see many couples in love and fishermen fishing. Along the entire promenade there are numerous stalls selling a variety of products. People come to the waterfront to enjoy the sunset over the Indian Ocean.

The Fort

Just north of Galle Face Green is the administrative and commercial center of Colombo, which is called the Fort. During Portuguese and Dutch rule there was indeed a fortress here, but today you see no traces of fortifications. In this area you can admire real gems of 19th century colonial architecture. Look out for the Cargills and Millers shopping buildings and the modern glass and steel buildings like the Ceylon Continental Hotel and the Central Bank. The Fort is also home to the presidential palace. The residence of the Sri Lankan president has now been relocated for security reasons. However, the Fort still takes enhanced security measures, which can even scare the unprepared tourist. At the crossroads of Chatham Street and Janadhipathi Mawatha in the center of the neighborhood is the clock tower, a former lighthouse built in 1837. Just north on Church Street sits the Grand Oriental Hotel and its restaurant on the fourth floor, which offers a great view of the port, but for security reasons no photos are allowed.

The Pettah

East of the Fort is the Pettah district. The name comes from the Sinhalese expression pita kotuwa, meaning “outside the fort”. The Pettah is truly the heart of old Colombo. Many markets, stores, temples and mosques are concentrated here. It is the commercial center of the city. In its bustling streets you can see the most amazing things and the most amazing people. Pettah sells everything: fruits and vegetables, tea, medicinal herbs, clothes, watches, jewelry. You will come across streets where they sell only one kind of goods – say, leather or copper products. Sea Street is notable because it’s the home of the Chettiar dynasty, goldsmiths who came to Sri Lanka from South India over a century ago. And on Fifth Cross Street you can find all kinds of spices. Colombo’s main station, Fort Station, is located at the southern end of Pettah. From here trains go to every corner of the country, including Kandy and the central highlands.

Along with many mosques and Hindu temples, Pettah is also home to Colombo’s oldest Christian church, the Volvendal Kirk, built in 1749.

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Its floor is paved with tombstones from the cemetery near the older Dutch church at the Fort. To the north, in the district of Kotakhen, is St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Colombo’s main Catholic church with a capacity of up to 6,000 parishioners. Isn’t it amazing that the main cathedral of this eastern capital is dedicated to Saint Lucia of Syracuse, a maiden from far away Sicily!

“Slave Island” and the Cinnamon Gardens

Beyond the railroad tracks that form the southern border of Pettah is Beira Lake, and beyond it stretches a wide strip of parks and administrative districts between “Slave Island” and Vihara Mahadevi Park to the north and the Cinnamon Gardens to the south.

There is nothing of particular interest to tourists on “Slave Island,” which is a narrow strip of land between the two parts of Beira Lake. The Portuguese once housed African slaves here. The Dutch, who built the fort, renamed it “Slave Island. The British abolished slavery in Sri Lanka in 1845, but the name remains to this day.

To the southwest of “Slave Island”, in the center of the southern part of Beira Lake, there is an artificial island connected to the shore by a narrow road laid out by James Pieris Mawatha.

On the island is the Buddhist temple of Sima Malaka, built in the traditional Kandyan style these days by the famous architect Geoffrey Bawa: the tiled roof is supported by carved wooden columns. Monsoon rains run off the roof and the cool breeze from the Indian Ocean dries the building out. The temple is very beautiful, especially in the night light.

A wide avenue Dharmapala Mawatha separates Slave Island from Colombo’s largest and most beautiful park, Vihara Mahadevi Park, once named after Queen Victoria.

The park has a botanical garden with a rich collection of tropical trees and orchids. The best time to visit is between March and May, when the trees are in bloom and the bright tropical birds are singing all around you.

Just south of the park you’ll find many modern buildings, including the National Museum, the Department of Archaeology, and the National Gallery of Art. The elegant Colombo Town Hall, topped with a white dome, is to the northwest of the park, and to the east of it, in De Soysa Circus, is the quaint gingerbread Colonial Hospital building.

Beyond the park, Maitland Street and Guildforf Crescents fringe the Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo’s most prestigious residential area; there are also many embassies.

At the south end of Independence Avenue is the Independence Memorial Hall and just a few meters to the northeast, where Independence Square and Maitland Place meet, is a replica of the famous statue of the Aukan Buddha from North Central Province.

Of course it would be better to see the original, but if you have limited time, at least look at the copy.

Museums and Art Galleries

Most of the museums and galleries in Colombo are located in the Central Administrative Region, south of “Slave Island.”

Museum of the Dutch period.

The only exception is the Dutch Period Museum, which is located in Pettah. Recently the museum building has been restored and the exposition has been renewed. Here you will get an idea of the period of Dutch rule on the island (1640-1800) .

95 Prince Street, Pettah. Tel: 244-8466. Open: Thu-Sat 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission paid.

Lionel Wendt Theater and Art Gallery

Walk a little further south and you’ll find the Lionel Wendt Theater and Art Gallery, which regularly hosts exhibitions of work by local artists as well as musical and dramatic productions.

18 Guildford Crescent. Tel: 269-5794. Hours of operation vary. There is a fee for admission to some events.

National Art Gallery

The gallery is located south of Bihar Mahadevi Park. It has a large collection of portraits as well as works by contemporary Sri Lankan artists.

Ananda Kumaraswamy Mawatha. Tel: 269-3965. Open: Sat Sat 9 am – 5 pm. Closed: Fri, Sat and public holidays. Free admission.

National Museum

The museum, which opened in 1877, is located south of Vihara Mahadevi Park. It has an excellent collection of sculptures, paintings, objects of religious and historical significance from all stages of Sri Lankan history, from the prosperity of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya to the Kandyan period and the colonial era. If you are planning to visit any of Colombo’s museums, be sure to stop by this one. Don’t miss the exhibit on the first floor, which features beautifully rendered copies of mural paintings in Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya.

Australia and Oceania sights

Marcus Fernando Mawatha. Tel: 269-4767. Open: Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission paid.

Museum of Natural History

Located next door to the National Museum. It is worth coming here for those interested in geology and other areas of natural history in Sri Lanka.

Marcus Fernando Mawatha. Tel: 269-1399. Open: Sat Sat 9.00-17.00. Closed: mornings and public holidays. Entrance fee.

Kollupitiya and Bambalapitiya

Behind the capital hotel “Galle Face” Colombo stretches along the Indian Ocean for dozens of miles. The railroad runs from Fort Station in the Pettah district, just south of “Slave Island,” and south of the Galle Face Hotel approaches the ocean. You can take it to Matara with stops in all the southern suburbs of Colombo.

The first such suburb is Kollupitiya. At the intersection of Galle Road and Ananda Kumaraswamy Mawatha is one of Colombo’s largest markets. To the east of the Kollupitiya market, if you walk along Ananda Kumaraswamy Street in the direction of Bihar Mahadevi Park, is the Sri Lanka Buddhist Information Center. If you are interested in local religious traditions, be sure to visit here.

Next stop is Bambalapitiya, a bustling, thriving shopping district. Located far enough from the center of Colombo, it doesn’t suffer from an influx of tourists, yet there are plenty of quite affordable hotels. There are no particular attractions in the area, except for the large Buddhist temple Vajiramaya Mavata, located in the Primrose Gardens, just east of Galle Road, near Havelock Town.

Wella-watta and Dehiwala

After Bambalapitiya, the train makes a stop at Wellawatta. This is the first residential neighborhood of South Colombo. Here the beaches have already started, although as far as Mount Lavinia, a few kilometers south of Wellawatta, there is no good place to swim in Colombo.

Next stop is in Dehiwala, here is the most beautiful zoo in South Asia, however, many visitors are sad to see the huge cats and primates in cages, although the animals are well cared for. The zoo features a huge variety of fauna from Sri Lanka and elsewhere in the world. There is an aquarium, a large aviary with birds, a pavilion for nocturnal animals and even a butterfly park. The main attraction of the zoo is the elephant show which takes place every day at 16.30, but it is also controversial: watching these huge intelligent animals being forced to perform trivial circus tricks is not everyone’s pleasure.

Nowadays, the elephants in Dehiwala Zoo are taught to draw by holding a brush with their trunk. The resulting artwork costs a few hundred pounds, but the money raised is spent on food and medical care for the elephants, both at the zoo itself and at the Pinnavale Elephant Shelter.

Dehiwala Zoo, Karagampitiya, Galle Road. Tel: 271-2751. Open: daily 8.00-18.00. Entry fee.

Mount Lavinia

Beyond Dehiwala, near the southern border of Colombo, is Mount Lavinia. From here, about 12 km from the Fort, begins the resort area. Its main attraction is the luxurious Mount Lavinia Hotel, long considered the best in the country. Here, away from the city center, you can find a good beach with clean enough water for swimming. But like many other places on the west coast, these beaches have a strong bottom current and often have high waves. Better to go to the Mount Lavinia Hotel’s pool; for a small fee, you can spend the day there.

The hotel has a rich past. First, a bungalow was built here in 1806 to house the British governor of Ceylon, Thomas Maitland, and his wife – or perhaps mistress – Lavinia. In the 20s of the XIX century. bungalow significantly expanded – attached it to the so-called governor’s wing.

Maitland later had to sell the residence because the London authorities refused to finance such a profligate lifestyle.

Today the hotel has been restored and is maintained in excellent condition. Here you can feel the authentic atmosphere of the tropical colonies. Attentive staff, private beach, lovely bar on the terrace with a wonderful view of the Indian Ocean.

By Sri Lankan standards this hotel is considered to be expensive, but tourists from Europe and North America here prices seem quite reasonable if you consider the level of service provided and proximity to Colombo.

Beyond Mount Lavinia the Galle Road and the railroad line head towards Moratuwa, beyond which the main resorts on the west coast of the island begin.

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Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte

The legal and legislative capital of Sri Lanka is not Colombo but the city of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte located on the site of the capital of the ancient state of Kotte (1371-1597) which was the first to establish friendly relations with the Portuguese.

Today it’s a small town 11 km southeast of the center of Colombo. You can hardly find here any traces of the ancient capital. The city has a modern face with a large administrative complex, housing estates and public buildings.

Northern Suburbs

The northern suburbs of Colombo, which run from the harbor to the international airport Bandaranaike and the popular beach resort of Negombo, don’t offer much for tourists to see. The Abdul Cader Road runs along the coast from the Pettah area and then turns onto St. Anthonys Mawatha. Anthonys Mawatha. Between Pettah and the wide estuary of the Kelani Ganga River, which flows into the sea 5 km north of the Fort, there are shipyards, workshops, factories and small commercial buildings. Traffic all the way from the airport to Katunayake (30 km) is very difficult, meanwhile, except for a few temples, the most important of which is Muthumariamman Kovil on Kotahena Street, dedicated to the Hindu goddess of health and chastity Pattini, nothing else is of interest to tourists here.


Colombo is the largest city of Sri Lanka, which is actually the capital of the country, is located in the Western Province of the state. Colombo is the center of business, trade and culture. The city has a population of 753 thousand inhabitants and an agglomeration (together with the suburbs, including the formal capital of Sri Jayawardenepura Kote) of 5.6 million people.

Colombo has a booming industry and high-tech manufacturing. The local port is one of the largest in the Asian region.Interestingly, many areas have a certain professional orientation. This division dates back to ancient times. In Colombo there is a district of artisans, poor people, merchants, etc. Of course, today such a classification is gradually dying out, but still relevant in many ways.

At 30 kilometers from Colombo is a major international airport. The city is culturally and religiously advanced – there is a university, an observatory, and spiritual institutions for various faiths.

It is named in honor of H. Area: 37.31 km2 Population: 752,993 (2011) Currency: Lankan rupee Language: Sinhala, Tamil Official website:

Flight time: from Moscow – from 8 hrs 30 min. from Saint-Petersburg – from 11 hrs 25 min. (1-3 connections) from Kazan – from 12 hrs 30 min. (1-4 connections) from Ekaterinburg – from 11 hrs 55 min. (1-4 connections) from Novosibirsk – from 11 hrs 50 min. (1-4 connections)

The city of Colombo was founded by Arab traders, then fortified by the Portuguese and conquered by the Dutch before being rebuilt by the British. Colombo has a unique character and an intriguing blend of cultures, religions, times and peoples, with old colonial-style mansions, skyscrapers and ancient oriental temples.

How to get there

There are currently no direct scheduled flights between Moscow and Colombo, but Aeroflot is known to fly this route in season. Currently the best ways to reach Sri Lanka are flights of Emirates Airline Moscow – Dubai – Colombo, Qatar Airways Moscow – Doha – Colombo and Etihad Moscow – Abu Dhabi – Colombo. All planes arrive at Colombo International Airport.

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There are private and municipal buses running around Colombo. Their fares are about the same. Public transport in Sri Lanka is one of the cheapest in the world.

A fairly popular transport in Colombo is a small scooter with a cabin, called a “tuk-tuk”. They are unfamiliar to us, but Lankans regularly use them for everyday trips. The tuk-tuk is much cheaper than a regular cab, the average price per kilometer – 15-20 rupees. Tipping is not customary in Sri Lanka.

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The more traditional mode of transport will cost about 50% more. You will have to pay about 30 rupees per kilometer. If a cab is not equipped with a meter, you should negotiate the price in advance. “You can catch a cab driver in the street or call him on the phone.

Photos of Colombo

What to see in Colombo

The main tourist attraction is the northern part of the city, the Fort. Here are concentrated hotels, hotels, stores, restaurants and other entertainment venues. The main attractions of the city are Halle Faith Green Park, National Museum, Museum of Regional History, the Presidential Palace and Independence Square. In the suburbs of Colombo you can visit one of the largest zoos on the continent – Dehiwala Zoo. List of Sri Lanka sights is available in the corresponding section.

Where to go in Colombo

Colombo Zoo is considered one of the largest and most famous zoological parks in Asia. This place.

Interesting places in Colombo



The monetary unit of the country is the Lankan rupee. The approximate exchange rate is 110 rupees to 1 dollar. It is forbidden to take local currency out of the country. The best way to exchange dollars for rupees is directly at the airport. In the stores on the island the prices for the same product can vary dramatically. Before you buy a shop in the area and check the prices. It happens that in the store across the street for the desired trinket is half the price. Sri Lanka does not like to haggle aggressively. Talk to the seller in a friendly manner and you may be able to drop the price considerably.

Goods purchased by tourists on the island

Traditional Crafts

The range of handicraft products in Sri Lanka is very wide. Traditional souvenirs are masks, earthenware, batik and toys carved from wood.

Art and music

The famous Kala Pola art fair is held in Colombo every year. It brings together some of the most popular Lankan artists to sell their work. Here you can find works of such famous Lankan artists as Richard Gabriel, Lionel Wendt, Muhanned Kader and others. A CD of national Sinhalese or Tamil music can be a great gift.


Sri Lanka is known for its precious and semi-precious stones. The jewelry center of the country is the city of Ratnapura. Here you can not only see with your own eyes the process of mining and processing of precious stones, but also buy jewelry from a huge range of local stores. There is also an opportunity to make a custom order for a jewelry piece, which will be completed within five days.


Lankan textiles can be bought as a gift for your family and friends. The choice is huge – clothes, bedding, linens, pillows, curtains. Every tourist can find something to his liking.

Of course, you can’t come from Sri Lanka without the traditional Ceylon tea. The success enjoyed both the classic varieties, and various blends. The most popular brands are Dilma and Mlesna. You can buy the Ceylon drink in any store, although tourists prefer to buy it during specialized excursions to tea plantations and factories.


Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of spices and spices. Real Sri Lankan spices can be purchased at affordable prices in local stores. Among the most popular spices are curry powder, ground chilies, saffron, turmeric, cloves and cinnamon.

Food and drinks

National Lankan cuisine has much in common with Indian cuisine, thanks to the geographical proximity of the two countries. Spices, spices, juicy fruits, seafood – all these elements are traditional for both countries. In Sri Lanka, rice and curry dishes form the basis of the daily diet. The latter, by the way, is seasoned not only with meat. On the island, side dishes, fish, vegetables, and other dishes are served with curry.

Since the dishes of Sri Lanka and South India are very similar, many local restaurants indicate on the menu where the cuisine of Sri Lanka and South India. In addition, different regions have their own variations in cooking. As a rule, the food is very cheap; an inexpensive lunch will cost about a dollar. Rarely can lunch cost more than ten dollars, except in the most expensive tourist-oriented places. Colombo has a large selection of high-quality restaurants.

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Ceylon cuisine often uses coconut ingredients such as coconut juice, oil, and shavings. There are many other dishes with other ingredients that are unfamiliar to us.

String hoppers – rice noodles rolled up into rolls and steamed.

Umbalakada – powdered small fish.

Hoppers – local rice flour pancakes made with coconut milk.

Bittara arrah – a pancake combined with scrambled eggs. A chicken egg is placed in the middle of the pancake.

Hakuru arrah is a treat similar to Bittara arrah, but sweetened with coconut.

Kiribath is a traditional white rice cooked with coconut milk.

Rotti – A common flatbread flavored with curry sauce.

Pittu – Made with water, rice flour, and coconut. Also served with curry sauce.

Kottu Rotti – a mixture of chopped unleavened rice tortillas, vegetables, and choice of meat. This dish is only found in Sri Lanka, the most delicious Kottu Rotti is from street vendors, freshly prepared.


You should not drink tap water in Sri Lanka, it can be fraught with intestinal disorders. Buy plain bottled water in stores. But it is better to refuse buying local milk. Due to the Lankan climate it spoils very quickly, although it costs quite a lot.

The traditional non-alcoholic drink of the Lankans is Tambili, the juice of the king coconut. It can be made in front of you on the street and is cheaper than the bottled stuff.

Other local drinks include ginger butter and cream soda. If you prefer the classic Coke or Pepsi, you can get them at almost any grocery supermarket on the island.

The most popular beers are Three Coins (a Belgian recipe), Lion Stout (buttery with a chocolate flavor), and Lion Lager.

For those who prefer hard liquor, the local drink, Arrack, can be recommended. It usually costs about 4 dollars a bottle and is often drunk with ginger beer. Quality depends on the price, but everywhere recommends a brand Old Reserve at $7.5.


Phone Connections

Phone service is available in almost any hotel, but it is usually very expensive to call from your room. It is more economical to use special telephone cards and call from a pay phone or make calls from the nearest post office. You can buy Rs. 100, 500 or 1000 calling cards in supermarkets, kiosks and post offices. To call Russia dial 007, the area code and phone number.

Useful Numbers

Sri Lanka telephone code: +94.

Police number in Colombo: 43-33-44

Aeroflot branch number in Colombo: 32-55-80

Cellular Communication

It is possible to use a cell phone in the capital without any problems, roaming conditions check with your operator.


You can access the Internet via the Internet cafes located in the big cities.


As in many other large cities, in Colombo you should be wary of pickpocketing and do not leave valuables unattended. It is best for women not to be alone on the streets or beach at night. Over the past few years there has been a slight increase in crimes against tourists, but these cases are rare.

Try to respect the local cultural values. In temples do not appear in shorts, short skirts or in other too open clothing, and before entering the shrine, be sure to take off your shoes. When buying jewelry and jewelry do not forget to ask for a license to export the goods from the country, otherwise there may be problems at customs. During the full moon on the island, drinking alcohol in public places is prohibited.

Embassy of the Russian Federation in Colombo:

Address: Embassy of the Russian Federation, 62 Sir Ernest de Silva Mawatha, Colombo-7, Sri-Lanka.

Phone: (8-10-941) 57-4959, 57-3555.

Where to stay in Colombo

Company offers for booking more than 730 hotels in Colombo. You can choose your hotel by using various filters: hotel category, hotel type (hotel, apartment, villa, hostel, etc.), price, hotel location, reviews of people who visited the hotel, availability of Wi-Fi, and more. Go to our Colombo hotel selection and reservation service.

The most recently booked hotels in Colombo

View conveniently structured information about hotels in the city (room and on-site facilities, photos of tourists and hoteliers, reviews from tourists who visited the hotel and more) in the section “Colombo Hotels”. You can also book a hotel in Colombo.

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