One day trip around Colombo and Mini guide to culture in Sri Lanka
With increasing interest in art and music scenes and architecture both new and old, the South Asian city offers a continuously fresh perspective. Here is the ultimate guide one day trip around Colombo with to enjoy the sites and places that reflect the arts and crafts.
Sri Lankan is an island and nestled in the Indian Ocean, near the southern tip of India. Even though Sri Lanka is small in size it is huge in ambition, developing at a rapid pace. Arts and music are given a prominent place in the island and Sri Lanka has a fascinating blend of old and new, especially in cities like Colombo and Kandy, where the buildings in colonial architecture and modern skyscrapers are lying next to each other at every nook.
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What are the top 6 places to visit on a one day trip around Colombo?
- Gangarama temple
- National Museum
- Grand oriental hotel
- Galle face hotel
- Red Mosque/Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
- Nelum Pokuna theatre
One day trip around Colombo: Gangarama temple
The Gangarama temple, which sits next to the Lake of Beira is one of the oldest Buddhist religious sites in Colombo. It serves invaluable service for many thousands of people living in the city and helps them to ascertain the essence of Buddhism.
Other than the Bot-tree, Image house, Stupa (Dagoba) and the living quarter for a Buddhist monk, which are the 4 most important parts of the temple, Gangarama also has a museum with a large collection of artefacts, which explore culture, religion and civilization from across Asia.
Most temples on the island have no museum within its border, but the monks of Gangarama maintain this museum with a large collection of valuable Buddha statues and other items collected from various parts of the island, also it has a large number of artefacts originated in foreign countries.
Artefacts on display include gold Buddha statues, buddha statues carved out of gem as well as precious woods such as ebony, ironwood and teak. This museum is the only museum in Colombo which is dedicated to Buddhism. I have seen few other museums that housed in Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka such as Isurumuniya temple of Anuradhapura, but it is totally different compared to Gangarama and showcases only the artefacts discovered during the excavations at the ancient site.
The museum is the biggest draw in the temple on a tourist site perspective, making it the most visited tourist temple in Colombo, and it is a part of most Colombo sightseeing tours. It is easy to reach Gangarama temple from all corners of Colombo, and the travellers need to make a shorty walk from the Colombo city centre. The temple occupies a spacious land in the most bust part of Colombo, however, it is incredibly peaceful in the temple. It is so calm and quiet here, that you will not feel that you are in a busy town like Colombo.
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One day trip around Colombo: visiting the national museum
The national museum of Colombo occupies an 18th-century building, which showcases lavish Italian architecture and the exhibits of the museum focus on Sri Lanka’s history, culture and achievements. The visitors can witness a wide range of artefacts including the throng of Kandy king, which is decorated with gemstones and gold.
The Museum was established under the British colonial administration in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and the Museum was ceremonially opened on 1st January 1877 by Sir William Henry Gregory, the British governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the time.
A copy of the Statue of Tara is on display, a three-quarter life-size statue of Tara currently held in the British Museum. The crown jewels that belonged to the Kandyan King and the throne of the last King of Kandy, are also been displayed, these objects were returned to Sri Lanka by the British Government. Ground floor galleries are arranged in historical sequence, and upper galleries thematically. A library was added to the national museum of Colombo on 1 January 1877.
Best for architecture
Grand Oriental Hotel (GOH) is one of best-preserved Colonial building in Sri Lanka, which was constructed under the British administration. The ancient building is converted to a hotel now and offers a glimpse into the luxurious life enjoyed by the colonial rulers in the past. The GOH is located next to the Colombo harbour, which is one of the busiest quarters of the city.
GOH had been a single-storied building in the past and it was occupied by the Dutch Governor (1656-1796), which was equipped with an open verandah facing the street. Under the British administration in
1837 it was transformed into a barrack to accommodate British soldiers. In 1873 it was converted into a hostel, with reconstruction commencing on 23 February and completing 27 October, the same year.
Conversion of the army hostel into the GOH took place under the leadership of Governor Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton. The chief architect of the building was J. G. Smither, who was attached to the Public Works Department. J. G. Smither had designed many colonial buildings in Colombo such as National Museum of Colombo, Colombo General Hospital and the old Colombo Town Hall. The estimated cost of the building had been 2007 pounds but it was completed in the same year at the cost of 1868 pounds.
One day trip around Colombo: the Galle Face hotel
The Galle face hotel, colonial edifices, which opened its doors to the public in 1864, is one of the most popular hotels in Sri Lanka: It was built with luxury for colonial rulers – and still remains a byword for Oriental luxury. Its lobby, bars, outdoor areas are opened to the visitors, are among Colombo’s major tourist attractions, and rightly so. A dress code rule is in place with regards to a few places in the hotel such as the dining hall, so don’t come in shorts and sandals.
Red Mosque/ Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
The red-white coloured mosque is widely known as the red mosque (Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque) and which is the epicentre of Muslims in pettah. The mosque is located on the 2nd cross street in pettah and known to people in many names such as Samman Kottu Palli, Rathu Palliya, Red Masjid or the Red Mosque.
The construction of the building was started in 1908 and completed in 1909. The prayer area is very spacious and can fit 5,000 worshippers, however at the time only around 500 were attending prayers. It has a unique architecture and posses hybrid style of architecture, with characteristics of native Indo-Islamic and Indian architecture, and mixed with the Gothic revival and Neo-classical styles.
Despite its antiquity, Red Mosque is not included in most Sri Lanka trip packages such as Sri Lanka 5 days tour or Sri Lanka 7 days trip, maybe because it is located in Pettah, which is one of the busiest corners of the city.
Best for music and theatre
Nelum Pokuna theatre is the poster-boy for contemporary Sri Lanka: The building is modern and has been compared to Nelum Pokuna, the 12th-century pond located in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. The Nelum Pokuna or lotus bath was Built by King Parakramabahu the Great, The building has the shape of a stylised eight-petalled lotus flower. The building has a floor area of 14,000 square meters. Its 1288 seating capacity hall serves as a venue for concerts, recitals and performances from the Sri Lankan artisans.
One day trip around Colombo: where to stay
The newly opened modern Marino beach provides good-sized, IKEA-fitted rooms in a beachfront Highrise building overlooking the Indian Ocean on the marine drive, which is just a stone’s throw away from Colombo city centre. The hotel is conveniently located in Colombo 3 giving easy access to most tourist places, shopping, malls, clubs, restaurants in the city.
Colombo City Hotel is a mid-sized hotel occupying a British built 3 storied building at the heart of Colombo. The building has been renovated and upgraded to a hotel with modern facilities. The hotel commands a beautiful view over the Colombo city and there is a common verandah on the ground floor.
Hotel Nippon another budget-friendly hotel located in Colombo 3 (10 minutes’ drive from the city centre), is an ideal hideout for affordable accommodation in Colombo. The hotel is small and has a few dozens of comfortable rooms.
One day trip around Colombo: transport
Travelling Sri Lanka can be very complex if you stick to public transports such as buses and trains. It can be inconvenient to travel by Public transport due to the crowd. Moreover, the buses and trains in Sri Lanka tend to get late and therefore it is highly recommended to use private transport with a local driver.