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| Colombo City Attractions |

| Colombo City Attractions |


A blend of East & West, past & present
The commercial capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo is the only gateway to the resplendent tropical island. Colombo, a fascinating city, a blend of East & West as well as a cozy mixture of past & present, is dotted with numerous interesting and important tourist attractions including colonial era buildings.


Travelers who make time in their beach vacation for a visit to the capital, can keep busy touring Buddhist centres, pretty parks, and fascinating museums



Seema Malaka Island Temple


This temple, floating on the middle of Beira Lake, is one of Sri Lanka's more unusal temples. After the original 19th century version slowly sunk into the water, Sri Lanka's most famous architect Geoffrey Bawa was commissioned to redesign it in 1979. Whereas most Buddhist temples in the country follow strict traditional design this one deliberately set out to be different and unique.

In keeping with the idea of the unusual, much of the financing for the temple was actually given by a local Muslim who had been upset by his local community and decided to get them back by funding a new Buddhist temple instead of a mosque! 

The buildings are connected to each other and the mainland by narrow walkways lined with Buddha statues donated from Thailand. Inside the buildings are statues of four Hindu gods. It doesn't have the glaring gold and sensory overload of many other temples, but its more simplistic approach, together with some beautiful sculptures and paintings, is in many ways actually more peaceful, especially being in the middle of the lake.

How to get there: Walk through the Crescat City complex and exit the complex through the back entrance that faces the Beira Lake. The Seema Malaka island temple is at the far end of the lake and is a leisurely 5 minute walk.


Dutch Hospital Shopping Arcades
Built across from the World Trade Center, itís a beautiful courtyard and cobblestone space. The hospital was built during the rule of the Dutch from 1656 to 1796. It catered to medical requirements of the staff of Dutch East India Company during the colonial era. The former hospital was built close to the harbour as it was convenient to transport patients from ships.



During the renovation process in 2011, special attention was paid not to change the original structure though it was modernized with the state-of-art-facilities.

The shopping precinct which consists of 12 stalls includes food (Ministry of Crab, Harpoís Italian, Hilton, Heladiv Tea), shopping (ODEL, Barefoot, Colombo Jewellery) and a pub and spa


How to get there: Out of The Emperor, turn right and walk 400m.




Vesak - Festival of Lights


Vesak is the Fesitval of Lights commemorating the birth, enlightenment and passing on of Buddha.

Starting at dawn, Buddhists dressed in white start to make their way to the temple to observe sil , in which they spend the day meditating, reading religious texts, and listening to sermons. At night the temples are crowded with devotees bringing flowers and offerings. Nevertheless, Vesak is a joyous occasion and is celebrated with verve and imagination.

Among the many striking decorations are intricate Vesak paper lanterns of different shapes and sizes, and the thousands of little clay coconut oil lamps that flicker throughout the island.

In Colombo the celebrations are unsurpassed. Enormous pandals (bamboo frameworks) hung with pictures depicting events in the life of the Buddha are erected in the streets, illuminated by a myriad of flashing coloured electric light bulbs. Another special feature of Vesak are the danselas (alms booths). These are temporary sheds, set up by the roadside with tables and chairs by local people, at which food and refreshment are given free to sightseers and pilgrims. In addition, puppet shows and open-air theatre performances telling Buddhist tales are held throughout the city.

The lanterns and pandals are lit up for about a week after the full moon day in the month of May and the most colourfully lit area in Colombo happens to be around the Beira lake where you can take a walk and enjoy the local atmosphere of families enjoying the displays and the lights.


Gangaramaya Temple


The Gangaramaya Vihara is probably Colombo's most famous Buddhist temple, tucked away next to Beira Lake. It's a wonderfully peaceful place, built in the 19th century, and overwhelmed with the smell of burning incense. It's beautifully decorated with stone carvings, brass work and colourful Buddhist paintings. There's a resident elephant in the grounds.


There's also a fascinating museum, which has the feeling of walking into one of those old antique curiosity shops, with all kinds of artefacts piled to the ceiling and hidden away in corners, seemingly in no order whatsoever. The monks are very friendly and used to tourists and will gladly show you around. If the museum is locked just ask and it'll be opened up. Meditation classes are also held here and it's a favourite spot of foreigners wanting to become Buddhists or at least learn more about it.

In the grounds is a sacred Bodhi tree, grown from a sapling taken from the most sacred Bodhi tree of all, the Sri Maha in Anuradhapura. This tree is now over a century old itself. 

In February the temple organises the annual Nawam Perahera on full moon day. It is a religious procession involving thousands of dancers and drummers and monks from around the country and about 50 decorated elephants. It certainly livens up Beira Lake once a year and a stay at our Emperor apartment guarantees a birds eye view of the pageant from within the apartment. Alternatively just walk to the road behind the Emperor and watch this very special and unique pageant pass by the complex.


How to get there: Walk through the Crescat City complex and exit the complex through the back entrance that faces the Beira Lake. The Gangaramaya temple along the Sri Jinaratana Road at the far end of the lake opposite, and is a leisurely 10 minute walk.



Galle Face Esplanade

Galle Face Green Esplanade, immediately North of our Emperor residencies, is a long, narrow park. A channel of the Beira Lake separates the park from Slave Island (Kaffir Veldt), actually a peninsula where the Dutch held the African slaves (Kaffirs) brought to Ceylon by the Portuguese in 1630.


The promenade was initially laid out in 1859 by the British Governor of Ceylon, Sir Henry Ward, and was also used for horse racing and as a golf course, although the original Galle Face Green extended over a much larger area than is seen today.


The Galle Face Green is the city's most elegant promenade. Lined with palm trees & next to the coast. Much like a tropical version of Hollywood Boulevard, this mile long stretch in the heart of the city is a beehive of seekers of leisure. Numerous small food stalls providing refreshments and the green brightens up in the evenings, hosting families & children playing sports & flying kites.


In the early mornings, the green offers a perfect venue for walkers and joggers along the paved walkway along the edge of the sea and regular walkers are a common site.


The green frequently hosts numerous international & local concerts & performances, such as the World Drum Festival, Red Bull X-fighters Jams and the Colombo Spice Festival.



Cannons used during Colonial war times still decorates the Greens. The famous colonial styled Galle Face hotel, is next to the Greens.


How to get there: Out of  The Emperor, turn right and walk 200m.



Galle Face Hotel


World famous, Galle Face hotel, the oldest hotel east of Suez, built in 1864 with its oriental charm & spaciousness attracted dignitaries from all over the world.



Among its guests, the hotel boasts of the rich and famous who patronized it in a bygone era including Lawrence Olivier, Gregory Peck, Noel Coward, Prince Philip, Richard Nixon, Jawaharlal Neru, Emperor Hirohito, Don Bradman and Roger Moore. First man in space Yuri Gagarin also stayed here as did 3 men who walked or flew to the moon - Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon & Alan Bean. Ironically the world's most famous space fiction writer Arthur C Clarke completed his final novel 3001, living at the hotel.


These days it is still an experience to dine here, or experience a typical English high tea on its Veranda facing the sea and enjoy the dramatic Indian Ocean sunset with a cocktail... We recommend you do this at least once during your stay with us - better experienced than described here.



How to get there: Out of  The Emperor, turn right, walk 100m and the Galle Face Hotel is across the road.





Grand Oriental Hotel


During the nineteenth century Colombo port acquired the sobriquet the "Charing Cross of the East" thanks to its location at the crossroads of Indian Ocean trade. Colombo has one of the world's largest man-made harbours. Most of Sri Lanka's foreign trade passes through the port equipped with modern facilities for containerized cargo.


The Harbour Room restaurant bar on the 4th floor of the Grand Oriental Hotel opposite the entrance to the old port affords marvellous views of the seaport. In 1890 an unknown Russian writer checked into the hotel. Anton Chekhov rose to fame following his tour of the Island. Your visit would provide you with ample material to sit tight & write for years. We would recommend a visit here for lunch or dinner for a relaxed meal watching the ships move in and out of the harbour and the giant cranes at work.


How to get there: Either walk to the Fort along the Galle Road passing the Galle Face green, towards the old lighthouse. Pass the World Trade Centre twin towers and turn left towards the Cargills building and proceed to the GOH towards the very end of York Street. (30 minutes walking) Or take a 5 minute taxi ride. |Map| is a useful mobile enabled website to find useful and accurate information for all your needs while in Colombo. It is a truly local guide and we use it ourselves when we find ourselves without the Colombo Phone Directory in our pocket!











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