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Things to Do in Colombo

A valuable port on the East-West trading route for more than 2,000 years, Colombo has existed as a city with a history of changing fortunes. Sri Lanka's rule by three successive foreign empires, followed by decades of devastating civil war, left indelible marks on its landscapes and people. But today, peace reigns supreme, and the country's vibrant, multicultural capital is coming into its own as a destination for travelers. Sleek high-rises and luxury hotels line Colombo's leafy boulevards, alongside ancient temples, mosques, and colonial landmarks. History tours cover key sights such as the Colombo National Museum, Independence Square, and the Gangaramaya (Vihara) Buddhist Temple. Join the locals for an evening stroll along Galle Face Green; or consider a guided tasting tour of the city's culinary scene, from traditional Sinhalese and Tamil dishes to innovative world-fusion cuisine. While it's an easy place to relax, Colombo is also the perfect hub for venturing to the island's many UNESCO World Heritage sites. A guided tour will help you cover a lot of ground in a short time: Kandy's Sri Dalada Maligawa ("Temple of the Sacred Tooth"); the massive rock-fortress of Sigiriya, decorated with colorful frescoes for a fifth-century king; the cave temple of Dambulla; and the lost city of Polonnaruwa—just to name a few highlights. Nature-lovers can explore the wild with a boat trip around Negombo Lagoon and the Muthurajawela Wetlands. Or, book a private safari in Yala National Park, home to leopards, elephants, crocodiles, sloth bears, and other wildlife.
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Gangaramaya Temple
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Situated near Beira Lake in central Colombo, Gangaramaya Temple is one of the city’s largest and oldest Buddhist temple copmlexes. Established in 1885 and composed of pagodas, courtyards, and shrines, it’s best-known for its beautiful lake temple (Seema Malaka), which stands on stone pillars above the waters and is reached via a walkway.

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Galle Face Green
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Fringing a stretch of Colombo’s southern coastline, Galle Face Green is the city’s largest open space, composed of 12-acre (5-hectare) lawns overlooked by the colonial-era Galle Face Hotel. The green, which is flanked by a promenade and narrow beach, is a popular spot for strolling, picnicking, and kite flying.

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Colombo National Museum
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Founded in 1877, the Colombo National Museum in central Colombo chronicles the history and cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. Also called the Sri Lankan National Museum, the institution occupies a 19th-century Italianate-style building and attracts visitors eager to view its wide collection of treasures.

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Independence Square
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In the heart of the city’s prestigious 07 district and framed by palm-lined gardens, Independence Square is one of Colombo’s signature sights. The centerpiece of the square is Independence Memorial Hall, a stone monument that commemorates Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain in 1948.

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Leisure World Water Park
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Leisure World Water Park combines waterslides with rides and kid-friendly attractions for the ultimate day of fun in Sri Lanka. The first park of its kind in the country, Leisure World is a must-visit destination for thrill seekers and families alike.

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Gem Museum
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Situated in central Colombo in the prestigious Cinnamon Gardens neighborhood, the Gem Museum is a 4th-generation family-owned gemstone and jewelry store with an adjoining small museum. Displays showcase many of Sri Lanka’s gemstones, from topaz and blue sapphires to rubies, moonstones, tourmaline, quartz, and alexandrite.

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