Situated in the western province of Sri Lanka, Colombo is the island’s capital. Diverse and vibrant, the city is the administrative and economic center of the country.
The history of the city itself dates to the 5th century. Due to its prime location on the western coast of Sri Lanka, Colombo grew as a seaport for trade between Asia and the West. It was used by the Moors, Romans, Arabs, Persians, and Chinese ships for the island’s much sought after cinnamon and gems.
The name ‘Colombo’ was first introduced by the Portuguese in 1505 and is believed to be derived from the classical Sinhalese name ‘Kolon thota’ (port on the river Kelani) or ‘Kola-amba-thota’ (harbor with leafy mango trees).
In 1593, the Portuguese, who had gained control of the Western coast of Sri Lanka, made Colombo their center. Subsequently, the Dutch, in 1638, joined with King Rajasingha II (King of Kandy) to battle against the Portuguese, who were defeated in 1639. Colombo remained a central hub for the Dutch and the Dutch Maritime Provinces, controlled by the Dutch East India Company until 1796. At this point, the British captured the city, and in 1815, proclaimed Colombo the capital of Ceylon. It continues to remain so, even after Independence from the British in 1948.
The city offers historical monuments, colonial architecture, beaches, and fine dining and shopping. Its architecture has been influenced by Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonization. The British influence is clearly visible in the buildings located in the Fort, an area where the larger business houses and the stock exchange are situated. Close by is Pettah, a bustling marketplace with each section of the bazaar selling its own specialty, ranging from food items to shoes to gold; wholesale markets are found here.
The New Parliament is situated at Sri Jayawardenapura on the outskirts of Colombo, while the Old Parliament on Galle Road is now the Presidential Secretariat.
Galle Face Green is where the locals gather on the weekend to enjoy the cool breeze from the Indian Ocean and a stroll along the promenade. Nearby are temples, mosques, and churches catering to the diverse population that enrich the culture of the city.
Colombo is also your gateway to Sri Lanka. So, spend a day or two, and enjoy the blend of East and West.