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Colombo Fort

Considered to be the very heart of Sri Lanka’s booming economy, the commercial hub of Colombo Fort is an eclectic mishmash of landmarks belonging to the ‘old world’ such as the Old Colombo Lighthouse and other old colonial buildings, along with some of the more contemporary landmarks such as the World Trade Centre. Situated right next to the main port of Colombo, the Colombo Fort also serves to be a great venue for recreation, boasting of the largest open air space in Colombo in the form of the Galle Face Green and a serene lake in the form of the Beira Lake. Coupled with some great hotels and restaurants, your days in the commercial capital will be an unforgettable one.

Top Reason to Visit

The hustle and bustle of people walking along the crowded streets getting on with their day, the constant buzz of street vendors selling their products, the lingering effect of the old colonial masters felt in the form of the buildings they have left behind and the solitude that can be experienced at the different recreational spots, the Colombo Fort showcases Sri Lankan urban life at its best. Thus taking the top spot for the reason to visit the place.

While You’re There

The seat of governance:

Although unrecognizable as the fortified town in Sri Lanka depicted many centuries ago, the Colombo Fort still houses many important governmental buildings such as the Old Parliament Building (now the Presidential Secretariat), the Republic Building (now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and the King’s House (now known as the President’s House). Although some of these monuments cannot be accessed to the public freely like how it was during the 1970s due to security reasons, some parts of them have been opened for public viewing.

Ignored pieces of the Old World:

Due to Colombo Fort’s status of being a commercial hub, many of the monuments that are still present are often ignored and taken for granted due to the fast paced life that many locals go through. One of the first monuments that you may come across is the Cargills Ceylon Limited building that has been in its original state since colonial times, giving you a little glimpse of the long lasting companies the British established. Moreover, the Old Lighthouse, which now serves to be the clock tower, is another intriguing piece of the old world. Once the guiding beacon for all the ships travelling in the area, the Old Lighthouse was transformed into a clock tower due to the towering structures blocking the beaming light as a result of urbanization. Strolling around the old fort area is always something special as you can marvel at the old colonial structures.

The hustle and bustle:

The best way to experience the urban lifestyle of Colombo Fort is through the nearby markets of Pettah. The Pettah Shopping Precinct is considered by locals and tourists to be a hub for anything and everything in the commercial sense, ranging from your everyday groceries to high end electronics. Strolling around the chaotic narrow streets may make you wonder how ordinary people get about their day, but a few hours of observing the chaos can make you partially understand how there is still some sort of order that is preserved in all that chaos to make sure trading is done in the most efficient manner. Similarly, the now refurbished Dutch Hospital, situated opposite the World trade Centre, has also become a great spot for socializing, boasting of exquisite eateries that make your mouth water. Opened almost 24 hours a day, it is a great place to hang out with your pals, or just sit down and take a breather.

A place of recreation and relaxation:

Another unique feature of the crowded Colombo Fort is that there are places to escape that chaos. The Galle Face Green is one such place that functions as a recreational spot for the weary. Considered to be the largest open space in Colombo, the Galle Face Green is just one of the few places where you can experience an unhindered view of the sunset, along with the deep blue Indian Ocean in Colombo. Moreover, the nearby picturesque Beira Lake serves to be a place of solitude. With the Seema Malakaya temple located in the middle of the lake, it proves to be the perfect meditation spot for anyone to forget all the chaos and problems.

An unorthodox place of worship:

One of the more hidden monuments of the old fortress area is an intriguing stupa known as the Sambodhi Chaithya perched on a platform supported by two interlocking arches. A climb up the 11 levels of staircases and into the stupa really does give a unique experience of the place of worship, considering the fact that the Sambodhi Chaithya is the only place of worship in Sri Lanka that is elevated from the ground in such a manner. Moreover, the view from the top of the staircase is simply amazing. Boasting of an exquisite view of the port towards the east, along with the towering structures that have sprung up towards the west, the Sambodhi Chaithya serves to be a hidden gem in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the commercial hub.

One of the busiest ports in the world:

The Port of Colombo has been considered to be one of the top 35 most important ports in the world, serving as a major terminus in South Asia. Although inaccessible to the public, unless for a special reason, it is quite a sight to behold, especially from the centuries old Grand Oriental Hotel. Take in a panoramic view of the inner workings of the harbour at the hotel’s ‘Harbour Room’, while having a delicious meal as well.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about in the area will not be very difficult as there is an ample number of transportation modes, the cheapest being the bus (fares start from LKR 12). Tuk-tuks are available in plenty too, which will take you wherever you want to go and will charge LKR 50 - 60 for the first kilometer and LKR 40 thereafter (just make sure they have metres). It is recommended that you download the Uber and / or PickMe apps on your smartphone to make life all the more easier.

Weather: The months from January to March is when the city experiences a dry climate. April to October serves to be the period in which the city experiences quite a heavy monsoon and the remaining period is when the city gets back to its hot and humid weather.

Money: Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in many shops around the area, however, it would not hurt to carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, LKR 50s and 100s for those small transactions.

Clothing: Due to the high temperature and humidity that Colombo experiences almost all year long, it is best to be clad in casual / light wear.

Safety: Colombo Fort is a safe place to roam around, however, it is crowded all throughout the day. Therefore, it is highly advisable to be mindful of your belongings since it can get misplaced or stolen.

Meals and refreshments: Excellent snack stands and restaurants are present providing food at reasonable rates. In the Fort’s high-profile Dutch Hospital you’ll find an array of chic restaurants and outdoor cafes for a more international experience.

Colombo Fort may be all be hustle and bustle of urban life, however, if you look closer, it is also a great place to unwind and relax too. Coupled with the presence of age old colonial structures, your time in the commercial capital will certainly be a memorable one.

Title image by: KNOWSL
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