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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Great Ways to Explore Colombo for Free – An Explosion of History and Culture
Joanna James Joanna James
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Great Ways to Explore Colombo for Free – An Explosion of History and Culture

Colombo reveals a sea of hidden treasures if you give it the time. The city is often overlooked by visitors, but there's much to see in the bustling capital. Here's a list to get you started!


Viharamaha Devi Park

The meticulously kept park is a wonderful respite from the noise and bustle of city traffic and a great place to relax and maybe enjoy a picnic. The verdant lawns are dotted with beautiful statues, fountains and a magnificent array of trees and are filled with little critters and bird life. If you love people watching, this is one of the best places to do so in Colombo! The park and most of Colombo's points of interest are easily accessible from any Colombo City hotel, such as the Colombo Courtyard.


Kala Pola Art Gallery

Across the road from the back of the park is an open-air gallery showcasing some truly inspired artwork by local artists. The artwork depicts scenes that are typically Sri Lankan – paintings of Buddhist processions, Sri Lankan elephants, ancient village life, local stilt fishermen, and much, much more. The brightly coloured, unique and contemporary art is worth a good browse. The gallery is the oldest art market in Colombo; if you find something you like, keep in mind that the prices can be bargained!


Galle Face Green

One of the most popular spots in Colombo, Galle Face Green, a bustling coastal promenade, packed with local peoples and culture. Galle Face is frequented by local families and couples looking to spend some downtime and is filled with lively street vendors selling delicious spicy and savoury local treats like wadé and isso (prawn) wadé, crispy hoppers, flavoursome rotis and Sri Lanka's beloved, signature Kottu. There are ice cream vendors about as well and plenty of beverages. There's the occasional toy vendor selling bubble-blowers, kites and a variety of other toys for kids too. Galle Face Green is especially delightful during August when locals across Colombo and its outskirts bring in magnificent hand-made kites for the unofficial, annual kite-flying festival.


Bellanwila Temple

One of the only temples in Colombo that allows tourists in for free and is free of camera-friendly crowds! The Bellanwila temple can give you a real authentic look into Buddhist tradition and the everyday workings of a Buddhist temple. Bellanwilla is famous for its brilliant, bold Buddha statues and revered Bodhi-tree – which is one of the 32 saplings that were taken and distributed from the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura. The area is very peaceful and tranquil and is perfect for meditating!


Mt. Lavinia Beach

While Galle Face Green faces the Indian Ocean, it is not easy to tread waves and enjoy the beach there, mainly because there is hardly any beach. Mt. Lavinia beach, situated about 40 minutes from the city centre, makes up for this and offers a lovely refuge from the city noise. The sunsets here are absolutely spectacular, and the little, unspoiled corners along the beach are perfect to just sit back and rest a little. The beach runs adjacent to the railway track and it's quite an exhilarating delight to watch the locals fearlessly walk along and across the tracks!


Independence Square

The Independence Square houses the Independence Memorial Hall which is a national monument established to commemorate gaining independence from British Rule. At the monument head is a statue of the revered D.S.S. Senanayake who was the first Prime Minister of the country and the 'Father of the Nation'. Behind the monument is the white-washed, grand colonial building known as Independence Arcade which holds a number of fantastic boutique shops as well as restaurants, salons and a state of the art cinema! The building was previously the Jawatta Lunatic Asylum but was recently renovated. The parkland surrounding Independence Square is always bustling with life, with many locals and tourists alike enjoying picnics and going through the paces of their day's work out.