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For the chance to brush up on your history of Sri Lanka - and see some weird and wonderful sights - a trip to the National Museum of Colombo is a must. Manicured lawns dotted with huge banyan trees and the Italian-inspired facade makes this one of the country's most visually appealing cultural hubs, while inside all manner of ancient antiques, art and artefacts are waiting to be discovered.
As you explore the fascinating displays and carefully-curated galleries, the country’s colourful past will come alive. You’ll get to see some of Sri Lanka’s most important historic relics from ancient civilisations right up to the colonial era. Highlights include the jewel-encrusted throne from the old kings of Kandy and the baffling curiosities in the natural history collection (we’re talking two-headed goats). There’s a huge library too, housing a vast collection of publications from more than 100 years ago.
The National Museum of Colombo is one of the island’s most popular attractions - so popular in fact that the government have a whole department dedicated to it. If you’re a history or culture buff, or you’ve got some time to kill while staying in the capital, don’t miss the chance to take a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s rich heritage - we promise you won’t regret it.
With so many intriguing displays and exhibitions, you’ll want to give yourself at least a couple of hours to explore the museum at your own pace.
The first thing you’ll see upon entering the building is one of the island’s most well-preserved ancient statues - a 9th-century, meditating buddha. Explore the ground floor gallery and marvel at a fantastic display of ancient artefacts and carvings from prehistoric, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy eras. On the upper floor, there’s a compelling collection of jewellery, textiles, coins and crafts, as well as guns, swords and some beautiful paintings from the colonial period.
Some of the most intriguing displays include the 9th-century Bodhisattva Sandals and the dazzling golden throne made for King Wimaladharma II in 1693. You’ll want to take a mosey through the library too. Among its huge collection are some fascinating Bronze Age artefacts and age-old manuscripts scrawled on palm leaves.
Then there’s the eclectic natural history collection. Housed in a separate building behind the museum, the exhibition includes ancient cave paintings, fossils, taxidermy, the bones of a blue whale, and, the most unusual specimen - a perfectly-preserved two-headed, eight-legged goat in a jar. If you’ve got a curious nature, this really is a must-see.
Located near Cinnamon Gardens in the heart of Colombo, the museum can easily be reached by train, bus and tuk tuk. Depending on which hotel you’re staying at, it might be within walking distance.
Except for public holidays, the museum is open from 9am to 6pm every day. It’s worth bearing in mind that tickets won’t be issued after 5pm and some exhibitions may close early - so make sure you get there in plenty of time.
Tickets cost Rs. 500 for adult tourists.
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