Discover Sri Lanka by visiting the Colombo National Museum

If you had only one museum to visit during your stay in Sri Lanka, it would be the National Museum in Colombo. As far as the country's history is concerned, it is the largest and most informative of all museums. You'll discover the history of the Sri Lankan kings and colonies, as well as traditional customs.

© saiko3p / Shutterstock

The history of the Colombo National Museum

The history of the National Museum began in 1872 when Sir William Henry Gregory, the British Governor of Ceylon at the time, decided that the country needed a public museum. With the help of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, construction began and the museum opened its doors on 1 January 1877.

In 1943, the museum became part of the departmental programme of national museums. Several museums were opened in Sri Lanka's major cities, including Galle, Kandy and Rathnapura.

The Italian architecture of the Colombo museum

At the time, the city's architect, J. G. Smither, proposed an Italian style for the project. Construction was completed in 1876, and the imposing white building contrasted with the rest of the city's architecture.

Les voûtes rappellent les architectures italiennes

- © saiko3p / Shutterstock

Every second Sunday of the month, the Sri Lanka's Archeological Society organises lectures in the museum. These events are free and very interesting. Most are in English. For full details, visit the museum website.

The collections on display, pieces that are unique in the world

The national museum is renowned for its famous collection of royal jewels and Sinhalese sculptures and crafts. Ancient and medieval jewellery is also on display.

Les masques du Sri Lanka sont traditionnels.

- © Ruwan Walpola / Shutterstock

Old British furniture and weapons dating back to the Second World War are reminders of the country's many occupations. Sri Lankan culture is represented in all its forms, notably through the preservation of traditions. Colourful masks, wood carvings, ivory sculptures and ceramic objects are on display for the public to discover:

  • Buddhist sculptures and paintings
  • Hindu decorative art and sculptures
  • Pottery
  • Ancient stone tools
  • Manuscripts and inscriptions
  • Metal crafts
  • Indigenous textiles & masks
  • Coins
  • Banners
  • Weapons and armaments, etc.

Le Sri Lanka possède une grande mythologie.

- © suprabhat / Shutterstock

Natural History Museum

In the same building, the Natural History Museum can also be visited. Opening times are the same and there is an entrance ticket for both museums.

Practical information

👉 Guided tours are regularly organised for schools and certain institutions visiting the museum. Completely free, you can join a group without booking.

When should you visit the Colombo National Museum?

The museum is open from 9am to 4pm every day.

👉 What to do nearby?

Viharamahadevi Park is very close to the museum. You can go for a stroll or relax in the shade of the trees.

👛 How much does entry cost?

Admission costs 1,200 LKR (£3.25) per adult and 600 LKR (£1.60) per child.

If you want to visit the national museum as well as the natural history museum, you can buy a ticket for both at 1500 LKR (£4) per adult and 750 LKR (£2) per child.

👉 Who is this activity for?

The whole family will enjoy this cultural and historical activity.

🚌 How to get there.

It's a 15-minute tuk-tuk or taxi ride from the bustling Pettah district; if you want to take a stroll, the same journey on foot takes around 55 minutes.

🍴 Where to eat?

Museum cafeteria

The museum has a small local cafeteria. It's very good and the prices are very reasonable.

Kang's Kitchen

This Korean restaurant, a stone's throw from the museum, serves traditional Korean dishes such as delicious jajangmyeon in a K-pop atmosphere. Address: 28/1 Horton Pl, Colombo 00700, Sri Lanka Opening hours: noon to 2pm, then 6pm to 9.30pm, every day except Sunday.

La statue de William Henry Gregory, ancien gouverneur de Sri Lanka, trône à l’entrée du musée national de Colombo.

- © imranahmedsg / Shutterstock
by Editorial Team
Need a hand? take a look at our guide
Colombo
Colombo
Latest news
Monastir
Mahdia, Tunisia's little-known wonder
Ardèche
Road trip on the most beautiful roads in the Ardèche
Southern Alps
The Southern Alps as a family
Ardèche
The Ardèche vineyards
Ardèche
The Ardèche train
Read more articles
Best cities