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Colombo Division, Colombo District
Mayor Prassanna Gunawardena (United National Party)
Geographical characteristics
Total 14.41 mi²/ 37.31 km²
Land / km²
Water / km²
Total (2001) 1,000,670 ( 2006 estimate )
Metro area
Density 17,096/km²
Density /mi²
Elevation m
Time zone Sri Lanka Standard Time Zone (UTC+6)
Summer (DST) (UTC+6)

Colombo (කොළඹ in Sinhala; கொழும்பு in Tamil) is the largest city and commercial capital of Sri Lanka.



Colombo is apparently derived from Sinhala name Kola-amba-thota which means "harbour with leafy mango trees". However, it has been pointed out (by Julius de Lanerolle, in an article in the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society) that "Kolamba" is a Sinhala word meaning port, ferry, harbour or haven. Ibn Batuta in the 14th Century referred to it as Kalanpu.

The name was altered by the Portuguese to honour Christopher Columbus.

Defining Colombo

Historically, "Colombo" referred to the core area around the Fort and Pettah. Nowadays, strictly speaking, it refers to the city limits of the Colombo Municipal Council. However, it usually refers to the Conurbation known as Greater Colombo, which encompasses several Municipal councils and Urban councils, as well as several 'rural' Pradesiya sabhas.

It may also refer to the Colombo District.

The Colombo metropolitan area encompasses the whole of the Western Province.


Colombo was known to Roman, Arab, and Chinese traders more than 2,000 years ago. Muslims settled there in the 8th century and controlled much of the trade between the Sinhalese kingdoms and the outside world.

The Portuguese arrived in the 16th century and found Colombo spread round the bay, which was not more than three fathoms in depth where it was deepest. They expelled the Muslim inhabitants and built a fort there to protect their spice trade. The land between the fortress and the interior was unoccupied and covered with trees. The Portuguese were compelled to reinforce the garrison to resist attacks by Mayadunne, Vidiya Bandara and Rajasinghe I.

The Dutch captured the city in 1656 after an epic siege, at the end of which a mere 93 Portuguese survivors were given safe conduct out of the fort. It served as the capital of the maritime provinces under the control of the Dutch East India Company until 1796. The British made the city the capital of their crown colony of Ceylon in 1802.

This era of western domination ended peacefully in 1948 when the British gave Ceylon independence. However, foreign occupation had a tremendous impact on the city's inhabitants and the country at large. Changes in laws and customs, clothing styles, religions and proper names were a significant result of the colonial era, followed by the strengthening of the island's economy. An entire new culture took root. Even today, the influence of the Portuguese, Dutch and British is clearly visible in Colombo’s architecture, names, clothing, food, language and attitudes. Buildings from all three regimes still stand in their glory as reminders. The city and its people show an interesting mix of European clothing and lifestyles together with local customs. The city is by far more modern than most others in neighbouring countries and continues to be a blossoming metropolis of the East - it's overall development only being hampered by a protracted conflict between the Government and Tamil Tiger Rebels in the North East of Sri Lanka.

Colombo lost its status as

the Capital of Sri Lanka in the 1980s, but continues to be the island's Commercial Capital.The new administrative capital of Sri Lanka is Sri Jayawardenepura-Kotte. Colombo is located at 6°54' North, 79°50' East (6.90, 79.8333).

Modern Colombo

A vast majority of Sri Lankan corporations have their head offices located in Colombo. Some of the industries include chemicals, textiles, glass, cement, leather goods, furniture, and jewelry. An oil refinery is located near the city.

In the city centre is located South Asia's second tallest building - The World Trade Centre. The 40 storeyed Twin Tower complex is the centre of important commerial establishments, situated in the the Fort district - the city's nerve centre. The old Fort area has some of the most interesting mixes of old and new architecture, with some complexes dating back to the Portuguese and Dutch era, shadowed by the towering, glass modern buildings. (Read "Colombo 01 - The Fort")

The city is also home to a vibrancy of culture, arts, religion and education.The University of Colombo, several colleges, an observatory, the national museum, and numerous churches, mosques, and Buddhist and Hindu temples are in Colombo - some dating back centuries.

The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, formerly known as Radio Ceylon, is also situated in Colombo. The SLBC is the oldest radio station in South Asia.

Night Life In Colombo

The city is also famed for its nightlife and has often been referred to as the "Las Vegas of South Asia" offering numerous casinos, bars, night clubs and pubs. In Sri Lanka, unlike its neighbours, alcohol flows freely, except on full moon Poya Days where sales are prohibited. Recently, the city has emergered as a preferred night life and entertainment destination among close Asian markets. The recent cessation of hostilities between the Government and Tamil Tiger Rebels (LTTE) in the North of the island has resulted in an entertainment boom in the city and greater economic growth.

Zones of Colombo City

Colombo Fort

The Heart of Colombo is the Fort, most of the government offices are in the fort including some of the 5 star hotels of the city is located here. The city is now coming to life at night after the cease fire agreement was signed many pubs, night clubs, casinos etc has poped out almost everywhere, the fort hosts many of the nightlife of the city.

Originally a fort during the Portuguese and Dutch periods but now simply the commercial center of the country and the site of most major offices, big hotels, some of the better shops, airline offices, banks, main post office, immigration office, travel agents and restaurants. Within Fort are several places of tourist interest which can be conveniently seen on foot. The colonial buildings include the Presidential Secretariat, previously the parliament house, the Grand Oriental Hotel, built in the mid 19th century as barracks for soldiers, the Lighthouse Clock Tower which along with being Fort’s prominent landmark also shows the time and the red and white Cargills and Millers departmental stores, with ancient brass signs and wooden display cabinets. There is also the General Post Office building, the Delft Gateway dating to the Dutch period, and the Fort Police Station which was once a Dutch Hospital. Other examples of pre independent Sri Lanka are the Chartered Bank Building, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and the statue of Queen Victoria in Gordon Gardens. Amongst the modern structures are the Ceylinco Building, Sri Lanka’s only high rise of the 1960’s, the World Trade Center and the Hilton, Galadari and Intercontinental Hotels.

The World Trade Centre

The World Trade Centre is the Tallest building in Sri Lanka. The World Trade Center, which is situated in the Echelon Square, Colombo had been fashioned by International architects and consultants to an arresting landmark of enduring grandeur. The 40 storey towers stand as a symbol of the strength of its capitalist economy and als shelters the Stock Market, Board Of Investments (BOI) and other major establishments.]

The Galle Face Green is where it all happens, at night the green becomes a paradise for all who prepare to go partying. The green brightens up espcially on fridays and saturdays with the night dwellers. In the evenings it plays home to couples who take an evening walk or children playing cricket or taking a ride on a pony.

The green was recently give a make over and since then has been even more popular with the lacal community.

The cannons which were used when the portugese were occupying the fort still remains, giving the colonoial touch to the city which blends with the west and the east comfortably.

Very close to the sea and the beach the Galle Face Green is where WOMAD recently had a concert, huge crowds gathered at the venue to enjoy the sounds of WOMAD amidst the salty sea breeze.

The famous Colonial type Galle Face Hotel, which is known as Asia's Emerald on the Green .. since 1864. Aparently Having stayed at the hotel, Princess Alexandra of Denmark commented "The peacefulness and generosity encountered at the Galle Face Hotel cannot be matched"

Sri Lankan Old Parliment, is situated in the fort itself facing the indian Ocean.

Slave Island

This area was once where the Dutch held their slaves, mostly brought in from Africa. It surrounds the Beira Lake (Colombo's largest lake) and its Esplanade which also houses an island within it that is visited by many for recreation. Whether the area derives its name from this island is not very certain.

Slave Island is a very commercial area of the city, located next to the Fort region and is home to large commercial establishments, luxury hotels, shopping centres, department stores and some of the city's nightlife.

Kollupitiya or Colpetty

Colpetty is evidence of Colombo's increasing recognition as a truly international metropolis. Surrounded by skyscrapers and modern shopping and residential complexes, it will also be the site for the island's and South Asia's tallest building - Celestial Residencies/Hyatt Regency (currently in construction) due for completion by 2008.

Once upon a time the drab and highly commercial city of Colombo was a 'Green City'. Each of its zones resembled a mini village, consisting of cinnamon or coconut plantations through which narrow cart roads ran. In Colonial times, Mutuwal, Hultsdorp, Grandpass, the Pettah and Fort, in Colombo, were the main urban residencies and business areas where leading citizens lived, loved and traded. By the latter part of the 19 Century people had begun to move south towards Kollupitiya (Colombo 3) and Cinnamon Gardens (Colombo 7) and even further to Slave Island (Colombo 2), Bambalapitiya (Colombo 4), Havelock Town (Colombo 5) and Wellawatte (Colombo 6). Real estate in all these small towns of Colombo started booming with the demand for land and housing.

It was amidst this backdrop that many prominent businessmen, traders, politicians, government officials, and professionals took up residence in Kollupitiya. Consequently, the town, today, has become a very elite residential location as well as a lucrative and fashionable business emporium. Many are the luxurious manors and villas that stood in Kollupitiya in old times. Some have been demolished for obvious reasons of expansion and construction. Some still stand in all their splendid majesty and grandeur. Gardens stretched out from residence to residence, lush green and perfumed with every variety of flora, manicured by careful and loving hands of specialist gardeners. Tree lined avenues are still to be seen providing a canopy of shade, comfort and delight to the weary traveler.

In recent times many such halcyon locations have given way to tall high-rise apartments housing families as well as office complexes, businesses, cinemas, casinos, markets and shopping malls. Roads have been widened and the massive influx of people is now choking the small town with a claustrophobic aura that seems deathly. Every big city or town suffers this choking at some point of time in its lifecycle. That’s the basic fundamental of development and progress across the globe.

Kollupitiya was no exception.

"In those days Kollupitiya was known as Baradeniya. It was an urban village with some beautiful villas in gardens shaded by trees. The roads which ran through fertile cinnamon and coconut gardens were narrow cart-tracks. The people were just a few . There was a small market place where people could buy and sell. Bullock carts, horse drawn carriages and rickshaws were there to give that simple place an air of complexity".

So writes H. M. Mervyn Herath, whose recently published book 'Colonial Kollupitiya and its Environs' dips into a past when our Colonial masters, the Portuguese, Dutch and the British reigned supreme, and Lankan society was largely feudal. During that nostalgic journey into the past, the writer also reveals a host of little known facts and anecdotes that add to the historical importance of his book. Many valuable extracts from the book have been included within this journey into time through the town of Kollupitiya.

Take the name 'Kollupitiya'. How many of us know for instance that 'Kollupitiya' traces its name to a rebellion that took place in Kandy in the late seventeenth century?, And that it was named after a Kandyan chief who had unsuccessfully sought to de-throne the last king of Kandy?

Streets, People, Places, & Events in Kollupitiya



Bambalapitiya, affectionately known to all its residents, and even those living within the other zones of Colombo, as “Bamba” is a small town located on both sides of the Galle Road between Colpetty (Colombo 3) on the North and Wellawatte (Colombo 6) on the South, spanning about one and a half kilometers of the Galle Road.The West is ringed by the big beautiful waters of the Indian Ocean while the East borders Havelock Town on the North and Kirulaponne on the South, connected by Havelock Road. Bamba is also classified as Colombo 00400 on the zonal map of Colombo and lies within the Municipality of Colombo.

Bambalapity in the early 19th century was a thick jungle infested with venomous snakes. Kadju Pulang trees were common to this area and it was the belief that outlaws hiding in this dense jungle would hijack and plunder bullock carts carrying produce between Galle and Colombo, It appears that these bandits would murder these traders and hang the bodies on the Kadju Pulung trees, The song sung at school matches, “we will hang all the Thomians on the Kadju Pulang trees … “ is said to have had derived from this legend.

Vast tracts of Bambalapitiya were owned by the Senanayake family, relicts of our first PM, D.S.Senanayake.The descendants of this family, Haig, Brian and Sheila still live in their ancestral home down Mary’s Road.

Herbert Bartholomeusz J.P and retired Engineer PWD bought 10 acres of land for Rs 6.00 per acre in 1896. Today land in Bamba is worth about Rs One million per perch (one acre = 160 perches).

Streets, people, places and events in Bambalapitiya

Havelock Town and Kirulapane South

Wellawatte and Kirulapane North

Wellawatte, a small town in Colombo, lies immediately south of Bambalapitiya and is classified as zone 6 within the Colombo Municipal region. The town begins at the old Dutch canal just before the Savoy Cinema and and extends all the way south to the same canal that spills into the sea just before the Hospital Road junction where Dehiwela begins. It is bounded on the west by the magnificent waters of the Indian Ocean and extends to Pamankade where Havelock Road, forks and winds one of its ways to meet the Sri Saranankara Road bridge that stretches over the waters of the Dutch canal extending towards Kohuwela-Hospital Road junction on Dutugemunu Street.

Streets, People, Places & Events in Wellawatte

Cinnamon Gardens

This area once comprised of numerous cinnamon estates (an important product in the spice trade of the Europeans) and today is the city's most expensive residential region. Its tree lined avenues and large colonial style mansions are a reminder for people of the city's once prominent role in world trade.






Kotahena, Kochchikade


Mutwal, Modara, Mattakuliya, Madampitiya

Colombo Stock Exchange

Colombo Stock Exchange is located in the World Trade Center complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It is one of the most modern exchanges in South Asia, providing a fully automated trading platform.

See also

  • University of Colombo
  • Colombo Stock Exchange

Colombo - Ceylon - Sri Lanka - Overviews


Main Cities Of Sri Lanka
Colombo | Trincomalee | Jaffna | Kandy | Anuradhapura | Polonnaruwa | Galle | Batticaloa| Kotte | Badulla | Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia | Moratuwa

Provincial Capitals Of Sri Lanka
Colombo | Kandy | Galle | Jaffna | Trincomalee | Kurunagalle | Anuradhapura | Badulla | Ratnapura

Colombo Colombo Colombo Kolombo (urbo) Colombo 콜롬보 कोलंबो Colombo Colombo (città) Colombo Colombo (Sri Lanka) コロンボ Colombo Kolombo Colombo Colombo Коломбоsi:ෙකාළඹ Kolombo Colombo Colombota:கொழும்பு โคลัมโบ 可倫坡

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Colombo". A list of the wikipedia authors can be found here.