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The busy and vibrant city of Colombo is the former capital of Sri Lanka. Once part of the British Empire, this city's large harbour has made it a well known port to traders for more than two thousand years. The culture of the city has been influenced through the years by the countries under whose "rule" it has lived - British, Portugese and Dutch. The Romans, Arabs and Chinese all traded here long before it was discovered by western European countries. There is still a strong Moorish community here descended from the Arab Muslims whose prime interests being trade settled here around the eighth century.
The former Ceylon ended its day of colonisation in 1948 making it a comparatively new state. After a period of upheaval in which new laws were introduced including dictating what clothes to wear and what names to use the country has now settled into the strong economic centre that it is today.
Colombo has a tropical rainforest climate, fairly temperate all year round it has significant rainfall during the monsoon seasons of May to August and October to January. This smart thriving city now has a booming tourist trade to help sustain its economy and no visit to scenic Sri Lanka would be complete without taking in the many attractions of this city. A blend of old and new, modern and ancient, Colombo has a lazy charm which seems to sit easily alongside the fast pace of a modern city.
Sri Lanka is a predominantly Hindu country and one of Colombo's most beautiful festivals occurs at the time of the celebration of Buddha's birth, death and life. This all takes place on the same day and much of the city is decorated with traditional lanterns and lights. His festival occurs in May and many visitors from outside the city visit to watch the festivities.
Christmas is another good time to be in Colombo, although only 7% of the population are now Christian the celebrations are large and the city and shops are lit up in style. There is even a church dedicated to St Paul in this culturally diverse city. There are many attractions in the city for the tourist and most of them can be easily accessed and viewed on foot.
Pettah is the city's bazaar district; the narrow cobbled streets are lined with stalls selling everything from fabric to gold to first edition books. In this myriad of streets it is easy to imagine the days of the trader and what would have been on offer on the streets of the city.
The Galle Face Green is a relic of the British Empire, once used for horse racing it faces the sea and covers one and a half kilometres. It is the largest open space in the city and is popular for picnics with the locals. Slave Island is a glimpse of the darker history of the city; this long narrow island is where the slaves returned to sleep. Now it is surrounded by offices and hotels.
Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara is said to have been a spot on which Buddha preached 2000 years ago. A religious procession takes place here every January. The National Museum, housed in a colonial building, contains everything there is to learn about the country's diverse history.
Getting around Colombo is easy as the city has an extensive public transport system based on buses. Trains will take you to other parts of Sri Lanka and a project is underway to have a metro system within the city. Flights into the city arrive at Bandaranaike Airport.
Eating out here is a diverse affair. Traditional Sri Lankan restaurants sit alongside Chinese, Italian, Indian, Western and Fish restaurants. Try Raja Bojun for traditional fare served in the regal surroundings of the Ceylinco Seylan Towers. For a piece of elegance, try Spoons in the Hilton Colombo, where calming music is played whilst you observe the chef at work in the open kitchen. Seafood is a speciality here.
Accommodation ranges from the renowned quality of a Hilton, through a range of well known hotel chains to the more individual locally run establishment. The Galle Face is the only hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean. Housed in a colonial building this lavish hostelry is favoured by celebrities and world leaders alike. It has 77 rooms including a royal suite and mixes the elegance of the empire with the tradition of its country.
Colombo is a colourful and vibrant multi cultural city and for a city break with a difference this is definitely the place to head for.