National Museum Of Colombo Overview

The National Museum of Colombo, Sri Lanka, stands as a cultural treasure trove, showcasing the island nation's rich heritage. Established in 1877, the museum houses a diverse collection of artifacts, from ancient royal regalia to religious relics. Its exhibits span multiple eras, offering insight into the country's history, art, and archaeology. The museum's colonial-era architecture and meticulously curated displays make it a captivating destination for those eager to delve into the cultural tapestry of Sri Lanka trip.

The largest museum in Sri Lanka, the National Museum of Colombo was established in January 1877 by Sir William Henry Gregory, the then British Governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Currently maintained by the Department of National Museum of the central government, the museum is home to a lot of important collections, including the crown and throne of the Kandyan monarchs.

Housed in a two-storied building, the museum has a big, well-maintained, lush green lawn right in front that is shaded by mighty banyan trees, which adds to the beauty of the place. As you enter the museum, you shall also find a fourth-century Buddha smiling at you in the lobby. Going forward, you will be mesmerized to find the collections in the museum.

The galleries are as old as 1877, and you shall find all sorts of ancient art, carvings, and statues from Sri Lanka’s past along with a collection of antique demon masks. You can also find guns, swords, and other things from the colonial times. If you love art, you are totally in for a treat as the gallery also has in display 19th-century reproductions of English paintings of Sri Lanka.

On display are the royal throne made for King Wimaladharmasuriya II in 1693, the 9th-century bronze Bodhisattva Sandals, and much more. And that is not all. There are agricultural displays and many more things that are sure to grab your attention and leave a mark in your memories.

How To Reach

It is quite easy to reach the National Art Museum from Colombo airport. The distance between Colombo Airport (CMB) and the National Museum of Colombo is 30 km and takes about 25 minutes.

1. Flight: You can take a flight (to Diyawanna Oya Airport) which is close to the museum.

2. Cab: You can also hire a cab and reach in 25-30 minutes.

3. Tuktuk: Another means of transport to reach the national museum from the airport is a tuktuk.

Best Time To Visit

The National Museum in Colombo is open to the public throughout the year (closed on public holidays) and hence can be visited any time of the year. However, the best time to visit is in the dry season, which is from January to March. The temperature during this time of the year ranges from 23 degrees celsius to 28 degrees celsius, which helps you spend the day out exploring without any sweat. 

Other Essential Information

History of National Museum Colombo

The National Museum of Colombo was established in January 1877 by Sir William Henry Gregory, the then the British Governor of Ceylon. It was the Royal Asiatic Society that played a massive role in bringing to the notice of Sir Gregory in 1872 about the requirement of a public museum in the region.

And after a lot of hard work and numerous challenges, the legislative council finally approved the same within a year. After gaining approval, the Architect of the Public Works Department, James G. Smither was asked to prepare the plans for the museum in an Italian architectural style.

The PWD architect J. G. Smither followed the orders and the museum’s construction was completed in 1876. The construction of the museum was carried out by Arasi Marikar Wapchie Marikar, who was the builder of many important buildings in Sri Lanka, like the General Post Office in Colombo, the Clock Tower, Victoria Arcade, etc.

The completed building of the Colombo Museum was made open to the public in January 1877. The authorities of the museum took many steps to display the cultural and natural heritage of Sri Lanka and thus, one will find many artifacts on display in the museum that showcase the rich cultural and natural history of Sri Lanka. Several wings were also added as an extension and today, there are about nine extensions of the museum. 

Artifacts On Display In National Museum Of Colombo

The National Museum of Colombo has numerous attractions that showcase the rich cultural and natural history of the country. From the 4th century Buddha statue that greets you at the lobby to the crown jewel and throne of the last monarch of Kandy – there is so much to see.

You must also not miss the galleries that have been developed and maintained for about 150 years. They showcase ancient art, carvings, and statues from Sri Lanka’s past. Also in the galleries, you shall find the 19th-century reproductions of English paintings of Sri Lanka. Room number five has the glorious royal throne that was made for King Wimaladharmasuriya II in 1693 and must not be missed at any cost.

And in room number two you shall find the 9th-century bronze Bodhisattva Sandals. Do not miss the collection of antique demon masks and a wide collection of guns, swords, etc. from the colonial era. It is just the perfect place to learn about Sri Lankan history, art, and culture.

National Museum Of Library

The Sri Lankan National Museum Library was also opened to the public in January 1877. In fact, it was the Government Oriental library that was established in 1870 that was transformed into the Colombo National Museum Library.

The library had been collecting local publications for the past 129 years and was also serving as the unofficial national library in the country. It is today the first and the biggest Legal Deposit library on the Island. This resulted in the accumulation of a valuable collection of materials of Sri Lanka.

From its collection of Orientation and Natural Science to manuscripts written in various languages on palm leaf – you shall find a rich and wide collection in this library. Currently, the library has over 12 million titles that include a large number of rare books, palm-leaf manuscripts, and periodicals. The library is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm and is closed on Sundays and public holidays.

National Museum Of Natural History

The National Museum of National History is home to a large and rare collection of things that are related to the natural history of the island. The collection of the natural heritage of the land is on display in a different building that is situated on the same premises as the Colombo National Museum.

The National Museum of Natural History was established on 23 rd of September 1986 and is the only museum in the country to display the various forms of nature present on the island. The museum has galleries that display Jurassic-period fossils, prehistoric cave paintings, over 5000 specimens of different mammals.

It also has on display different kinds of plants and animals native to the Sri Lankan island, rare and threatened with extinction. The Skull of Megaloceros Giganteus (elk) in the geological section is a special attraction. The skull belongs to an extinct species of a stag that was once gifted by Lord Eniskilen back in 1950. You will also find a huge collection of various rocks in the museum.

Tips for visiting National Museum Colombo

To help you prepare well in advance for the trip, here are a few tips that you can follow to make the most of your visit to the museum. It contains all the important details that you must know.

2. Do note that the entry fees for locals and foreigners are different. So be prepared to shell out extra in case you are not from Sri Lanka.

3. There are no washrooms available inside the museum. So, you will either have to wait it out or use the washroom outside the complex before coming in.

4. Parking is only available outside the perimeter of the museum. Also, it is very difficult to find a parking spot on busy days. So, it is best to avail of the services of a cab or tuk-tuk to reach the museum to avoid parking hassles.

5. There is no air conditioning in the museum buildings. However, huge fans are installed to cool you down.

6. The museum premise is pretty big and will take you at least three to four hours to complete the tour. Be prepared and keep the excitement alive.

7. There is a lot of information that you can grasp at the museum. So be prepared to do a lot of reading as you visit the rooms and buildings.
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National Museum Of Colombo FAQs

Who built the National Museum?

The National Museum of Colombo was established in January 1877 by Sir William Henry Gregory, the former British Governor of Sri Lanka. The Architect, James G. Smither was given the responsibility of preparing the plans for the museum and the construction of the museum was carried out by Arasi Marikar Wapchie Marikar, the builder of many important buildings in Sri Lanka.

How densely populated is Colombo?

Colombo is the capital city and financial center of Sri Lanka and also the city with the highest population. Colombo has a population of 752,993 people - the metropolitan area has a population of more than 5.6 million residents, while the larger urban area has a population of over 2.3 million. The city proper covers a total area of 14.41 square miles and the population density is over 52,000 per square mile, which is quite higher than the national figure.

How much is the entrance fee in the national museum?

The National Museum of Colombo entrance fee varies according to the museum you visit (there are nine branches). So, it is better to buy one ticket for all the museums since you will otherwise end up paying a significantly higher amount if you buy the tickets separately. There are however concessions for locals, children, students, and teachers. The entrance fee (in Sri Lankan rupees) Locals: Child - LKR. 15:: Adult – LKR. 25 | Foreigners: Child – LKR 300:: Adult – LKR 500

What is Colombo Sri Lanka famous for?

Colombo is the capital city and financial center of the country. There are many places to visit and plenty of attractions to get you through your vacation. But Colombo’s charm lies in its different neighborhoods like the Fort and Pettah. These two old neighborhoods are filled with historical and beautiful colonial buildings and markets, which are a treat to watch. Also, do not forget to try the delicious Sri Lankan cuisine.

What are some other museums in Colombo?

There are many other museums in Colombo besides the National Museum. They are - the Dutch Museum, National Maritime Museum, Gem Museum, Traditional Puppet Art Museum, etc.

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