National Museum of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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National Museum

Top choice in Colombo

Offering a captivating walk through Sri Lankan history, this delightful Colombo museum sprawls across a gleaming white, neo-Baroque building constructed for the purpose by William Henry Gregory, Governor of Ceylon, in 1877. Rooms take you through each of Sri Lanka's historical kingdoms, with display boards explaining interesting details such as the significance of the mudras (gestures and poses) of Sri Lanka's Buddha statues.

You’ll encounter all manner of art, carvings and statuary from Sri Lanka’s ancient past, as well as swords, guns and other paraphernalia from the colonial period. There are 19th-century reproductions of English paintings of Sri Lanka and a collection of antique demon masks.

Rooms 2 through 5 have the powerhouse displays and are a must before visiting the Ancient Cities and Kandy. Look for the magnificent royal throne made for King Wimaladharmasuriya II in 1693, as well as the 9th-century Bodhisattva Sandals, which resemble two giant bronze feet.

Upstairs galleries are devoted to Sri Lankan arts, crafts and culture. In the banyan tree-shaded grounds are a good cafe serving Sri Lankan meals, a branch of the Laksala gift shop and the modest Natural History Museum, with a collection of wonky stuffed animals and skeletons.

Tickets and other practicalities

Tickets for the National Museum cost Rs1000 for adults and Rs500 for children, or Rs1200 and Rs600 when paired with entry to the Natural History Museum. The National Museum is open every day from 9am to 5pm, except during national holidays.

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