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Beira Lake | © Kondephy/WikiCommons
Beira Lake | © Kondephy/WikiCommons

The Top 8 Things To Do And See In Fort, Colombo

Picture of Lena Blos
Updated: 23 May 2017
The Fort area in Colombo is one of the city’s most significant commercial hubs and is home to Colombo’s busy harbor, the stock exchange and the World Trade Centre, which is the country’s tallest building. Several buildings of cultural and political significance can be found here, however, due to the turbulence of the civil war, large parts of it remain closed to the public. Nevertheless, we have found some great sights and activities within this dynamic district.

 

The Dutch Hospital

The Dutch Hospital is considered the oldest building in the city and dates back to the colonial times of Dutch domination. Since its construction c. 1681, the historic building has had several purposes. From its original use as a health center for staff of the Dutch East India Company it was later used by seafarers and the Colombo Apothecaries until it was eventually converted into a shopping and dining area. Showcasing 17th-century architecture, the building features five wings and two extensive courtyards, all designed to make the humid climate bearable. Nowadays visitors can browse the numerous shops inside the hospital or enjoy some sumptuous Sri Lankan or international cuisine at the many restaurants. The Dutch Hospital stands as a symbol of the blend of the country’s rapid development and its cultural and historical heritage.
Hospital Street, Galle Fort, Colombo 00001, Sri Lanka

Old Colombo Lighthouse

Originally used as a lighthouse, the Clocktower at Chatham Street was increasingly surrounded by tall modern buildings until it could no longer fulfill its purpose. The tower was built in 1856 and standing at 132 feet above sea level, but the clock wasn’t installed until 1914. In previous decades the tower gave the time to workers who were unable to afford a watch of their own. The elegant Victorian tower once shone its light seventeen miles out to the sea and assisted the safe entry into the harbor. Its design was created by Lady Ward, wife of the Governor of Ceylon, and it displays more elegant lines than its usually robust counterparts. Large areas of the harbor are still fenced off, meaning that visitors are not allowed to climb to the top due to security issues.
Chatham Street, Galle Fort, Colombo 00001, Sri Lanka

World Trade Center

The World Trade Center is Sri Lanka’s tallest building and the fourth tallest twin tower building in South Asia, 152 meters high. Opened in 1997, the Centre stands as a symbol of Colombo’s increasingly vibrant business scene, offering state-of-the-art offices and facilities alongside several restaurants, shops and other entertainment venues.  Run by the Overseas Realty Ceylon, this is one of the country’s most sought after trading places and provides a significant access to global market connections. The 750,000 square meters retail area allows visitors to enjoy the services of various international stores and organizations, which can be hard to find in the country. Whether you are looking to go shopping or not, the World Trade Center is one of Sri Lanka’s most admired modern buildings and a sign for its commercial aspirations, so it’s worth a visit.

Beira Lake

Extending from Fort to the heart of the city, the Beira Lake makes for a wonderful stroll and allows you to soak in the exotic atmosphere of the diverse Sri Lankan capital. Once it stretched out over more than 165 hectares of land, yet it was reduced to 65 hectares a decade ago. Under colonial domination, its numerous canals and far reach made it the ideal mode of transportation. Surrounded by lush greenery, enjoy a walk around the lake or rent a swan boat and paddle around the waters. A large suspension bridge leads to Lover’s Islands, where numerous Sri Lankan couples seek privacy due to the issues with public display of affection in the religious country. Additionally, visitors can marvel at the Seema Malaka, a beautifully maintained temple.

Port of Colombo

While many parts of the harbor remain closed to the public due to security issues, as a result of decades of civil war, it is still worth talking a walk around the area to eperience the commercial and naval activities. The Port of Colombo is not only the busiest port in Sri Lanka but it’s also the busiest in South Asia, due to its ideal location in the Indian Ocean. Having undergone extensive renovation, the port handles a large part of the country’s foreign trade and ranks among the 35 most significant ports in the world. Additionally, it is home to the Sri Lanka Navy Western Fleet, a further reason for the presence of heavy security. With its mixture of modern architecture and historic structures, this is nevertheless a sight to be seen.

The Last King’s Jail Cell

The Last King’s Jail Cell might not be one of the city’s most inviting sights, but it is certainly worth a stop should you find yourself in Fort. King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, the last King of Kandy, who reigned from 1798 to 1815, was temporarily imprisoned in the cell after his surrender to Sir Robert Brownrigg, a British governor. He was eventually deported to Vellore in India, where he died in 1832. Inside the cell visitors will find portraits of the King and the Queen, as well as learn about their achievements, such as the construction of the moat surrounding the famous Temple of the Tooth as well as the Kandy Lake. The cell represents an intriguing part of the country’s turbulent history and stands as a reminder of its continuous transformations.

The The Sambodhi Chaithya

The Sambodhi Chaithya is one of the city’s most impressive architectural constructions, erected on top of two combined arches. It was organically built in the 1950s to serve as a monument for ocean ships and remains one of Colombo’s most revered sights. Visitors can climb up the 300 stairs to reach the top and admire the inside of the beautifully decorated stupa. As with all Buddhist temples, you should remember to dress modestly and show your respect to the monks and other guests. The Sambodhi Chaithya is, surprisingly, one of Colombo’s less frequented sights, but it is without a doubt one of the most unique and enchanting.

Eat at Harbour Court

After a hot day walking around the streets of Fort you’ll be hungry. You can check out the nearby Kingsbury Hotel, one of the city’s most prestigious venues, and dine in its premium restaurant, Harbour Court. The all-day restaurant offers numerous sumptuous dishes, blending Western, Indian, Japanese and South East Asian influences. Interactive food stations guarantee the fresh preparation of the meals, and the skillful chefs will do their utmost to leave you with a memorable eating experience. Visitors can choose to dine on the outdoor terrace or sit indoors, both options providing stunning views over the Indian Ocean. With its mix of elegance, comfort and mouthwatering dishes, Harbour Court is well worth the visit.
48, Janadhipathi Mawatha,, Colombo, Sri Lanka, +69 112421221

By Lena Blos