Colombo National Museum


The Colombo Museum, as it was declared at the beginning, was established on 1st January 1877. Its patron was Sir William Henry Gregory, the British Governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
The Royal Asiatic Society (CB) finally brought to Gregory's statement on his nomination as Governor in 1872 the request for a public museum; with much trouble, the permission of the legislative council was received in a year. J.G. Smither(The Architect of the Public Works Department) made a new structure in Italian architectural characteristics. The construction was finished in 1876, and the Museum commenced its functions in the following year.

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History of the Colombo National Museum

In the early years, the museum's collections mainly comprised gifts from British officials and wealthy Sri Lankans. However, over time, the museum began to acquire artifacts through archaeological excavations, purchases, and donations.

Today, the Colombo National Museum is home to over 100,000 exhibits, including some of the most important artifacts in Sri Lankan history.

Architecture and Layout of the Museum

The Colombo National Museum is housed in an impressive colonial-style building built in the 1800s. The building is a work of art with ornate columns, verandas, and a red-tiled roof.

The museum is divided into several galleries dedicated to different periods in Sri Lankan history. The galleries are arranged chronologically, so visitors can easily trace the evolution of Sri Lankan culture and civilization.

Exhibits at the Museum

The exhibits at the Colombo National Museum cover a wide range of topics, from prehistoric times to the present day. Here are some of the highlights:

Prehistoric Period

The prehistoric gallery features Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic artifacts. These include stone tools, pottery, and skeletal remains of early humans.

Anuradhapura Period

The Anuradhapura gallery features artifacts from the Anuradhapura Kingdom, one of the earliest and most elemental kingdoms in Sri Lanka. The exhibits include statues, coins, jewellery, and other artifacts.

Polonnaruwa Period

The Polonnaruwa gallery features artifacts from the Polonnaruwa Kingdom, the second major kingdom in Sri Lanka. The exhibits include statues, inscriptions, and other artifacts.

Kandyan Period

The Kandyan gallery features artifacts from the Kandyan Kingdom, the last independent kingdom in Sri Lanka before the British colonized it. The exhibits include weapons, costumes, and other artifacts.

Colonial Period

The colonial gallery features artifacts from the Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial periods in Sri Lanka. The exhibits include weapons, furniture, and other artifacts.

Contemporary Art Gallery

The contemporary art gallery features works of modern Sri Lankan artists. The exhibits range from paintings and sculptures to mixed media installations and digital art.

Importance of the Colombo National Museum

The Colombo National Museum is invaluable for understanding Sri Lankan history and culture. It houses some of the most important artifacts in the country's history, and its exhibits offer a comprehensive overview of Sri Lanka's rich cultural heritage.

The museum also plays a vital role in promoting tourism and education in Sri Lanka. Thousands of visitors worldwide come to the museum every year, and it is an important destination for school field trips and educational tours.

Visitor Information

If you are planning a visit to the Colombo National Museum, here is some important information you should know:

Opening Hours

The museum is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm except for Fridays and public holidays.

How to Get There

The Colombo National Museum is located in the heart of Colombo, near Viharamahadevi Park. It is easily accessible by car, tuk-tuk, or public transportation.


The museum has various facilities to make your visit more comfortable, including a cafeteria, a gift shop, and restrooms.

Tips for a Great Museum Experience

To make the most of your visit to the Colombo National Museum, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Take a Guided Tour

The museum offers guided tours led by knowledgeable guides who can provide insight into the exhibits and the history of Sri Lanka. This is a great way to learn more about the museum's collections and better understand Sri Lankan culture and history.

Don't Miss the Highlights

The museum has many exhibits and galleries to explore, but there are a few highlights that you should take advantage of. These include the ancient artifacts in the Archaeology Gallery, the throne and crown jewels of the Kandyan kings in the regalia room, and the artwork in the contemporary art gallery.

Plan Your Visit

To make the most of your time at the museum, planning your visit in advance is a good idea. Look at the museum's website for an idea of what exhibits are currently on display, and plan your visit accordingly. Also, consider visiting during off-peak hours to avoid crowds.

The Colombo National Museum is an important cultural institution in Sri Lanka and a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the country's history and culture. Its extensive collections, informative exhibits, and beautiful architecture offer a unique and rewarding museum experience. So, add the Colombo National Museum to your itinerary when visiting Sri Lanka.


1. Can I take photos in the museum?

Yes, photography is allowed in the museum, but flash photography is prohibited.

2. Are there any restrictions on what I can bring into the museum?

Yes, visitors cannot bring food, drinks, or large bags into the museum.

3. Is the museum wheelchair accessible?

Yes, the museum is wheelchair accessible, and elevators and ramps are available for visitors with disabilities.

4. Are there any special events or programs at the museum?

Yes, the museum occasionally hosts special events and programs, such as lectures, workshops, and performances. Check the museum's website for upcoming events.

5. Can I buy souvenirs at the museum gift shop?

Yes, the museum gift shop sells a variety of souvenirs, including books, postcards, and traditional Sri Lankan crafts.



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