With old ship’s cannons flanking the entrance, the Maritime Museum is housed in a former Dutch prison that was built in the last 1600s. It lies adjacent to the Sambothi Chaitya temple grounds, and is maintained by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. Inside, an exhibition charts the history of maritime travel and trade in Sri Lanka, starting from the 5th century BC when Prince Vijaya from south India is believed to have landed on the island with his followers. Museums
Painting depicting important maritime events adorn the wall and model exhibits of sailing ships are also showcased. In addition, the museum houses sculptures of prominent historical figures, notably Sri Lanka kings, artifacts relating to the working of the port and various objects used by lighthouse keepers, pirates and sailors. The old, cumbersome diving suit on display will make visitors appreciate the sleek modern-day gear. Museums
Dutch Period Museum
Formerly the residence of a Dutch governor, Count August Carl Van Ranzow, this 17th colonnaded town house served as a British military hospital in 1846 and as a post office in 1932. After undergoing renovation from 1977 to 1981, it reopened to the public in 1982 as the Dutch Period Museum, dedicated to the Dutch Colonial era in Sri Lanka.
Rooms downstairs contain a fairly decent collection of dombstones as well as old coins, military memorabilia and Kandyan artifacts. Upstairs, there are letters and documents as well as Dutch Colonial furniture such as beds and ebony writing tables. Although the displays here are only moderately interesting, the mansion and its charming courtyard garden are worth a visit for an insight into how the colonialists lived in the 18th century. Museums
The exhibits are well labelled and the museum is fairly easy to navigate independently. However, be aware that it is common for staff members to guide visitors around the museum and expect the fee at the end.
National Railway Museum
Housed in the well-preserved building of the former Colombo Terminus station, this museum is somewhat difficult to find, but train enthusiasts will find it worth a visit. The main room displays station clocks, various signs and railway crockery. The station platform showcases a collection of old locomotives, of which the Class 040ST, a stream engine, is the star attraction.
Colombo National Museum
Located in a Colonial-era building dating from 1877, the Colombo National Museum was founded by Sir William Henry Gregory, the British Governor of Ceylon. The museum houses a plethora of interesting collections that provide a good introduction to the island’s temples and ancient cities. The most engaging galleries on the ground floor are 2 to 5, which feature exhibits from the Anuradhapura period through to the Kandyan era. The highlight here is the elaborate Kandyan throne, which was used by the last king of Kandy, Sri WickramaRajasinghe. Upstairs, there are several paintings, masks, coins, jewellery, puppets and a skeleton of a blue whale that washed ashore in 1984.
Natural History Museum and National Art Gallery
Part of the same complex as the Colombo National Museum, this museum is dated and dusty but those interested in the island’s diverse flora and fauna may find it appealing. There are various specimens in jars, including a pickled two-headed goat by the entrance, and informative display panels. Next door, the National Art Gallery comprises a large room displaying paintings by Sri Lankan artists in a range of styles. Notable among these are canvases by George Keyt. Temporary exhibitions are held in the room. more