Once used by the Dutch, Portuguese and British as the main port for cinnamon trade, today Negombo is a quiet and peaceful beach city a short drive from the capital, Colombo. It is also the closest major city to the Bandaranaike International Airport, the main international airport of the country.
Negombo is a favorite weekend-getaway location among locals and tourists alike. It's the place where visitors like to spend a couple days cooling down after a long flight in or before heading out of the country. The city has beautiful beaches with luxury and budget hotels dotting the coastline. Another thing that Negombo is known for is seafood, so don't forget to bring your appetites!
Here are some of the places to explore in Negombo:
- The Churches
If you hear someone referring to Sri Lanka's “Little Rome”, they're talking about Negombo. This is thanks to the number of elaborate Portuguese-era Roman Catholic churches with fresco-ceilings that are present around the city, owing to the majority Roman-Catholic population here. Of the churches you can visit, the most popular ones are St. Mary's Church, St. Sebastian Church, St. Anthony's Church Dalupotha, Our Lady of Sorrows Church, and a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are also other Anglican, Methodist, and Baptist churches in Negombo.
- Other Religious Sites
Negombo is a multi-cultural city, much like the rest of Sri Lanka, and thus has several other religious buildings of prominence as well, including Hindu temples like the Kali temple and Karumari Amman temple, and mosques like the Kamachchoda Jumma Masjid, one of the oldest mosques in Sri Lanka.
Famous Buddhist temples in Negombo include Abhayasekararamaya temple (Podipansala), Sri Sudarshanaramaya, Dutugamunu viharaya, and Agurukaramulla Raja Maha Viharaya (Bodhirajaramaya), the latter of which brings visitors from all around the country every year.
- The Dutch Fort & Canal
Although you cannot visit the inside of the old Dutch fort, its gate inscribed with the date of 1678, as it is currently utilized as a prison, it is still an important historical site in the city. Apart from viewing its architecture, you can also watch cricket matches being played at the nearby Esplanade, or hire a boat to sail the Dutch canal which will take you around the city.
- Negombo Beach
It might not be the best destination in Sri Lanka if beaches are your main requirement, but the Negombo beach is nothing to scoff at either. Other than sunbathing and taking a refreshing dip in the sea, you can also head out for some deep-sea diving, partake in water sports, or shop for gifts and souvenirs at the many boutiques and street shops outside. Handcrafted items, Sri Lankan gem jewelry, and batik items are especially popular here!
Lellama is the main fish market in Negombo, and the second-largest in the entire country. There's something “fishy” about this market, and you should definitely consider a visit here if you're looking to finding the freshest, most amazing seafood, or are interested in learning more about local culture and one of the main trades of this city.
- Muthurajawela Marshland
Translating literally to 'Swamp of Royal Treasures”, the Muthurajawela Marshes stretch over an area of 1,580 acres full of many amazing species of plants, animals, and birds. You can take a relaxing boat tour through the marsh and spot local fisherman and village folk going about their livelihoods, or snap pictures of the flora and fauna that inhabit the area.