Sri Lanka’s bustling capital is the arrival point for most visitors and the chances are you’ll be spending a night here at the start or end of your trip. Take time to explore and you’ll be rewarded with a vibrant city of contrasts: a melting pot of races and religions, where elegant mansions sit alongside cacophonous markets, lush gardens by traffic-clogged highways, and industrial cranes by a sweeping beach. It makes a fascinating introduction to Sri Lanka past and present, and it’s home to the county’s top museums – including the National Museum and the Dutch Period Museum, which are both worth a visit. What’s more, much of the colonial architecture remains intact – look out for ornate buildings in the area known as Fort, which once formed part of the European defences. The city is also surprisingly cosmopolitan, with an array of stylish bars and restaurants, plus excellent shopping.

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