Museums are one of the most underrated tourist attractions of a country, but honestly, they are the ones that offer a glimpse into the history of a place. A vacation in Sri Lanka can become even more enriching and memorable if you delve into its past. This country is known for its tea plantations, beaches, and much more, but it’s also a destination that houses 6 UNESCO World heritage sites and numerous museums. If you wish to create a picture of this country in various eras, then take a tour of the museums in Sri Lanka.

Best Museums in Sri Lanka: A Beautiful Harmony of Art and History

Best Museums in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan history is preserved in the many museums located here, housing historical documents, anthropological artefacts, traditional objects, art, masks, and much more. Each museum has its own personalized collection, which is what makes them unique for the visitors. So, wandering around several of these exhibitions won’t feel boring.

Here are the top Sri Lanka museums for you to visit.

  1. National Museum of Colombo
  2. Sri Lanka Air Force Museum
  3. National Museum of Natural History
  4. Independence Memorial Museum
  5. Mask Museum, Ambalangoda
  6. National Railway Museum
  7. Currency Museum
  8. Anuradhapura Folk Museum
  9. Ceylon Tea Museum
  10. Galle Maritime Museum

1. National Museum of Colombo: Unlocking the Past

National Museum of Colombo

How can we not talk about the largest museum in Sri Lanka, which holds the key to the colonial past of this country. Dating back to 1877 and preserving 2500-year-old history, this is a place where you’ll get a glimpse of the Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonial times. William Henry Gregory, the British Governor of Ceylon from 1872 to 1877, is the founder of this national museum in Sri Lanka. You’ll notice that the architecture of the museum follows the Italian architecture of yore, and the entire place is divided into two floors. The ground floor showcasing the Pre and Proto-Historic, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and transitional periods, whereas the first-floor exhibits paintings, ancient textiles, pottery and ceramics, and much more.

Address: WV56+X9R, Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Colombo 00700, Sri Lanka

Timings: 9 A.M to 4 P.M

2. Sri Lanka Air Force Museum: Watch the Past and Present Unfold

Sri Lanka Air Force Museum

If you are passionate about the Airforce and the aviation field in general, then this museum is for you. This national museum displays the famed history of Sri Lankan Airforce and the many battles they participated in and won. As soon as you enter, the main hangar will greet you with a collection of vintage aircraft, and the best part is that many of them have been restored to working conditions. Apart from this, there are pictures, uniforms, arms, vehicles, and so much more to admire and marvel at. This is the best museum in Sri Lanka, in my opinion, as it also plays educational videos on the mini cinema for interested visitors.

Address: RVFV+FJC, Ratmalana, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka

Timings: 8:30 A.M to 4:30 P.M, closed on Monday

Suggested Read: Best Forts in Sri Lanka: Travel in Time with the Grandeur of Past

3. National Museum of Natural History: Be a Part of History

National Museum of Natural History
Image is for reference purpose only

This museum is a fascinating find, located inside the premises of the National Museum in Colombo. It’s undoubtedly one of the places to visit in Sri Lanka because it showcases around 5000 exhibits that highlight the rich biodiversity and natural wonders of Sri Lanka. You’ll get to learn about the diverse flora and fauna, geological formations, and archaeological artefacts. It’s a great opportunity to delve into the country’s natural heritage and gain a deeper insight into its unique ecosystem. From endemic to rare and endangered species, you’ll find every type of species being a part of this museum. One of the points of interest here is the leopard of Punani, that killed around 13 people before being caught. The skull of Megacerus giganteus (elk) is another sight to behold.

Address: WV56+X9R, Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Colombo 00700, Sri Lanka

Timings: 9 A.M to 4 P.M

Suggested Read: Best Cafes in Sri Lanka: Experience the Perfect Blend of Culture and Coffee

4. Independence Memorial Museum: Where the Past and Present Converge

Independence Memorial Museum

As the name suggests, this museum was built to pay respects to the country’s heroes by preserving the history and significance of Sri Lanka’s independence movement. You’ll find exhibits that showcase the struggles, sacrifices, and achievements of the Sri Lankan people in their journey towards independence. You can read about the story of each and every person who contributed majorly to this movement beside their portraits and busts. War heroes who lost their lives between 1983 to 2009 have a separate section in the museum. Apart from their portraits, their belongings are also exhibited, such as diaries, weapons, and so on. Located in the basement of the Independence Memorial Hall in Independence Square, this is a must-visit for all history buffs.

Address: WV38+WV4, 7 Independence Ave, Colombo 00700, Sri Lanka

Timings: 9 A.M to 5 P.M, closed on Sunday and Monday

Suggested Read: Best Shopping Malls in Sri Lanka: Rediscover a Great Shopping Tradition

5. Mask Museum, Ambalangoda: Timeless Treasures

Mask Museum

Masks in Sri Lanka are a symbol of their rich heritage and culture, which is why the town of Ambalangoda has a museum dedicated to it entirely. The intricate designs and patterns on these masks will leave you in awe and each mask holds a fascinating story behind it. Some of the exhibits here are around 20 to 30 years old and were used for various religious rituals in the country. There’s also a factory and a library on the premises, where you can learn more about this craft in depth. This town is known for the masks its produces, so look out for this museum on your trip.

Address: 63R2+G74, Main St, Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

Timings: 9:30 A.M to 5 P.M

Services: Art and craft workshops, access to factory and library, puppet show

Suggested Read: Nightlife in Sri Lanka: Discover the Ultimate Nightlife Sensation

6. National Railway Museum: Walk Through the Pages of History

National Railway Museum

This museum was built to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Sri Lankan Railways in 2014, and houses everything from old engines, trolleys, and locomotives to carriages and much more. If you’re an automobile enthusiast, then this museum will surely grab your fancy. Exploring this museum and its rich history of the country’s railway system is one of the many things to do in Sri Lanka. You’ll come across a variety of vintage engines and railcars here, and what will be astonishing is that you’ll find learning about them a lot more fascinating than you initially imagined. So, open yourself up to new experiences in this country and visit this famous museum.

Address: 7G5C+28W, A1, Kadugannawa, Sri Lanka

Timings: 9 A.M to 4 P.M

7. Currency Museum: Time Travel to a Bygone Era

Currency Museum
Image is for reference purpose only

Currency Museum, a part of the Economic History Museum, is an initiative by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to acquaint the people about the history of this country through its economic journey. The evolution of currency is the best way to know about a country’s economic and political changes as well. You’ll find coins here dating back as far as the 3rd century BC. Apart from that, you can also learn how to mint coins, print currency, and know all about the tools that detect a currency’s security features. School children and other interested parties can enjoy a free of cost tour of this Colombo Museum.

Address: Central Point Building, No. 54, Chatham Street, Colombo 01

Timings: 9 A.M to 5 P.M, closed on Saturday and Sunday

Suggested Read: Water Parks in Sri Lanka: Get Ready for Endless Fun, Amusement, and Relaxation

8. Anuradhapura Folk Museum: Understand the Language of the Past

Anuradhapura Folk Museum
Image is for reference purpose only

If you wish to get a glimpse of the local life of the people in Sri Lanka, then nothing can beat Anuradhapura Museum, which is a gateway into the lives of the rural villagers and modern-day people. You’ll find traditional items, such as kitchen utensils, musical instruments, medical equipment, and much more. The cultural and religious practices of the various communities here will become evident, and you’ll be in awe of their lives, where they brought their traditional knowledge to the forefront. There are several life-size models in the premises as well that will make this entire experience enriching.

Address: Folk Museum, Old Town, Anuradhapura

Timings: 9 A.M to 5 P.M, closed on Sunday and Monday

Suggested Read: Top Restaurants in Sri Lanka: Delight in the Best Culinary Experience

9. Ceylon Tea Museum: The Home of Everything Historical

Ceylon Tea Museum

This four-storey museum in Sri Lanka is one of the most fun and exciting ones to check out, especially if you’re on your honeymoon in Sri Lanka. The ground floor and the second floor are dedicated to old machinery, the first floor is turned into a library and auditorium, where audio-visual presentations are played, the third floor is a tea sale outlet, and at the top floor, you can enjoy dining at the tea café. Walking around the tea museum’s grounds and soaking in the aromatic fragrances is the perfect way to spend your trip in this country. Earlier a Hantana Tea factory, this place’s origin is steeped in the history of tea. You can also try the famous Ceylon tea and buy some for your home as well.

Address: Hantana Rd, Sri Lanka

Time: 8:30 A.M to 3:45 P.M (Tuesday to Saturday), 8:30 A.M to 3 P.M (Sunday), closed on Monday

Suggested Read: Best Islands in Sri Lanka: The Pinnacle of Natural Beauty

10. Galle Maritime Museum: Fall in Love with History

Galle Maritime Museum

Opening its doors to the public in 2004, this maritime museum preserves the maritime archaeological heritage for the public to see. Located in the Galle Fort, inside a warehouse built by the Dutch East Indies Company, every nook and cranny of this place holds an important part of this country’s past. Apart from containing artefacts, this museum also includes an information center, four galleries, an auditorium, a conservation laboratory, and a publications stall. You can witness three European colonial periods in this museum, taking you through a journey of this island’s history through its maritime artefacts.

Address: 26H9+663, Queens St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka

Timings: 8:30 A.M to 4:30 P.M

Suggested Read: Best Beaches in Sri Lanka: The Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Like I said, museums are quite an underrated tourist attraction, but this blog might have changed that thought for you hopefully. Walking through years of history in the museums in Sri Lanka is a surreal experience, one that will leave you in awe of the rich past this place holds. From the highs and lows to the turmoil and harmony, you’ll get to experience it all right here. So, step into a time warp and travel through time to various eras as you acquaint yourself with the history of Sri Lanka, However, the first step is to book our Sri Lanka tour packages.

Museums in Sri Lanka FAQs

Q1. How many museums are there in Sri Lanka?

There are approximately 16 museums in Sri Lanka dedicated to various aspects of the past. From maritime museums to mask museums, you can explore them all.

Q2. Which was the first museum in Sri Lanka?

The first museum in Sri Lanka was the National Museum of Colombo, which was established in 1887 by Sir William Henry Gregory, the British Governor of Ceylon then.

Q3. Why is the Colombo Museum important?

The Colombo Museum preserves several significant artefacts, such as the regalia of the Kandyan monarchs, and other cultural and natural heritage.

Q4. What are the things in the National museum of Colombo?

The National Museum of Colombo includes artefacts that tell the history dating back 2500 years. From royal throne and crown to paintings, statues, and so on, you’ll find the entire history of this country come to life.

Q5. What are the famous museums in Sri Lanka?

The famous museums in Sri Lanka include-

  • The National Museum of Colombo
  • Ceylon Tea Museum
  • Galle Maritime Museum
  • Sri Lanka Airforce Museum
Q6. Which is the most visited museum in Sri Lanka?

The National Museum of Colombo is one of the most-visited museums in Sri Lanka because it includes significant parts of Sri Lankan history. It’s also the largest museum in the country.

Q7. What is Sri Lanka most famous?

Sri Lanka is famous for its exotic spices, tea, and rubber production. Known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, this country’s rich heritage and culture makes it a must-visit.

Q8. Which is the best month to visit Sri Lanka?

December to April are the best months to visit Sri Lanka because of the favorable weather. It’s also the peak season for tourists, so do visit this country during these months.