Independence Square is Colombo’s newest public space. It’s part monument, part park, part walking ground. It’s main function seems to be as the place where Colombars go for their evening constitutional (walk), including the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who lives nearby.
Independence Square has existed since, well, Independence, but it used to be just the iconic building with traffic flowing around it. Now traffic has been limited to one side and the area behind has been developed into a beautiful and manicured walking space (with much military help).
The whole area is now opening up as the nearby Colombo Racecourse has been renovated and walking paths have been made all around the National Archives. This is fast becoming the most walkable and pleasant part of Colombo.
Independence Memorial Hall
The center of Independence Square is the Independence Hall, where England formally gave independence to Sri Lanka in 1948. It was the site of the first (largely ceremonial) session of Parliament but now people simply walk and sit in the open but covered space, based on a Kandyan style royal hall.
Beneath the Hall there is a museum which is honestly a bit random and weird (like most Sri Lankan museums), but interesting enough.
What’s new is the park type areas beyond the square. Moving west from the hall you proceed down Independence Walk. This path begins with two long pools of water and proceeds down a tree-lined lane – all pedestrian only. The closest thing you’ll get to traffic is aunties and uncles power-walking. This lane ends at the Colombo Planetarium.
The usual jogging route is actually not down the walk but a wider circle around the grounds. And this walkway keeps expanding. If you go north, you’ll now get to the Colombo Racecourse, a sort of mall space around what was once a horse-racing track but is now a rugby grounds. On the way you’ll pass the Fortune Boat restaurant, perhaps Colombo’s most authentic Chinese restaurant, and also largely undiscovered.