iShop Arcade Independance Square

Old lunatic asylum restored to its former glory

Colombo’s lunatic asylum

When Colombo’s mental health facility opened in 1888, it was the prestige project of those days. The Jawatte Lunatic Asylum was a huge bright white complex with manicured lawns and landscaped flowerbeds. Yet within years of completion, little was left of the ‘tranquil living environment’, the place was overcrowded and filthy. In 1926 the patients moved out and since then the complex became hospital, then a university campus and later, briefly a radio station. Over the years it gradually fell into disrepair, until in 2012 the Rajapakse regime selected the run-down building as one of the post-war beautification projects. A two-year Rs 550 million renovation project restored the asylum to its former glory and it is now an upscale shopping and leisure complex.

This building and the decorative character of the grounds attached to it, will be one of the future ornaments of the city.
— Governor Sir William Gregory

Our favourites

The Dilmah tea lounge here is a great place to sample Sri Lankan teas and tisanes. The ginger Fizz on a hot day is a favourite and of course you must try the local Kiri The (tea with condensed milk). The cinema on the top floor is probably the best in the city, featuring fully reclining seats. You can even order food from the restaurant Assylum downstairs while you watch a movie.

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