The essential Colombo shopping guide
Shopping in Colombo can be unwieldy for the uninitiated. There are few grand pedestrian walkways to meander down and no readily identifiable “shopping district” to lose yourself in. And, if it’s your first time in Colombo, you’ve probably also got a list of monuments to tick off – few of which are near any decent shops where you can find interesting, contemporary Sri Lankan products (the best kind of souvenir to my mind).
However, setting some time aside in your itinerary to explore Colombo’s better shops is well worth your while and one which you won’t be able to replicate in another part of your Sri Lankan trip (except possibly for the cosmopolitan Galle Fort). It’s an opportunity to experience the explosion of Sri Lankan creativity following the war years, one which has resulted in an offering of clothing, accessories, jewellery, homewares, interiors and even books unparalleled in at least the 30-odd years prior. The hallmarks of this Sri Lankan productivity are goods which are ethically made, environmentally sustainable, chic and uniquely Sri Lankan in style, aesthetic or provenance. Colombo may not be Paris, but its products are par excellence.
To help you navigate this, here is my essential Colombo shopping guide. This guide is confined to the central “Colombo postcodes” (1 through to 15) although most are within a couple of kilometres reach (the furthest being about 5 kilometres south) of the Viharamahadevi Park in Colombo 7, which is essentially at the centre of the Colombo postcodes. I have however excluded the stores in Colombo Fort (largely confined to the Dutch Hospital precinct) as these shops have flagship stores already represented in areas within the shopping guide. I have also not included shops or centres attached to Colombo’s 5-star hotels for lack of a proper “district” unless you’re wanting to hotel hop for (largely) precious jewellery. The notable exception to this is Trunk Sri Lanka in the Cinnamon Grand which is worth visiting for an exciting selection of high-end Sri Lankan fashion jewellery, clothing and accessories including Tina Senanayake Jewels and Kantala Brands (as well as international brands).
The Colombo shopping guide is divided into the following shopping districts as hand-marked on the map on the right. You will need to click on each of the links below for detailed maps and specific itinerary details:
This shopping district straddles the genteel area south of Colombo 2 and the busy bus junction area around the north of Colombo 7. (marked as area A on the map)
This shopping district easily tacks onto the end of the Viharamahadevi Park North shopping route traversing grand old houses (many not seen behind high walls) and foreign embassies in Colombo 7. (marked as area B on the map)
This shopping district in Colombo 7 begins at Independence Square around sporting fields and walking tracks and ends opposite the Colombo Racecourse. (marked as area C on the map)
This shopping district starts at the back of the National Museum and ends at the border of Colombo 7 on Flower Road. (marked as area D on the map)
This shopping district technically starts one road south of Colombo 3 in Colombo 4 and then proceeds north revolving around the long, parallel and one-way streets of Galle Rd and R.A Del Mel Mawatha (formerly Duplication Road). You might want to take tuk tuk rides to avoid a couple of 10-minute walks. (marked as area E on the map)
Colombo 5 is a large area of about 5 suburbs and its main shopping attractions are eclectic and somewhat spread out (but mostly around Havelock Town) so find a tuk tuk willing to wait around for you if you wish to visit all these places. (marked as area F on the map)
The name says it all and it’s very much a destination shopping strip so don’t miss it! (marked as area G on the map)
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Where possible I have incorporated monuments, places of interest and cafes or restaurants so that you can maximise your time in those neighbourhoods if you choose. I’ll be featuring individual stores in depth in later articles so stay tuned.
And my top 5 places in the Colombo shopping guide if you just need to a quick and dirty shop? It’s very hard to choose but be sure to get to the Barefoot flagship store (Colombo 3 South), Paradise Road flagship store (Viharamahadevi Park North), The Design Collective (Colombo 6 Stratford Avenue), PR Sri Lanka (Viharamahadevi Park East) and Pendi (Viharamahadevi Park South East). Oh, and go to Good Market (Viharamahadevi Park South East) on a Saturday if you can, which makes it my 6 top places I suppose … but I did say it was hard to choose!
Finally, Colombo shops open from 10am and generally stay open until 6 or 7pm (although check ahead on Sundays and poya days) so download a ride-hailing app like uber or Pick Me for getting in between, or even around, the districts and enjoy!