viharamahadevi park north
If you’re up to it, this itinerary begins with a monument and morning tea. Make an early morning visit to the lakeside Seema Malaka and the serene Gangaramaya Temple (both available on one ticket) and observe its rituals and treasures. It’s then a 5-minute stroll down Sri Jinarathana Rd turning right onto Park St for a spot of morning tea. Choose from the boutique hotel Uga Residences for a more refined experience (and breakfast, if you’ve skipped yours), the Butter Boutique to indulge in an astonishing array of cakes (open at 11am and occasionally has pop-up Sri Lankan brands selling their wares above their café so look out for it) or Bread Talk for a delicious pastry or two.
Otherwise, head straight to the action at the Park Street Mews alley way. This is largely an upmarket café and restaurant strip which comes alive in the evening offering Thai, Middle-Eastern, French and Japanese cuisine to name a few (so make a note to come back). But the reason you are here is Sonali Dharmawardena on your left as you enter the mews (open until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays if you’d like to come before your evening meal). Sonali has brought her background as an artist to batik design, creating hand-made Sri Lankan fashion couture of striking colour and beauty. This includes a range of batik covered clutches and her Allure contemporary Sri Lankan jewellery line, made in collaboration with a grand old Sri Lankan jewellery house, Lalitha Jewellers.
If you have time, duck across the road to one of the famous Spa Ceylon outlets for retail therapy, spa therapy or both! Spa Ceylon is Sri Lanka’s premier luxury ayurvedic treatment products which combine ayurvedic wisdom with natural ingredients. Their products are also in beautifully designed packaging, making gifts of them a breeze. Don’t worry if you miss this one though. Spa Ceylon are well located in other shopping areas and department stores. Also on this side of the road (directly opposite Uga Residences) is Park Street Gourmet which has largely international brands but stocks a growing selection of Sri Lankan fine foods such as Teaeli teas, Sri Lankan bee honey, treats by Bites Colombo and Café Kumbuk granola. They also have a interesting selection of wine to BYO at your favourite Park Street Mews restaurant across the road.
Back on Park St, head south until it intersects with Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala Mawatha, turning right there to reach the flagship store of the Cotton Collection, a pleasant department store selling reasonably priced clothing for men, women and children, including accessories and leather goods (you will find that leather goods are a rare commodity in Sri Lanka). They also stock other Sri Lankan brands (e.g. Arienti, Beyond Basics and Original Source and Supply) aligned with their breezy, linen/cotton style so you won’t have to go looking further afield for them. There are a handful of popular casual eateries in front of Cotton Collection if you need a pit-stop.
You’ll have to backtrack along Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala Mawatha past the Park St intersection to newly opened flagship store of Urban Island, a contemporary Sri Lankan design store focused on well-crafted, designer homewares. You’ll find everything bold patterned batik and handloom cushions, contemporary woven baskets and tableware which reminds you something of Scandinavian chic but is infinitely rooted in Sri Lanka. That's not to mention their other carefully curated and locally produced products ranging from specialty teas to essential oils.
Continue east along Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala Mawatha until you reach the Colombo Plan Memorial where you find the flagship store of Paradise Road on your left, set in an old Colombo mansion. This iconic store has for a long time been the leader in contemporary Sri Lankan homewares - it’s really the shop which started it all over a quarter of a century ago, not just for the Paradise Road family but for stores of this nature in Sri Lanka. Known for their signature black and vintage white table linens and ceramics, hand-painted door stoppers, preserves and condiments through to granite elephant sculptures. And the best part is that they pack fragile items exceedingly well for your trip home. They also have a small café on the top floor where I had a superb carrot cake.
Cross the road and past the Colombo Plan Memorial onto F.R Senanayake Mawatha. The neo-classical building on your left is the Colombo Council building (or Old Town Hall) with the large Viharamahadevi Park Buddha Statue directly opposite on your right. This is a good opportunity to have a wander through the park and experience some calm in Colombo – it’s lusciously green and full of birds.
At the end of F.R Senanayake Mawatha turn left onto CWW Kanangara Mawatha where you will see the architecturally interesting façade of the nearly 200-year-old Dewatagaha mosque. Across the road from the mosque is Sri Lanka’s first department store, Odel. It’s a well laid out, upmarket establishment with everything you could hope for under one roof, including souvenirs and a Spa Ceylon range (you can also indulge in a Spa Ceylon treatment around the corner from Odel on Ward Place). The extensive Sri Lankan tea centre on the ground floor is alone worth coming to Odel. Again, there are several eating places are outside on The Odel Promenade including a Sugar Bistro wine bar and a Café Nihonbashi. There's also a foot spa if you're feet need some TLC at the end of this shopping district.
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