April 16, 2019
17 of the best places to go shopping in Colombo
Although Colombo is not the conventional shopper’s paradise, the unique and exciting goodies that you can find in the city’s stores and boutiques are never to be missed.
But where can you find these goodies in Colombo? What are the best places to shop in Colombo and what can you buy there?
We often like to include Colombo as a start or end point for our custom made private tours of Sri Lanka. The city has a range of fabulous boutique and luxury hotels to stay in, as well as the heritage icon The Galle Face Hotel. A stay in Colombo will give you a sense of Sri Lanka as a country. In the city there are a number of key attractions to visit, some excellent fine dining and great bars, as well as a range of accommodation options to suit everyone’s budgets. (To find you more about what there is to see and do in Colombo – you might like to read our other travel blog `11 Things to See and Do in Colombo’)
But we are getting distracted. Let’s get back to the tips on where to shop in Colombo!
Assuming you have one or more days in Colombo make sure you include some time for shopping in Colombo in your tour of Sri Lanka.
Before we give you those tips on where are the best places to shop in Colombo, here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping in Colombo.
- Shopping is NOT concentrated in one single location: which means you have to travel from place to place within the city.
- Travelling from place to place in the city means driving in the hot humid climatic conditions (more often than not) and you may be stuck in traffic jams from time to time.
- Make sure you have enough time between your shopping in Colombo to relax and refresh.
- We suggest you pick and plan your shopping in advance – get some assistance on the routes from your driver guide, so that it makes it less tiresome and in fact enjoyable – after all shopping is all about fun!
- Try avoiding school rush hours (12.30p.m – 2.30p.m weekdays for sure) as Colombo gets congested and noisy. In fact this would be your ideal break between shopping. (Perhaps time to return to your hotel for a swim or head to one of the city’s boutique cafes for lunch.)
- Wear comfortable clothing that will take you through the day.
There aren’t any large malls in Colombo, however you will find there are some shopping arcades with clusters of shops and some others that stand-alone. These are mostly concentrated in and around the CBD, therefore making shopping quite convenient.
For your convenience we have identified two types of shopping experiences that we think are worthy – those set in clustered shopping complexes and the stand alone stores. The clustered shops appear first in the list below. We have listed the stores with the Colombo district where you will find them so you can plan your shopping time wisely!
Here are our recommendations for 17 places to shop in Colombo:
(Please excuse the photographs as some have just been snapped on our iphone hastily in between recent shopping expeditions!)
Shopping in larger clustered shopping complexes.
Independence Square in Colombo at dusk
#1 Independence Square– Colombo 07
Independence Square Arcade is situated in the heart of Colombo adjoining a couple of the city’s key attractions including the independence monument. It is an impressive old colonial government building converted into a contemporary boutique style shopping precinct surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens that make for a very relaxing shopping experience. What it offers:
* A few clothing boutiques offering upmarket clothing by local designers
* A few of the international high streets brands such as Levis, Tommy Hilfiger, Crocs, Nike, etc.
While you are at Independence Square, we recommend stopping by the Dilmah tea lounge and store. You can have a pot of tea, try one of their signature Ceylon teas and shop for great boxed tea sets to bring home.
Stopping for tea at the Dilmah Tea Lounge, Independence Square
#2 Odel – Colombo 7
Odel is one of the most established hot spots in Colombo for shopping. It’s the Sri Lankan equivalent to Myers or David Jones – an elegant department store. In the recent past it has taken a new face and likely to become possibly the largest mall in time to come. There are lots of little interesting shopping discoveries to find in Odel, including:
- We like the Odel Sri Lankan collection that consists of t-shirts, bags, toys, mugs, note books, pens & pencils and a lot more. They are colourful and great souvenirs to remind you of your journey in Sri Lanka. Ideal souvenirs to take back home with you or gift your loved ones.
- We also love the Backstreet jewellery collection – it’s contemporary, stylish and very much affordable.
- Odel has lot of the high street brands that are available in Sri Lanka. So if you are in the mood to grab a t-shirt or a cotton dress for your tour of Sri Lanka, this is the place to go.
Shopping is not a chore at Odel. It’s a manageable size (not too big, not too small) and you will easily find a purchase or two here. While you are there if you need a break there are several cafes you can stop at for a bite to eat or a drink. If you have half an hour for a quick foot massage head to Foot Rub for a quick bit of pampering, or if it’s the end of the day just sit out in the Garden café and listen to live music with glass of wine in hand.
#3 Colombo City Centre – Colombo 03
The latest places for locals and visitors to head to in Colombo! Colombo City centre offers all upmarket branded clothing shops, food court, cinemas and is possibly the place to visit if you want to finish your shopping in one go in a few hours.
#4 Dutch Hospital – Colombo 01
One of our favourites places for shopping and dining in Colombo, Dutch Hospital is situated in Colombo 01 and is a beautifully restored colonial building in the heart of the city. It has more of cafes and restaurants than shops, and in the evenings you will see many people sitting out and enjoying themselves. However you will find Sri Lankan souvenir shops that you won’t be able to resist. Dutch Hospital is very popular with visitors, and evenings becomes quite joyful as the people head to some of the trendy bars and restaurants creating a great atmosphere.
#5 Crescat Boulevard – Colombo 01
Crescat Boulevard is one of the older shopping malls quite conveniently positioned in the CBD next to Cinnamon Grand Hotel. Shopping is not huge here. What you will find are the branches of Odel, Spa Ceylon, Colombo Jewellery Store and Yolande Aluvihare’s beautiful collection of hand painted silk scarves and clothing.
#6 Park Street Mews – Colombo 02
Park Street Mews is the hip place in the city. There are couple of interesting shops that sell clothes by local designers. You will also find several cafes and restaurants in this area.
What are the best places to shop in Colombo?
Our guide to shopping in Colombo contained here is based on expertise gained from living in the city and visiting over many, many years, These views are entirely our own and are simply some of the places we love to visit for shopping when we are in Colombo.
Stand-alone shops in Colombo that are also worth visiting among things to see and do in Colombo.
#7 Paradise Road – Colombo 03
A firm favourite of any traveller and locals alike is Paradise Road and café that sell unique homewares, gifts and collectors items that resembles Sri Lanka at its best. Over the years we have bought the colourful hand-painted doorstops, children’s toys, textiles, bags and teacups from here. Paradise Road is not to be missed.
Paradise Road – paradise for shopping in Colombo
#8 Barefoot Gallery – Colombo 03
Another favourite of ours that all visitors to Sri Lanka must visit. We love the little intricate handmade goodies that Barefoot Gallery offers. All are not small. However, there is plenty to put in your carry-on bag from Barefoot. Their brightly coloured textiles, children’s toys, homewares, and clothing are gorgeous. There’s also a bookstore here with a range of local authors and books on travel and architecture. While you are here – take a break from the shopping at the onsite Gallery Café. They offer a great range of western and Sri Lankan meals, cakes and desserts, good coffee and alcohol. On Sunday’s you’ll find the garden café busy with locals and foreigners who come for the good food and drinks, the pleasant atmosphere and the jazz music that plays on a Sunday.
#9 Spa Ceylon – Colombo 03
We sincerely like the unique selection of products that Spa Ceylon offers. Their products carry the goodness of herbs, secrets of Ayurveda and truly deliver what they promise. The lip-gloss, the body creams and the shower gels are must tries.
#10 Stone and String – Colombo 03
Designs of Stone & String are iconic and resonates Sri Lankans aesthetics. The ones that we like are the artificial pearl based and coral based chains and accessories. The chains resemble the traditional Kandyan designs with numerous strands put together to create a signature piece of jewellery.
#11 Colombo jewellery store – Colombo 03 & Crescat Boulevard – Colombo 01
Certainly, upmarket and expensive, this store nevertheless offers beautiful and unique designs that you may only find in Sri Lanka, a special one for your personal collection. You will find the flag ship store down Alfred House Gardens facing Galle Road Colombo 3.
#12 Ridhi – Colombo 04
A small shop that carries silver jewellery if you are looking for a piece to take home with you. It has some great designs of jewellery from rings to chains to entire sets of jewellery. The speciality of this store is that the designs are a mix of local traditional designs combined with contemporary styles. What more they have some amazing pieces with semi-precious Ceylon Stones at affordable prices. (All price tagged so you don’t need to haggle or question what price you are quoted.)
#13 Seyln – Colombo 05
Seyln offers fantastic array of brightly coloured handloom-based textiles from tunics to jewellery to shawls to toys in a mix of traditional and contemporary designs. The products are based on fair trade.
#14 Saskia Gallery – Colombo 07
The Boutique 41 and Saskia Gallery are upmarket stores that carry small yet beautiful selected items of clothing, art and jewellery. Saskia has her own collection called Papillon Du the, beautiful, contemporary and unique selections.
#15 Lakpahana- Colombo 07
If you are looking for traditional pieces of Sri Lankan items Lakpahana is the place to visit. Lakpahana carry a large array of items including miniature elephants to spoons made of coconut shells to brass lamps are on sale.
#16 Street art on VIharamahadevi Park – Colombo 07
To get a true taste of local artists head to the street market at Viharamahadevi Park in Colombo 07. You will find local artist displaying their art seven days of the week. These pieces on canvas resemble Sri Lanka and serve as great souvenirs. Price ranges from $ 20 dollars upwards. Just be sure to check that the canvas is not stretched on timber as your home country may have quarantine rules around timber.
#17 Ghandahara – Colombo 06
A hidden treasure trove tucked away in the corner of the city and a must visit if you have the time. Ghandara has everything from exquisite pieces of furniture to artefacts that are eye candy and homewares.
High Tea at Galle Face Hotel in Colombo – a good spot to rest & refresh during your shopping in Colombo
And that’s our guide to shopping in Colombo.
Colombo features in our Sri Lanka In Style suggested itinerary, as well as our Classic Sri Lanka 14-day private tour. It is also one of the stops in our upcoming hosted, small-group tour for women travellers departing 19 July 2019 – Sri Lankan Discovery.
You may like to read our other Sri Lanka travel blogs:
Explore Colombo on a private walking tour
A guide to eating in Sri Lanka: 13 foods worth travelling to Sri Lanka to eat
Top 10 places to visit in Sri Lanka in 2019
To speak to one of our expert Sri Lankan tour planners you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office toll free from anywhere in Australia on : 1300 449 709