Sri Lanka is known for its beautiful handlooms, precious gems and its rejuvenating Ayurvedic treatments. Batiks, tea, gems, and handcrafted elephants are some of the most sought after souvenirs you can consider buying from Sri Lanka. But shopping in Colombo can be difficult and confusing for the uninitiated. There are few grand pedestrian walkways to meander down and no identifiable ‘shopping districts to lose yourself in. If it’s your first time in Colombo, you’ve probably also got a list of monuments to tick off – few of which are close to any decent shopping district where you can find interesting, contemporary Sri Lankan products.

However, setting some time aside in your itinerary to explore Colombo’s better crop of shops is well worth your while, certainly an experience that you won’t be able to replicate in any another destination that’s part of your Sri Lankan vacation. It’s an opportunity to experience the explosion of Sri Lankan creativity following the war years, that which resulted in an offering of clothing, accessories, jewelry, homeware and interior decor. To help you navigate Colombo’s many shopping favorites, here is our Colombo shopping guide-

1. Paradise Road

Paradise Road is not only an exquisite homeware store, but over the years it has risen to the status of a tourist attraction and deservedly so. It houses truly unique, one-of-a-kind products, from rustic furniture pieces, to elegant porcelain, and is an absolute delight to wander in and explore. Apart from gorgeous minimalist house linen, their hand-painted mugs and plates are a favorite. Their canvas bags printed with the Sinhala alphabet and woven pillow covers are also quite unique.They are also very well known for their signature black and vintage-white table linens and ceramics, hand-painted door stoppers, preserves and condiments through to granite elephant sculptures.

On the second floor, you’ll find a room filled with only white dinner plates and bowls.The second floor also has an extensive collection of linen goods.The store’s interior channels a grunge Mediterranean atmosphere with dark corners, stone walls and seductive scents.And the best part is that they pack fragile items exceedingly well for your trip home.Take note however that the prices here tend to be on the higher end of the spectrum.

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Timings: 10 am to 7 pm every day
Address: 209 Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 07

2. Barefoot

Step into Barefoot and the words bohemian, hippie, new age and ethnic will pop in your mind. The majority of products on offer are all woven goods. Designer Barbara Sansoni’s beautifully laid out shop, located in an old villa, is justly popular for its bright hand-loomed textiles, fashioned into bedspreads, cushions, serviettes and other household items (or sold by the meter). Barefoot’s main production includes handwoven silk and cotton clothing made in classic Sri Lankan styles with some interesting twists.

You’ll also find textile-bound notebooks, lampshades and albums, and a large selection of stylish, sculptures by the famous artist Laki Senanayake, simple (but certainly not cheap) clothing. There’s also a lovely courtyard cafe housed in the premises. Within the much-lauded designer shop is an excellent book department as well. This is where you’ll find a carefully selected range of locally published books, the full range of Michael Ondaatje’s works and much more.

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Timings: 10 am to 7 pm every day
Address: 704 Galle Road, Colombo 03

3. Laksala

The only state owned handicrafts and souvenir boutique, Laksala is a top-notch halt for shopping in Sri Lanka. You can pick up anything here – objects made from brass and silverware, wooden artifacts, buffalo horn, natural fibers, and even rush and reed abound. There are products made from coconut shells, cane, and bamboo as well as toys, pottery, artificial flowers and costume jewelry. Irrespective of what you wish to buy, make sure you don’t skip this place at all!

Dumbara Detailing | Ithaka

Another alternative for handicrafts and souvenirs is Lakapahana. You’ll find a mind-boggling array of locally produced crafts from beeralu lace, dumbara mats, painted masks, traditional batiks and more – for the first-time tourist in Sri Lanka, it is hard to go past some of the goods in this store.

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Timings: Open from 9 am to 9 pm every day
Location: No. 215, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Thummulla, Colombo 7

4. Odel

A high-profile departmental store that combines international and local brands in one glitzy labyrinth, Odel has everything you’re looking for. From fashion to homeware to cosmetics and gift items, Odel’s selection is varied but excellent. It’s always crowded with both visitors and the local elite. It is a classy departmental store that features clothes, accessories, jewelry, shoes, bags, cosmetics, homeware, tea, books, watches, sunglasses, chocolates and candy, toiletries, and a whole lot more. It’s a well laid out, upmarket establishment with everything you could hope for under one roof, including souvenirs and a Spa Ceylon range.

The extensive Sri Lankan tea center on the ground floor is alone worth coming to Odel for. There are several food joints outside on The Odel Promenade including the Sugar Bistro wine bar and the Café Nihonbashi. There’s also a foot spa if your feet need some TLC at the end of this shopping encounter.

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Timings: Open from 10 am to 8 pm every day
Address: No.5 Alexandra Pl, Colombo 00700

5. The Good Market

On a Saturday morning you walk into the Good Market, a unique artisan market and social enterprise in Colombo committed to responsible and ethical production. It is a curated platform that makes it easier to find and connect with intriguing local businesses. A fabulous place to buy high-quality products made by Sri Lankan creative start-ups, you can also try interesting Sri Lankan cuisine you may not taste in cafes or restaurants and just enjoy the relaxed vibe (there’s usually music or entertainment alongside) in here.

Some of our favorite stallholders include Sumith’s Antiques, Original Source and Supply, Natura Palmyrah baskets and bins from Mannar, Rice and Carry bags and Parkville sunglasses. However, if it’s not a Saturday, head directly to the complex of shops across the road from the Colombo Racecourse on Philip Gunewardena Mawatha. Here Good Market does its usual trade selling organic produce and health-focused groceries in its peaceful courtyard.

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Timings: Open from 9 am to 5 pm, every Saturday
Address: 14 Reid Ave, Colombo 00700

6. Selyn

Fairtrade goods made on local handlooms are the main items for sale here and the inventory spans all forms of homeware and is colorful and trendy. The big shop works exclusively with Sri Lankan producers. From gorgeously designed traditional sarees, kurtas, sarongs, etc. for women and men alike, Selyn is the only fair trade guaranteed handloom company to shop at and satiate your love for Sri Lankan garments and accessories without any regret.

The handloom fabrics at Selyn have been hot-selling for nearly 30 years now, priding themselves on being locally and ethically made. More recently, collaborations with high-end designers have produced a line of contemporary fashion available in this store, including shoes and accessories.

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Timings: Open from 10 am to 7 pm from Monday to Saturday and 10 am to 3 pm on Sunday
Address: 102 Fife Rd, Colombo 00500

7. The Design Collective

This well laid out store showcases more than 40 of Sri Lanka’s finest, most well-known and upcoming designing talents with a focus on female designers. You will find unique designer fashion ranging from swimwear to formal-wear, one-off designer jewelry (usually gold-plated silver and semi-precious stones with most designers available for custom orders), stylish handbags and purses, hand-made soaps, cards and much more.

Brands include Navya, Nika by Rukshani, Nithya, Kantala Brands, Jai by Aashkii, Nimansé, Ruwini Jayarathne, Yathra Design and Buddhi Batiks. Next door, above Café Mocha is Aaryaa, another Sri Lankan designing comfortable yet stylish clothes, leather shoes and a stunning range of gold-plated silver jewelry.

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Timings: Open from 10 am to 7 pm every day
Address: 28 Stratford Ave, Colombo 00600

8. Dilmah T-Lounge

Dilmah is one of the most famous tea brands in Sri Lanka and they have a couple of shops in Colombo where they sell all of their tea variants. From the classic English Breakfast to Earl Grey, Dilmah offers an extensive collection of loose leaf tea and pyramid tea bags.

Not only do they have the largest selection of teas in Colombo, they also sell books published by the Dilmah foundation. These books are about Sri Lankan birds, butterflies and more. The gift boxes are perfect for taking back home, along with their special colored sand clocks to make the perfect tea.

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Timings: Open from 8 am to 9 pm every day
Address: Dilmah T-Lounge, Chatham St, Colombo 00100

9. PR Sri Lanka

Even though the flagship store finds a mention on this list, the concept store, along with the contemporary Sri Lankan art gallery belonging to Saskia Fernando, present the next generation of creatives in the Paradise Road design dynasty. Stocking contemporary and stylish Sri Lankan fashion and design brands for men and women, jewelry (including re-purposed antique items) and accessories, PR epitomizes effortless chic and cutting edge, modern Sri Lankan design.

Brands include ANUK, KUR New York, Sonali Dharmawardena, Papillon du Thé, La Pard and Cher by Chevonne among others. Upstairs in the white monochrome themed space of the Saskia Fernando Gallery you’ll find regular exhibitions of avant garde Sri Lankan art that’s available for purchase if it’s taken your fancy. This is a truly unique space for modern Sri Lankan artists and art lovers.

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Timings: Open from 10 am to 6 pm every day
Address: 41 Horton Pl, Colombo 00700

10. Arcade Independence Square

A massive restoration project and a prior colonial landmark, this sprawling ‘hospital for the insane’ was reborn as an upscale mall, after having spent the last few decades in bureaucratic decrepitude. It has dozens of elite international chains, a good food court and some high-concept eateries. The Instagram-worthy facades and affiliate structures make for the perfect solace from the city’s hustle and bustle, especially after a leisurely lunch. And between expenditures, the small gardens offer the most awesome spots to rest and admire the architecture from.

Colombo’s independent spirit combined with its high concept and high design aesthetic make it a great place to stock up on some unique Sri Lankan goods. Stores like Zudhora, Pendi, Cotton Collection, Allure, Urban Island and many more coming up every day are making this city a shopping haven. However, there is also a lot to be gained by stepping out on foot into traditional local markets like the Pettah Market and the Kala Pola Art Market for an authentic Sri Lankan experience.

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