Stroll around the floating market in Pettah

Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, is a thriving and effervescent city. Since 2015, the Floating Market in the Pettah district has been a fine example of this. From textiles and snacks to statuettes, jewellery and kitchen utensils, the market gives street vendors a chance to showcase their wares and have a place to sell their wares all year round.

Une journée au marché de Pettah de Colombo.

- © Ruwan Walpola / Shutterstock

What is a floating market?

A floating market is a market where some vendors are on boats or small floating stalls. These attractions are popular with tourists and can be found in many Asian countries. In this case, the market is located on Beira Lake, right in the middle of Sri Lanka's capital. The setting is green and relaxing.

Le marché flottant est sur le lac Beira de Colombo.

- © Studio PB / Shutterstock

The Pettah district, with its markets and textile shops

The Pettah district of Colombo is adjacent to the Colombo Fort district, which you can also visit. Pettah, which is derived from the Tamil word "Pettai", originated during the colonial period and the British occupation, and refers to a suburb outside the fort. It is the busiest district of the capital, with two huge markets, countless textile shops, restaurants and monuments to visit.

L’effervescence du quartier de Pettah à Colombo.

- © Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock

Street vendors in Colombo

There are hundreds of street vendors roaming the streets of Colombo, day and night. Most of them sell food, but they also sell local handicrafts and other souvenirs. In 2015, the Sri Lankan government and the urban development authorities gave the vendors the opportunity to get together to attract more people and, above all, they offered a small kiosk to those who didn't have one. This initiative by the development minister means that the vendors are no longer congesting other streets that are very busy with scooters and cars, and they are attracting more and more tourists and shoppers.

What to do at Pettah market

The Pettah market is an opportunity to taste, discover and appreciate the many gems of Sri Lankan culture.

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Sri Lankan crafts

Wood carvings

Sri Lanka is a master of the art of wood. The Sri Lankans make magnificent statues and statuettes. These are lovely decorations to take home as souvenirs or gifts.

Le sri Lanka est maître dans la sculpture du bois.

- © DESIGNFACTS / Shutterstock

Handcrafted jewellery

Sri Lanka is a land full of precious stones, so jewellery is one of the country's specialities. However, we recommend that you take care when buying jewellery and precious stones. It is often best to go through approved shops.

Le Sri Lanka regorge de pierres précieuses.

- © Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock

Colourful textiles and traditional designs

Sri Lanka is world-famous for the beauty and rarity of these fabrics. The seamstresses at the floating market in Pettah can work wonders if you want something made-to-measure. Otherwise, many trousers, dresses and scarves are cut from colourful fabrics and carefully embroidered.

Beaucoup de couturiers sri-lankais proposent du sur-mesure.

- © Stefano Ember / Shutterstock

The spicy cuisine of Sri Lanka

Colombo's markets provide an opportunity to sample some of the local specialities that Sri Lankans are so fond of. While you're at the market, don't forget to stop off at one of the many street food stalls to sample :

  • Kottu Roti: vegetables, cheese, eggs and Roti (Sri Lankan bread) are chopped together to create this Sri Lankan culinary staple.
  • Appa or Hopper: a delicious pancake made from fermented rice flour and palm wine. To be eaten hot and crispy!
  • Sambol: a coconut and chilli-based condiment, it is an absolutely fantastic accompaniment to all the country's curries. Be careful, it stings!

Lankan Kottu rôti du Sri Lanka

- © ngoc tran / Shutterstock

Tea, an art of living

It's hard to talk about a market in Sri Lanka without mentioning tea. Tea is the national drink and an integral part of the country's culture. The Pettah floating market is full of tea vendors, selling tea in bags or loose.

© michel arnault / Shutterstock

Practical information

How long will you be staying?

The market can be visited in half a day. You can then stroll around the Pettah district all day.

🚌 How do I get there?

Thanks to the "Pickme" and "Uber" apps, you can order your taxi or tuk-tuk online. No need to negotiate, everything is done on the app and the driver will pick you up where you decide.

Need a hand? take a look at our guide
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