Pettah Market: Walk Through Colombo’s Most Hectic Shopping District

By Mark Wiens 15 Comments
Pettah Market
Need Some Clothes? Pettah Market

In the heart of Colombo, Sri Lanka, is the madness of Pettah Market.

It’s possibly the best place in Colombo to get initiated into the local Sri Lankan hustle and bustle, to ingest the sounds and smells, and to get a flavor of life in Colombo.

At Pettah Market, life thrives.

Lottery Tickets in Sri Lanka
Lottery Tickets in Sri Lanka

If you’ve read any of my previous articles on Migrationology, you’ll have noticed that I am a market fanatic – especially of the food variety.

I think it’s important to visit a local fresh food market everywhere you travel.

Markets are where people conduct their lives, make a living and purchase necessities.

Pettah Fresh Market
Pettah Fresh Market

Pettah open air fresh market includes a combination of knick knacks, bails of clothing, a huge section of fresh produce, electronics and dvd’s, and massive crowds of people.

The produce section reminded me of Yangon’s Thiri Mingalar market, with the yelling, the sounds and all the chaotic action.

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Pettah Market

Pettah Market is where Sri Lankan’s come to find super deals on food.

The market distributes a lot of wholesale fruits and vegetables, so many buy in bulk. Vendors deliver their goods as fast as possible, sprawling everything out onto the ground and hustling to make sales, just like at Hanoi’s Long Bien market.

Sri Lankan Food
Chili Peppers at Pettah Market

All kinds of chilies are a necessary component in Sri Lankan food.

Pettah Market is always stocked with a fantastic selection of different chilies ranging form green peppers to the magnificently HOT cobra chilies.

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Bananas in Sri Lanka

Baskets and baskets of overly ripe fruit are in abundance at Pettah. Choose your bananas by the stalk!

Sri Lanka
Fresh Fruit at Pettah Market

If you’re in the market for fruit, Pettah Market will be a life-saver.

As a lover of fruit myself, I struggled trying to take photos with my camera while purchasing kilos of mangoes for cheap!

Pettah Station, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Wood Apples in Sri Lanka

Wood apples are a Sri Lankan love affair. They smell like blue cheese, but taste like sour tamarind pulp. Made into a wood apple fruit shake, they can be excellent.

Pettah Market, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Pettah Market, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Yet even as customers run from vendor to vendor and vendors yell to make sales, some people just hang out and enjoy the scene. This girl and her brother were hanging out as their father ran their market stall.

Dried Salted Fish Stand in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Dried Salted Fish Stand in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Dried little salted fish are popular for flavoring Sri Lankan cuisine.

Lunu Miris, which is a sauce made with red onions, dried chili pepper and Maldive fish is an extremely tasty Sri Lankan garnish.

Pettah Market
Bitter Melon Gourds

I have an odd obsession with bitter melon. It’s not just that I love eating bitter melon, but I also love the way they look. Their exterior bumpy skin is just too cool looking!

Sri Lankan Spices
Spice Store at Pettah Market

Sri Lankan food is characterized by spices. To get the most spices for your money, head over to Pettah Market and grab a few bags of freshly ground spices. They aren’t in fancy packaging, but they sure are authentic and flavor food deliciously!

Selling Clothes at Pettah Market, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Selling Clothes at Pettah Market, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Do you need a new shirt?

At this wholesale clothes dealer in the clothing section of Pettah Market, there was a continual loudspeaker blasting some sales advertisement in Sinhalese. All I can say is that it must have been a good deal, as there were plenty of Sri Lankan’s digging through the pile of shirts.

Pettah Market

When you visit Colombo, make sure to check out Pettah Market. Go anytime of the day, but especially in the morning and late afternoon.

15 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • karan

    5 years ago

    hi ,
    does have any wholesale onion market in Colombo

  • Lynn

    5 years ago

    Hi, do you know when the market is open? Days? Times? Thanks.
    p.s. GORGEOUS pictures!

  • Lakshi

    8 years ago

    Hi, I am really interested to know about your thoughts about the Pettah market. How do you like to see it in the future? Because with the development projects in Sri Lanka Pettah will also change. Can you tell me what is the specific character u need to see in Pettah?
    I am a Sri Lankan!

  • Ankie

    9 years ago

    Just wanted to congratulate you on a brilliant blog. You’re distracting me from my work today 😉

    Great photo’s and the food section is amazing.

    Ankie

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      Hello Ankie! Thanks for your support and hope you have a great day!

  • ciki

    9 years ago

    Fab photos! Am so jealous because getting lost in markets is my no.1 fav past time ! LOL

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      Yup, along with eating, getting lost in markets is about as fun as it gets!

  • rashmi

    9 years ago

    It should be so fun to shop in that market. I am from Nepal and we have vegetable market like this back home as well!

  • Claudia

    9 years ago

    Beautiful post! I’m leaving from Sri Lanka tomorrow and this is great inspiration 🙂 Thank you so much!

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      Cool to hear that Claudia – have a great trip!

  • Dean

    9 years ago

    I totally agree with you Mark. Just about anywhere that you go, if you want to really experience what the place and people are all about, go to the local fresh food market. There’s really nothing better. Pettah market looks amazing!

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      Thanks Dean – it’s such a good way to submerge yourself into the local lifestyle!

  • John of Travel Rinse Repeat

    9 years ago

    All the food looks delicious. I’ve never heard of a wood apple before!

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      Thanks John! Wood apples are really interesting, I came to really like them!