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Pettah Shopping Precinct

Considered the biggest market space in Colombo, the Pettah shopping precinct is that one place you can find anything and everything under the sun at bargain prices. The shopping precinct operates in an open air platform that spreads across many narrow streets and is home to a wide variety of wholesale and retail shops, hawkers and even little eateries making it one of the most functional market spaces too.

Best Known For

Shopping and Retail:

  • With the establishment of many shops in every corner, the shopping precinct is best known for possessing all sorts of goods and services that can be purchased at bargain prices, be it leather goods, textiles, stationery, toys, party stuff, everyday groceries, street food and even jewellery. You name it, they have it.
  • The shopping precinct is also known for its unique way of functioning on a daily basis, as everything inside the shopping precinct is done in an informal manner. In other words, in all that chaos of competition there is still some sort of harmony between businesses.

Interesting Facts

  • Known locally as ‘Pita kotuwa’ (meaning ‘outside the fort), the word ‘Pettah’ is derived from the Anglo-Indian word meaning ‘a suburb exterior of the fort’.
  • Its origins date back to colonial days when many small time traders that sold basic needs, would set up shop in order to satisfy the growing requirements of the population.
  • As time passed, various other businesses started setting up shop due to its convenient location in the heart of the city and close vicinity to the harbor.
  • The trading of goods and services is often dominated by the Muslim and Tamil minority that have migrated from India.
  • The shopping precinct is also home to, arguably, some of the most iconic structures in Colombo like the candy striped Jami Ul - Alfar or ‘Red Mosque’, the Wolvendaal Church dating back to the 18th century, Khan clock tower and the Dutch period museum.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The shopping precinct is crowded 7 days a week, throughout the year.
  • The best time to visit is, generally, during the morning and the late afternoon when the shopping precinct is in full swing.
  • The streets are very narrow and is only meant for walking, however, the occasional tuk-tuk will come along and would make it quite dangerous, as the pavements on the side are quite small. Just make sure you well aware of your surroundings.
  • Haggling is something you could easily do here, however, it could be done best if you learn a few Tamil words. Better yet, partake in the guided tours or bring a local friend along to make the task easier.
  • Due to its open air platform, make sure you wear comfortable clothing, shoes and bring plenty of water, as there is very little shade from the scorching sun.

In conclusion, the Pettah shopping precinct is a place you will either love, due to its status as being the largest market space in Colombo selling everything under the sun, or hate, since it does not operate under any formalities and is spread across narrow and crowded streets.

Title image by: Dilantha Weerasinghe

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Shopping and Retail

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