One of the joys of traveling is visiting local markets. There is nothing better than shopping for the ingredients necessary for a family meal with a local. Markets hold the secrets of the culture, all the little bits and pieces that hold communities together. These are the best ones to visit in Sri Lanka.
The largest and most famous market in Colombo, and Sri Lanka is Pettah Market. Not only a fresh produce market, Pettah Market is a collection of street blocks with maddening traffic, noise and haggling. Not surprising for a street market right? The biggest tip for when visiting Pettah Market is to take a tuk-tuk or taxi to the edge of the market and then walk in to discover all the little shops and goodies. It’s best to go to Pettah in a group and preferably not as a lone woman – Sri Lankan’s love to stare and most of the Pettah workers are men. Better go with a planned tour such as Mark Forbes’ Colombo Walking Tours.
The Kala Pola Art Market is a roadside collection of talented artists selling decorative paintings and occasionally photography. The themes in the paintings are mostly Sri Lankan ideography, landscapes and lots of elephants. This little art market is on the sidewalk across the Viharamadehi Park and next to the back entrance of the Colombo National Museum. Definitely worth a look if you’re in the area.
The Good Market is the place to go for organic produce, natural products and more eco/health choices. The flagship store opens every day and the large scale market with lots of vendors is on Saturday mornings in the racecourse parking lot. Already an institution in Colombo, and occasionally in Galle and Kandy, the Good Market is a nice way to spend Saturday morning.
Less than an hour from Colombo heading north, is the fishing area of Negombo. The Negombo Fish Market is especially memorable since it’s right on the beach. Fishermen sell fresh fish as well as dried fish that they lay on huge nets to dry in the sun. Weekday mornings can get pretty chaotic and weekends are almost empty.
A proper small town market full of local products, perfect for curious travelers and photographers alike. Northern spices, all sorts of Palmyrah products from honey to homeware made from the leaves, and lots of local sweets and colorful cordial drinks. Jaffna itself is the main place to visit when in the north of Sri Lanka, and seeing its market is an unmissable activity.
The Galle Fish Market is next to the beach right before the Galle Fort. The actual market is in front of the beach but behind it sprawls the rest of the Galle Market. This market is good for a ride by in a tuk-tuk on the way to and from Galle Fort and Unawatuna. You can see the fishermen working on their nets at any time of day on the beach in front of the market.
The Kandy Central Market is as central as it sounds, right smack in the middle of Kandy town in the hill country. A daily market for the locals, there is plenty of produce, meats and fish and of course lots of spices! Kandy town is easy to walk around in, and a stop in the market is a simple addition to the stroll. Get some fresh fruit too, at the hotel.
The ancient city of Anuradhapura is a major tourist destination for its temples and religious festivities. Anuradhapura has a “new town” on the outskirts of the ancient city. One of the greatest attractions in the new town is the Weekend Market, a fresh respite from the hot stones of the temples and hot climate of the cultural triangle. In this market you can find lots of ingredients for traditional Ayurvedic medicine.