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Pettah Floating Market
Written by Duvvuru Anvesh on June 1, 2021 Share on

Pettah Floating Market – Street Shopping with a Twist

The Pettah Floating market was the most recent tourist attraction added to Colombo, Sri Lanka. What once was an industrial canal, is now a beautiful shopping street atop of water. Almost all of the 92 stalls, that are lined along the canal, sell local produce and handicrafts. Developed by the Sri Lankan government, under the design of Thushari Kariyawasam, the market stands as a hot tourist location in the Pettah region. The stalls include some shoe and clothing stores, food stalls, a few electronic and accessory stores, and a few fruit shops as well. The Pettah Floating Market. Though the crowd has been reducing in recent years, it has become a place of calm and serenity for those who wish to take a small stroll or take pictures of the sunset for the ‘gram!

Pettah Floating Market
Image source: Unsplash

A quick backstory of the Market

Back in the late 1990s, Pettah wasn’t known for the hustle and bustle of the tourists, but for the hustles of everything shady! Yup, this beautiful set was the exact opposite of what it is. It was known for shady looking men lurking in dark corners, or stalls that sell questionable goods. It was known to be a hub for illegal activity like drug dealing too. Even the canal that the Pettah Market flaunts about, was a stinky, industrial canal. All of this made this a very dangerous place to be at. As the years passed by, these only grew in numbers to a point where people stopped going there to even board buses, but instead looked to other options. Why? Solely to avoid being anywhere close to that street.

Pettah Market
Image source: Unsplash

The Birth of Pettah Floating Market

But after a point of time, it became pretty evident that this had to be stopped before things get much worse. The government of Sri Lanka allocated rs150 Million to the Urban Development Authority on a beautification project. The UDA sought help from the Engineering units of the Sri Lankan Army and Navy. The whole area was cleaned up including the canal. The warehouses were demolished, and those lands were used for the market. Trees were planted along the canal to make it more lively and natural. Even the canal itself was widened.


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The architect, Thushari Kariyawasam, overlooked the design and came up with the rustic open-sided pagodas with smooth grey cement and wooden walkways. The floating market isn’t actually floating but stands on sturdy pillars (Don’t be disappointed, You can hardly see the pillars there). The wooden boardwalks lead the way to pagodas. The decor was minimalistic, placing cement cubes as seats along the walkway, shaded by red umbrellas. These are the details that attract the eye, and immediately makes you feel like stepping in and having a stroll. These sittings along with calm waters of the canal make it a surrealistic experience!

Fruits in the market
Image source: Unsplash

Also Read: Top 7 places every traveller should see in Sri Lanka

Everything else there is to know

The Pettah Floating Market has two entrances, the main entrance and one to the side. A large carved wooden arch in the main entrance serves as a starting point for the market. Once you enter, you’ll walk down a wooden walkway with metal railings along the sides to the market.

Halfway through, the walkway branches out to a different pagoda where the main restaurant is present. This isn’t the only restaurant though, you can find a number of eateries inside. You will also find that the some of the stalls are empty. All those illegal shop-owners got a place to set up shop in the market. They had to pay rent and therefore their profits and savings dwindled. This led to many of them leaving the stores empty. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t enough stalls. You can pretty find anything you want from produce to handcrafts in one of the many stalls present here.

But this quieter atmosphere adds to the beauty of the market. From a bustling marketplace, it has now become a hub for simpler and calmer tourists who prefer to take a stroll and a little window shopping or maybe a few romantic couples wanting to spend sometime together on a date. The quaint arched wooden bridge, the birds that adorn the lake occasionally , the lotus pond behind the stalls, all add such value in terms of aesthetics. These just make the place worth visiting. The Pettah Floating market is quite photogenic, so don’t forget to take a camera along!

Also Read: Top Things to do in Sri Lanka for Couples On Your Next Vacation

Pettah Floating Market - Transport
Image source: Unsplash

A little information on logistics

There isn’t any entry fee to the Pettah Floating Market. There are two entrances for the marketplace; One on the east end, and one on the west. The marketplace is open from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. You can take a bus to Pettah Bus station, opposite to which is the market. Or, you can take a bus to Bastian Mawatha Bus station and walk from there. Alternatively, you can hail a taxi or a tuk-tuk. For getting the best photos, reach the Pettah Market during the golden hour around 5 PM.

Also Read: The Do’s and Don’ts guide for your Srilanka vacation

Make sure you keep some space while you pack your bags, for you will definitely have something to bring back! But if you are having a difficult time planning your trip, check out our Sri Lanka travel packages or reach out to us at Pickyourtrail. Until then, Happy exploring!

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