Top 10 chicest boutiques in Galle Fort
One of Asia’s most perfectly preserved period pieces, colonial Galle – usually described as Galle Fort to distinguish it from the modern city outside the old town walls – dates back to the period of Dutch rule, who seized Galle from the Portuguese in 1640 and spent the next 156 years fortifying and embellishing the town. Their work remains apparent everywhere, with streets of low-slung colonial villas which now house many delightful shops.
Today, Galle Fort is home to some remarkable and unique boutiques, offering good quality wares and a great shopping experience. Our travel manager Justyna, a one-time resident of the city, has exclusively selected her pick of the most exceptional places to shop here.
Galle's Top 10 Boutiques
1. KK Collection
For the most elegant souvenirs in Galle, try KK Collection, which reopened at 71 Pedlar Street in autumn 2015 with a hugely increased floor space and a delightful central courtyard. Amidst its vast range of gift items and handicrafts, the boutique now offers an exclusive range of clothing for both men and women, along with some exciting pieces of jewellery. Handily, the on-site tailoring facilities mean that alterations to clothes can be undertaken immediately. In March 2016, the owners opened an additional shop space under the brand name, KK by George, at 53 Leyn Baan Street, also selling women's clothing and jewellery.
2. Orchid House
Orchid House is a must visit institution, full of local handmade products, 85% of which are designed by the shop's owner, Yameen Hussain. Whatever kind of souvenir you're after, you should find something here – items for sale include tea and spices, jewellery and clothes, and spa products, while handicrafts include those made from elephant dung (not as odd as it sounds!), ceramics, recycled paper and lace.
KK Collection. Photo: Press release
The Barefoot brand is probably the most famous of all those home-grown Sri Lanka, with branches in Colombo as well as the spacious one here in Galle. In addition to its beautiful clothes, this shop uses its vibrant signature cottons to create a wonderful range of unusual cuddly toys, fabric-covered stationery and other collectables. Barefoot products are made in Sri Lanka, specially designed for the brand and made either by workers in their homes, mainly women, or by local craftsmen in small workshops. Rejecting the more common factory production system, Barefoot's products are made by workers who are trained by them and then responsible for the quality of their final product. Thoughtful practices and investment in their workers make this the ethical brand of choice, in addition to the pleasure to be gained from their stunning textiles that are both striking and practical in the home. Directed by Barbara Sansoni, the design team makes everything from bags and linens to toys from the bright materials.
4. Exotic Roots
One of the first art shops in Galle, Exotic Roots was established in 1996 by Catherine H, an artist and mother of four children, two of whom now work with her. All the artwork for sale in the bright space is created by Catherine H and her two daughters, Asia H and Inca H. Wares include a wide variety of home décor, clothing, art and jewellery. Ceramics such as bowls, plates and tiles are hand-painted on terracotta in the traditional way, but designed with a modern twist, making these ideal keepsakes from a trip to Sri Lanka. Catherine says, "We like to keep our shop unique with our style of art that we have been creating for the past 19 years. All the postcards and cards sold here have been designed by Asia H and Catherine H. We also do our own mugs and posters.” Spend two days in Galle, shopping in boutiques like Exotic Roots while you explore, on Insight Guides' Unforgettable Sri Lanka holiday.
Exotic Roots. Photo: Press release
5. STICK NO BILLS
Travel posters have never been more in vogue and you can find a meticulously curated, beautifully printed and magnificently displayed collection at STICK NO BILLS™’s flagship gallery at 35 Church Street. The gallery is at the heart of Galle Fort, opposite the Galle Fort Hotel and just a few yards short of the Pedlars’ Street intersection. The maverick British husband and wife team who founded STICK NO BILLS™ in 2010 have since promulgated their vintage and retro-style images of the island nation formerly known as Ceylon so far and wide that they have, in effect, subversively branded post-war Sri Lanka to the world.
The STICK NO BILLS™’s gallery is spread out through every main room of an old colonial townhouse, where the gallerists offer an inspired and historically informative respite from the digital age with their ever-evolving collection of posters and maps celebrating Ceylon’s golden days of mid-century modern travel, along with high quality yet surprisingly inexpensive posters and postcards of the original artworks they curate and create. STICK NO BILLS™’s designer prints make for vibrant and exotic art for your walls – no wonder almost all visitors to Galle Fort walk out of this store with at least one poster tube under their arm!
Some of the most stunning posters and postcards are also for sale at Barefoot’s Bookshop in Colombo.
Stick no Bills. Photo: Press release
6. Raux Brothers
Maison de Raux at 96 Pedlar Street in Galle offers something a little different to your average souveniers – furniture! While it seems unlikely that you would buy something so large on holiday, when you see the fantastic crafted wares for sale, you too might consider looking into shipping costs, or at least picking up some home decor accessories. Woven baskets, glassware and objets d'art make unusual and classy keepsakes, as do brightly woven cushion covers.
7. The Three by TPV
The Three by TPV establishment is a luxurious concept selling clothes, accessories, home decor and craft items. The owners use local craftsmen for their designs, which are created in a range of natural fibres, wood and stone. These delightful and stylish design objects are sold at the Home by TPV store, found at 43 Leyn Baan Street in Galle Fort, the place to find just about everything you would ever need to make your home so beautiful that you never want to leave it. They also sell a range of unique and beautiful jewellery, carefully handpicked and designed by The Three by TPV. The shop is open from 9am–9pm every day of the week.
The team are committed to helping the street dogs in Galle Fort with medical help and food and their love of dogs can be seen in some unique artwork at the store (see picture below).
Recently, they have also opened a new concept store called The Living Room by TPV at 77 Pedlar Street.
Insight Guides' Sri Lanka: Culture and Coast holiday has a two-day stop in Galle Fort; review the itinerary online now.
The Three by TPV. Photo: Press release
Galle is very famous for its gems and gem-studded jewellery crafts and for creative silver jewellery, look no further than Jojo, which specialises in it. Mangala, the store's owner and a silversmith, has been in the jewellery trade for 33 years and is married to an Italian woman; it is after their son, Jonathan, that the store is named. Mangala's father was also a well-known jeweller and today is continuing the family tradition, using precious and semi-precious stones. All pieces are hand-crafted to the highest standard and can be ordered custom-made. In addition, Jojo specialises in antiques, Chinese porcelain, old coins and curios.
9. Ibrahim Jewellers
Stunning jewellery is the order of the day at Ibrahim Jewellers on 47 Church Street, run by Safa, a third-generation jeweller whose family business has been around since 1909. They specialise in sapphires, and are one of the most renowned jewellers of sapphires in Sri Lanka today. It is hugely popular with visitors to Galle Fort, who come for everything from hammered gold jewellery – always 18 carat – set with a multitude of multi-colour sapphires (see picture) to delicate earrings, stacking rings and necklaces. Sri Lanka is known for its wonderful sapphires, but Safa can also create fabulous jewellery with diamonds, and indeed will create anything that a customer desires.
Ibrahim Jewellers. Photo: Press release
10. Dutch Hospital Galle
The Old Dutch Hospital building, a striking colonial-era space, has been transformed into an upscale shopping centre featuring 21 stores alongside cafes and restaurants for when Galle's legendary heat makes a rest mandatory. Shop in the cool surrounds for handicrafts, paintings and jewellery, as well as local spices – ideal for home cooking. This centre is a new one-stop experience when time is of the essence.
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