Negombo Fish Market

Location: Selby Road, Negombo
Opening Hours: 2:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Time needed for exploring: 30 minutes – 1 hour

Local Fishermen on Negombo beach in Sri Lanka throw out their fishing nets in the air, clean and pack them together for tomorrow’s early catch. Opportunistic seagulls and crows touchdown the beach and hover in the sky, urgently looking for fresh fishy snacks. The wind sweeps up the sand from the tropical beach next to the Negombo fish market complex and gently scratches the skin whilst walking.

Men are cleaning up their fishing nets from the early catch in the morning.

An early morning

Both men and women are working hard on the beach towards the opening hours of the fish market. From early in the morning till late in the afternoon. It’s 8 a.m. and some of the fishermen have just only arrived from an early day search for fresh fish. They catch crabs, lobsters, and prawns in the lagoon next to Negombo and fresh fish in the open waters of the Indian Ocean.

Men and women are working hard on the beach next to Negombo fish market. - Unnavigated
Fishermen and women on the beach.

The local Negombo fish market

In an early moment of the morning, the local Negombo fish market complex opens and so does the fishy smell sweep up as freshly caught fish gets hauled to be sold in the market. It’s quiet, still. The real action happens early around 4 – 5 a.m, right after the fresh catch for which local fishermen have been working hard since after midnight.

Negombo fish market. Barracuda - Yellowfin Tuna - Unnavigated
The Negombo fish market. Barracuda – Yellowfin Tuna

The sight of the ocean next to the Negombo fish market gives a feeling of peace. The sun shines bright and gives a tropical touch to the atmosphere. The Negombo fish market complex is located in the area next to the fort on the beach. You will be able to buy loads of seafood there varying from raw shrimps to fresh squids. I liked the market a lot, that’s the reason also why I listed it in my top 5 of Sri Lanka flea markets.

Squid and shrimps are being sold at Negombo Fish market. - Unnavigated
Squid and shrimps, for sale at the Negombo Fish market complex.

The process of drying fish

Huge coconut fiber mats decorate the sandy beach close to the Negombo fish markets. The fish on the mats is dried using an ancient method of open-air drying. The dry wind and radiant sun remove all the water from the fish and it gives the catch a longer expiration date for storage. After the fresh catch, they lay out the fish on the beach and come flip it over after a few hours.

Dried fish on coconut fiber mats on the beach next to Negombo fish market. - Unnavigated
Dried fish on coconut fiber mats on the beach next to the Negombo fish market.

Dried fish is a commonly added ingredient in the national dish of Sri Lanka; rice and curry. It’s often added because it’s a good source of protein. The dried fish from the Negombo fish market complex first gets salted and then shipped all over the island to be sold in shops & local flea markets.

When I was staying in Kandy we often ate dried fish mixed up with rice and curry on a banana leaf.


Negombo fish market is a unique and cool place in the country to visit on your backpacking trip. It’s one of the most authentic fresh fish markets in Sri Lanka. It’s the most recommended place to visit when you find yourself in the area. Hence, if you like easy-priced, but high-quality seafood and fresh fish.

Negombo fish market. Fresh fish on a wooden table. - Unnavigated
Fresh fish on a wooden table.

Tip: The fish market complex is closed every Sunday. But you can consider to visit it on Sunday if you want to avoid the big crowd. You can find the opening hours at the start of this article. A quiet day can be great for walking around in peace between the dried fish on the beach and for enjoying the view of the ocean.

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