Lighthouse in Galle Fort. Photo by iStock

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Situated about 120 km from Colombo, Galle is a historic city in Sri Lanka with deep colonial roots. The city attracts visitors year-round, but the ideal time to visit is from December to March when the weather is relatively cool and dry. Galle is renowned for its beautifully preserved Dutch Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The History of Galle Fort

Galle’s earliest historical record can be traced as far back as Ptolemy’s world map of 125-150 AD. Due to its strategic location, it facilitated trade for the Greeks, Arabs and the Chinese. Sri Lanka’s natural resources, including spices, gems, and exotic wildlife, made it a desirable trading partner.

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The fort was initially built by the Portuguese; however, when the Dutch seized it in 1640, they expanded it and proceeded to build a well-planned city. It served as a strategic and economic stronghold until the British took control in 1796.

The British made minimal changes, preserving the fort’s original Dutch architecture and making it a notable example of European fortifications in South Asia. The influence of the Dutch can still be largely seen in the fort to this day.

How to Get to Galle

Aerial view of Galle. Photo by Canva
Aerial view of Galle. Photo by Canva

Galle is Sri Lanka’s southern transportation hub, providing excellent public transportation options. From Colombo, you can take the train or bus to Galle, a journey that takes about 3-4 hours. For a quicker trip, luxury highway buses can get you there in less than two hours.

Exploring Galle Fort

The Galle Fort is the city’s most iconic location. Built by the Dutch and Portuguese as a bastion of defense, it has transformed into a vibrant area filled with souvenir shops, boutique hotels, and charming cafes.

Must Visit Spots

Panoramic Views of the Galle Fort Light House overlooking the Indian Ocean. Photo by Mithuni Senadeera
Panoramic Views of the Galle Fort Light House overlooking the Indian Ocean. Photo by Mithuni Senadeera

One of the must-visit spots on Church Street is ‘Isle of Gelato,’ known for its artisanal gelato made from local ingredients. The Puttalam salt and caramel gelato is a popular choice year-round, while flavors like mangosteen gelato and rambutan sorbet are available seasonally.

As you stroll through the narrow streets of the Fort, you will encounter stunning architectural landmarks. The Dutch Reformed Church and Portuguese Church are notable for their beautiful glass paintings, reflecting the city’s rich colonial history. Walking along the fort wall, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Indian Ocean, with crystal-clear waters and picturesque sunsets.

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If you plan to stay until the evening, the Flag Rock Bastion is an excellent spot to catch the sunset.

As you walk along the Fort walls, you can’t miss the local vendors selling all kinds of treats, from slices of pineapple and mango to cotton candy. As you make your way along the wall, you will come across one of the main photo stops, the lighthouse.

Constructed by the British, it is now operated and maintained by the Sri Lankan Port Authority. It is also Sri Lanka’s oldest light station.

You will find plenty of spots to take that Instagram-worthy photo. One of the main things about the Galle Fort is how well-preserved it is.

Where to Stay in Galle

The Fort Printers - A printing company turned into an elegant boutique Hotel. Photo by Mithuni Senadeera
The Fort Printers – A printing company turned into an elegant boutique Hotel. Photo by Mithuni Senadeera

You can find modern boutique hotels carved into these ancient buildings built by the Dutch and the Portuguese.

Apart from the boutique hotels in the Fort, you can find a number of well-known hotel chains in the city and on the outskirts of Galle.

Another notable site within the Fort is the Dutch Hospital, one of the oldest buildings on the Fort. This historic building once served as a facility to treat Dutch East India Company officers. It now houses boutique shops, restaurants, and cafes, uniquely blending history and modern amenities.

Where to Eat and Drink in Galle

A nasi goreng dish by the Sri Lankan restaurant chain ISSO - Indonesian Fried Rice with a fried egg, A prawn skewer, Chilli Paste, prawn crackers and a salad. Photo by
A nasi goreng dish by the Sri Lankan restaurant chain ISSO – Indonesian Fried Rice with a fried egg, A prawn skewer, Chilli Paste, prawn crackers and a salad. Photo by

If you’re looking to grab lunch while exploring the Fort, there’s a variety of dining options to choose from. Whether you prefer local Sri Lankan cuisine, pizza, or Mediterranean dishes, you’ll find something to satisfy your tastebuds. From cozy cafes to gourmet restaurants, my personal favorites include Peddler’s Café, Isso and Simply strawberries by Jagro.

For those craving Italian cuisine, Aqua Forte is the place to be. This elegant restaurant offers a fine dining experience with a selection of Italian wines and dishes, all served in a cozy, intimate setting.

Located in a beautifully restored colonial building, Church Street Social is a must-visit. Known for its eclectic menu, this restaurant offers a mix of Sri Lankan and international cuisine, perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct houses The Tuna and The Crab, a haven for seafood lovers. The restaurant offers a fusion of Japanese and Sri Lankan flavors, with a focus on fresh tuna and crab dishes.

Another gem in the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct, Sugar Bistro, is known for its vibrant atmosphere and diverse menu. From hearty breakfasts to delicious cocktails, it’s an excellent spot for any time of day.

You can also grab a traditional feast of rice and curry for lunch from local homestays in Fort.

Where to Shop in Galle

Posters at Stick No Bills, a poster shop. Photo by
Posters at Stick No Bills, a poster shop. Photo by Mithuni Senadeera

From incense sticks to jewelry, the Orchid Shop is a one-stop shop for all your souvenir needs on Hospital Street.

For a unique shopping experience, don’t miss ‘Stick No Bills,’ a shop specializing in vintage-style posters and prints.

A few meters away from Stick No Bills, you will find Barefoot, a sister store to the one in Colombo, is renowned for its handwoven clothing and products. The product range encapsulates the country’s rich history and culture, it is vibrant, colorful and creative and is made with passion by local hands.

What to Do in Galle

Aerial view of the famous Galle Fort in Sri Lanka during sunset. Photo by Wirestock
Aerial view of the famous Galle Fort in Sri Lanka during sunset. Photo by Wirestock

If you decide to come to Galle, keep an eye out for the Galle Literary Festival, now a leading literary festival in Asia. Galle Fort has played host to this Literary event for several years, and it is scheduled to be held in February 2025.

Galle Fort is also home to an international cricket stadium, renowned to be one of the most picturesque grounds in the world. It is a great place to catch a game while hanging out with the locals.

If you are up to showing off your culinary skills, you can enroll in a cooking class! These are offered by hotels as well as locals. These classes will give you insight into using local spices to create traditional curry dishes.

Overall, a day trip to Galle Fort offers a delightful mix of history, culture, and scenic beauty, making it a memorable destination for any traveler.

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Author Bio: Mithuni is a 25-year-old avid traveler and photographer who has a passion for exploring new places and uncovering hidden gems. She loves to immerse herself in different cultures, capturing stunning photos, and indulging in local cuisines. Always on the lookout for the best spots to eat and drink, Mithuni’s adventures are driven by her desire to experience and share the world’s diverse flavor.

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