Galle – The most enjoyable town of Sri Lanka

Galle is one of those Sri Lankan towns where it’s really enjoyable to stay. You can easily plan to spend here a longer weekend, there are many things to see and do. This is a beautiful Colonial city with an old quarter that is really charming. In terms of Colonial vibe, there is nothing compared with Galle. The old town is full of bars and restaurants where you will be able to enjoy some drinks and food of all kinds in a very nice atmosphere. So, let’s see now the top things to do in Galle!

About Galle

Galle is the provincial capital and largest city of Southern Province, Sri Lanka. Its name was Gimhathiththa before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, when it was the main port on the island. Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period.

This town is the best example of a Portuguese fortified city in South and Southeast Asia, showing the interaction between Portuguese architectural styles and native traditions. The city was extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. The Galle Fort is a world heritage site and is the largest remaining fortress in Asia, that European occupiers built.

Top things to do in Galle

The Galle Fort

The Portuguese built the Galle Fort in 1588. Then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. It is a historical, archaeological and architectural heritage monument, which even after more than 432 years maintains a polished appearance, due to extensive reconstruction work done by Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka.

The fort has a colourful history, and today has a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population. The Sri Lankan government and many Dutch people who still own some of the properties inside the fort are looking at making this one of the modern wonders of the world. The heritage value of the fort has been recognized by the UNESCO and the site has been inscribed as a cultural heritage UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique exposition of “an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The Clock Tower

Lying just inside and on the top of the stone walls of Galle Fort, the Clock Tower is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks and most photographed monuments. Built in 1883, it was erected in memory of Peter Daniel Anthonisz – a popular and well-known doctor.

The Fort Lighthouse

While the current lighthouse dates to 1939, earlier versions have stood in the same spot since 1848. It is operated and maintained by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. This is Sri Lanka’s oldest light station!

Meeran Jumma Mosque

It is commonly known as Galle Fort Mosque. The current two-storey building was commissioned in 1904 by Ahamed Haji Ismail,  allegedly on the site of a Portuguese catholic church. Hence the misleading architecture style. While its Baroque facade looks more like that of a cathedral, some incredible Islamic detailing and decorations remind us that we are indeed looking at a mosque.

Natural Harbour

Galle Harbour is a natural harbour, located in Galle, on the south-western coast of Sri Lanka. Currently Galle port serves as one of the most active regional ports in the country. It is also the only Sri Lankan port that provides facilities for pleasure yachts. International yacht societies have recognised Galle Harbour as one of the world’s best attractions for yachting.

National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum or National Maritime Archaeology Museum in Galle, is situated within Galle Fort. It was first opened to the public on 9 May 1992 and is located in a 1671 Dutch Warehouse above the Old Gate of Galle Fort. Whilst the building housing the museum survived the impact of the 26 December 2004 tsunami, the adjoining UNESCO Maritime Archaeology Unit was completely destroyed and all the exhibitions were flood damaged and the majority of maritime archeological artifacts were lost. Under Sri Lanka – Netherlands Cultural Co-operation Program, the Royal Government of Netherlands provided financial assistance for reconstruction of the Maritime Museum. After 3 years period of reconstruction, they re-opened the Maritime Museum to the public.

All Saints Anglican Church

The decision to build an Anglican church at Galle, was initiated by the first Bishop of Colombo, James Chapman. The foundation of the church was laid on 30 October 1868. The construction of the church was facilitated by a grant of the land and £600 from the 13th Governor of Ceylon, Sir Hercules Robinson. A further £1,000 contribution was received from an English parish. The church was designed by James George Smither, the government architect, who later designed the National Museum of Colombo. The church was constructed on the site of a former Court House (1780s).

St. Mary’s Cathedral

The Cathedral of St. Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary, is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galle. It is a landmark in the city. The cathedral was built by the Society of Jesus at the end of the 19th century. The first bishop was the Belgian Jesuit Joseph Van Reeth. The Cathedral is central and important to the Catholics of southern Sri Lanka in the Diocese of Galle. The church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Groote Kerk – Dutch Reformed Church

The Groote Kerk or Dutch Reformed Church is located within the Galle Fort near the entrance to the fort. The church was built by the Dutch in 1755 and is one of the oldest Protestant churches still in use in the country. The present church was built on the highest point in the Galle fort, which stands more than 12 m above sea level. The church underwent various changes during the British Period. A stained glass window was built into the west façade of the church around 1830 and a communion rail was built in the south wing. At the beginning of the 20th century, a small organ was placed in the south wing. Around 1890, a canopy was built above the stained glass window to protect it from leaking.

Fort Shri Sudarmalaya Buddhist Temple

Inside the Fort there is also this nice Buddhist Temple, Fort Shri Sudarmalaya. It is quite interesting and has an attractive stupa. Anyway, its major attraction is the quite big reclining Buddha. It is right on the first street corner in the Galle Fort, as everyone is going about their daily activities, is this simple structure, where anyone is free to drop in & offer a moment of prayer.

Amangalla

Amangalla is a 5-star franchise hotel belonging to the international group of Aman Resorts, located in within Galle Fort, the 17th-century Dutch fort, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just to its north is the Galle International Stadium and roundabout. The oldest part of the hotel dates to 1684, and they completed the complex in 1715. It’s name was the New Oriental Hotel for 140 years from 1865. In 2005 it became Amangalla resort complex. Aman means “peace” and galla is the Sinhalese name for Galle.

Where to stay in Galle

We had a pre-booked accommodation in Galle, but when we arrived to the place we changed our minds. These were our last days in Sri Lanka, and the place was simply not as lovely as we thought we deserved during our last days of the vacation. So we decided to cancel it and looked for another place ad hoc. How well we did! We accidentally found the 18 Faces Boutique Hotel – for a very reasonable price. Lovely atmosphere, super kind waiters, and a cool pool. What else would you need?

Where to eat in Galle

Mango Chutney Restaurant

It’s a lovely restaurant in the heart of the Galle Fort. The food is nice – but it’s visible that it’s a touristy place in terms of the prices. The food was delicious, and the atmosphere is lovely, so it’s definitely worth the visit if you’re around.

Coconut Sambol

This place is like a vegan heaven. Coconut Sambol is a tiny restaurant, basically with 3 tiny tables only, so you need to arrive at the right moment in order to get a table. If you go out of the main stream, you can get lucky. We arrived in the afternoon, and only one more table was occupied besides ours. The chef who seemed to be the owner and the only waiter as well in one person cooks 8-10 types of vegan curries and out of it you can prepare your dish. It’s all you can eat for a very reasonable price, so it’s worth to arrive hungry. He also serves home made, super spicy ginger beers, don’t miss them out!

Best beaches around Galle

If you are looking for more beaches around Galle or overall in Sri Lanka, don’t miss our article about the most amazing beaches in the country. Sri Lanka’s beaches provide us with idyllic scenery and excellent surfing conditions. From east to west, every beach has its own unique character. But – depending on your preferences – you might find good or better options. Here we are listing our favourites, the 10 best beaches in Sri Lanka as per our taste. Enjoy & let us know if you had the chance to visit any of them!

Best experiences around Galle

Top things to do around Galle

Pose with the stilt fishermen in Koggala

If you are searching for the stilt fishermen, you might ask locals directly, and most likely they will know what you mean and will try to help you. The usual answer is Mirissa or Koggala, or sometimes even around Galle. If you want to go for sure – your best location will be indeed Koggala. Also, if you want to find the fishermen, you need to get there during the day, ideally in the morning – definitely before lunch time. You might be lucky – as locals say – later during the day, around sunset as well. We haven’t seen any fishermen later during the day. Only in the morning hours / before noon.

Enjoy the most picturesque beaches of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has many beautiful beaches, indeed. But if you are looking for those ones that we can only see on postcards: where the ocean is indeed turquoise blue, where the sand is indeed golden, and where even the palm trees are growing in a way that they give you the perfect frame for your picture – go to Koggala!

Visit the Dondra Lighthouse

Dondra is just 38 km from Koggala. It is a settlement on the extreme southernmost tip of Sri Lanka, in the Indian Ocean near Matara, in the Southern Province. The Dondra Head Lighthouse, ruins of several Hindu shrines of Tenavaram and a Vihara (Buddhist temple) are located in the vicinity. In Dondra, just on the way to the lighthouse you can find many lovely bays where you can have a bath. You can spot here many locals as well enjoying their bath.

Take a tuk-tuk to Mirissa

The beach of Mirissa is only 34 km far from Galle. It is maybe the most well-known touristy beach in Sri Lanka. You can spot here the most tourists, and the most touristy services. It’s famous for excellent surfing conditions, restaurants, bars, and snorkeling. You can find many European standard bars and hotels here as well. The coastline is like in the paradise and you can find some natural swimming pools as well shaped out of the natural rocks of the ocean.

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