Unesco Heritage listed Galle fort was originally built by the Portuguese in 1588 and taken over by the Dutch. Peace and boom of tourism have spurred restoration of this ridiculously picturesque walled city, perfectly sized for an aimless wander on the narrow streets.
If you only have time for one, it should be a walk on the fortress walls around the lighthouse. Locals and tourists alike gather here at sunset to stroll and even swim – although the latter is not really recommended. We didn’t see the famous daredevils jumping off the ramparts to the sea, maybe a good thing so as not to give the kids any ideas…
Galle was ceded to the British in 1796. In 1875, Galle Fort lost its position as the country’s most important port to Colombo with its newly built port. There are a few museums about the maritime history of the city, but you can get a feel of the history just by exploring the streets, or perhaps joining a walking tour.
We read the Around the Fort in 80 Lives by Juliet Coombe at our villa – a great background to the mixed backgrounds of the families that used to live within the city walls. Some of the families continue to live in the city, but chatting to people quickly reveals that the booming of tourism has also caused house prices to skyrocket.
Shopping in Galle
There are cute little shops and cafés to stop at. Every tuk-tuk driver has an uncle who has a gem shop, but do your research if you are in the market for anything more serious than souvenirs. If you are not going to Colombo, there are small branches of Barefoot and Odel for those classic Sri Lanka souvenirs. The Three by TPV is one of those shops that you are likely to find something you didn’t know your house needed. See more shops here.
The beautifully restored Dutch Hospital has got a majestic location by the sea and is a great place to stop for a drink or a meal – although the prices are expectedly higher than elsewhere. We were not super impressed by the Starbeans restaurant, but would love to try Minute by Tuk Tuk, that was always too full for us to find a table and had a beautiful view over the sea. There is also a bar where you can have your drinks in the comfort of a hammock – we didn’t even consider with a bunch of swing-happy kids in tow.
There are many recommended cafés and restaurants along the narrow streets. Other than the trusted Tripadvisor, check Yamu for restaurant recommendations.
If you are in the South of Sri Lanka, do not skip Galle. The beaches around are also spectacular, and there are plenty of peaceful places to stay nearby – read here about our villa holiday just 10 minutes up the coast.