Galle Things to Do & Places to Visit 20 Must See Places in Galle Fort


Galle was a key trading post between East and West for thousands of years. The site where the present fort is located was originally occupied by Arab traders. The Portuguese captured the area and built a small fort there in 1597. In 1669, the Dutch built the magnificent fort that we see today. Long neglected, the fort has seen a revival as many of its colonial Dutch and British era building are being renovated and converted into trendy boutiques, restaurants and hotels. The town is also becoming a haven for European ex-pats to settle down in.

Related Article: Galle — Attractions, Hotels, Things to Do, Weather, Fort


Galle Fort Walk Stroll Around Old Dutch Fort five stars

Location: Galle Fort
Entrance Fee:
Free
Times:
24/7
(Best morning and late afternoon)
Duration:
3+ hours

The beautifully preserved Galle Fort is the highlight of any visit to the area. The city within the fort is an archaeological gem, a time capsule, taking you back to a bygone era.

Take a leisurely walk along its cobbled-stone streets. Look for vestiges of the colonial past including colonnaded Dutch buildings with their distinctive verandahs with Tuscan columns. See if you can spot the numerous old building with dated keystones. There are even some art-deco houses from the early 20th century. Visit the old church with the gravestones of European adventurers and traders who lost their lives in a far off land. Also enjoy the numerous cafes, restaurant, museums and shops.

Yes it is still uncrowded, relatively quiet and a pedestrian-friendly city.


Ramparts - Galle Fort Walk Along the Galle Ramparts five stars

Location: Rampart Street
Entrance Fee
: Free
Times: 24/7
(Best early morning and before sunset).
Duration: 2+ hours

This massive fort was one of the largest in Asia. Mounted with 14 bastions pointing in every direction, bristling with over 109 cannons, and protected by a wide moat and the land-side, it was considered so formidable that it was never attacked.

With the sea on three sides a walk along the ramparts of the Fort is exhilarating. Explore the numerous bastions, sentry posts, Lighthouse, Clock Tower and "Dungeon". In the evenings is when the locals come out to walk and play on the ramparts. The best time to walk on the ramparts is in the late afternoon. The sunset is breathings. Parts of the ramparts are lite with spotlights at night. This web-page has a detailed explanation of the ramparts and bastions.


Galle National Museum Oldest Building in the Fort four stars

Location: Church Street
Entrance Fee: Rs300
(+Rs250 for photography)
Times: 9:00AM - 5:00PM
Visit Duration: 15 - 45 minutes

Sri Lanka National Museum is a long one-story building on Church Street. With a colonnaded front verandah, it is typical of Dutch architecture of the period. This building was once the barracks for junior officials of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). It is one of the oldest surviving structure from the Dutch period.

The museum is rather basic but contains some interesting objects from the past. A large section of the museum is dedicated to the visit of the Chinese adventurer Zheng He whose fleet of over 200 vessels visited Galle between 1406 and 1433. The scale models of the Chinese ships which dwarfed equivalent vessels used by the Europeans at the same time is instructive. There is a large collection of ancient masks used for festive and religious occasions. A motley collection of objects from the Dutch period include, furniture, weapons, cutlery and crockery. There are also some plates with Moorish art suggesting these were from the Arabs who lived in the area.


Amangalla Hotel The New Oriental Hotel five stars

Location: Church Street
Entrance Fee: Hotel Guests Only
(Refreshments served to general public on front verandah)
Times: 8:30AM - 9:30PM
Visit Duration: 30 - 45 minutes

The building that houses the Amagalla Hotel was originally built in 1684 as the quarters for the Dutch Governor and his staff. When the Dutch moved their headquarters to Colombo the building was used as staff quarters. In 1865 the British first used the building as a barracks and then converted it into a hotel named the New Oriental Hotel.

This hotel in its heyday was one of the finest hotels in Asia and was a favourite amongst the British Raj. European travelers stayed at this hotel when their ships pulled into Galle harbor on their journeys to and from countries such as Australia, Singapore, Malaya and Indonesia.

When ships no longer called into Galle harbor the grand old lady of Galle slowly lost her luster and slowly fell into disrepair. The author as a young boy in the 1970's remembers staying at this hotel when it was a mere shell of its past glory.

Recently revives and refurbished it is now one of the most exclusive hotels in the world. It exudes an old-world charm but offers modern day conveniences.

Related: Hotels in Galle, Sri Lanka

Dutch Reform Church Groote Kerk (Great Church) five stars

Location: Church Street
Entrance Fee: Free
Times: 8:30AM - 5:30PM
(except Mass times)
Visit Duration: 30 - 45 minutes

The Groote Kerk was built on the highest point inside the Fort in 1755. It replaced two earlier churches built by the Dutch. The belfry across the road is believed to be from one of these earlier churches. The foundations for the church were laid down as early as 1682 but the lack of funds prevented further progress and the area reverted to what appeared to be an open plot of land for the next 70 years. Work recommenced when the Commandeur of Galle, Casparus de Jong and his wife Geertruyda Adriana Le Grand donated funds for the completion of the church in thanksgiving for the long awaited birth of their first child, a daughter. (The painting on the left shows a Dutch lady on her way to church. The man-servant holds an umbrella and the female servant holds a bible in one hand and a spittoon in the other).

The church is of a cross-shaped cruciform design with Doric (Greek) pillars. The high vaulted wooden ceiling was originally painted blue and studded with golden stars. It has no internal pillars supporting the roof. High pews along the walls were for the Commandeur, the Deacons and high VOC officials. Some of these pews were removed by the British to accommodate an alter and communion rail. A stained glass window was added around 1830. The original ornate organ installed in 1760 has been lost. The church has a beautiful wooden hexagonal pulpit and baptismal stand.

The floor and walls contain the tombstones of many European colonist who died so far away from their native lands. Some were only in their early twenties. The Garden outside the church also have numerous early Dutch and British tombstones.

Here is a very informative link with the history of the Dutch Reform Church in Sri Lanka.


All Saints Anglican Church British Church in Need of Restoration three stars

Location: Church Street
Entrance Fee:
Free
Times: 8:30AM - 6:00PM
Visit Duration: 20-30 minutes

All Saints Church built at a cost of £1,600 (£674,700 in today's money) on the site of a former Court House and consecrated in 1871. It is said that the gallows stood on the site of the present alter. Until this time the Anglican congregation used the Dutch reform Church just a few meters up the road for their services. The church is built in a Victorian Gothic revival style with modifications to cater for the local climate. The architect of this building was also responsible for the design of the elegant Colombo Museum. It is one of the most beautiful Anglican churches in Sri Lanka. The weather-cock which once stood on the pinnacle of the roof has now been displaced. So too has the bell once housed in the central dome which was removed for safety reasons. The pews are of Teak and embossed with the Star of David. Other woodwork uses teak and other local fine woods. Stout walls support the structure and interesting stained glass windows grace its white-washed walls.


Mansion House Museum Free Private Museum with a Crazy Assortment of Odd & Ends five stars

Location: Rampart Street
Entrance Fee: Free (Walk-by)
Times: 24/7
Visit Duration: 5-10 minutes

The museum is set in a old Dutch colonial house with, pillared verandas, central courtyard and private (water) well.

This private collection has been painstakingly assembled over a period of 40 years by its owner, Abdul Gaffar. The museum contains more fascinating artifacts arranged haphazardly on dusty old cabinets and shelves then either of the official museums in Galle.

You will discover all sorts of interesting and quirky paraphernalia from the past. These include oddments made from tortoise shell (now banned) such as combs and boxes, porcelain crockery, lamps, household utensils and even old cameras. Also notice the keystone block near the well inscribed with the monogram of the Dutch East India Company, VOC, dated 1763.

This is one place in Galle, if not the whole world, where they actually don't seem to want your money. It is a there for you to marvel at , and its all free - a labor of love. I love the notice advertising that its all free. Look for it. Its worth a photograph.


Meeran Jumma Mosque (Friday Mosque) Unconventional Architecture for a Mosque three stars

Location: Rampart Street
Entrance Fee: Free (Walk-by)
Times: 24/7
Visit Duration: 5-10 minutes

The mosque has an almost Portuguese baroque style to it. Being vehement anti-Muslim, the Portuguese permitted no mosques inside their fort. The Dutch were more tolerant and the first mosque appeared on this site in the 1750s. It was replaced with the present structure in 1904. The reason for this definitely "un-Muslim" design is uncertain. It may have been intentionally designed not to arouse animosity with the Christian colonial overlords of the time. Or it may have been that the Muslims of Sri Lanka chose to adapt the prevalent architecture of the time. The only obvious exterior indications that it is a mosque are the miniature minarets and Arabic writing on the top facade on either side of the clock.


Dutch Warehouse Old Spice Warehouse four stars

Location: Queens Street
Entrance Fee:
Free (Walk by)
Opening Times: 24/7
Visit Duration: 10 minutes

Built in 1671 this large two-story building was used to store spices and other commodities for their annual shipment back to Holland. The building extends a substantial distance alone the inside of the eastern rampart and is part of the rampart itself. The main entrance to the fort, during the Dutch period, was through the middle of this building.

The orange/yellow exterior walls together with the solid black windows and doors make an interesting photo op.


Galle Fort Old Gate Once the Only Entrance into the Fort four stars

Location: Queens Street
Entrance Fee:
Free (Walk- through)
Opening Times: 24/7
Visit Duration: 15 minutes

The main entry to the fort was originally via a single entrance protected by a causeway, drawbridge and solid timber doors. The entrance tunnels through the Dutch Warehouse bisecting the lower level of this building into two sections. The drawbridge has long disappeared but the modern road is built on the ancient causeway. The huge wooden doors are still in place.

Above the main entrance, today, is the Coat of Arms of Great Britain, mounted sometime after 1796 when the British evicted the Dutch and took over the fort without a single shoot being fired. The British Court of Arms was superimposed over the original Dutch one. The balcony (for the Governor to display himself) and large panned-glass doors behind the coat of arms were also a British addition. Note the original Dutch keystone dated 1668 below the British coat of arms.

Installed on the inside wall, above the Main Entrance, is the coat of arms of the defeated Dutch. It has the insignia of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) with a cock mounted on the top. This may have been moved here by British once they took over the fort. See How Galle Got its Name for more details.


National Maritime Museum Artifacts from Shipwrecks three stars

Location: Queens Street
Entrance Fee:
Rs300 (+Rs250 for photography)
Opening Times: 9AM - 5PM Tues-Sat
(closed Sun, Mon and Public Holidays)
Visit Duration: 20-40 minutes

The National Maritime Museum is housed in a section of the Old Dutch Warehouse. The museum was set up in 1994 to exhibit maritime artifacts discovered from the ship wrecks around Galle. The museum suffered severe water damage during the 2004 Tsunami when sea water inundated the building to a depth of nearly 2.5 meters. Over 80% of its exhibits were lost.

An introductory video gives useful background information on the maritime history of the port and of the many shipwrecks with lie on the bottom of the ocean in the area. Much of the items retrieved are from the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship Avondster which slipped anchor and was wrecked against submerged rocks in 1659.
The museum depicts watercraft and village life around Galle from early times, Flora and fauna of the area, models of ships and various objects retrieved from shipwrecks. There are also some dusty mannequins depicting village life in ancient times and also scale models of whales and dolphins.


Galle Fort Shops A Great Place to Shop five stars

Location: Galle Fort
Entrance Fee:
Free
Times:
9:30AM - 7:30PM (times vary)
Duration: Its up to you

The Galle Fort is an excellent place to shop. Its compact size means that all the shops are within walking distance of each other. The merchandise is targeted at tourists, the quality is good and the prices a bit more expensive than elsewhere. Remember - prices are relative. By western standard most items here are a bargain.

Related: Shopping in Galle, Sri Lanka


Galle Fort Food Restaurants & Cafes five stars

Location: Galle Fort
Entrance Fee:
Free
Times:
8:30AM - 10:00PM (times vary)
Duration:
Its up to you

Food and refreshments are available from of number of establishments ranging from 5 star restaurants to street stalls. Remember hygiene standards vary. They are not to western standards. So chose sensibly. Read our Safety & Comfort page for some useful hints.

Related: Places to Eat in Galle, Sri Lanka


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