The ancient port city of Galle is Sri Lanka’s fourth largest town with a history dating back hundred of years. Some historians have even suggested that Galle may even be the Biblical Tarshish where King Solomon’s ships called to take on gemstones, spices and scented woods. Though there is nothing to establish the fact, yet it remains certain that Galle is Sri Lanka’s oldest living city.
The port of Galle developed after the arrival of the Portuguese and later as a fortress town by the Dutch in the 17th century. In the 18th century it was taken over by the British who fortified the city that the Dutch had built.
Galle is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts a fair amount of tourist traffic.
This is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by Europeans and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The British added the Fort’s main gate in 1873 to control the heavy flow of traffic into the old city. Most of the buildings inside the Fort date from the Dutch era and include, amongst others, an interesting Dutch Period Museum. You’ll find a number of visitors enjoying an early morning excursion of the Fort’s ramparts.
The church was originally built by an army officer serving with the Dutch and was completed in 1754. Old headstones were shifted here from older graveyards that were closed in 1710 and 1804. You’ll find a number of underground tunnels running from the church to the Governor’s House.
The lighthouse was completed in 1939 and stands 18 metres high. It is to be found on the eastern end of the Fortress walls. You can take permission from the lighthouse keeper to climb the top to enjoy the spectacular view of the sea and the land.
The museum houses British memorabilia and features maps, guns and artefacts. You can also see demonstrations of lace making and other traditional crafts. The museum has a gems shop in the back as well, so you can pick up some souvenirs there if you like.
There are several Buddhist temples you can visit including the Peace Pagoda. Then there is the Meeran Jumma Masjid in the Arab Quarter of the fort. You'd be excused for thinking it’s a church, as the only difference is that the domes have crescents on top instead of crosses.
Located about 200 metres away from the clock tower, the restaurant is the best place in town for seafood and fresh fruit juices. The favourite here is fried king prawns.
Located about 100 metres from the main gate on Lighthouse Street at the Galle Fort, this family-run restaurant serves decent pizzas besides traditional local curries and rice. The service is quick and efficient and prices are very reasonable.
Needless to say, the restaurant serves Indian food. It’s located at the ramparts of the fort where you can enjoy a great sunset meal. You can try out chicken tikka masala if you are a fan.
You can pick up antiques, art work and lace from the little shops and stalls at Galle. You’ll also find a great collection of semi-precious stone jewellery at the fort as also in the gem shops in Church Street.
You can shop here for some antique furniture. Retailers ship to anywhere in the world and also make fake antique furniture which is much cheaper. Bargaining is a way of life here and so you if you negotiate well, you’ll be able to pick up stuff at a good price. However, note that the shipping charges are more or less fixed so there is not much you can do about that.
This is a great place to shop for traditional Sri Lankan crafts and artefacts including paintings, hand-painted show pieces and other collectibles.