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Inside the walls of Galle Fort

Galle Fort is the ultimate example of mixed cultures with influences of the Portuguese, Dutch, English and Sri Lankan locals. This UNESCO World Heritage Site shows many traces of this blend of history and culture by embracing the East and the West in one place. One place where travellers and locals all appreciate the astonishing architecture of the Fort and its Churches, Mosques and Temples.

A Brief History

The build of Galle Fort, also known as the Dutch Fort or the “Ramparts of Galle”, began in 1505 by the Portuguese and was later expanded and extra fortified by the Dutch in 1649. Galle was an important trading port along the spice route for the Portuguese, Dutch and English and even the for the Greek, Arabs and Chinese. The significance the Dutch left behind is very apparent due to of course the Fort and the buildings, but also many of the street names are still in the Dutch language. An example of these are ´Middelpuntstraat´ the mid point street (the street where the lighthouse is located), ‘Groote Kerk’ the Dutch reformed Church (translates as big church), and the ‘Point Utrecht Bastion’ that has been named after the hometown of the first clergyman of the Dutch Reformed Church (and Mandy’s hometown). Later when the British took over from the Dutch in 1796, they preserved the fort unchanged and used it as the administrative centre of the district.

Fast forward to 2004 where the third-largest ever recorded earthquake and the following tsunami destroyed many countries including Sri Lanka. The tsunami struck around 2 hours after the earthquake on the Eastern and Southern coast with many civilian casualties as a result of this horrific natural disaster. Sri Lanka’s death toll was second only to Indonesia, with approximately 35,000 killed by the tsunami. The effects of the tsunami are still easy to see 17 years on.

What to see and do?

In Galle Fort you have the luxury that many of the highlights are close to each other. The Dutch Fort is just the right size to wander and get lost. The small streets hide many independent restaurants, shops and bars. Take a look at our Interactive Google Maps walking route for the best highlights of Galle Fort.

Your starting point depends of course on the location of your accommodation but for now let’s start at the Galle National Museum, located in the oldest remaining building within the fort. Right across the street you see Groote Kerk or otherwise called the Dutch Reformed Church, one of the oldest protestant churches still in use in Sri Lanka. Take the next street on your left and you can find the Maritime Archaeology Museum located above the Old Gate of Galle Fort. Walk through the gates to the harbour to find the Black Fort (Zwart Bastion). This was one of the most affected area’s when hit by the tsunami in 2004. 

If you’re from the West like us, then 30 degree heat will exhaust you very quickly. After exploring two whole streets you’re probably going to need refreshing with an iced coffee, smoothie or fresh juice. Head over to the Old Dutch Hospital and you will find lovely bars and restaurants with a refreshment you fancy. 

After a break it’s time for the star of the show: the Galle Fort Lighthouse! The lighthouse is located near the Utrecht Bastion and is a must see in Galle Fort (one your family and friends will want to see a snap of as well!). From up here you also have the best view of the Meeran Mosque. Next, you can continue walking the walls of the fort past all the different bastions, pit stopping at the Sri Sudharmalaya Buddhist Temple and arriving at the Old Slave Quarters. At the end of the route we finish with the Memorial Clock Tower overlooking the Moon Bastion. It is worth mentioning that sunset from the Fort Wall is mesmerising and you must check this out at the end of your day!

Outside the fort walls, Galle has more to offer. Visit one of the nearby beaches for a chill day and catch some beginner waves on your surfboard. Galle is also home to an International Cricket Stadium where we caught some of Sri Lanka vs West Indies from outside the walls. This is the perfect activity if you’re a fan of sport and are lucky enough to be travelling when Sri Lanka are playing their most loved international sport. We were shown some great local markets by a very friendly local who took us from inside the walls to find the best spices, freshest fish and some refreshing fruits at an amazingly cheap price. 

Where to stay?

Galle Fort is a very historical place and we would recommend staying within the fort walls. We stayed in Mango House (an old cinnamon factory that has been restored in 2013) and for us it was the perfect mix between history and luxury. It had a very warm and homely feel but still spacious, modern and tropical. You can check out more about this accommodation here! Your accommodation type varies of course by the needs of your travel company. If you are travelling alone, a hostel might be the best place for you. In comparison, when travelling with a family, an Airbnb might be a better option. We will be posting a full blog on where to stay in Galle Fort soon!

Where to Eat and Drink?

Galle Fort is not that big but has a lot of eateries and café’s to pick from. We were quite early in the season and the country just opened up after the Corona border closure. Because of this, many places were still closed. We truly hope they won’t stay closed forever so you can enjoy a bustling Galle Fort with lots of life! For now, here are our highlights:

Indian Hut – Amazing and cheap Indian/ Chinese food

Lucky Fort Restaurant – Local food, very homely, very cheap

Dumplings Café – The best veggie dumplings and tofu bao we have ever had! A little more pricy but worth it!

The Original Rocket Burger – Burgers and chips, when you fancy a proper burger for a change, more expensive than local food but again, worth it.

The Old Dutch Hospital – lots of café’s for drinks and snacks, we liked ‘A Minute by Tuk Tuk’ a lot, great views and atmosphere. We really wanted to try ‘Taphouse by RnR’ but they were closed, we have heard great things about this place so have a look when you’re there!

Where to go after Galle Fort?

We were initially going to stay in a jungle resort in Unawatuna but unfortunately had to cancel due to flight delays and visa extensions that needed to be arranged in Colombo. This was a shame and we would recommend definitely checking out Unawatuna and staying in a beachside hotel/resort. Unawatuna is a slightly more touristic option alongside the coast and if that’s not for you, follow our trip to Mirissa, hot spot for Whale watching, the home of Parrot Rock and Coconut Tree Hill. Read more about these beautiful Instagrammable places here!

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