Galle, Sri Lanka And Its Historic Fort
Perched on the South-Western edge of Sri Lanka, Galle is the living rembrant of the colonization of the island country. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has history written all over its quaint streets. But did you know that there’s so much more to it? Like an iconic Lighthouse, a beautiful blue beach and a soulful culture? Read on to know more!
In this blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know to plan a trip to Galle, Sri Lanka. This Sri Lankan Travel Guide features a list of places to see and things to do in Galle. Also find useful details on where to stay, how to got to Galle Fort, where to eat in Galle city and at the iconic Galle Lighthouse. Find tried and tested secret tips and tricks on traveling to the quaint city too!
What is Galle, Sri Lanka famous for?
Galle, Sri Lanka is famous for its Colonial Fort, beautiful beach, the iconic Galle lighthouse and the popular Galle Cricket Stadium. It is one of Sri Lanka’s favourite day trip destinations for locals and foreigners alike. It is very affordable to explore and there are many quaint cafes and restaurants that define Galle’s centuries old style!
But most importantly, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Sri Lanka. The Portuguese, the Dutch and eventually the British controlled Galle until Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948. Galle in Sri Lanka is both a reference to a place and a culture – there are many Anglo-Lankans elements to its existence which can be seen all over the city!
So here’s a list of places to see and things to do in Galle, Sri Lanka:
The iconic white Galle Lighthouse
The Pointe De Galle or Galle Lighthouse was built way back in 1848 by the British. The Galle Lighthouse as is stands today was actually the rebuilt tower erected in 1939 after a fire. The lighthouse is located within the Galle Fort and is an integral part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. The tower overlooks the south-west Indian Ocean. In fact, it is the last land frontier before reaching Antarctica!
There is a heritage resort called the Galle Lighthouse Hotel which is operated by Jetwing Hotels. This is one of the most luxurious hotels in Galle Fort. There are many small food trucks, cafes and the lighthouse restaurant too. There is a small beach below the lighthouse to play at.
Tip: Although you cannot climb the Galle Lighthouse, visitors can request for permission from the Sri Lankan Port Authority who may choose to allow visitors to the top.
The turquoise blue Galle Beach
Sri Lanka has some of the best beaches in Asia and these beaches are located all over the island. But Galle also has some good beaches at the Galle Fort. You will love looking at the water on a sunny day because of how pristine and blue it is. Locals call it the Galle Face Beach and you might even find locals jumping off the fort walls into the sea! The Galle Beach is clean and safe for families to play in. There are street food stalls around too.
There are many other beaches in Sri Lanka which are close by. The nearest beaches are Unawatuna beach, Hikkaduwa beach, Bentota beach, Mirissa beach, Koggala beach (for seeing turtles), Wijaya beach, Bonavista beach, Akurala beach and Ahungalla beach.
We loved the local beach vibes in Galle – seeing the local families coming to the beach and spending their day playing in the water, buying little ice cream cones and snacking on street food!
Go on a Tuk Tuk tour inside Galle Fort
Ever went on a tuktuk tour? Galle has funky and colourful tuktuks to rent out. You can rent one for LKR 500 (INR 200 or USD 3) for forty minutes of sightseeing. Bargain for a better price – it is easy!
The tuktuk tour is the most comfortable way of exploring Galle. This is because it is usually very sunny and humid and walking around can tire many. The city is small but you still need to move all over to see the best the places in Galle Fort.
You can even ask the tuktuk driver to drop you to your hotel. The prices are LKR 40/km (USD 0.22 or INR 16) and streetside tuktuks are cheaper than hotel tuktuks.
Go on a heritage walk in Galle city
Since Galle is a small UNESCO World Heritage site, you can see the best of the city by walking around. You can even join a Galle City Walking Tour experience offered by local tour guides. The houses were built in traditional Portuguese and Dutch styles and later on some Colonial British houses were built too. The colonial architecture and the greenery comes together well!
Some of these old houses were converted to cafes and restaurants. In fact, on our first visit to Galle, we were stunned to dine in one such colonnial house (we thought it was just a classic looking restaurant).
Tip: Carry an umbrella while walking around Galle city as it can get very sunny.
Visit the colonial buildings in Galle Fort
You can find some of the best architecture from the colonial times in Galle, Sri Lanka. The All Saints Church and the Meera Mosque are two such religious buildings which feature that European architecture.
Besides, Galle Fort is itself a monument to admire! The entire city of Galle is located within the fortress and its walls can be seen from the sea too. The fortress walls and the three bastions of the Galle Fort are the top attractions.
Trivia: Curious to know more? The names of the three bastions of Galle Fort are Flagrock Bastion, Moon Bastion and the Triton Bastion.
You already know that the Galle Lighthouse is the most popular building in the fort. But the Clock Tower is the other famous and historic monument in the city! You can see this as you enter Galle Fort from outside. It is located behind the Galle Club and its also visible from the world famous Galle Cricket Stadium.
You should also visit the National Maritime Museum inside the Galle Fort to know about how trade flourished in the colonnial era. After all the Dutch East Indian Company had a stronghold in Galle.
Tip: You can walk along the walls of the Fort from the North side to the South side during the day. Similarly, walk the other way during the evenings to enjoy the sunset.
Chill out at the best cafes in Galle, Sri Lanka
Galle Fort has many restaurants and cafes. You’ll find one unique cafe or two hidden in every street of the city! In fact, when the sun is overhead at noon time, you can go relax at the cafes to beat the heat and sip on fresh fruit juices. However, if you are looking for a unique and luxurious experience, then go to the Lighthouse Restaurant.
We recommend hanging out at these cafes – Lucky Fort Restaurant, The Original Rocket Burger, The Hidden Kitchen. These are known to be some of the best restaurants in Galle Fort. After that, we recommend getting some ice cream from the street carts, yumm!
Tip: Most of these cafes have beautiful decor you can use as backdrop for photography!
How to travel to Galle, Sri Lanka
There are three ways to get to Galle Fort. Our suggestion is to take the train!
Train: Take the 2 hour train from Colombo Fort station to Galle Fort station. The Colombo to Galle Train takes 2 hours and the cost of the ticket is LKR 200 (INR 80 or USD 1.1). This is one of our favourite train journeys in Sri Lanka after the Kandy – Nuwara Eliya – Ella route. Although seats are not reserved you can sit on the doorway and look outside at the Indian Ocean. The rail route is stunning because the ocean is on one side the highway road on the other side, both just a few meters away!
Bus: State run public buses ply between Colombo and Galle. You can also take the bus from Galle to Mirissa, Bentota, Matara and other nearby cities. Tickets are priced under LKR 100 (INR 40 or USD 0.6)
Taxi or Tuktuk: This is the most expensive means of travelling from Colombo to Galle. For instance, the prices for tuktuk rides to Colombo start at LKR 2,500 (INR 1,050 or USD 15). In addition, you can get direct drops to the Colombo International Airport in Negombo too.
See all transport options and prices here
Getting around in Galle Fort
Galle Fort is small enough to explore on foot. You can do a walking tour or rent a bicycle or even take a tuktuk tour of the city. We walked and explored the Galle Fort on our own. All important places of interest are written above in this post! So you can easily explore with this free guide too.
Tuktuk hire price can be bargained if you choose to explore more comfortably. The driver might offer extra local guide services.
Where to stay in Galle Fort, Sri Lanka
Galle Fort Hotels are expensive to stay in because of the Heritage status enjoyed by the city. But the experience is well worth it if your wallet allows! Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel and the Galle Fort Hotel are two popular hotels in Galle. You can even find resorts in Galle outside the fortress. Hotels & resorts inside Galle Fort do not have direct access to Galle Beach because of the surrounding walls of the fortress.
We recommend visiting Galle on a day trip from Mirissa or Bentota for a few hours. You can spend the night in better and cheaper hotels and more luxurious resorts in Mirissa and Bentota.
See all Galle Fort hotels here.
Travel costs, food and safety
Galle Fort is free to explore; there is no entry ticket. You will need to buy tickets to visit the Maritime museum, but other monuments and colonial buildings can be visited for free. You can shop for souvenirs here since the prices are fair. Shopping in Galle is limited to textiles and small trinkets like Sri Lankan masks, traditional wall hangings, magnets, etc.
Cafes and hotels have reasonable priced menus. We spent less than LKR 1,000 (INR 400 or under USD 6) for a meal at a good restaurant and street food over 6 hours. Sri Lankan Rice and Curry combos are available every where.
Galle is very touristy and very safe. Dress well for photos but dress modestly to feel more welcome by the locals.
Weather in Galle, Sri Lanka
Being a coastal city in a tropical country, the weather is usually hot and sticky. Everyday is a sunny day but in the afternoon you may notice showers. Galle weather is generally good though and international cricket is played often in the nearby Galle Cricket Stadium too. Carry an umbrella to beat the sun and the rains!
The best time to visit Galle is in the winter months from November to February. But if you are okay with a hot summers or gloomy weather, Galle can be visited even during the other months too. We visited in May and December.
If you have more questions, or want to explore Galle Fort and Sri Lanka with us, write to us or leave a comment below!
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Shishira & Navneeth