Galle is located approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes from the Bandaranaike International Airport. Galle can be accessed via the Southern Expressway from the city of Kottawa in Colombo. Galle can also be reached via the rail network, with trains operating on a schedule throughout the week.
The strategic location of Galle along major sea routes made the city one of the most significant parts of the island, as it attracted merchants and vessels from around the world. By 1502, Galle fell to the hands of Portuguese invaders, commanded by Lourenço de Almeida. During their occupation of the land, they built a fort to hold their position over Galle. During the turn of the 17th century, by approximately 1640, the current occupiers surrender to the new invaders, the Dutch; in the form of the Dutch East India Company. The Galle Fort was then heavily fortified by the Dutch. In 1796, the British invaded Galle and seized control of the fort, but preserved the structure. It remained as their administrative capital until Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948.
From traditional attire such as the colourful sarong and exotic spices of Sri Lanka to local arts and crafts, the shops within the Galle Fort provide a complete shopping experience. Each store offers something unique to its customers, while seemingly maintaining a ‘true to home’ feel within its premises. Peruse through the numerous stores selling the best Ceylon tea and collect some souvenirs to take back home.
Things to do in the Galle
Stroll along the ancient ramparts of the fort and gaze at the timeless relics within the premises from the Galle Lighthouse to the Dutch Reformed Church.
- Galle Lighthouse – Sri Lanka’s oldest lighthouse that dates back to 1848 towers to a height of 87 feet. The lighthouse is located on the southern end of the promontory at Point Utrecht Bastion
- Galle Clock Tower – Constructed in 1883, the Galle Clock Tower was a gift from a patient to Dr. P. D. Anthonisz. It’s located on the Moon Bastion and is a popular landmark for the city.
- Dutch Reformed Church – Also known as the Groote Kerk, this church was built in 1640 by the Dutch settlers. Spend an hour reading the engraved tombstones on the floor or admiring the organ loft.
- National Museum of Galle – This single-storey building was built by the Dutch in 1656 and houses an assortment of historic exhibits from the Portuguese, Dutch and British eras.
- Maritime Archaeology Museum – First opened in 1992, the building was renovated after the devastation of the 2004 tsunami, aided by the Royal Government of Netherlands. It reopened in 2010 and showcases a collection of marine artefacts from maps and artillery guns to beer mugs and sailor shoes.
- Old Dutch Hospital – Once a hospital during the Dutch period, the Old Dutch Hospital is now a popular shopping and dining area offering unhindered views of the ocean.
Best time to visit the Galle
Sri Lanka is affected by two monsoons, the south-west monsoon which hits the southern parts of the island like Galle occurs between May and July. Ideally, the best time to visit Galle is between November to April. October brings about torrential downpours. Apply copious amounts of sunscreen when walking around the Galle Fort, as it can get quite hot during the day!
Popular events in Galle
In a bid to ensure there’s a constant flow of tourists to Galle, a number of festivals and events takes place throughout the year.
- Galle Literary Festival – An international festival celebrating literary minds of the world. The event takes place in January and is attended by many famed writers.
- Good Market – An open air market selling various kinds of items beneficial to the environment, communities and wellbeing of its people. The Good Market in Galle occurs every Saturday.
- Children’s Festival – An annual event comprising of a series of events, performances and workshops for children living on the island.