I don’t know about you but when I think of Sri Lanka I think about amazing temples, national parks filled with elephants and leopards, beautiful tea plantations and miles of sandy beaches. But what I don’t think about when I think about Sri Lanka is the cities. During our time in Sri Lanka, we decided to only visit one city, the amazing city of Galle Fort. I think Galle should be on any Sri Lanka itinerary. If you are wondering what to do in Galle, this guide will tell you everything you need to know from the best things to do in Galle, the best places to stay and where to eat and shop!
A bit about Galle!
Did you know that Galle is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site? This was one of the things that persuaded us to visit the town when we visited Sri Lanka. Galle was first conquered by the Portuguese in the 16th Century and then taken over by the Dutch in the 17th Century. As such, the city of Galle is full of delightful European style architecture! What I love about Galle is the way the European influence meshes with traditional Sri Lanka culture into quite a cosmopolitan place today.
Today, many people may remember Galle from the 2004 tsunami. Despite this catastrophic weather, the fort of Galle kept standing! In the wake of the tsunami, the city has been going through a process of gentrification and today the fort is filled with boutique shops, and hipster hangouts. Really Galle has something for everyone.
What to do in Galle, Sri Lanka
Best Things to do in Galle
Explore Galle Fort
Galle is a colonial town on the Southwest coast of Sri Lanka. Its’ fortress, one of the must dos when in Galle. It is a world heritage site and is a must do for any visitor. Unfortunately during our visit to Galle there was torrential rain which wasn’t great for photographs but it didn’t stop us walking around the fort.Some of the must see buildings in Galle fort are:
- Dutch Reform Church
- The Lighthouse
- Old Dutch Hospital
- Amangalla Colonial House
- Meeran Mosque
- Sudharmalaya Temple
- All Saints Anglican Church
Visit The Lighthouse!
The Lighthouse is one of the most iconic sites in Galle. Flanked by beautiful palm trees the lighthouse is an important feature of the fort given its role in the spice trade.
Walk the Walls!
If I go to somewhere with city walls I simply have to walk them. It is a great way to get to know a city and it a great place for taking some interesting photographs! To walk the entirety of the Galle City Walls is about 2kms and isn’t too difficult a trek! I recommend doing this first thing when you get to Galle early in the morning. one because you get some amazing sunlight and secondly to beat the Galle heat!
Visit the Cricket Ground
This was not on my Galle bucket list but it was on my cricket obsessed husband!
Things to do in Galle – Shopping
What surprised me about Galle was how European it felt and how good the shopping was. The process of gentrification has meant that Galle has some amazing boutique places. Our favourite shops were
- Stick No Bills, a shop dedicated to vintage travel and movie posters. It also had a small exhibition which was definitely worth a visit if you are a travel poster fan as I am. My other favourite was
- Barefoot Boutique where you could buy lots of artisan products from the area. We purchased some beautiful batik placemats.
- Exotic Roots – an amazing art and handicraft store!
Other things that you should look to buy while in Galle are Sri Lankan coffee!
Things to Do Near Galle Fort
Virgin White Tea Plantation
We combined our visit to Galle with a trip to the nearby Virgin White Tea Plantation where you can sample a variety of teas in beautiful surroundings. Virgin White refers to the method of tea picking based on an ancient Chinese tradition. Virgin White Tea is never touched by human hands and all pickers where gloves and use golden scissors. It was very interesting to see. Our guide was very knowledgable about the tea making process and while perhaps not as striking as tea plantations around Kandy was definitely worth a visit.
Visit the Beach
Galle is surrounded by miles of lovely beaches and resorts. If you are wanting some beach time after spending time in Galle we recommend heading to Unawatuna Beach.
Where to eat in Galle
We stopped for lunch a the beautiful Amangalla Hotel. A luxury 5* hotel set in the ramparts of the fort. I thoroughly recommend stopping there for a Club Sandwich and a G&T. It is also a great place to people watch from the terrace!
Another brilliant place to eat in Galle, especially if you are wanting some more local flavours then we recommend trying out the highly rated A Minute by Tuk Tuk! It also has some amazing sea front views!
Best Places to Stay in Galle
If you are looking for somewhere amazing to stay in Galle the following are highly rated luxury hotels set in historic properties to get the true Galle experience!
If you enjoyed this post and are interested in finding out more about Southern Sri Lanka you may also want to check out these posts:
Or this fab itinerary for Sri Lanka that covers more of the island!