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 but if you still need convincing here our the best things to do in Galle, including information on where to eat and where to stay in Galle.
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A bit about Galle, Sri Lanka!
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 has a unique blend of architecture being influenced by both the Portuguese and the Dutch who conquered the city in the 16th and 17th Century respectively. As such, the city of Galle is full of delightful European style architecture! But my favourite thing about Galle is how the European architecture blends with traditional Sri Lanka culture making into quite a cosmopolitan place.
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.
Best Places to Stay in Galle, Sri Lanka
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!
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!
While we were in the Amangalla we also spotted some other guests having afternoon tea which is definitely our plan for our next visit.
Another highly rated place to eat in Galle, especially if you are wanting some more local flavours is A Minute by Tuk Tuk! It also has some amazing sea front views!
Best Things to do in Galle, Sri Lanka
Walk the Galle Fort 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! The fort walk along the walls around from the Clock Tower finishing at the Star Bastion taking in some of the forts most iconic sights along the way. The Fort Walk is about 2km but you need to plan your day around this activity if you want to do this. The heat in Sri Lanka can be oppressive so if you can do this as soon as you arrive in Galle otherwise wait until late afternoon to take in this walk.
The ramparts are also are a great place to watch the sunset in Galle
Explore Galle Fort
The Galle fortress is one of the must dos things when in Galle. A World Heritage Site you can explore both the interior and the walls of this fort.
Some of the highlights in a visit to Galle Fort include:
- All Saints Anglican Church
- Amangalla Colonial House
- Dutch Reform Church
- The Lighthouse
- Meeran Mosque
- Old Dutch Hospital
- Sudharmalaya Temple
Take a Tour
Visit the National Museum of Galle
Located at the start of Church Street the National Museum of Galle isn’t large or modern but is a must for any history lover. It is also housed in the oldest building in Galle.
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.
Visit the Cricket Ground
Ok this was not on my Galle bucket list but it was on my cricket obsessed husbands who tells me that this cricket ground is one of the most beautiful in the world and I have to admit it was pretty lovely. If you can, then do try and catch a game. Unfortunately there were no scheduled games while we were in Sri Lanka however if there were we definitely would have stopped to see a match. Visit the Sri Lanka Cricket Website to get tickets and find fixtures.
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 favourites were
- 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!
Visit the Markets
If you want a more local experience than boutiques then don’t worry Galle has something for you as there are loads of markets around the town. The best in our opinion is the Galle Fruit Market and the Dutch Market.
Best 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.
Frequently Asked Questions About Galle
How to Get from Colombo to Galle
The best and fastest way to get from Colombo to Galle in my opinion is by car. The drive from Colombo to Galle takes around 2 hours and 78 miles away. Be sure to take the Expressway. You can expect the cost of a taxi to be around 75-100USD. Alternatively you can get the train or bus but these take much longer.
How long do you need in Galle?
We went to Galle as a day trip and I felt that this was a good amount of time to get an idea of the city and hit most of the major attractions. However if you want to watch a cricket match or want to travel at a leisurely pace then I would recommend 2 days especially if you want to try the tea plantations and beaches near by or use as a base for a day trip to Mirissa
Best things to do in Galle with Kids?
Sri Lanka with kids is always a good idea and while there are no specific things aimed towards them Galle with kids is still worth visiting. The joy of Galle is wondering around the fort and markets and this is very easily done with children. Combined with the amazing beaches around Galle, kids will enjoy a visit to Galle.
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