Galle in Sri Lanka
The historic port Gallecity is probably the most beautiful city in Sri Lanka and the gold coin of the south coast.
The picturesque port was long considered the most important port in the country and the city's architecture is strongly influenced by the colonial times of the Dutch.
The old town within the fortress built by the Dutch, the Fort Galle, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is surrounded on three sides by the sea.
Here, hip cafés are lined up alongside cute boutiques, stylish hotels and museums as well as mosques, old churches, schools, courts of law and government and office buildings - tourism has become the main source of income, but at the same time the daily hustle and bustle of the locals is still clearly noticeable and visible.
The modern centre of the New town has a well-developed infrastructure, inviting markets and shops as well as a large cricket stadium, which is used for international matches.
Although the city Galle had existed for many years before, it only became known and important with the arrival of the European colonists.
In 1505, a Portuguese ship on its way to the Maldives first stranded in the port of Galles. According to a legend, the city got its name because the Portuguese heard a rooster crow when they arrived - "galo" in Portuguese.
Other voices claim that the name was derived from the Sinhalese word "Gala" for rocks.
In 1589 the Portuguese built a small fortress which they baptized Santa Cruz and where they sought shelter from their enemies of the kingdom of Kandy.
They later extended it with further walls and bastions before the Dutch conquered the fortress in 1640 and Galledestroyed any traces of Portuguese rule.
Galle was then Sri Lanka's most important trading port for a good 200 years and a hub for ships sailing between Europe and Asia.
Only when Galle 1796 fell into British hands, trade was increasingly directed towards Colombo and Galle lost its significance. Nevertheless, there are still some ships and yachts sailing here every day.
The best travel time for Galle
As Galle is located on the south coast of the country, the city is affected by the southwest monsoon between May and October.
The best travel time for Galle is therefore from November to April - but that's when most of the visitors to the fort are on the move.
From May to October it is much less turbulent, although some cafés and shops may be closed.
Places of interest in Galle
You can easily explore the old town of Galle on foot on your own. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour on foot or with the Tuk Tuk. Special tours such as an evening walk, a culinary tour and a Mystical Fort Tour are also offered.
What you should not miss when visiting the port city is a walk over the old fortress walls built of granite and coral. Apart from short interruptions, this leads once completely around the old town. It takes about an hour and offers great views of the sea, the old town and parts of the neighbouring districts.
The most famous sightseeing of Galle is probably the lighthouse that is framed by palm trees and located at the eastern part of the city wall at the Point Utrecht Bastion.
The historical clock tower is also a popular photo motif. You can climb it and get a good view of the cricket stadium from the top. The southernmost point of the fort, Flag Rock, is a former Portuguese bastion and today the best place to watch the sunset. During the day you will be offered delicious street food here.
The Old Gate is the most beautiful preserved gate to the old town. From the outside the British coat of arms is carved into the stone, from the inside the letters "VOC" - Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie = Dutch East India Company - adorn the gate, framed by two lions and a rooster.
Part of the gate is now used as a spice warehouse.
The Main Gate is the northern and most used entrance to the Old Town and much newer than the Old Gate. It was built by the British in 1873 to divert the growing stream of visitors.
Other places of interest include the Dutch Reform Church dating from 1640, a historic 18th century Dutch hospital that now houses boutiques and restaurants, and a former Dutch manor house where a private collection of a local family's possessions is displayed or even offered for sale.
If you feel like culture, you can visit the museums in the fort. Here you will find the Marine Archeological Museum, where among other things you can see findings from ships that sank off the coast, the National Maritime Museum, where you can not only marvel at a whale skeleton but also learn more about tsunamis or fishing, and the National Museum, which is located in one of the oldest Dutch colonial buildings in the city.
Cafés and restaurants in Galle
On no account should you miss out on a visit to Galle a scoop of gelato, which you will not otherwise find in Sri Lanka in the quality!
Several ice cream parlours have settled in the old town and sell homemade creations. Good places to go are Pedlars Inn Gelato, Dairy King and the relatively newly opened Isle of Gelato.
Otherwise, you will find Galle both local cuisine and a wide selection of western food - partly due to the colonial past and partly to the number of visitors who come to the old town every year.
If you want to eat more traditionally and a little cheaper, you should do so outside the fortress walls.
Authentic rice & curry is available inside the fort at the small but fine Spoon's Café on Pedlar Street, where there are only four tables and traditional family recipes are used.
At Serendipity Arts Café, Western food is mixed with Asian curries to create a fusion cuisine. You can sit comfortably on the terrace and admire the many works of art.
At Mamas GalleFort Café Malini Perera and her daughter cook fabulous rice & curry and western and eastern breakfast. For about 30 Euros you can take a cooking course with them and enter the world of Sri Lankan curries.
A relaxed hipster atmosphere and creative, sustainable and international cuisine can be found in Poonie's Kitchen and The Heritage Café & Bistro.
A minute by TukTuk is located on the second floor of the old Dutch Hospital and offers a beautiful view of the sea. Here you can get Sri Lankan cuisine as well as burgers and pasta and a good selection of cocktails.
The Sugar Bistro is a small local chain with branches in Colombo and Galle. The menu consists of western and local dishes, but the coffee, which is very good for Sri Lankan standards, is particularly recommended.
Accommodation and hotels in GalleSri Lanka
If you do Gallenot want to explore within a day trip, but would like to stay overnight here, you will find a variety of fine boutique hotels in beautiful colonial buildings in the old town.
In general, these are slightly more expensive than accommodation outside the fort, but there are still options for every budget.
One of the best budget accommodation in the old town is the centrally located Casa de Kalu, a mixture of hotel and homestay.
Hotel Fortaleza is a boutique hotel with a beautiful garden inside the fort. In the restaurant you can not only eat well, but in the evening you can also enjoy one or the other delicious drink.
Rather more expensive but unique with a historical atmosphere and an impressive colonial architecture is the GalleFort Hotel.
The building is one of the most famous in Galle and is several centuries old, allegedly it was already a merchant's villa, a post office and a bakery before it was converted into a hotel.
A special kind of accommodation is the Kikili House, which is located just outside the fort, with the Tuk Tuk it is about 7 minutes drive. The hotel is hip and colourful, in every room you will find colourful blankets and pillows, fresh flowers and various works of art.
Arrival & onward journey to Galle
Galle can be easily reached by bus or train. From Colombo the journey takes about three hours by local bus or train.
You can also take a Highway Expressbus, which will take you Gallefrom the capital in 1.5 hours.
From Matara it takes 1-1.5 hours by local bus or train and from Hikkaduwa it takes only half an hour.
The popular coastal town of Unawatuna is right next to Galle, so you can easily drive 10-15 minutes by tuk tuk.
Stefan Loose travel guide for Sri Lanka
Last updated on 2.01.2021 / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API
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