Galle Fort – Converse With The Colonial Past Of Sri Lanka

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Galle Fort Wall
Galle Fort Wall

Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the South Western Coast of Sri Lanka. It is a lovely fort town and my fondest memory of it is walking on the Fort Walls with a lovely light house behind me.

Galle is an ancient port town – they used to export Cinnamon from here way back in 1400 BCE. There are records like Ptolemy’s maps that indicate ancient trade that happened from this port. The modern history of Galle though begins with the landing of Portuguese in early 16th CE. In the mid 17th, CE Dutch came and took over this port town. It is the Dutch who built this fort edging the Indian Ocean. In the late 18th CE and passed on to British – who did not change much in the fort.

Galle – The Walking Town of Sri Lanka

Arch and the tree at the entrance of Galle Fort
Arch and the tree at the entrance of Galle Fort

Galle is a perfect town to walk around – just pray that it does not rain the day you visit it. We entered the town through a lovely arch next to an ancient Banyan Tree. A coat of arms still decorates the top of the arch.

We entered the town through a lovely arch next to an ancient Banyan Tree. A coat of arms still decorates the top of the arch.

Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum - Galle
Maritime Museum – Galle

My first stop was Maritime Archaeology Museum. It was fascinating to see the world of sailing boats and sailors.

All Saints Church - Galle
All Saints Church – Galle

As soon as I stepped out of the museum I saw the All Saints Church on a street aptly called The Church Street. The church is quintessentially British in character. I walked inside the church and could see the stained glass windows telling the stories of Christianity.

Church Street - Galle Fort
Church Street – Galle Fort

As I walked on the street further – it was a delight to see small cafes, antique shops and of course the Gem stores. You can spend some quiet time observing the tourists going in and out of these stores. I discovered some interesting stores like the one selling old Sri Lankan posters when it was still called Ceylon.

Read More – Top Sri Lanka Souvenirs to Buy

Opposite the Old Police Barracks is a fancy shopping complex with chic shops and cafes. It was raining heavily that day and I ventured into these shops more to kill time while waiting for the rain to stop. Probably the rain gods wanted me to see some fine jewelry made with gemstones of Sri Lanka. It prompted me to visit a moonstone mine the next day.

Coins at an Antique Shop - Galle Fort
Coins at an Antique Shop – Galle Fort

There was an old house converted into an art gallery. Antique shops had piles of interesting stuff – you can spend days untangling them in an attempt to uncover something interesting. Love Sri Lanka – a unit of Odel retail chain has lovely Sri Lankan Souvenirs to pick in all price ranges.

Galle Fort Walls

Lighthouse at Galle Fort
Lighthouse at Galle Fort

Walking around I reached the famous light house of Galle. I climbed the fort wall which was already full of tourists. I and my camera happily walked on the walls clicking pictures. There was the Indian Ocean on one side – trying to kiss the fort walls. On the other side was this quaint Galle Fort Town – seen from the vantage point.

Walking on the wall of Galle Fort
Walking on the wall of Galle Fort

At places, the Sri Lankan fishermen were fishing with the traditional fishing rod in their hands. I had till now seen them only in their wooden sculptures. It felt like the sculptures have come alive on those small rocks on the sea shore.

Bastions

View of Galle from a Fort Bastion
View of Galle from a Fort Bastion

As I walked away from the light house, The landscape changed. Lighthouses receded and the wall took center stage. Bastions made their appearance at regular intervals. They made another great view point – I only wish they were a bit better maintained. Many tourists sat on the turrets waiting for the iconic sunset. However, clouds had a field day that day in June. Sun had no choice but to go down quietly.

Porous Stones of Indian Ocean
Porous Stones of Indian Ocean

On the walls and closer to the shore, you can see the porous stones that I had also seen at Dhanushkodi near Rameshwaram in India. These are the same stones that are believed to be used by the vaanar sena of Ramayana to make a bridge to Lanka.

Clock Tower

Clock Tower at Galle Fort
Clock Tower at Galle Fort

On the other side of the Fort – there is a clock tower still standing tall but please do not depend on it to tell you the time. Close to it, are some lovely metal sculptures that clearly belong to the colonial times. The three bastions of the Galle Fort are called Sun, Moon, and Star.

The 2004 Tsunami hit the Galle town badly but it seems it did no major damage to the fort walls that stood strong against the mighty waves.

Galle Cricket Stadium

Galle Cricket Stadium
Galle Cricket Stadium

The Galle cricket stadium is the cutest cricket stadium you can see. It is like a large roundabout – in fact, it is a roundabout, you can see the traffic going around it.

From the Galle Fort walls, you can see whole of the stadium with its lush green ground. I tried to visualize the stands and was pointed to a small one at another end of the stadium.

Is it a small stadium? Apparently No.

Do they stop the traffic on the days of matches? Apparently No.

You can climb the walls of the fort and watch the match for free and apparently that is what many people do.

Unawatuna Beach

Unawatuna Beach near Galle, Sri Lanka
Unawatuna Beach near Galle, Sri Lanka

The Unawatuna is a touristy beach close to Galle City. It is a moon shaped beach – that makes it safer and more fun than most other rocky edges of the sea shore in Sri Lanka.

You would find lots of activities like water sports here. Tourists love to swim in this beach. When I stood there for few minutes, it was like standing on Miramar Beach back home in Goa.

What I enjoyed doing was walking in the streets of Unawatuna. I ended up buying some funky jewelry there.

Unawatuna has a hippie vibe that you typically find in parts of the city or country that belong to tourists. People who come and live here for some time – all of them temporary citizens on the move.

Travel Tips for Galle

Map of Galle City & Fort
Map of Galle City & Fort
  • Wear comfortable shoes and walk around. It is a small fort that you can easily walk around.
  • There are ample food outlets so you need not worry about food or water.
  • Entry is free.
  • Do walk on the walls for best views preferably at Sunset time.
  • Locals recommend Galle for antique shops – do check them out.
  • There are many hotels that you can stay at in Galle. I stayed at Hikka Tranz by Cinnamon at Hikkaduwa which is 15-20 mins drive from Galle.
  • When I visited both the museums were closed for renovation, do check them when you visit Galle.

25 COMMENTS

  1. This is so lovely, didn’t even know about it. How amazing it is that the whole area is so nicely preserved and it still has the same Portuguese feel to it. I’m a bit of a history buff, so this would be such an interesting site for me. Love it, thanks! 🙂

  2. Galle is high on our bucket list for Sri Lanka, so I was very pleased to read your article. We love to explore cities by food, so I’m happy you recommended it as a walking city 🙂 We’ll definitely make sure to visit the Unawatuna beach as well, it sounds like the perfect place to relax after a city day.

  3. Galle still has a very colonial feel to it, doesn’t it? The All Saints Church reminds me of the churches built by the English in South Africa, where you also have many Church Streets. This one looks so enticing, would love to stroll down it. Sri Lanka is on my travel bucket list, and now Galle too!

  4. There are so many fun areas of Sri Lanka to explore and Galle Fort is certainly one of them. I spent some time there a few years back, and was only able to see a small chunk of the island. I need to go back. I wouldn’t mind catching a cricket match in the stadium as well. Maybe then I could figure out how that sport works!

  5. Your post brought back so many memories of Galle. We visited all these except that museum. It was closed for some reason. You are right their gems are really beautiful and I too bought it for myself. The cafes within the fort too serve awesome food. Lovely pictures.

  6. I have nice memories about Galle, it was nice to enjoy the city and its colonial architecture for a couple of days. But I don’t remember anything about gemstones, too bad! My pictures have the same stormy ski than yours, we must have chosen the wrong season?

  7. I try to make a point of visiting as many World Heritage Sites as I can on my travels, and would love to visit Galle Fort in Sri Lanka. It sounds like it has quite the rich cultural heritage, having passed through the hands of many Empires over the decades. Walking the fort walls definitely sounds like a must – how amazing to see traditional fisherman operating from the shore.

    Unawatuna looks like a great place to cool off with a swim after a long day walking throughout the Fort. Thanks for the tip on visiting for sunset.

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