Things to do in Galle Fort
In the 18th century, the Dutch built their headquarters, Galle Fort, on the Sri Lankan coast, taking over from the Portuguese rule since the 16th century. They fortified Galle, leaving behind beautiful European-style buildings still there today. Later, the British took over the town until Sri Lanka became an independent nation once again.
Because of its extraordinary history, the fort has enormous cultural and architectural value. As such, it’s recognized as a UNESCO heritage site to preserve the area’s beauty. It was also an important trading port for hundreds of years!
Nowadays, the beautiful old buildings are transformed into trendy shops, cafes, and restaurants. From shopping, exploring the history, or sunset at the fort’s wall, you could spend an entire day exploring the beauty of Galle Fort.
1. Beautiful Shops at Galle Fort
One of the best things to do in Galle Fort is simply to walk around the ancient streets, visit the incredible handicraft shops, and admire the old-fashioned Dutch buildings. In fact, Galle Fort has some of the best shops in Sri Lanka! It’s the perfect place to buy souvenirs and mementos from your trip.
Some of our favorite shops in Galle Fort are:
- Barefoot – on the corner of Church and Pedlar Street. This shop is the southern outpost of the stylish Colombo homeware shop.
- Orchid House -near the Dutch Hospital. This lovely shop sells beautiful handicrafts, sarongs, and gems.
- Stick No Bills – A fantastic design shop selling fun and colorful graphics printed on postcards and wallpaper.
2. Visit some Impressive Monuments
Galle has such an incredible fusion of culture and architecture that you could easily forget you are in Sri Lanka. There’s a uniquely European feel as you wander among Dutch-style buildings under the shade of coconut trees.
Even if you’re not a cultural person, the buildings inside Galle Fort itself will take your breath away. The fort is a vast monument, and within its walls, you’ll find a selection of fascinating museums and beautiful churches. Don’t miss the magnificent clock tower that stands high above the fort, looking out to sea.
Some of the must-see sights in Galle Fort are:
- De Groote Kerk (Church St) – the most famous of all the churches in Galle. It’s beautiful white facade is impressive, as well as its intricate interior.
- Old Dutch Hospital (Hospital Road) – one of the oldest buildings in Galle with beautiful white archways that perfectly complement the orange tiled roof.
- National Maritime Archaeology Museum (Queens St) – an exhibit of ancient marine artifacts removed from shipwrecks off the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
- All Saints Church (Church St) – Anglican style church in a gothic, victorian style.
3. Galle Fort Lighthouse
Galle Fort Lighthouse is an icon of the town, bordered by palm trees and the deep blue ocean. It’s this image that’s used for many postcards, brochures, and adverts, luring travelers to the beautiful shores of Sri Lanka.
This extraordinary building is also the oldest lighthouse in Sri Lanka (built by the British in 1848), and it’s still used today. It’s one of the must-sees on your trip to Galle Fort, with the perfect outlook at sunset for some great photos.
4. Walk Along Galle Fort Wall
Galle Fort’s wall is where locals and tourists come together and enjoy the beautiful view of the city and the sea. Best of all, you can walk along the perimeter of the fort, gaining various perspectives of the UNESCO heritage site and the town.
Start at Galle Fort Lighthouse on the southeastern part of the fort. As you walk towards the northwest side of the Fort, you’ll see the Clock Tower which is the connection between Galle City and Galle Fort. The walk around the fort is around a 2km walk with beautiful views over the ocean along the way.
5. Sunset on the Fort’s Wall
Enjoying the sunset on the Fort’s wall is one of the top things to do in Galle Fort. Both locals and travelers grab a spot alongside the wall with beers and snacks, ready to watch the sun disappear into the sea. Watch the sky explode into color and strike up a conversation with locals nearby.
Tip: Look out from Flag Rock Bastion, where you’ll see adrenaline seekers jumping from the cliffs. It’s heart racing watching them jump from such a height so close to rocks, but the locals are pros, and they put on a great show for onlookers.
6. Take a Day Trip to the South Coast
Galle Fort is the perfect jumping-off point for numerous day trips to the beautiful south coast of Sri Lanka. This stretch of coastline is home to some of the most famous beaches in the country, with white sand, rock pools, and tidal islands. It’s particularly well known for surfers, who come from all over the world to enjoy the great waves and warm waters.
7. Watch a Cricket Match
Whether it’s on the streets, or alongside the fort walls, cricket is a massive part of Galle’s way of life. Cricket is synonymous with Sri Lanka – it’s their national sport – so watching it in the flesh here is an experience. Head to the famous Galle cricket ground, which is a lovely place to enjoy a refreshing drink on a warm summer’s day.
How to Visit Galle Fort
Galle Fort has excellent transport links as it’s one of the most popular destinations on the south coast. You can take the train from Colombo in roughly 2 hours, directly to the Galle Fort rail station.
Galle Fort is a small town, so it’s perfect to walk around. It’s also the best way to see attractions like Fort Wall or Pedler Street. Alternatively, you can arrange for a tuk-tuk to take you around the town or on a day trip further down the coast.
Where to Stay in Galle Fort
Anywhere within Galle town is lovely. However, accommodation within the fort itself is the best option, as it’s beautifully peaceful, away from the traffic and buzz of the city. Choose from a more expensive traditional hotel within the walls, or opt for a more reasonably priced guesthouse outside the fort.
Alternatively, spend time in one of the beach towns further down the coast and visit Galle Fort on a day trip.
Best Time to Visit Galle Fort
Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons that happen at opposite times of the year on opposite sides of the island. In Galle, most rain falls between May and September, and during this time, the ocean can get very rough, causing the beaches to be dirtier than usual. However, prices of accommodation in the monsoon season are much lower, and the quieter streets of Galle make it an excellent time to sightsee.
For sunshine and dry days, visit Galle between December and April, with the absolute best month being February.
Best Cafes & Restaurants in Galle Fort
After a full day of walking, shopping, and sightseeing, it’s now time to enjoy the delicious flavors of Galle Fort. Not only are there some fantastic restaurants serving a variety of cuisines, but you can find excellent street food close to the fort walls. Some of our favorite places to eat are:
- The Blockhouse
Delicious and cheap Sri Lankan food with a spectacular roof terrace. TripAdvisor page.
- Lucky Fort Restaurant
Go here for Sri Lankan food and some of the best food in Galle! Plus, it’s cheap! TripAdvisor page.
- The original Rocket Burger
Not into Asian food tonight? Go and grab a great burger at Rocket. These burgers were the best we had in Sri Lanka. TripAdvisor page.
- Chambers Restaurant
This might be a little more expensive, but it’s worth it to try all the tasty Turkish and Middle Eastern dishes. TripAdvisor page.