When people think about Galle, they usually imagine the infamous Lighthouse and nothing else. I nearly avoided the add journey there for this very reason. However, Galle has so much more to offer than just the lighthouse and is a definite must-do if you’re in south Sri Lanka. Plus, it’s easy to get to from Colombo and the southern beaches.
Galle is just one of Sri Lanka’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Built by the Dutch in the 17th century, Galle’s defining feature is the Fort (a walled, small city surrounded on three sides by the sea) and onshore Lighthouse. The Fort area has roughly 400 historic homes, churches, temples, mosques and government buildings.
Its Portuguese, Dutch and British roots are reflected throughout the narrow lanes filled with quaint restaurants, boutique hotels, museums, local artwork, shops and cafes. Whether you stay within the fort walls of the old town, or visit for a day trip, here are some of the best things to do in Galle.
Things to do in Galle
- Walk round the Historic Fort
- Photograph the famous Lighthouse
- Relax on Lighthouse Beach
- Visit the many museums
- Watch the beautiful sunsets
- Eat at the many cafes and restaurants
- Shop in the boutiques and art galleries
- Compare Galle’s Old Town vs New Town
The first thing I would recommend you do, is a walk around The Historic Fort. Beginning and ending at the Clock Tower, this 2.75km walk will take you around the entire fort, visiting many top sights along the way. I used the Lonely Planet‘s Self-Guided tour advice, which was fantastic. This was a great way to see what Galle has to offer, before venturing deeper in the Old Town.
The British-built Lighthouse can be found in the Southeastern Corner of the Fort and is the perfect photo opportunity. As with any popular sight, the best time to go for photos is first thing in the morning. By midday it was fairly busy. From here you can visit the Lighthouse Beach for a quick dip in the sea. The beach is quite small and there are many rocks offshore, but it was nice to have a quick cool down from the 35c heat.
Along from the Lighthouse is the Old Dutch Hospital. After being fully restored in 2006, the Old Dutch Hospital is now filled with shops and restaurants. It’s definitely worth checking this out for the views alone from its upper balcony.
There are also a number of museums you can visit within the Old Town. These include The National Museum, Marine Archeological Museum and the National Maritime Museum.
It’s worth staying in Galle until dusk to enjoy the stunning sunsets, particularly up along the Fort walls overlooking the ocean. Additionally, it will be cooler at this time too, making the walk easier.
Eating in Galle
The number of incredible places to eat here are endless! Galle offers a variety of different cuisines, from French and Italian restaurants to Asian.
Something I loved about Galle, is that most cafes and restaurants display local artwork, which is usually available for purchase. The cafe ‘Calorie Counter’ is an example of this. Despite the name, this cafe offered incredible food and large portions of more Western-style food – a lovely change after 3 weeks of (albeit delicious) rice and curry.
Galle’s New Town
Galle’s new town is worth a visit if you have time, with the main attraction here being the Dutch Market. Located on Main Street, under a 300-year-old columned roof, this lively market is filled with a variety of fruit and veg. I really enjoyed walking through here and soaking up the atmosphere. However, beware of prices being heavily inflated for tourists.
Galle International Cricket Stadium is also a great sight to see. You will pass this on your way to the Old Town.
Getting to Galle
Galle can be reached by car or private taxis along the Southern Expressway. However for a more authentic, and significantly cheaper experience, you can use trains and buses.
Trains along the Colombo-Matara line are some of the most scenic in Sri Lanka (along with the Kandy to Ella Train), making this a great way to travel to Galle. There are at least 6 express trains a day on this line and you can check out prices and times here: http://www.seat61.com. If you’re less flexible with time, it might be worth catching a bus. These run more frequently than trains.
There are plenty of local buses that link all the towns along the coast, with services operating roughly every 10 – 20 minutes. Buses are unbelievably cheap in Sri Lanka, with prices between coastal towns ranging from Rs 28-143 (£0.13-0.66, $0.16-0.81). Air Conditioned buses, known as EX001, are available too but are less frequent. These typically cost Rs 400-550 (£1.86-2.56, $2.25-3.10). Buses to Galle arrive and depart from the bus station on Main Street. This is hard to miss given the sheer number of buses going through this station. I found this bus station overwhelming, however, everyone was extremely helpful in showing me which bus to take.
Related Post: Climbing Sigiriya
Galle is a must see if you’re visiting the south! You’ll forget you’re in Sri Lanka, whilst you stroll around the Dutch lanes within the Fort. Let me know if you make a trip to this beautiful little gem.
Happy Travels x