Of all the places we visited along the South Coast of Sri Lanka, Galle was definitely my favourite! One Day in Gale Fort wasn’t really enough to appreciate it fully, but in this article I’ve included some tips by fellow travellers to give you more options if you plan to stay a bit longer!
To make the most out of a visit to Galle in Sri Lanka, first you need to know a bit more about Sri Lankan history:
The Portuguese arrived on the island nation of Sri Lanka back in 1505. They called it “Ceilao”, but the name was later changed when it became a British Crown Colony into “Ceylon”. This name lasted through its independence in 1948 and up until 1972 when it became Sri Lanka.
Galle Fort was first built in 1588 by the Portuguese and further fortified by the Dutch in the years after. It prevented attacks from colonial competitors both from the sea as the land. Along the walls, you would find battlements for defense in case of an invasion.
Galle was handed over to the British in 1796 and they made a number of changes to the city, the most recognizable of which is the tower that you can see from various points in town.
Under Dutch rule, about 500 families lived here and you could find public buildings, administration centers, military facilities, warehouses and churches within the walls. The fort as you can see it today features well-preserved colonial architecture (of course heavily influenced by the Portugese and the Dutch who built the town in the style of their homeland) and cobblestone streets in a grid-layout and has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Now let’s get into the best things to do in Galle!!
What we'll cover in this article
ONE DAY IN GALLE SRI LANKA ITINERARY
How to Spend Your Morning in Galle?
Go for Breakfast
While we had breakfast in our hotel before we head out to Galle, here are some options to get your day started off well:
- Old Railway Cafe
- Mama’s Galle Fort Roof Cafe
- South Ceylon Bakery
- Cafe Punto
- STARBEANS Ocean Restaurant & Cafe
- Royal Dutch Cafe
- National Tea Room
- Poonie’s Kitchen
Tour the Fort
Galle Fort covers an area of over 400 historic places. When you start your tour from the Old Gate, it’s easy to walk up to the first fortification and check out the clock tower from close-by. From here, you can choose to walk back down and into the center, or you can follow and walk over the city wall to enjoy the outer ring of the town with an ocean view.
I walked back down and strolled the streets of Galle, which were so cute! There are plenty of cute coffeeshops and independent shops to stop and have a break.
For history-lovers, I can recommend stopping at:
- Zwarte Fort (Black Fort)
The oldest of 14 bastion built by the Portuguese. This place was always covered in the black smoke from the canons and guns, hence the name!
- Old Dutch Hospital
One of the oldest buildings in Galle Fort, now a shopping and dining precinct. Great views from the balcony!
- All Saints’ Church
13th Century Gothic Church, standing on the site of the old court house. They say the gallows stood on the site of the present church altar!
- Groote Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church)
Built in 1755 by the Dutch. It’s one of the oldest Protestant churches still in use in the country!
- Maritime Archaeology Museum
This building from 1671 used to be a Dutch warehouse and it showcases underwater artifacts, ship models & other marine-centric exhibits.
To read a review of this museum, check out: globalhelpswap.com/visit-national-maritime-museum-galle-sri-lanka
How to Spend Your Afternoon in Galle?
Get Active on the Beach
One of the places to visit in Galle that I unfortunately had to miss, was a visit to the Galle Sri Lanka Beach :/
The beach town in Galle is called Unawatuna and here, you can go surfing, scuba-diving, or just lie on the beach. It’s a great spot for families. While the main beach might be a bit crowded, Jungle Beach is a bit more quiet here. To see what it’s like, check this video out by our blogger friends Paul and Karen from GlobalHelpSwap:
Beaches in Galle Sri Lanka? Oh Yes! Please have a swim for me! Ok? Thanks!
Watch our whale watching experience close to Galle on YouTube!
Enjoy a Sweet Treat
At the end of a busy day, you deserve a treat!
I personally LOVED the gelato over at the cute shop of Isle of Gelato. It’s located in the old town at 60a Pedlar Street and is pretty hard to miss. Careful though: it’s hot outside, so you’ll have to eat it fast! Another gelato place is Pedlar’s Inn Gelato at 61 Pedlar Street, which I heard is good too!
Another great option is to have a British Afternoon Tea over at the luxurious Amangalla Hotel. Expect finger sandwiches, cakes and tarts with rooibos yala, Handunugoda white or other teas and infusions.
How to Spend Your Evening in Galle?
Watch the Sunset
After exploring the town itself and making the most out of the cafes, shops and best restaurants in Galle, definitely make sure to walk towards the walls of the fort, as from here you’ll get incredible views over the ocean.
Join the locals in a leisurely stroll over the walls and check out the lighthouse. Flag Rock at the other end of the wall is a great spot and one of the best Galle places to visit to witness a stunning sunset, but of course you can also settle in on one of the many rooftop bars in the area with a cool drink in your hand. One of the places I heard is recommended is Fort Dew Restaurant.
Go for Dinner
While most people will leave Galle at the end of the day, you can of course choose to have dinner here and stay overnight. Be prepared to pay a good price for that, though!
Some options for restaurants are:
- Sri Lanka Kottu Roti at Galle Things Roti
- Sri Lankan Curry at Lucky Fort Restaurant
- European / Asian Fusion at Church Street Social
- Seafood at Fortaleza Galle
- Vegetarian/Vegan Street Food at Spoons
- Sri Lankan Curry at Anura’s Restaurant
- Seafood with a view at A Minute by Tuk Tuk
- Burgers at The Original Rocket Burger
Make sure to check out these lovely videos of Galle by our blogging friends:
Also check out Janet’s blog post on things to do in Galle: journalistontherun.com
I hope this article helped you deciding what to do in Galle! Here is more information to help you plan your trip:
Time Zone in Sri Lanka? UTC + 5.30
Currency in Sri Lanka? Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR). Check the latest exchange rate here.
Electrical Plugs in Sri Lanka? 230V, Type D, M & G. We recommend getting a universal travel adapter to never worry about having the right plug on your travels!
Languages Spoken in Sri Lanka? Sinhala, Tamil and English
Best time to visit Sri Lanka? Sri Lanka has warm temperatures throughout the year, but the dry season is from April to October (mild temperatures and little rain). The Monsoon season is from November to March (high temperatures and humidity).
Visa Requirements Sri Lanka? If you’re from the USA, UK, Netherlands or Australia, you are required to apply for an electronic visa (ETA) prior to arrival. This visa allows you to enter and stay in the country for 30 days.
Insurance for Sri Lanka? Make sure to get travel insurance! We recommend checking out worldnomads.com
Vaccinations for Sri Lanka? You should always check your doctor’s recommendations on vaccinations before you travel, but you should definitely have the basic immunizations such as Tetanus and Diphtheria up to date.
How to get to Sri Lanka? You can only get to Sri Lanka by flying. There are no ferries between India or other nearby countries. I flew from London with Sri Lankan Airlines, as there are daily direct flights from Heathrow to Colombo. This took about 10 hours.
While flying economy is always a bit uncomfortable long-haul, I did like the food and entertainment options on my flight and the staff was super friendly. The flight from London was packed, so 100% make sure to book your seats in advance to prevent yourself ending up in middle seats. You can even bid for business class seats, a friend of mine got hers for as low as 100 pounds!
For the best deals on flights to Sri Lanka, check skyscanner.com.
How to get around Sri Lanka? Most of the sights in Sri Lanka can be reached overland, for example by bus (budget, pay fare to assistant driver), trains (scenic routes: Colombo <> Kandy, Kandy <> Ella and Ella <> Nuwara Eliya) or private driver (comfort, around $200-350 USD for a week + additional tip).
You can also opt for domestic flights, Cinnamon Air Sri Lanka has small 8-seater planes to give you some scenic flight fun! And don’t forget to use the tuktuk in the cities (negotiate your price before you get in!)
How to get to Galle? From Mirissa to Galle, it’s about 40 km (1 hour drive). The Colombo to Galle distance is roughly 125.5 km, which is about 2,5 h by car.
Another option is to take the Colombo to Galle train (and back of course the Galle to Colombo train), which takes about 2-4 hours, depending on which service you choose. For the train schedule Colombo to Galle, please check here: www.seat61.com.
I also recommend checking out this blog post by our friends Paul & Karen: www.globalhelpswap.com
Galle Fort is right next to the Galle railway station, so that’s super convenient!
Which organised tours to do in Sri Lanka? We highly recommend organised tours with either Intrepid or Gadventures. These are the tours they offer:
- Sri Lanka Explorer
- Circle Sri Lanka
- Cycle Sri Lanka
- Simply Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka: Hike, Bike & Kayak
- Sri Lanka Real Food Adventure
- Sri Lanka Family Holiday
- Sri Lanka Land & Sea
- Sri Lanka Encompassed
- Sri Lanka & Maldives Adventure
- Sri Lanka Express
- Discover Sri Lanka
- Discover India and Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka on a Shoestring
- Discover Kerala and Sri Lanka
Tourism Website Sri Lanka:
- Have a look over at srilanka.travel
Hotels in Sri Lanka:
- Cinnamon Grand Colombo [see the best deals on booking.com]
- Cinnamon Bey Beruwala [see the best deals on booking.com]
- Hikka Tranz by Cinnamon [see the best deals on booking.com]
- Cinnamon Wild Yala [see the best deals on booking.com]
- Siddhalepa Ayurveda Health Resort [see the best deals on booking.com]
Hotels in Galle Sri Lanka:
- 56 by Deco
- Amangalla Hotel
- Antic Guesthouse
- Albert Fort Hotel
- Fortaleza Landesi
- Fortaleza Lighthouse Street
- Fort Bazaar
- Fort Square Boutique Villa
- Jetwing Lighthouse
- Khalid’s Guest House
- Pilgrims Hostel
- Prince of Galle
- Small House Boutique Guest House
- Southern Comforts Guest House
- Taru Villas – Lighthouse Street
- The Fort Printers
Make sure to check out our other articles on Sri Lanka:
- 10 Best Things to Do in Sri Lanka that Will Make you Grow as a Person
- What You Need to Know About The Yala National Park Safari
- Cinnamon Sri Lanka Hotel Review: Is This the Best Accommodation on the South Coast of the Country?
Book your trip to Galle and plan a Galle city tour or day trips from Galle today via Get Your Guide:
- Full-Day Sightseeing Tour of Galle, Sri Lanka
- Galle: Saffari Excursion to Madu River
- Bentota: Wild Wonders and Dutch Fort of Galle
- Galle & Bentota: 1-Day Boat Safari Day Tour From Colombo
- Galle Day Tour From Marawila
- Colombo: Galle Fort Day Tour
Disclaimer: I was kindly invited by Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, The Professional Travel Bloggers Association, SriLankan airlines and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau to be part of this trip to the South Coast of Sri Lanka (part of TBC Asia 2018). All photos and opinions are, as always, 100% my own!