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Galle is on the Southern coast of Sri Lanka, just 2 hours drive from Colombo. Although Galle is a large city, it is most well known for the small walled town of Galle Fort. It's charming colonial style buildings makes it one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka and a great addition to your Sri Lanka itinerary.
The area of Galle Fort is now a historic world heritage site and it's the last remaining European-built fortress in Sri Lanka. The beautiful old colonial style buildings and narrow maze of streets are perfect for a day or two spent wandering and exploring. Galle Fort is definitely worth visiting if you're in Sri Lanka. Let's check out 8 of the best things to do in Galle Fort to add to your itinerary.
The best things to do in Galle Fort, Sri Lanka
1. Walk the historic Galle Fort walls
Walking the old town walls is one of the best things to do in Galle Fort and it offers beautiful views out to the ocean and along the coastline.
You can start the walk along the town walls from anywhere within the Fort and then follow the path round in a full circle. We started the walk from the main entrance gate to the old town of Galle Fort. From here you can get views over the Galle international cricket stadium and explore the moon bastion and historic clock tower at the entrance. We then walked east, following the path past the star bastion and old slave quarters. The path leads along a wide ridge, with beautiful views out to sea, passing both the Clippenberg and Rock bastions, before arriving at the lighthouse. The lighthouse is small and you cannot go inside, but it one of the most well known landmarks in Galle Fort and is a must-see. To capture the best angle for photos of the lighthouse, approach it from the southernmost path along the coast.
After you have taken photos at the lighthouse, continue along the coastal path, past the Dutch hospital, towards the marina and the National and Maritime museums before arriving back at the main entrance gate. Depending on how many stops you have along the way, the walk should take a couple of hours at a leisurely pace.
The coastal walk around the city walls is one of the best things to do in Galle Fort
2. Explore Galle Fort's Dutch Hospital
As the name suggests, this was originally a hospital back when Galle Fort was Dutch colonised, but it has now been converted into a shopping and dining precinct, in a similar fashion to the Dutch Hospital in Colombo.
There are numerous restaurants and bars in the Dutch Hospital, which all overlook a small square. We were here for New Year’s eve and there was a great atmosphere, with everyone from the surrounding bars gathering in the square to count in the New year.
Galle Fort Dutch Hospital shopping and dining square
3. Treat yourself to a pamper!
There are many health & beauty shops and spas in Galle Fort, so it is the perfect place to treat yourself! After some research on the different spas, my husband and I chose Spa Sandeshaya for a couples back massage, which was truly amazing and really good value compared to what we are used to paying in the UK.
4. Go shopping in Galle Fort
Galle Fort's historic city is full of ice cream shops, restaurants and souvenir shops. If you are looking for something more than a little souvenir, there are also many high-end clothing, health and beauty and home living shops. If you've been to Phuket in Thailand, the shops here reminded me of Thalang Road in Phuket Old Town. Many of the shops are housed in gorgeous colonial buildings and the shops are well worth a visit just to see inside the buildings even if you don’t want to buy anything!
5. Indulge your taste buds
There are many fine dining restaurants in Galle Fort, but you may need to book ahead. We found that many of the high-end restaurants were already fully booked for a couple of nights – this could be largely due to the fact we were visiting over New Year’s eve, but if there is somewhere specific you want to dine, book ahead to be safe.
We had a gorgeous meal at The Kitchen Galle Fort, on Pedlar’s Street, sitting outside and people-watching as we ate. There is also a chain of food outlets on Pedlar’s street, all of which are really popular; Pedlar’s Inn cafe & restaurant, Pedlar’s pizzeria and the popular Pedlar’s gelato. If you're craving pasta, we found a tiny Italian restaurant with the most delicious home cooked food. The Pasta Factory is run by an Italian owner and her family and it has a lovely cosy atmosphere, tucked away down a quiet street.
Cooling off with a refreshing juice in Galle Fort's Pedlar Street
6. Stroll around Galle Fort at night
Galle Fort is really beautiful in the evening and it has a very chilled out vibe. There are many upscale hotels and restaurants which come to live in the evening as they open their doors for dinner. Don't worry, if you are on a budget, there are plenty of cheaper places to eat, as well as street food options too. I would really recommend going out for an evening stroll around the town - the Dutch Hospital is also a great place to head to in the evening for a bit of atmosphere and to sit and watch the reflection of the moon over the ocean.
Galle Fort looking even more beautiful in the evening
Galle wasn’t what I had expected but I loved it. It had many more boutique shops and higher end restaurants than I was expecting. If you are on more of a backpacking budget, there are still plenty of places you can grab something to eat. We only splashed out a bit as Galle Fort was the last stop on our two week trip in Sri Lanka, so we decided to treat ourselves.
Galle Fort is a place where you don’t need a set plan. You could easily spend hours getting lost exploring the small streets which criss-cross through the old town, before walking the full circle of the encompassing stone walls. Make sure you really take your time strolling through the streets of Galle Fort, experiencing everything this beautiful old colonial town has to offer.
If you're looking for other great places to visit in Sri Lanka, you should definitely check out my post on Ella - one of my favourite places in Sri Lanka, as well as the incredible Udawalawe National Park where you can marvel at elephants in their natural habitat.
How long do you need in Galle Fort?
If you were short on time or you wanted to visit on a day trip, you could see the highlights of Galle Fort in one day, but you might feel a bit rushed. We stayed for three nights in Galle Fort, which perhaps was one night too long, especially if you just explore within the town walls. However you could make Galle a base and take a day trip to Unawatuna beach from Galle if you wanted to stay for a bit longer. It really depends what you want to do in Galle, there are some great shops and restaurants here, so if you are happy to have a long lunch, treat yourself to a massage and do some shopping, then two nights is probably the right amount of time for you.
How to get to Galle Fort?
Galle Fort is really well connected, making it really easy to visit this beautiful town. There are 3 main ways to get to Galle Fort:
By plane - Most people flying in to Sri Lanka will land at Bandaranaike International Airport in Negombo, just 30 minutes rive north of Colombo. From Colombo, you can take one of the below options to Galle Fort.
By bus - If you are arriving from or heading to Colombo, you can take the bus. Galle Central bus station is located just outside the Galle Fort walls and by the International Cricket Stadium. To check out timetables, visit the National Transport Commission.
By train - Galle railway station is next to the bus station, outside the Fort walls. There is a train to colombo, which takes between 1 hr 50 minutes and 3 hours, depending on which service you use. Check out 12go.asia for train timetables.
By taxi - This is the most convenient, particularly if you are travelling late at night or early morning, but obviously it will also be the most expensive. You can use 12go.asia to search for local taxi companies, however many of the hostels and hotels will be able to arrange a taxi for you and there are also lots of taxi companies advertising in town. This is true for most places in Sri Lanka and the taxis are much cheaper than you might think. We travelled from Mirissa to Galle and then Galle to Colombo airport by taxi and it was really smooth.
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