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One of the best things to do in Galle Fort is soaking up all of the history the Galle fortress has to offer. Where Galle Fort history, Portuguese and Dutch Colonialism come together, Galle Fort in Sri Lanka is where you will get your fill of history and architecture. Built in 1588 by the Portuguese and later fortified by the Dutch in the 1600s, this European-style fort community was once a major trading post along the Indian Ocean route. Visiting Galle fort is one of the best places to visit in Galle.
Galle Fort Sri Lanka is now one the main destinations firmly planted on any tourist’s Sri Lanka itinerary, but for good reason. Galle old town comes complete with wide, walkable walls to watch the sunset, quaint but bustling shopping streets to find quality local souvenirs and clothing, and beautiful architecture to ponder and marvel at. Last but not least, Galle Fort has some really great food, both Sri Lankan and western.
To experience all the best things to do in Galle Fort, make sure to spend a good full day here (if not overnight) to absorb everything this little fortified town has to offer. I only spend a few hours here and definitely missed out on some Galle places to visit, this recommendation comes firsthand.
READ MORE | First time to Sri Lanka? Read my guide to all the best Sri Lanka travel tips
Where is Galle Fort?
Set on the peninsula of Galle Harbour in the city of Galle on the most southwest corner of Sri Lanka, is the historic Galle Fort. Located in the Southern Province, Galle city can be reached by driving 2 hours southeast from the capital city of Colombo. Situated between the surf towns of Hikkaduwa and Weligama, Galle Fort can easily be done in a day trip from either destination.
Galle-Fort, with a population of under 1000 residents, is just a fraction of the 115,000 people that live in the greater Galle city area.
Best Time to Visit Galle Fort Sri Lanka
You can visit Galle Dutch Fort anytime between October and April as the days are relatively dry, with only a slight chance of showers, but the absolute best time to visit Galle Fort is between February and April for ideal conditions.
TIP | Galle Fort specifically can see a large influx of local tourists in early January, so avoid this time if you can. The top things to do in Galle will be hectic during this time.
Have no clue what to pack? Here is my ultimate Sri Lanka Packing List
How to Get Around Galle Fort
Dutch Fort Galle is an extremely walkable town as it only takes 30 minutes to walk the full circumference of the Sri Lanka Galle fort. Most of the main things to do Galle Fort are located within the walls and can be reached by walking, including the Galle Fort bazaar. Things to see in Galle including the spice markets in greater Galle city, are a quick 10-minute walk from the entrance Galle Fort.
Galle Fort can experience some really intense heat during the day, so if you are interested in the outlying Galle things to do, hailing a tuk-tuk is your best bet. Costing approximately 250 LKR each way to the Galle fruit market, a tuk-tuk ride is super fun and can provide you with a chance to chat with a local.
TIP | Haggling is a must and makes sure you stick to your guns and finalize the price before getting into the tuk-tuk.
Sri Lanka’s local bus system is one of the most economical ways to get around the island. If you are looking to get to and from Galle Fort from any of the villages along the south coast, the humble bus is the way to go. Costing a mere $0.50 USD, the #2 and #32 buses run every 15 minutes and will take you down the main coastal road which gives a great view of the Indian Ocean.
Galle Fort bus stand is located on the opposite side of the cricket pitch across from the main gate to the fort. You can walk the distance (6 minutes) or hail a tuk-tuk for the short journey to all the best places to visit in Galle Fort.
TIP | Make sure you have small denominations of Sri Lankan rupees available as the bus driver will not return your change until the end of your bus ride.
Where to Stay in Galle Fort
Due to Galle Fort’s large ex-pat community and a plethora of heritage buildings inside the walls, there are many high-end boutique hotels in Galle Fort. Check out neighbouring communities like Unawatuna for more economical accommodations but you can still find some budget hotels in Galle if you look hard enough.
I’ve recommended two accommodation in Galle Fort below, but you can also search for all the best hotels in Galle, Sri Lanka using Agoda.com.
THE GALLE FORT HOTEL | LUXURY
Located on Church Street this former dutch mansion comes complete with a restaurant, bike hire and a pool situated in an open-air courtyard. As far as the best Galle hotels go, Galle Fort Hotel is one of the top.
TARU VILLAS | LUXURY
Beautifully restored boutique hotel in Galle Fort on Lighthouse Street offers extremely comfortable beds, a terrace and free parking.
The Essential Guide: Things to Do, See and Eat in Fort Galle, Sri Lanka
#1 Visit the famous Lighthouse in Galle Fort
Originally built in 1848, the dutch lighthouse stands on the ramparts as the most recognizable symbol of historic Galle Fort. Picture perfect and ready for your next photo, the Galle Fort lighthouse (pictured above) was rebuilt back in 1939 but still holds the same design as yesteryear. As one of the best places to visit in Galle Fort, the 87-foot tall beauty is a perfect drop back to some of the best sunsets in Sri Lanka.
WHERE | The Lighthouse, Galle Fort
Want more Sri Lanka inspiration? Check out my Sri Lanka Bucket List
#2 Walk the Ramparts of Galle Fort
It wouldn’t be a visit to Galle Fort, without walking the circumference of the rampart walls, one of the most fun things to do in Galle Sri Lanka. The Galle fort map walk starts at the Clock Tower and will take you roughly 30 minutes if you don’t stop to marvel at the architecture (which you will) and soak yourself in the history of Galle Fort. From the Clock Tower, head west and walk towards the Main Gate of Galle Fort.
From there you can continue on the ramparts, passing highlights like the Dutch Reform Church, Galle Lighthouse overlooking Galle Harbour, Flag Rock and Clippenberg Bastion. End your walk at the Sunset Observing Place for a great view of the western coastline and on of the most beautiful places in Galle.
TIP | Go at 6pm and watch the sky light up with pinks, purples and oranges.
TAKE A TOUR | Try exploring Galle Fort by bicycle
#3 Pedlar St. | the Best Shopping in Galle Fort
Shop ‘til you drop, on Galle Fort’s Pedlar St. Located in the centre of the fort, this street will be a feast for any shopper’s eyes and one of the coolest Galle Sri Lanka things to do. Full of cute and funky stores, you will find anything from artistic postcards, linen clothing, gems and antiques, to coconut bowls. Do note that this street is mainly occupied by ex-pats though, so expect prices to reflect this.
A few of the stores I recommend visiting for the best Galle Sri Lanka shopping:
WHERE | Pedlar Street, Galle Fort
COST | Window shopping is free
#4 Treat Yourself to Gelato
Perusing along Pedlar St in the heat of the day calls for an ice-cold treat. Isle of Gelato is just the spot and was the best place to visit in Galle Fort for gelato. My absolute favourite, as far as Gelato shops in Galle Fort goes.
This white-washed shop with turquoise wooden furniture almost reminds me of Greece, but the gelato itself is really what steals the show. Isle of Gelato offers a small curated selection of creams, ensuring only quality ingredients are used and they have vegan options too! If you are wondering what to do in Galle Fort, this is a must.
WHERE | Isle of Gelato, Galle Fort
COST| 1 scoop (400 LKR), 2 scoop (600 LKR), and 3 scoop (800 LKR)
TIP | I’m a huge fan of traditional hazelnut gelato, and their rendition did not disappoint
#5 Explore Local Markets Outside the Fort Walls
Just outside this tourist epicentre, are the chaotic but beautiful local flower, spice and fruit markets. Galle Fort, in and of itself can be quite pricey, so walking 10 minutes outside of the ramparts can give you a really good look at authentic Sri Lankan life, and food essentials for a fraction of the cost.
I’d recommend hitting up the fruit market and trying one of every fruit you don’t recognize, one of the many great things to do in Galle Sri Lanka. The stall patrons are usually happy to slice you off a piece of whatever you choose for tasting. Try the wood apple, mangosteen and pineapple and you won’t be disappointed. Grab a small bag of fruits to enjoy on the ramparts while watching the sun go down.
WHERE | Galle Fruit Market, Galle
TIP | Don’t forget to pick up some local spices and curry mixes. My favourites are the dahl curry mix, cinnamon and cardamom.
Best Restaurants in Galle Fort
A MINUTE BY TUK TUK | A mix of western and South Asian cuisine, this restaurant is located in the Dutch Hospital area right on the east side of the ramparts and offers a great view of Galle Harbour. See location here.
AMAN GALLE | As far as restaurants in Galle Fort go, this is top. If you want to spoil yourself, visit this boutique hotel that welcomes non-residents to enjoy a cocktail or meal on their beautifully curated colonial terrace. See location here.
MORE ESSENTIAL GUIDES FOR SRI LANKA
Want to continue planning your trip to Sri Lanka?
Check out my 3 WEEK SRI LANKA ITINERARY or if you prefer to determine the route yourself, read the specialized guides below for some of the best experiences in Sri Lanka:
SRI LANKA BUCKET LIST | Get inspired by all that Sri Lanka has to offer. Here are my Sri Lanka highlights.
SRI LANKA TRAVEL TIPS | Prepare for your Sri Lanka trip by reading my 21 top tips on what you should know before visiting the beautiful teardrop isle
KANDY | Bustling market streets, quiet strolls around the lake, lush botanical gardens, and ornate Buddhist temples, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka has it all
ELLA | Nestled in the green centre of Sri Lanka, this hiker’s paradise features trails with panoramic views of jagged green hills, deep valleys and rushing waterfalls.
YALA NATIONAL PARK | Majestic elephants, elusive leopards, and a myriad of bird species can all be found in one of the biggest national parks in Sri Lanka.
WELIGAMA | Where surf culture is alive and thriving, this central town is located on the golden south coast of Sri Lanka and offers the best surf beach for beginners, and an abundance of traditional and modern eateries.
MIRISSA | A small surf town located 15 minutes away from Weligama, offers golden beaches, surfing, serene spas, and healthy food.
GALLE FORT | Fortified stone walls, dutch and Portuguese style architecture, great food and shopping all culminate in this little town that was once a major Sri Lankan trading post.
SRI LANKA PACKING LIST | Take the guesswork out of packing and easily check off my list to all things you will need for Sri Lanka’s warm climate