The seaside town of Galle is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular destinations. With the salt water splashing up against its weathered fort, cobble-stoned streets and charming colonial buildings, it makes a great place to spend a few lazy days.
Galle is a fortified city that was founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and it’s surrounding fort was built by the dutch over 100 years later. The European architecture permeates every centimeter of the fort area, with wide streets, shaded houses and columned verandas. Colonial style houses and shop fronts line the streets, making it almost easy to forget you’re in Asia when wandering around this UNESCO World Heritage site.
It’s no surprise then to find that this small piece of heaven has become a magnet for tourists and artists alike, with many finding it hard to leave. Charming little boutiques sell everything from toys made from local coconuts to brightly colored woven fabrics to furnish your house with. One of our favorites is Barefoot who weaves linen into geometric designs using a palette that’s inspired by the fauna and flora of Sri Lanka. For wares from the local artistic community visit Exotic Roots. Here you can find hand made plates with creative designs and locally produced paintings or sculptures for a keepsake of your visit.
If you have a penchant for all things kitsch, then drop into Stick No Bills for a huge collection of posters and postcards from decades past. The keepsakes cover everything from old Ceylon tourism posters to a little bit of Bollywood that goes back to the days when Rajesh Khanna made all the girls swoon.
Walking around the fort itself gives you a chance to not only feel the sea spray against your skin, but also catch a glimpse of the famous Galle International Cricket Stadium. The stadium, along with part of the fort was washed out in the tragic tsunami that hit the Sri Lankan coast in 2004. Thanks to members of the international cricket community, the stadium has now been rebuilt and is a great place to watch a spot of world class cricket if you’re lucky to visit when a match is on.
If people watching is your preferred spectator sport, then there are plenty of great venues to settle in for a sun downer. Recline in a comfortable cane chair on the verandah of the Galle Fort Hotel and watch the world go, or get a seaside view from one of the many bars at the Old Dutch Hospital precinct. For a quick bite to eat or a refreshing cooler, it’s hard to go past Pedlar’s Inn Cafe, although beware it’s almost impossible to resist picking up a piece of their sublime handcrafted silver jewellery. For dinner, the Fort Printers is the place to go. With its elegant surrounds and an innovative menu, enjoy fresh fish tacos with a crisp Chilean glass of white wine.
Whether you stay for a few days, or visit in a day trip from Colombo or the nearby beach of Unawatuna, Galle has something to please everyone.