Galle is, without a doubt, the highlight of my weeklong Lanka sojourn. And the key attraction of Galle is a stunning fort built by the Colonial forces hundreds of years ago, that hides within its boundaries a slice of 19th Century Europe. The fort, built by the Portuguese in 1588 and then fortified by the Dutch in 1649, houses one of the most beautiful old cities of the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has undergone extensive reconstruction work by the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. It is sure to steal your heart and make your Sri Lanka trip memorable. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind to make your day at Galle Fort perfect:
The Mornings can get HOT!
The Fort wall and the city are largely stone structures with beautiful, clean cobbled roads. While the white-washed heritage buildings are a sight for sore eyes, the place does get terribly hot in most seasons in the mid-morning time. If you are keen to roam the streets of this gorgeous little hamlet and lose yourself around the timeless streets of Fort Galle, choose the late afternoon time. The weather is typically cooler, soothing winds start blowing, and the sunset view from the Fort rampart is simply picture perfect.
Ignore the Persistent Tuk-Tuk Drivers
We were hounded by tuk-tuk drivers as soon as we reached the gate of the Galle Fort. They told us with confidence that we were at the ‘wrong’ starting point and we would not be able to cover the area on foot. We were offered the ride across the city for a meager $5. We consulted with a policeman nearby and realized we were in fact at the right point. We decided to decline the extremely persistent drivers. That was the right decision. Galle Fort is not about seeing the ‘landmarks’. There is no magic in hanging about the town in a tuk-tuk speeding from site to site. There is only one way to explore the city inside the fort – on foot. Take your time to walk in the lanes and by-lanes. Let the charm of the cobbled streets and the beautiful, white European buildings wash over you. Bask in the cool winds as you walk the rampart of the fort. Do not rush through Galle Fort in a tuk-tuk.
You have room to Bargain, a little
There are many tiny shops in Galle Fort that will draw you. From knickknacks to designer clothes, it’s all there. There were also art shops featuring local artists. Barring the big branded shops, the little ones do have some wiggle room for price negotiations. If you are buying three Sri Lanka t-shirts, ask for a 10-20% discount. You would most likely get some margin on the listed price.
Most Joints don’t serve Liquor here
While Galle Fort is dotted with a range of extremely charming restaurants, cafes, and bakeries, most places don’t serve any liquor here. If you are in the mood for some beer, head to the Dutch Hospital Shopping precinct (within the Fort) and choose a pub in that area. We chose the famous Taphouse and were treated to some delicious finger foods in addition to our chilled beer.
Get Lost a Little
At the Galle Fort, there are of course the important streets with their flea markets that you must walk by. Shop for art and clothes at the Peddlar street, enjoy the churches on Church St. and the Museum on Queens St.
But, my favorite memory of the Galle Fort is from a little Hotel and Cafe called Prince of Dutch on a narrow bylane called Sudharmalya Road. It is a 300-year-old building renovated into a beautiful BnB. We looked around the property and enjoyed the most fascinating Ice Tea and Ice Coffee here. It was indeed like getting into a time warp. So my two cents, lose the map. Get lost in the Galle Fort.
If you are as hungover as I by the beauty of Colonial Europe, Galle is going to leave an indelible impression. There is more to Galle than the Fort, of course. But if you have just a day in the area, and this is the only thing you get to do, Galle would still leave you smitten. That’s my guarantee.
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