This has to be one of our favourite spots to visit in Sri Lanka. Steeped in so much history with the Galle Fort, to amazing sandy beaches, and deliciously served food at the Old Dutch Hospital. Who would want to miss out on a trip to Galle, with these tantalizing things to do?
We have not been to Galle once, but we have explored this small town twice. Both times exploring the wonderful Galle Fort and surrounding area. We share what we have learnt from both trips to Galle, including the best things to see and do, plus how to get there, where to eat and more.
So, what are you waiting for! Let’s get exploring.
Table of Contents
When to visit
You could easily visit Galle all year round due to its tropical climate. However, Sri Lanka sees two monsoon seasons a year, which affect different areas of the island.
During May – July the monsoon hits the south and west of the country, which affects the Galle area. Therefore, you may wish to avoid this period, unless you don’t mind the few downpours of rain during the day. Although in our experience, this is a quiet period for tourists.
We would recommend travelling to Galle between December and April for the best weather conditions, but tourist will be at its highest.
The currency used in Sri Lanka is the Rs.
To plan your trip to Galle and Sri Lanka, then we would recommend checking out our post on Things to Know Before You Travel to Sri Lanka. In this we cover more information on the currency, how to get a visa, if you require any travel inoculations, and more.
Galle is located in the south of the island, with the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site of Galle Fort to explore. A Portuguese fleet that was bound for the Maldives in 1503, but was blown off course, and landed on the shores of Galle. It is thought that the name Galle derives from the Portuguese. It is said that the Portuguese heard a cock crowing and named the area Galo mean cock in Portuguese. However, others say it derives from the Sinhala gala which means rock. Either way the name Galle has remained.
The Portuguese were the first to build a fort in Galle, that they called Santa Cruz, but in 1640 the Dutch took over and destroyed much of the original Portuguese fort.
During the 17th century, Galle was the main shipping port, until the British came along and moved this shipping port to Colombo. But Galle still handles some shipments today.
Things to do in Galle
Most of the things to do in Galle are within the Galle Fort, but what colonial wonders will you find.
Location: Rampart Street
Opening times: 24/7
Located on the southern part of the Fort. During the Dutch period, they put this to good use! If there were any incoming ships, a signal from the top of the bastion which was located at the flag point, would warn these ships of danger. They would also fire muskets from Pigeon Island to further alert the ships of danger.
The only thing left here, are the foundations of the bastion, but this high point gives great views across the ocean. It is here that you can get the best spots to watch the sun set, while daring locals can be seen jumping into the water.
Yummy street food venders sell fresh fruit with pepper or chili sprinkled on the top.
Location: Queen Street
Opening times: 24/7
Reminders of both British and Dutch are resembled here at the Old Gate. The British coat of arms just above the arch, with the reminders of Dutch with VOC in the center, which is Dutch for Verenigade Oostindische Compagnie (translation Dutch East India Company), plus the unforgettable cockerel which is believed to have named the area.
Location: Lighthouse Street
Opening Times: 24/7
The main entrance and exit to the Fort are the more recent addition. The British built the Main Gate to allow the flow of traffic, which was getting heavier as the years went on.
This section of Galle Fort is the most fortified due to facing the land, and would have had a moat built by the Portuguese, sadly the moat has gone, but what is left are the fortifications of the fort walls.
Location: Hospital Street
Opening times: 24/7
Located on the southern end of the Fort, and a more recent addition, built by the British in 1848. Sadly, the first lighthouse was burnt down in 1936. A new lighthouse was built, and has to be one of the most iconic attraction in the fort.
Location: Hospital Street
Opening times: 8am – 11pm
This has to be our favourite spot in Galle Fort. With lovely boutique shops and restaurants, within the old colonial Dutch Hospital. We found the best place to eat, which we will go into more detail later.
While sitting back and having some delicious food, make the most of the lovely views out across Galle coastline.
Galle International Cricket Ground
Location: Main Street
Cost: Price of a match
Opening times: 9am – 12pm
If your cricketing fans like we are, then you’ll want to visit Galle International Cricket Ground, to watch a match. While watching a match, you’ll see the grand Galle Fort in the backdrop, distracting you.
It was once a racecourse built by the British, but later changed to a Cricket ground. Only recently has it held international cricket matches.
If you want great views of the cricket ground, or watch a match for free, then join many of the locals and tourist alike by sitting on the Fort ramparts at the moon bastion, near the Galle Fort Clock Tower.
Galle Fort Clock Tower
Location: Moon Bastion
Opening times: 24/7
Located inside the Fort walls, and another iconic part of the fort, which can be admired from Galle International Cricket Ground, or from the moon bastion in Fort.
This tall tower was built on a former guard room in about 1883, however it looks to be much older. The architectural design looks medieval, and rather reminds us of a castle turret that’s found in England.
Where to stay
Where you stay is important, there are a few factors you need to take into account before booking that place, these are:
- Price – This always has to be within our budget
- Location – how easy will it be to get around Colombo
- Transport links – where are the transport links to get us to and from the airport, and to different locations within or outside of the town.
- Reviews – what are the reviews from other travelers who has stayed here
Here are just some of the places to stay in Galle with a budget in mind, but also taking into account the above factors.
For a real budget friendly place to stay, then Pilgrim’s Hostel is the place, with mixed form rooms costing about $13.00 and located within the Fort walls. Making this a great location for sightseeing.
We have heard really good reviews about the accommodation, and the facilities available.
Pedlar’s Inn Hostel
Another great hostel to stay in, within the fort walls. The hostel is said to have great room facilities, but most rooms will have fans, with a small number of rooms air-conditioned. Many tourists have said that the hostel has bike hire and breakfast available.
Seagreen Guest House
Located within Galle Fort, and with great views of the ramparts. This is said to be a lovely little guest house to stay in. Other tourists who have stayed here, have commented that the rooms are air conditioned, making it a comfortable stay.
How to get around Galle
The best way to get around Galle is on foot. Everything within Galle Fort is within walking distance and most of it is flat ground. However, there are other means on getting to Galle and around. Here are some of the options:
The closest airport to Galle is Bandaranaike in Negombo. The easiest way to get to Galle from the airport, is via a taxi. You can pick up a taxi from the many taxi ranks in the arrival hall at the airport.
If you have already got a hotel booking, it might be a good idea to enquire with the hotel, if they can arrange an airport pick up, for which the driver will be waiting for you in the arrival’s hall.
If you are planning to get public transport, then you’ll need to go via Colombo, as there’s no direct routes to Galle.
There are bus services to and from the airport to Colombo, for quicker journey times, you’ll want to choose a bus that takes the expressway.
There are plenty of buses that link the capital with Galle or to the small towns along the coast road.
There are two bus routes to Galle from Colombo. One bus route which is longer, but more scenic will take the coast route. While the other bus will take you via the expressway, making journey times to Galle only an hour and a half away. This is the more expensive route, and you can pick air-conditioned buses, which will make it more comfortable.
We took the bus to Galle from Colombo, and took the expressway. We caught the bus from Maharagama, and was able to do a day trip to Galle. A day trip to Galle from Colombo is achievable, and if you are pressed for time, is a great idea. If you are someone who is a slow traveler, then we would recommend staying in Galle for at least one night if not two.
Taking a train to Galle can be the most scenic way of travelling, by taking in the coast route. There are trains from Colombo, and other towns along the coast such as Hikkaduwa that stop in Galle.
You can choose between second and third class, whilst train prices are a little more expensive than taking the bus.
If you are hiring a car, then travelling to Galle will be simple and easy, especially if you are planning a trip to a rural part of Sri Lanka that doesn’t have easy access via public transport.
Driving in Sri Lanka, can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, and stressful. In our opinion, hiring a car is a good option only if you are heading to a rural location.
A really good way to get around is via tuk tuk. Their small and compact meaning they can get through traffic with relative ease. This is often our prefer method of getting around Colombo, but not always the cheapest depending on where we are going.
We would recommend downloading the Pickme and Uber app. You can use the app to purchase a taxi ride, which includes tuk tuk’s, or vehicles. The good thing about these apps, is that you put in your pick up and drop off location, and will give you a price that you will pay at the end. This means, the drivers can’t increase the price of the ride when they feel like it, but also you can share your taxi ride details with a friend or family. This makes it a safer way to travel.
In our opinion this is the best way to get around! We will walk everywhere, unless the distance is too far. But with Galle, the area is flat, and most things to do in Galle are within the Fort, and easily assessable on foot.
This is the best budget friendly way to get around, knowing that if you walk most places, you’ll be saving money, but just think of how healthy it will be on you, and that it is more environmentally friendly way to get around too.
- Always try and haggle a good price for goods and services, and always shop around. As foreign tourists, the locals will often increase the price to double if not triple the price that a local will pay. Therefore, you should get the best price by haggling. If you are not happy, walk away, as you could get a better deal elsewhere.
- If you are catching a tuk tuk that is not pre booked, always take a metered tuk tuk.
- When you agreed a price on the mileage rate with a tuk tuk or taxi driver, just be careful that they do not take you a longer route to the destination, so that they can charge you more for the journey.
- Be careful when it comes to tuk tuk drivers that stop you at the side of the road. Some will try to offer to take you to a good jewellery shop to sell you goods. A family member who was travelling in Sri Lanka got caught with this, and was taken to a jewellery shop but was locked in for security. This however became a scary situation for them. So just be careful!
- Always tell a friend or family member the details of the taxi or tuk tuk you are taking. With Pickme or Uber, you can share your travel details with your family member or friend. If they don’t hear from you, they can raise the alarm.
- If you decide to walk to take in the scenery, you will get approached a number of times by tuk tuk drivers to take you to your destination. Each time just decline if you do not wish to go by tuk tuk.
- If you are a female traveller, or solo female traveller, be careful in the evenings or when it is dark. We as female travellers will never go out in the evening unless we have a male friend accompanying us. This is because, it isn’t safe in the evening and late in the night for females to be alone, especially when taking a taxi or tuk tuk.
Where to eat
We love Sri Lankan food, it has so much flavour, spices, and just all round delicious. There is no other country that in our opinion could compare to Sri Lankan food.
So, when you’re on holiday in Galle, you’ll want to eat these delicious dishes. Why not check out our post on Staple Foods of Sri Lanka. We detail the staple foods, how to eat in Sri Lanka, and more.
If you are looking for somewhere to eat in Galle, then look no further than the Old Dutch Hospital:
A minute by Tuk Tuk
We happen to stumble upon this place on our first visit to Galle, and just loved the food. So, on our second trip to Galle, we had to eat here again.
If you are looking for good food, then A minute by Tuk Tuk is the place to come. You can select from a menu of western food, or Sri Lankan food. On our first visit, we chose a burger and a prawn curry with roasted bread.
The Burger was good, but the prawn curry was incredible. It was full of flavour, and spice. On our second visit we ordered the prawn curry and roasted bread for a second time.
In our opinion the food is reasonably priced, and well worth stopping for delicious food here.
We have heard some amazing things about Dairy King. If you are looking for a nice cooling dessert, then Dairy King is the place to come. They serve ice cream in different flavours, along with cake, all at a budget friendly price.
Mamas Galle Fort Café
If you are looking for a family run place, that serves authentic Sri Lankan curry dishes, then you really should visit Mamas Galle Fort Café. We have heard the food is great, and they offer cooking classes, should you decide to have a try at making a fresh and spicy Sri Lankan Curry.
We hope you enjoy Sri Lankan food just as much as we do.
Not everyone, including us are made of money and can’t afford to go on expensive holidays. Having said this, we are still able to travel a lot, and abroad for two simple reasons. One we save hard to enjoy our travels, but two we budget. On every trip we make, we always budget, we set a daily budget that we can spend, and calculate what we expect to pay on sightseeing, food, accommodation and transport. If we didn’t do this, we would spend all our money on just the one trip.
It is for this reason that budgeting is so important for any trip.
We want to help you, travel more, but on a budget. By following these simple tips, you will not only have an amazing experience, but will be able to travel more.
- Plan and research your trip in advance – Galle’s a budget friendly city to visit, especially with the exchange rate from £s to Rs. But you still need to consider budgeting for your trip, as it could become costly on you if you don’t.
- Book your attractions online where possible – not only will booking your attractions online in advance save time, in most cases you can save money too.
- Walk as much as possible – We will walk everywhere and will try to avoid public transport. Not only because it is the cheapest way to explore a city, but you could miss out on the local area, if traveling via public transport.
To give you an idea of what you could be looking at for your trip to Galle, check out the table below:Galle Travel Costs
Well, there we have it, the ultimate travel guide: Things to do in Galle. We hope that you found this useful, and enjoy Galle as much as we do.
After reading this, is there somewhere that you would love to visit? Have you maybe been to Galle? Maybe this brought back some amazing memories! Is there anywhere that you visited, but we didn’t mention, that must be included? Then let us know about your experiences of Galle in the comments below, we would love to hear from you!
If you are looking for a little bit of beach time, after your adventures in Galle, why not head down to Mirrisa and check out the things to do there as well!.
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Have you visited Galle? What was your highlight? Maybe we didn’t cover something that you think is worth mentioning? If you haven’t visited Galle yet, what would be at the top of your list? We would love to hear from you, just leave a comment below!
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