Lighthouse at Point Utrecht in Galle

Galle – A Dutch Style Walled City in Sri Lanka

This post was last updated on April 10th, 2020 at 09:39 am

If you have any Dutch roots or just looking for a unique city to visit you should not miss Galle. It has been in the hands of the Dutch for a long time, giving the city a Dutch atmosphere. Although the suburbs have not changed much, the atmosphere changes as soon as you enter the walled city center and enter an old colonial city. Located by the ocean this is a unique city.


Galle; a Dutch City in Asia

Galle was built in 1663 by the Dutch and is a unique collection of culture and structure that was applied centuries ago. If you just walk through the city you will come across one beautiful building after the other. And with streets such as Zeeberg Straat, Leynbaanstraat, and de Groote you will find yourself in the Netherlands.


It is not for nothing that the walled city has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1988. The most special thing about the city is that it still has a wonderful vibe. Locals are still doing their thing here and tourism is not yet booming.


Aerial view of the city of Galle, inside stone walls
Aerial view of Galle. It looks kind of cozy between the walls!


Downtown Galle

The city center is protected by a thick defensive wall. Although the city is quite large, it is the fourth city in Sri Lanka, you can walk across the wall in an hour. If you come to Galle, don’t forget to enjoy the magnificent view of the city and the ocean from the city walls.


The inner city, or fort, was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1663 after the Portuguese were chased away. However, the Dutch were not the first to build a fort here.


The Portuguese also had a fort. However, after the Dutch East India Company arrived here in 1640 with twelve ships and more than 2,000 men, the Portuguese quickly disappeared. The city fell into Dutch hands within four days. It was the Dutch who made the wall bigger and stronger to protect the city.


View of the Galle Lighthouse and Fort
View of the Galle Lighthouse and Traditional Buildings


Fun Things to Do in Galle

There is plenty to do in historic Galle. The city has a rich history that can still be seen today. You will find countless colonial buildings that are often built by the Dutch. We have listed the best activities in Galle for you.


1. Visit the Galle Fort and the Lighthouse

An absolute must-see in Galle is the city’s historic fortress. You can hardly escape this attraction, as the entire inner city of Galle is surrounded by the city walls of the old fort.


You can walk around the walls of the old fort around the city. A full loop around the city is about a 4-kilometer walk. During your walk, you will see the old iconic lighthouse and the old clock tower still standing at the fort.


TIP – The sunset is really beautiful at the old fort.


The White Lighthouse in Galle
The White Lighthouse in Galle, overlooking the ocean


2. Visit an Old Dutch Church

In the old center of Galle, you can also find an old Dutch church. This church was built in the year 1752 in the Baroque style. The church floor is filled with Dutch gravestones. So you still encounter enough Dutch names in the church.


Today it is even possible to attend a church service in the building if you feel the need.


3. Visit the Dutch Hospital

At the edge of the fort is the Old Galle Dutch Hospital. This is one of the oldest buildings in Galle. The old hospital was built here during the period of the Dutch East India Company for the Dutch who came to the city.


The hospital has since been converted into a meeting place for hip restaurants and boutiques. You can eat and drink here with a view of the sea.


Old Fort Dutch Hospital in Galle, Sri Lanka
The Old Fort Dutch Hospital


4. Visit the National Museum

Be sure to visit the National Museum if you want to learn more about Galle’s past. In the National Museum, you can learn a lot about the colonial past of the trading city. The museum is located in an old Dutch building and is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 09:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


5. Go Shopping in Galle

In the old city center of Galle, you will find many nice shops and boutiques. You can also shop in the city. Everywhere you look you can see handmade products that are sold in the various shops.


You can hardly walk around here without buying something. Prices in most shops are slightly more expensive than the rest of Sri Lanka.


How to Get to Galle

Galle is easily accessible via various trains and buses. These mainly commute up and down between Colombo and Matara. From these cities, there are connections again to the rest of the country. We give you an overview of the different options.


By Bus

Buses run daily from Colombo to Matara. These buses take 2 to 3 hours to Galle and stop en route in popular places such as Bentota and Hikkaduwa.


Buses run every hour from Matara to Galle. You can catch a bus in Matara and Colombo to other major cities in Sri Lanka such as; Kandy or Sigiriya.


By Train

Galle has a direct train connection with Matara and Colombo. Several trains run daily between the places. The total ride takes 2.5 to 3 hours from Colombo.


It’s a nice train journey, but not as nice as the one from Ella to Kandy. From Colombo and Matara you can take trains to other places in Sri Lanka.



Finding accommodation shouldn’t be a problem in Galle. The city offers a great many accommodations of excellent quality. Galle is one of the more expensive places to stay in Sri Lanka.


When you choose to travel to Galle, it is so nice to stay in the fort. There are plenty of accommodations to be found within the city walls.


TIP – Book your accommodation in Galle here.


Unawatuna beach near Galle
Unawatuna beach is very close to Galle, take a look!


Best Time to Visit Galle

The best time to visit Galle is from December to March. During this period you have the best chance of good weather and as little rainfall as possible.


From April to September there’s the Yala Monsoon, so it can rain a lot during this period. You can still travel around the west of Sri Lanka, but you are more likely to get rain.


The best time to visit Galle differs from other parts of Sri Lanka because of the different monsoon rains that the country has. You can read more information about the best time to visit Sri Lanka and the average weather here.


Tsunami Hitting Galle

In 2004 the city was hit by the tsunami. Not only was the city seriously damaged, but many people also lost family and friends and their homes. Tourists stayed away leaving locals in financial need.


Fortunately, they have rebuilt the city and the city is once again the beautiful city it was before the tsunami hit.


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