Welcome to Galle – an European City in Sri Lanka!

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Galle was the second city we visited in Sri Lanka, after a few days in the capital Colombo. We didn`t particularly like Colombo, and were afraid that all cities of Sri Lanka would be as noisy and dirty, but luckily not!

The small city of Galle is really lovely and peaceful, full of color and texture. We totally fell in love with Galle! The city consists of a new part and an old part. We didn`t spend much time in the new part, so this blog post will be all about the old city.

The old part of Galle, Galle Fort, is as its name implies surrounded by a big city wall. The city was built by the Dutch, beginning in 1663, and even today it is an amazing collection of structures dating back through the centuries.



Even though Galle Fort is old and pretty on the facade, it is still a working community, with administrative offices, courts, cafes, companies, shops, restaurants, hotels and so on. The city houses artists, writers, photographers, designers, and poets, and a third of the about 400 houses are owned by foreigners.



The city is like no other city in Sri Lanka, and wandering around through the narrow streets makes you even forget that you are in Sri Lanka. It actually feels like walking the streets of a medieval city in Europe! Really strange in a way.


The Europeans have been here a long time, the first ones were the Portuguese as early as 1505 when one of their fleets bound for the Maldives was blown off course and ended up in the harbor of Galle. It was apparent they who gave the city its name, after hearing a cock (galo in Portuguese) crowing. If that is true or not, no one knows. Another theory is that the name Gale derives from the Sinhala word gala (meaning rock), which is probably more likely thinking about it :).

It was also the Portuguese who first built the Fort, in small scale, for protection against the kingdom of Sri Lanka. However, it was the Dutch that really made Galle into the size it is today and made it the main port for Sri Lanka for more than 200  years, welcoming a lot of ships traveling from between Europe and Asia. Today Colombo is the main port.




Inside the Galle Fort, there is also churches, mosques, and temples – a picture on how many religions living peacefully side by side in Sri Lanka.



Instead of focusing on ticking off every museum in Galle Fort, we wandered around along the narrow streets on our on discovery walk. On our way, we found both dancing snakes and graffiti art.


A really nice walk in Galle is on the actual wall that surrounds the Galle Fort. We were in Galle on two day-trips, one on a weekday and one on a Sunday. Apparently, the locals also like going for strolls on the wall on Sunday afternoon. The wall was packed with Sri Lankan families, many of them bringing food and having a picnic in the afternoon sun. So nice!

There are a lot of nice and small hotels and guesthouses in Galle Fort, but they are expensive, and there is really no need to stay in the old city overnight. The nightlife is not much, and the restaurants usually close at around ten o`clock in the evening.



As the sun went down, it gave us a breathtaking sunset.



After a long day in beautiful Galle Fort, it was nice with a real Sri Lankan dinner – rice and curry! We had chicken in curry, rice, papadums, beetroot with cinnamon, sweet potatoes, green beans, dhal, and sambals. It was really good! We ate at Mama`s, where they have a rooftop restaurant with a spectacular view of the city! I can really recommend this restaurant, delicious food!

We really enjoyed our two day-trips to Galle Fort! Such a beautiful and peaceful city with a great vibe! Lots of cozy cafes, small shops, and restaurants. A day trip to Galle Fort should be on every visitor to Sri Lanka’s list. Hope to come back one day…..

Where to Stay in Galle

Galle Fort Hotel
We stayed here in February 2017, and it is one of the most unique hotel stays we have ever had. From the moment we entered the hotel lobby we felt very welcomed! The manager showed us around the hotel and told us the amazing history of what the building used to be during the Dutch period and how they turned it into this beautiful boutique hotel that it is today.

Galle Fort Hotel
The entrance at Galle Fort Hotel

The hotel perfectly blends modern luxury and traditional Sri Lankan ambiance. Originally a part of the old Fort itself, this beautifully restored colonial-style mansion's architecture adds much character to this high-end boutique hotel.

The rooms are large and kept in the classic style, while still providing all modern comforts. We got the Admiral Cheng Ho Suite, and it was so beautiful! There is also a lovely pool. Located centrally in Galle Fort, it's an ideal base from which to explore the area. You will not regret booking a room here!
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Antic Guesthouse

Antic Guesthouse is an affordable alternative to the many boutique hotels in Galle. Ideally located inside the Fort on a quiet side street. The interior was decorated by a local artist and is modern, light and colorful. The rooms are spacious, clean and have air-con, TV and fast, free wifi. The owner and staff are renowned for their friendliness and will surely welcome you with open arms. They also serve a delicious breakfast.
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Albert Fort Hotel

Albert Fort HotelWe walked past this hotel several times, and it is so lovely and charming. The rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated, and the guests that we talked to highlighted the big and delicious breakfast. It is very well located in the middle of the Galle Fort town itself, close to everything there is to see.
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Would you like to visit Galle Fort if you go to Sri Lanka? If so, we`d love to hear about it in the comment area below! If you like this blog post and find it useful, please share and like it on social media! Thank you so much! 🙂

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About The Writer Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.


  1. Hi Maria! Pics are still so Lively.. Galle is totally a different city apart from other parts of Sri Lanka. You can See so much of Dutch in it. I hope you enjoyed your galle Visit.

    • Thank you so much! We love Galle and was actually back visiting it again two days ago. Galle was just as nice this time as when we visited it for three years ago. It sure is very special and unique compared to other cities in Sri Lanka.


  2. Hello, Maria. I am currently planning my first trip to Sri Lanka and thinking of visiting Galle, but not to stay there overnight.
    I would like to ask, how did you manage to bring your stuffs during your visit in Galle? Did you rent a car and stored your stuffs there? Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Hi Lynn,

      We stayed at a hotel on the west coast (in Mirissa the first time, and in Weligama the second time) and did day trips to Galle, leaving all our stuff at the hotel. There might be storage lockers at the train station in Galle, I am not sure.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!


        • Hi Eder,

          We did a combination of trains and rented a car with a driver to get around Sri Lanka. There are no trains in the north part of Sri Lanka, but there are train tracks in the middle and south of the island. Trains are cheap, but they are not very fast.


      • Do you recommend staying in Galle – and where can we stay at a family resort that is still close enough to enjoy Galle?
        thanks, Maria! Enjoyed your post!

        • Hi Tallie,

          It is not a must staying the night in Galle, since most restaurants close at 22:00 in the evening. Galle does not have a beach either, so a day-trip to Galle is what most people do.

          The closest beach place is Unawatuna (a 20-30 min drive) where there are several nice family resorts.

          Have a great trip to Sri Lanka and enjoy Galle!



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