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The UNESCO-listed Galle Fort is one of Sri Lanka’s most well-preserved historic gems. It was originally built by the Portuguese in 1588 and revamped later by the Dutch, and the European influences are still very much visible today. As you stroll along the quaint streets of the walled old town, you can’t help but notice the slightly jarring fusion of colonial architecture and Asian culture - think Dutch-style villas and imposing mosques. While the bustle of the city centre is never far away, the fort offers a peaceful retreat where you can easily spend a few hours soaking up the old-world charm.
If you’re not much of a history buff, don’t worry. Galle Fort is also a great place to experience the city’s modern side. Foodies and shopaholics are in for a treat. An assortment of boutique shops and chic restaurants now line the old streets, while many of the larger historic buildings have been converted into museums and plush hotels. The fort is also home to a vibrant community, where locals take evening strolls along the ramparts, teenagers play cricket and weekly markets showcase some of the best local cuisine.
With so much to see and do, a tour guide is recommended to bring the culture and history of the fort alive. Must-see landmarks include the Dutch Reformed Church, old government building, clock tower and lighthouse, all of which are superb examples of colonial-era architecture. For a more in-depth insight into Galle’s fascinating past, head to the National Maritime Museum and Historic Mansion Museum. There are some beautiful churches, mosques and buddhist temples to explore too.
When you’ve had your fill of historic attractions, why not indulge in some retail therapy? The quirky shops sell all manner of knick-knacks and handmade goods, including clothing, textiles, antiques and jewellery. If you’re looking to pick up some unique souvenirs, don’t miss Barefoot. This charming boutique shop specialises in handwoven homeware and is set inside a restored house and courtyard.
By this time, you’ll probably have worked up quite an appetite. Stop off for a bite to eat at one of the stylish restaurants or cafés and try some tasty local delicacies (Kottu Roti is a favourite among locals and tourists alike). Or if you fancy splashing out, head to the Amangalla Hotel and treat yourself to a sophisticated afternoon tea.
Finish your tour of Galle Fort by heading up to the ramparts to admire the stunning views across the city and sea. The are around Galle Lighthouse offers some spectacularly scenic views of the bay and is the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
Located in the historic city of Galle, Galle Fort is built on a rocky peninsula on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka. It’s just a brief walk from the city centre and is near to the main bus and rail stations. The main gate can be found on the northern side of the fort
There’s no entrance fee, however you may have to pay for individual attractions inside.
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