The origins of the Galle Fort lie in a storm that happened 500 years ago when a Portuguese ship blew off course and landed in Galle harbor. The Portuguese founded the permanent settlement which the Dutch built into a fortified city starting in 1663. The British took over control of Galle and preserved the present day Galle Fort. It is the finest example of a preserved European fort and is a living microcosm of Sri Lankan history and culture.
Many stormy centuries later, the Fort is now designated an UNESCO World Heritage site. Moorish traders, Portuguese adventurers, Dutch merchants and English colonialists have all left their legacies and thereby contributed to its unique character and history.
These days, the Galle Fort is a warm and breezy place, some streets bustling in the morning, but the afternoons and evenings are quite and serene. The coral lime, stone and stucco wall form its bastions and ramparts serve to protect the approximately 400 buildings inside it from the world outside, as it did on the 26th December 2004 when the tsunami broke through the lower gates of the Fort. The waves flowed out again very quickly and left no major structural damage.
Traders and colonialists have given way to an interesting mix of different cultures and religions: Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Sinhalese and Tamils live congenially side by side with a growing number of Europeans and Westerners looking to be a part of Galle’s community.
The bells and chants of the respective religious rites mingle peacefully at various times of the day. The narrow streets of the Fort are lined with colonial building, each with a unique history.
The Fort Printers, for instance, is believed to have Dutch era foundations but the building was substantially enlarged in the British era after 1796, hence its high ceilings and window designated to catch any cooling breezes. On the hold main gateway of the Fort you will find the British crest set above the archway on the outside.
On the outside of the wall, you will find the Dutch coat of arms and the monogram of the Dutch East India Company. An early morning or evening walk around the Fort’s walls and ramparts, a favorite pastime for the locals, is the ideal way for guests to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the Fort.
You may then also run into the coconut vendor or the baker plying their trade from pushcarts. Another favorite pastime is to watch the cricket being played on the cricket pitch just outside the Fort, on the medieval Ramparts, no entry fees are charged…
Galle Fort is now home to a selection of luxury villas and boutique hotels and a number of excellent restaurants and cafes to welcome visitors, and yoga sessions and spa treatments are also available within our historic walls.
As a base to explore Galle and the many attractions of the beaches, sea and countryside around Galle itself, there is no more interesting experience than to stay within the Galle Fort.