Galle is picturesque, exciting, and completely unexpected for someone who has done little to no research on what the beachside town is about. The erstwhile Dutch occupation has left behind a lot of beautiful architecture, cobblestone streets, and pastel buildings, that are now a delight to walk through even in the scorching heat of the southern Sri Lankan sunshine.
1. Visit Galle Fort/Dutch Fort
The most notable of its landmarks is of course the Galle Fort which stands proud & tall in the heart of town. It is the most visited landmark, and is often extremely crowded. Entire buses of people get off here to explore its interiors. It is a popular spot for school field trips as well, so expect to see students in uniform walking in pairs around the fort (and also reminisce on your school field trips! )It is built in an interesting mix of Portuguese & Dutch architecture, because it was first built by the Portuguese in the late 16th century, and then fortified by the Dutch in the mid 17th century.
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2. Walk through the cobblestone streets
Get lost in the by-lanes around the main fort area - you actually might, as street signs are few, and there are smaller roads that offshoot from the larger ones. But you won’t mind getting lost here, as the streets are lined with home grown boutiques, restaurants, & cafes.
Galle is the perfect place for some retail therapy, and it has to offer Sri Lanka’s finest, all in one place! Everything that you could think of is here in beautifully renovated heritage buildings, making every shop a visual treat- this is retail therapy at its best!
3. Eat at the restaurants
The streets of Galle have so many cute cafes & restaurants, that you will want to try out more than one! Not many of them have the license to serve beer, so when you find one that does, it is definitely worth a stop on the hot day that you are there!
4. Try the Gelato!
The gelato in Galle deserves special mention, because, they truly are amazing! I tried the gelato at two different tiny gelato parlours, and really, one was better than the next! I was there on an extremely hot day, so the gelatos really were a godsend!
5. Stop by the Dutch Reformed Church
It was Built in 1755 and is also known as Groote Kerk. Step in to check out the architecture, or even to escape the heat for a little while. There are tombstones of the Dutch dating back centuries which are interesting to look at as well. It is the oldest Protestant church in the country!
6. Surprise yourself at the Meeran Mosque!
A white colonial building that could easily be mistaken for yet another cathedral from the Dutch/ Portuguese occupation- that is the wow factor at the Meeran Mosque! The unique architecture is an interesting mix of baroque, Victorian, and Islamic accents.The century old mosque has beautiful tiled flooring and stained glass windows. The mosque was built on an Islamic prayer space that has been in existence for over 300 years. Women are allowed to visit the main areas of the mosque provided appropriate clothing is worn (clothing that covers your shoulders and ankles usually)
7. Check out the Galle Fort Flea Market
If you are in town on the first Sunday of the month, head to the flea at the fort. It is an open air bazaar where small local businesses come to showcase their eclectic collection of wares. You can expect to find antiques, clothing, jewellery, artwork & more! There will be music & great food as well-so put this on your calendar!
When: 10AM- 4Pm
Where: Law Court Square
8. Keep an eye out for vintage cars
For a vintage car fanatic, Galle is an absolute treat! I am no fanatic, nor am I well versed with cars of any type, but even I loved looking at the vintage cars parked by the side of beautiful heritage buildings.
9. Shop for spices
How can you leave Sri Lanka without your loot of its fragrant spices. Head to the market in Galle to buy fresh spices to take back home. I got myself a HUGE stash of cinnamon. You can get spices from the shops/ boutiques in the tourist district as well, but getting it at the market where the locals buy it is the best option financially. The shopkeeper was a friendly guy who took the time out to show & explain the different spices he had & what they were used for. Apparently, there are two types of cinnamon-one that is better for desserts, and the other for savoury dishes-I did not know that!
10. Eat at a local's home
Keep an eye out for boards outside people's homes welcoming you in for a meal. The boards are rather inconspicuous, so you will really have to to be on the lookout for them. It was a welcome change for me to eat a home cooked meal served by the woman who made it, whilst her children sat beside watching TV, and doing schoolwork.
11. Ride the colourful tuk-tuks!
Sri Lanka's rickshaws are the most colourful I have come across. Even if you are exploring the country by a private car/ scooter, take a short ride in one of these beauties!
12. Go to Unawatuna Beach
If you are done with shopping for the day, take a ten minute tuk-tuk ride to Unawatuna beach, and relax on white sand beach.
13. Scuba Diving at Unawatuna
There are many scuba diving centres at Unawatuna. Go for a dive with an instructir, or even sign up for a course to get certified. There are PADI certified dive centres, and those without PADI certification. If you are on a budget, it is highly likely that the non PADI certified centres will be cheaper. It is good to check out a few centres to get an idea of prices before you sign up.
14. Canoeing at Unawatuna
Go canoeing through the lagoons of Unawatuna. There are tours you can book online for the same.
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