Exploring the Galle Fort is the main highlight of any tourist visits to Sri Lanka. It is not an exaggeration or hyperbole to say that the Galle Fort is not a place to miss if you visit Sri Lanka.
Built in the 16 hundreds by the then Dutch Colonials, it is situated overlooking the entrance to the Galle harbor a strategic port of the country for millennia. Since then the English and then the locals have added a lot to the monument, enhancing it and its beauty and value. There are a lot of places and things to see in the Galle Fort, and you might never discover them in a single trip but you can easily cover the highlights of the Fort within a day, and this is how.
Start the Day Early
We cannot stress this enough; you have to start the day early. Yes, the Galle Fort is on the edge of the sea and can is quite breezy but sometimes when the sun gets high in the air and the breeze dies down it can get quite hot and humid. So start early and head right over to the ramparts before they get hit from the sun.
The best place to start should be one of the Fort’s biggest landmarks, The Fort Gates. This is one of the main entrances to the fort and is situated between the Sun Bastion and the Moon Bastion. The outside of the gates, above the gate arch, hosts the British Coat of Arms while the inner side sports the Dutch East Indies Company VOC coat of arms. This entrance opens up to the Cobbled Court Square that is encircled by the Sri Lanka Police building as well as the Magistrate Courts building.
Without further delay, you can head over to the Galle Lighthouse, which is situated right on the ramparts. Standing over 92 feet high, it was rebuilt by the British Administration to replace the original wooden one which was burnt to the ground back in 1936. The Lighthouse is still fully functional and is currently operated by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.
With this initial foray, you can make your way along the ramparts of the fort looking at the ancient gun portals, the supply walkways, ammunition depots and prison cells that dot its structure and marvel at the amazing architecture that has withstood the trials of time.
The Landmark Buildings
Once you have gone exploring the Galle Fort ramparts you will notice that it has gotten a bit warmer with the sun beating down. This is the perfect time to head indoors. Your first stop should always be the National Maritime Archeology Museum. This museum was opened in 2010 and consists of mostly the historical remnants of Galle’s Maritime past. You can find exciting things such as artillery guns, maps, and naval crafts, barrels, earthenware, etc., all left behind in the centuries that Galle was used as a port by vessels of many nations.
The next main landmark is the Anglican All Saints Church that stands right across the street to the museum. The church consists of an imposing Gothic style, and was built On Friday, 30th October 1868, the foundation of the new church was laid by Calverly Claughton, 2nd Bishop of Colombo. The weathercock on top has come down to a lower perch. The old Bell with its Latin inscription in memory of George Justus Schrader, which hung in the Bell loft over the aisle of the Church, is now in the Cathedral of Christ the Living Savior. The church stands out as one of the most beautiful Anglican Churches in Sri Lanka.
The lesser-known Dutch Reformed Church is another famous landmark inside the Fort. Built in 1640, and remodeled between 1752 and 1755. The church is paved with gravestones from the Old Dutch cemetery. There is an old organ of 1760 vintage in the church where services are held and a pulpit made of calamander wood from Malaysia is used.
Built by the early Arab traders who visited Sri Lanka, who are the ancestral fathers of Sri Lankan Moors, the Meeran Jumma Masjid Mosque is an important landmark to the large Muslim community who live within the Fort. The area is also called the Old Arab Quarters and though the Mosque is over three hundred years old, it is still very much in use. It is an architecturally beautiful building, which rises majestically with its unrivaled white splendor, amidst the background of the fort.
The Streets of the Fort
It is when the sun has gone down and the lights start to come on that you will be able to appreciate the most under-valued landmark within the fort, its streets. The Fort streets are a thing of its own dotted with hotels, restaurants, curio and souvenir shops, you can get lost for time exploring them. When the lights come on and the streets are lit, they make for a really beautiful and magical atmosphere to roam in.
Exploring the Galle Fort is truly unique once in a lifetime experience. You won’t want to miss out on that.