Are you looking for the best places to visit in Galle? You’ve come to the right place!
Galle is one of the most beautiful and iconic cities in Sri Lanka. I’ve been there twice and had a great time on both occasions.
With its scenic coastal location, rich history, and striking architecture, it’s an ideal spot to include on any southern Sri Lanka itinerary. Its atmospheric streets whisper tales of the mariners and spice traders of old.
Many of my favourite places to visit in Galle are located inside the famous Galle Fort, one of the best-preserved colonial forts in all of Asia. Whether you’re planning to visit for a day or a week, this guide to Galle has you covered!
🤩 Short on time? Check out this excellent full-day Galle sightseeing tour
19 Best Places to Visit in Galle
Here’s my pick of the best places to visit in Galle and the surrounding area.
1. Galle Dutch Fort: Exploring the Historic Gem
Galle Dutch Fort is a must-see for anyone visiting Galle. This walled fort was actually built by the Portuguese in the 1580s, later fortified by Dutch colonists, and then subsequently reinforced by the British.
Galle Fort is the city’s most famous area. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s steeped in history. Walking through its maze of streets, you’ll see well-preserved colonial buildings, old churches, mosques, and grand colonial mansions.
It’s like an open-air museum, each corner telling stories of Dutch, Portuguese, and British influences. The ramparts themselves offer stunning views of the ocean and are a favourite spot for locals and tourists alike to watch the sunset.
Inside the fort, you’ll find chic cafes, unique shops, and art galleries, all worth a leisurely browse. Exploring Galle Fort is like walking through a living, breathing piece of history.
Price: Free (most of the old town is actually located inside the fort!)
Opening times: 24/7
Location: Galle Dutch Fort, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
2. Galle Fort Lighthouse: An Iconic View of the City
Galle Fort Lighthouse presents a striking image with its towering white structure set against the sky and sea. It’s particularly captivating at dawn and dusk and is a picturesque photo spot.
Galle’s original lighthouse was built by the British in 1848, however, it was destroyed by fire in 1936. The current structure was built (also by the British) close to the original site in 1939.
It has guided ships safely into the harbour ever since, symbolising Galle’s rich maritime history and its enduring connection with the sea.
While you can’t go inside the lighthouse, the area around it is perfect for a leisurely stroll or just to sit and watch the ocean waves. Don’t miss this must-visit spot in Galle Fort.
Location: Galle Fort, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
3. Dutch Reformed Church: A Glimpse into Galle’s Colonial Heritage
The Dutch Reformed Church in Galle, also known as Groote Kerk, is another piece of living history. Built by the Dutch in the mid-18th century, it’s still a working church today and is an embodiment of Galle’s colonial past.
Upon entering, you’re greeted by tall, white walls and a tranquil atmosphere. Inside, the wooden pews, pulpit, and organ whisper tales of a bygone era.
The architecture of the church is a unique blend of Dutch and Sri Lankan influences. It’s a symbol of Galle’s heritage and cultural diversity, blending history with spirituality.
Opening times: 6 AM–9 PM, Mon–Sun
Location: Galle Dutch Fort, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
4. National Maritime Museum: Dive Into the Deep
Also known as the National Maritime Archaeology Museum, the National Maritime Museum in Galle gives a fascinating insight into the oceanic world and Sri Lanka’s relationship with the sea.
Located in a former Dutch warehouse within the fort, it displays marine artefacts and the wealth of aquatic life found in local waters. The museum’s collection spans from marine biology to the history of seafaring in the region.
This museum showcases remnants of shipwrecks, cannons, jewellery and other artefacts recovered from the sea alongside models of whales, sea turtles, and intricate coral structures.
You’ll also learn more about the impact of colonial rule and Galle’s historical importance as a major international trading port. It’s an educational and engaging place, perfect for anyone curious about the ocean and the sailors of old.
Price: 1575 LKR ($4.80) for foreigners, 100 LKR for locals
Opening times: 8:30 AM–4:30 PM, Mon–Sun
Location: Queens St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
5. Galle National Museum: Art and Culture
Housed inside another Dutch colonial building, the Galle National Museum is a great place to learn about Galle’s diverse cultural heritage.
This museum is a treasure trove of traditional artefacts and handicrafts. Traditional masks, ornate jewellery, and rare colonial artefacts all tell the story of Galle’s past.
You can explore a variety of exhibits, including historic photographs of the Galle Dutch Fort, sculptures, and artistic depictions of traditional southern Sri Lankan life
The knowledgeable and helpful staff will happily help enrich your understanding of the exhibits. For a deeper dive, guided tours are also available, providing a comprehensive look at both modern and ancient Sri Lankan culture.
The building is also one of the oldest (possibly the oldest) Dutch-era buildings remaining in the fort area.
Price: 1500 LKR ($4.60) for foreigners, 50 LKR for locals
Opening times: 9 AM–4:45 AM, Tue–Sun (closed Mondays)
Location: Church St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
6. Japanese Peace Pagoda on Rumassala Hill: Serenity and Spirituality
The Japanese Peace Pagoda rises as a symbol of peace and serenity. It stands tall on a hill called Rumassala, between Galle and Unawatuna, near the famous Jungle Beach, and is an ideal spot for meditation and introspection.
The pagoda was built by a group of Buddhist monks from Japan’s Nipponzan Myohoji Order to promote world peace and commemorate 2,600 years since the passing away of Gautama Buddha.
Climbing up to the pagoda, you are treated to sweeping views of the ocean, jungle, and the Galle coastline. It’s a place for quiet contemplation, where the only sounds are the rustling of leaves and distant waves.
The Rumassala hill itself is also steeped in myth in legends.
It’s believed that the Hindu monkey god Hanuman broke off a piece of the Himalayas where medical herbs grew, gathered the herbs, and threw the remains of the giant rock away. This is, supposedly, where it landed.
Today, Rumassala is known for being home to many different species of herbs and plants. It’s also a haven for tropical flora and fauna and is surrounded by hidden beaches. The sunsets and sunrises from here are especially beautiful.
Keep an eye out for wildlife, including monkeys, deer, and crocodiles, as you explore this enchanting hill.
Opening times: 24/7
Location: Jungle Beach Rd, Unawatuna, Sri Lanka
7. Explore Galle’s Historical Mansions: Stepping Back in Time
Galle Fort is home to some of the most magnificent and grand colonial mansions in Sri Lanka.
Exploring these spectacular buildings, with their detailed facades and ornate architecture, feels like stepping back in time to the colonial era.
Visiting these mansions offers a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyles of the colonial elite. Some have been converted into boutique hotels and museums, others lie run down.
There’s even a Historical Mansion Museum on Leyn Baan Street. This contains an assortment of historical artefacts and memorabilia such as clocks, cameras, typewriters, lamps, weapons, and tableware.
Location: Various (throughout the Fort area). The Historical Mansion Museum is located at 39 Leyn Baan St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
8. Galle Markets: A Shopper’s Paradise
Galle has several vibrant markets, full of energy and life. Local vendors sell a colourful array of goods, from fragrant spices to handmade crafts. It’s a true feast for the senses.
These markets are perfect places to go souvenir shopping in Galle. You’ll find handwoven items, textiles, clothing, intricate lace, paintings, spices, Ayurvedic oils, pottery, traditional jewellery, and a wealth of other unique hand-made items.
It’s a great opportunity to sample local foods and snacks too. Some of my favourites include the spicy fried corn cakes and the banana fritters – just follow your nose! There’s also plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables on offer.
When it comes to haggling, if a price is displayed, that’s what you should pay. If not, you can haggle, although always be friendly when asking for discounts or bartering prices.
Bonus points if you try speaking a few words of Sinhala!
Location: Various. Galle Fruit Market is located on Sea St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
9. KiXi: The Best Coffee in Galle!
There are many cafes in Galle. I’ve been to several of them, and my favourite is definitely KiXi. This awesome place has a great vibe, the staff are super friendly, and I think they do the best coffee in Galle.
One of my favourite things about this place is that, if you order an iced coffee (and you probably will, especially if you’re exploring Galle on foot), they include another frozen shot of espresso – in the shape of a cute bear – along with the ice.
This means that, unlike regular iced coffees, when the ice starts melting it doesn’t dilute your drink, which stays at the same strength. Why don’t more places do this?! It’s such a clever idea!
The coffee also tastes superb, and their cakes and other little treats are delicious too.
Opening times: 7:30 AM–9:30 PM, Mon–Sun
Location: 3A Lighthouse St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
10. Galle Clock Tower: A Timeless Landmark
The Galle Clock Tower, located at the entrance to the historic Galle Fort, is a prominent landmark in the city. It was built over a century ago and has stood the test of time, watching over the comings and goings within the fort’s walls.
Take a moment to admire its old-world charm and the intricate mechanism that still keeps time today.
Like many old buildings in Galle, the clock tower’s architecture is a blend of Dutch and British influences. It’s a popular spot for photographs, capturing the essence of Galle’s historical and colonial heritage.
11. Galle International Stadium: Cricket and More
Galle International Cricket Stadium is a favourite among cricket fans for its picturesque setting and lively matches. Nestled close to the fort and the ocean, it’s one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the world.
The first time I visited Galle, by some stroke of luck, the England Lions were playing Sri Lanka here.
I bought a ticket on the spot and enjoyed several hours watching the match alongside the passionate local fans (Sri Lankans love cricket!). It was a fantastic experience.
Outside the ground, you’ll see people watching the match from benches around the edge of the fence. I really like how they’ve set this up, so everybody can watch whether they have tickets or not.
Even on non-match days, it’s still worth a visit for the chance to walk on the outfield. The stadium also offers tours and behind-the-scenes experiences which would make a great addition to any visit to Galle.
I’ve been to various cricket stadiums around the world, and this is one of my favourites. It’s intimate, scenic, and has a fantastic atmosphere.
Visit the Sri Lanka Cricket website for details of upcoming matches and ticket information.
Opening times: 9 AM–5 PM, Mon–Fri, 9 AM–12 PM, Sat (closed Sundays)
Location: Colombo Main Rd, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
12. Old Dutch Hospital Shopping District: Fusion of History and Retail
The Old Dutch Hospital Shopping District in Galle beautifully blends historical architecture with contemporary use. Originally a hospital built by the Dutch, it’s now a lively hub for shopping and dining.
It features boutique stores, cafes, and restaurants, all set against the backdrop of cobbled streets and colonial architecture.
This place offers a contemporary social experience set amidst historical charm. It’s popular with both locals and tourists and is a great place to soak in the atmosphere of Galle today.
There’s a similar place in Colombo too, called the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct.
Opening times: 8 AM–11 PM, Mon–Sun
Location: Hospital St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
13. Meeran Mosque: A Blend of Architecture and Spirituality
Meeran Mosque, with its striking white facade, is a prominent feature of the Galle Fort skyline.
This active place of worship beautifully merges Islamic and colonial Dutch architectural styles. Open to visitors of all faiths, it offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Galle.
The intricately designed wooden doors at the entrance evoke a sense of stepping back in time. Its peaceful interior is ideal for quiet reflection, making it a fitting addition to any historical tour of Galle.
Opening times: 4:30 AM–10 PM, Mon–Sun
Location: 90 Leyn Baan St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
14. Explore Koggala Lake: Serene Beauty and Wildlife
Koggala Lake, just a short drive from Galle, is a tranquil lagoon, home to a few small islands and a diverse range of wildlife. You can take a boat trip across the lake to explore the islands, or simply walk along the serene shores.
It’s a great spot for birdwatchers, with species like kingfishers and sea eagles commonly sighted here. You can also explore local cinnamon plantations and the folklore-rich Madol Doova island.
When I visited Koggala Lake, I met several people fishing here and enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. Despite only being a few kilometres away from Galle, it feels like a world apart from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Location: Koggala, Sri Lanka
15. Galle Fort Library: A Literary Haven
Next to the Dutch Reformed Church, the Galle Fort Library is a hidden gem in Galle. Established in 1832, the library houses an impressive array of books and rare manuscripts.
Its collection spans various genres, reflecting Sri Lanka’s rich literary heritage. The polished wooden shelves, smell of old books, and tranquil ambience will transport you back to a bygone era.
It’s well worth making a short stop here on your Galle itinerary.
Location: Church St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
16. Flag Rock: Sea Views and Sunsets
Flag Rock, at the southern tip of Galle Fort, was historically a Portuguese bastion and a natural lookout point. Today, it’s a popular spot for catching the sunset or taking a break as you walk along the walls of the fort.
Local daredevils often jump from the top of the rock into the sea below. One guy almost convinced me to do the same, but I bottled it at the last minute. Too high, too many rocks!
Nonetheless, it’s a great spot to enjoy sweeping ocean views and is very photogenic. On a clear day, you can see a long way down the coast in both directions.
Location: Flag Rock Bastion, Galle Fort, Sri Lanka
17. All Saints’ Anglican Church: Spiritual Splendor
All Saints’ Anglican Church in Galle is another historical gem in Galle Fort, notable for its Neo-Gothic architecture and significance for Galle’s Christian residents.
Inside, stained glass windows and memorial plaques tell stories of Galle’s history, while its quiet gardens offer a peaceful escape.
The church hosts weekly Sunday services, Bible study groups, and annual events like Christmas Eve and Easter services. These occasions are open to everyone, offering a unique opportunity to experience local religion and culture.
Location: Church St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
18. Sea Turtle Hatcheries: Conservation and Education
Sri Lanka is an important breeding place for several species of endangered sea turtles including the green, olive ridley, and leatherback turtle.
Sadly their populations are in decline, often due to pollution, harmful fishing practices, poaching, and other threats from humans.
There are a few sea turtle hatcheries and conservation centres near Galle. Mahamodara and Habaraduwa are two of the best ones.
These hatcheries work with local fishermen, encouraging them to protect sea turtles as well as motivating them to become involved in sustainable fishing practices.
The Mahamodara Sea Turtle Hatchery is the closest one to Galle itself.
The Habaraduwa is located on the other side of Galle, close to Koggala. So, you could easily visit both Habaraduwa and Koggala as a combined day trip from Galle.
These hatcheries are vital in the fight to protect these endangered creatures. They offer educational tours showing you the journey from egg laying to hatching, and the return of the baby turtles to the ocean.
Opening times: 8 AM–6 PM (speak with staff at the centre if you want to attend a night-time beach patrol)
19. Jungle Beach, Unawatuna: Relaxing in Paradise
Unawatuna, a short distance from Galle, is one of Sri Lanka’s most famous beach destinations. Known for its golden beaches, restaurants, and lively nightlife, it’s a popular holiday spot with visitors from all over the world.
The waters are warm, clear, and teeming with marine life – ideal for swimming and snorkelling. There are a few decent surf spots near here too.
However, the main downside of Unawatuna is that it can get pretty crowded. Compared with Mirissa, Hiriketiya, and other places along the south coast, I’d say Unawatuna feels more commercialised and less unspoilt.
However, there’s one exception to this: Jungle Beach – by far my favourite beach in Unawatuna. It’s a beautiful hidden cove surrounded by lush greenery.
Jungle Beach is much quieter and more secluded than the other beaches in Unawatuna. If you want to escape the crowds and don’t mind the lack of facilities, this tranquil spot is pretty great.
Location: Jungle Beach, Unawatuna, Sri Lanka
Guided Tours of Galle (& Tours from Galle)
There are several excellent guided tours of Galle. Plus, a few great tours of further afield depart from here too. Here are some of the top-rated tours that I recommend.
- Full-Day Galle Sightseeing Trip (includes River Safari, Sea Turtle Sanctuary & Stilt Fishermen)
- Family-Friendly Private Galle City Tour
- Galle Fort & City Cycling Tour
- Sri Lankan Cooking Class in Galle
- Sinharaja Rainforest Tour (includes pickup from Galle)
- Udawalawe National Park Safari Trip (from Galle)
- Yala National Park Safari Experience (from Galle)
How to Get to Galle
It’s easy to get to Galle from most places in Sri Lanka.
The most scenic route is by train, which runs along the coast and offers wonderful sea views and a refreshing breeze.
Buses to Galle are cheap and frequent, but less comfortable than the train.
You could also consider taking a taxi for a comfortable and flexible journey. This is a very convenient way to get to Galle, but is also much more expensive than using public transport.
My favourite way to travel around Sri Lanka is to rent a tuk-tuk and drive yourself. There’s nothing like the freedom this mode of transport gives you. You can stop at beaches and small towns along the way. And it’s also super fun!
No matter which mode of transport you choose for your journey to Galle, it’s sure to be an unforgettable adventure!
Where to Stay in Galle
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, Galle has something for everyone when it comes to accommodation.
From cheap guesthouses to luxurious boutique hotels, the city offers an excellent range of options. Here are some of the top-rated places to stay in Galle:
FAQs About Visiting Galle and the Best Things to Do in Galle
Here are some frequently asked questions about the best things to do in Galle.
Is it worth visiting Galle?
Visiting Galle is definitely worthwhile, it has a rich history, stunning architecture, and beautiful coastal views. Galle offers a perfect blend of culture, history, and scenic beauty.
What is Galle famous for?
Galle is famous for its well-preserved 17th-century Dutch fort and historical Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
How do you spend a day in Galle?
Spend a day in Galle exploring the historic Galle Fort. Stroll through its narrow streets, visit its museums, and enjoy the local cuisine at some of the many excellent cafes and restaurants.
How long to spend in Galle, Sri Lanka?
You can see most of Galle’s main sights in one full day. However, I recommend spending at least a couple of days here so you can enjoy your stay without needing to rush. If possible, try to budget an extra couple of days for day trips from Galle.
Which month is best to visit Galle?
The best time to visit Galle is from December to April when the weather is dry and sunny, making it ideal for exploring and spending time at the beach.
Does Galle have nice beaches?
Galle has some beautiful beaches. Jungle Beach is my favourite one.
Can you swim in Galle?
Yes, you can swim in Galle. There are many beaches throughout the city that provide excellent swimming opportunities. Alternatively, head to Unawatuna and Jungle Beach, which are known for their calm and clear waters.
How far is Colombo from Galle?
Colombo is approximately 130 kilometres from Galle. It’s easily accessible by road or rail.
How long is the train from Colombo Fort to Galle?
The train journey from Colombo Fort to Galle typically takes about two hours, offering scenic coastal views along the route.
Is it worth visiting the Moonstone Mines near Galle?
Personally, I don’t think it’s worth visiting the Moonstone Mines, no. It’s a massive tourist trap and seems more geared up for trying to sell you jewellery rather than actually showing you the process for mining moonstones.
🤩 Check out this great full-day Galle sightseeing tour
Final Thoughts on What to Do in Galle
Galle is a beautiful and unique destination with a lot to see and do. Whether you’re looking for relaxation, adventure, education, or a mixture, you’ll find it here.
Have you ever visited this fantastic coastal city? What are your favourite places to visit in Galle? Let me know below!