In the mood for a vacation? Here's why I fell in love with Sri Lanka

From sweet little eateries to historical sites, Galle Fort is one tourist spot that has something for everyone
Updated Oct 15, 2015 12:33pm

It was a bit of a struggle for our rental van to navigate the narrow alleyways within Galle Fort to reach our hotel. As I looked out the window, I couldn't wait to check in, dump our luggage, and head straight back out to explore. I fell in love with Sri Lanka a little bit during a recent vacation, but the Galle Fort was probably my favourite part of the trip.

We arrived around lunchtime and checked in at Mrs Khalid’s Guest House, a homely family-run bed and breakfast, located right next to the fort wall along the seafront. As we walked in, we spotted Mrs Khalid reading the Quran, and she seemed to have been anticipating the arrival of the "girls from Pakistan".

The front facade of Mrs Khalid's Guest House – Photo by author
The front facade of Mrs Khalid's Guest House – Photo by author

Her son, who runs the guest house, welcomed us in and led us up to two rooms that opened out to a balcony overlooking the water.

Khalid’s is also right across the street from Lucky Fort Restaurant, which I have not been to myself, but have heard great reviews. Before we left for Colombo the next morning, we were treated to an amazing breakfast spread, with fresh fruit, smoothies, a mountain of egg hoppers (a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast item) and freshly brewed tea.

Our first stop was Crepe-ology for a spot of lunch, which came highly recommended on TripAdvisor and did not disappoint. Run by Seema and Murray Moceri, originally from London and Seattle respectively, this family-friendly spot has impeccable food and drinks and incredibly quick service. The owners are warm and friendly, and can often be seen checking in and chatting with customers.

The Pesto Mesto Crepe from Crepe-ology - Photo by author
The Pesto Mesto Crepe from Crepe-ology - Photo by author
Crepe-ology's Banoffee Crepe - Photo by author
Crepe-ology's Banoffee Crepe - Photo by author

Lunch was followed by a scoop of delicious coffee gelato from Pedlar’s Inn Gelateria, another popular spot in Galle Fort and with good reason. Feel free to skip Pedlar’s Inn Cafe though; dinner there was very disappointing.

Coffee gelato from Pedlar's Inn was the perfect end to our meal - Photo by author
Coffee gelato from Pedlar's Inn was the perfect end to our meal - Photo by author

About two hours away from Colombo by car, the old town of Galle and its fortifications have been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Galle was founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century. In the 1700s, the Dutch conquered Galle and built it into a fortified city. Galle was an important port in the region until the British came along the 1790s and established Colombo as their main commercial hub.

Though Galle has now expanded beyond the walls of the old fort, it is a major tourist attraction and an important historical and archaeological site.

The tsunami of December 26, 2004 caused devastating damage to certain parts of Galle, but the centuries-old fort walls remarkably broke the deadly waves, and protected the buildings within from any significant damage.

This Tsunami Memorial serves as poignant reminder of the 2004 catastrophe - Photo by the author
This Tsunami Memorial serves as poignant reminder of the 2004 catastrophe - Photo by the author

In 2007, the Galle Heritage Foundation, with assistance from the Government of Netherlands, set about restoring dozens of buildings within the fort walls to preserve the original Dutch influences on the architecture.

Now the interior of the fort is a maze of cobbled alleyways peppered with cafes and restaurants, shops, hotels, and residences. It’s not a particularly large area and you could walk around the entire fort within a couple of hours.

The Galle Fort has been reconstructed into a charming maze of cobbled alleyways, and offers tourists plenty to explore - Photo by the author
The Galle Fort has been reconstructed into a charming maze of cobbled alleyways, and offers tourists plenty to explore - Photo by the author

Scroll through for more snapshots of Galle Fort and some inspiration for your next holiday!

The Dutch Reformed Church was built by the Dutch in the 1750s and restored in 2004 with assistance from the Government of Netherlands - Photo by author
The Dutch Reformed Church was built by the Dutch in the 1750s and restored in 2004 with assistance from the Government of Netherlands - Photo by author
The Methodist Church in Galle Fort - Photo by author
The Methodist Church in Galle Fort - Photo by author
The Jumma Mosque in Fort Meeran is around 300 years old - Photo by author
The Jumma Mosque in Fort Meeran is around 300 years old - Photo by author
The Galle Fort Hotel was originally a Dutch mansion and warehouse - Photo by author
The Galle Fort Hotel was originally a Dutch mansion and warehouse - Photo by author
The Galle Library  is considered to be one of the oldest in Sri Lanka - Photo by author
The Galle Library is considered to be one of the oldest in Sri Lanka - Photo by author
The Pointe de Galle Light is the oldest lighthouse of Sri Lanka and dates back to 1848 - Photo by author
The Pointe de Galle Light is the oldest lighthouse of Sri Lanka and dates back to 1848 - Photo by author
Keepsakes from your trip can be picked up at art shops such as this one - Photo by author
Keepsakes from your trip can be picked up at art shops such as this one - Photo by author
Quaint eateries like Elita Restaurant abound in Galle Fort - Photo by author
Quaint eateries like Elita Restaurant abound in Galle Fort - Photo by author
Little cafes like Spoons add to the diversity of Galle Fort's culinary scene - Photo by author
Little cafes like Spoons add to the diversity of Galle Fort's culinary scene - Photo by author
A souvenirs shop in Galle Fort - Photo by author
A souvenirs shop in Galle Fort - Photo by author
A local of Galle Fort - Photo by author
A local of Galle Fort - Photo by author
Galle Fort is inhabited by Moor families, as well as the Dutch, German, English, Portuguese and Sinhalese - Photo by author
Galle Fort is inhabited by Moor families, as well as the Dutch, German, English, Portuguese and Sinhalese - Photo by author