Sunnysl Travels

Galle Fort

Galle Fort

The Galle Fort, also known as the Dutch Fort, is a stronghold erected by the Portuguese on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast. This fortress has 14 bastions that are still the best-preserved and best example of a walled city created by Europeans in Asia, displaying a blend of European architectural styles with South Asian customs. Within the walls, it occupies a total area of 52 hectares. In 1505, the Portuguese, led by Lorenzo de Almeida, made their first landing in Ceylon. The Portuguese built a temporary fort in Galle to begin with. However, when the Dutch conquered Sri Lanka in 1640, they took the Galle fort and rebuilt it with more additions and reinforcements. Then it was turned into their administrative center. They added more security features to the fort, such as moats, trusses, and sentry posts. In 1796, one week after the capitulation of Colombo, the Dutch handed over the fort of Galle to the English. Galle Dutch Fort was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988 under the name Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications. The fort is still home to a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population today, since several homes inside the fort are still owned by various Dutch people as well as local Sri Lankans.

Old Gate

galle fort old gate

In Galle, Sri Lanka’s southernmost city, there isn’t much left to see from the Portuguese colonial period. Their fort was only about half the size of the Dutch and British defenses in the end. The Portuguese gate of the old Galle Fort is the only portion that has survived. It is currently the Northern Wall’s side entrance. The Main Gate, also known as the British Gate, is located in front of the Galle International Cricket Stadium.


Above the Old Gate, along with the road running parallel to the shore, is a plaque engraved with the Royal Emblem of Ireland dating back to the era of King George III of England and put following the British subjugation of Galle. On this plaque, the British Crown is held by a lion on the right side and a unicorn on the left side. Following the British conquest of Galle Fort in 1796 AD, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) insignia was removed and replaced with the British Royal Emblem.


With the arrival of the Dutch, the Galle Fort’s entrance was altered to link to a warehouse built as part of the rampart. Above the main door passing through the warehouse, the Dutch East India Company’s emblem was installed. VOC stands for “Dutch East India Company” in this case. The presence of two lions standing on their hind legs indicates that their trade is well protected. The rooster atop a rock in the top photo alludes to the narrative of the Portuguese discovering Galle. The year that the gate was completed (1669 AD) is written in Roman figures at the bottom of the plaque (ANNO: MDCLXIX). The British installed this symbol on the inner face of the Main Gate, which was previously on the front face.


galle fort lighthouse

The Pointe de Galle Lighthouse, popularly known as the Galle Lighthouse, is Sri Lanka’s oldest lighthouse. The British constructed the first lighthouse at Galle in 1848. It was a 24.4-metre-high (80-foot) English import. Alexander Gordon, a well-known architect, designed it in cast iron. The white lighthouse stood on the Galle fort’s southwest bastion, Utrtecht Bastion, on the western side of Galle Harbor. It was equipped with a fixed-point light with prolate reflectors that could be seen for 19 kilometers (12 mi). A glass prism stood within a mercury bath in the original lighthouse, keeping the lamp level and allowing it to rotate without friction. The original lighthouse was destroyed by a severe fire in 1934. This prompted the building of the current lighthouse in 1939, which stands 26.5 meters taller than the first and is located around 100 meters away from its predecessor. The Sri Lanka Ports Authority still operates it as an operational lighthouse. Even though you can’t go inside, it’s nevertheless a must-see in Galle Fort. At sunset is the finest time to visit the lighthouse. This is when you may enjoy a breathtaking view of the ocean from the Utrecht Bastion.

Old Dutch Hospital

galle fort dutch hospital

One of such buildings that has been hiding in plain sight is the Old Dutch Hospital. Although it is difficult to establish the actual year of construction of the Dutch Hospital. According to the archives of Christopher Schweitzer, a German national serving in the Dutch army, the Dutch Hospital was founded in 1681. This set of buildings was originally intended to serve as an infirmary for the Dutch East India Company’s personnel and soldiers. Though there were no beds at the time in Sri Lanka, this hospital complex is reported to have been one of the best. Patients were given reed mats, while the most powerful and critically ill were given straw mattresses, which were considered a luxury at the time. After the British captured Sri Lanka, the canal near the hospital was flooded with British colonists. The Dutch Hospital comprises five wings and two central courtyards. The ventilation factor is the most important aspect of Dutch design, resulting in gigantic thick beams and half-meter-thick walls, which can also be observed in the hospital. There are also lengthy verandas for the lengths of the wards to provide a relaxing atmosphere. The Old Galle Dutch Hospital was publicly inaugurated as a shopping and dining zone in 2014, following a series of renovations that protected the building’s original architecture. Inside, there are a multitude of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and souvenir shops distributed throughout both floors, as well as spectacular views of the ocean.

Clock Tower

galle fort clock tower

The Galle Fort clock tower, which overlooks Moon Bastion, is another historic site worth seeing. During the Dutch occupation, this was the location of the guardroom. It was constructed in 1833. The clock tower’s design was inspired by John Henry Guess Landon’s work. It is a four-story stone tower that stands 25 meters tall. The Galle clock tower was constructed to honor the services of renowned colonial surgeon Dr Antonisz, who was also a legislative council representative. The inhabitants of Galle contributed to the tower’s construction through public subscription. Mudaliyar Samson de Abrew Rajapakse, who was grateful for the medical attention he received from the wonderful doctor, donated the clock separately. “This tower erected by public subscription to the perpetual memory of Peter Daniel Anthonisz (born in Galle) in the testimony of his skill and benevolence in relieving human suffering. MDCCCLXXXIII”” reads a plaque today. Despite the fact that the Galle Fort clock tower is approximately 200 years old, it still keeps accurate time.

Portuguese Black Fort

galle fort black fort

The Portuguese’s oldest built bastion is Black Fort, also known as Zwart Fort. This is one of the 14 bastions that make up the Galle fort. Some say the name was given to the Bastian because of the continuous thick coils of smoke emerging from cannons and artillery in the Bastian, while others believe it was given to the Bastian because it was used as a holding cell for African slaves brought to the island by the Dutch. As is customary for a Portuguese fortress, the black fort was supplied with numerous battle necessities such as tunnels, underground caverns, closets, and stores. On the ground floor, there were facilities for erecting cannons directed at the harbor. A tunnel route connected the upper floor’s circular-shaped facade to the ground floor, tall enough for a soldier to go through. The bastion’s outside wall is made of coral stone with lime and sand as a binding element. The age and qualities of the oldest and strongest construction of the Fortaleza form of the Portuguese half of this spectacular monument are highlighted by the Black Bastion.

All Saints Church

galle fort all saints church

With its lofty gothic style columns and roof, the All Saints’ Church in Galle Fort is noticeable if you’re walking around the area. The church, which was built in the exquisite Gothic Revival style and opened in 1871, paints a very pretty image with its fine characteristics. This cathedral, a stone structure with many arches and a turret, is a must-see for anybody interested in seeing history within the Galle Fort’s streets. The site was previously a courthouse, according to an inscription on the outside. Because there is a lot of Burmese teak work all along the benches and the altar, the big hall has a very pleasant impression when the light comes in through the windows. The gorgeous arches are supported by old columns, and the whole structure has a Victorian Gothic revival feel about it. The church has a cruciform layout, meaning it is formed like a cross and is supported by stone columns and arches carved artistically in wood. The nave, main aisle, two side aisles, and wings on the inside have pillars with masonry arches made of indigenous kumbuk and lime mortar that are sturdy enough to last for many more years. The altar is surrounded by a domed semi-circular apse with stained glass windows that allow light to filter into the solidly covered interior. The church is an excellent example of how art and architecture were used to help the colonial population understand and hear the message of the cross.

The Galle National Museum

galle national museum

The Galle National Museum is one of Sri Lanka’s most important national museums, and it is housed in the Galle Fort’s oldest existing Dutch building. It was founded in 1986 by Sri Lanka’s Department of National Museums and houses a collection of displays that include artifacts from Sri Lanka’s time under Portuguese, Dutch, and subsequently British administration, as well as a variety of valuable items inherited from the southern provinces. The first gallery houses collections relating to the area’s cottage industries, including Beeralu lace weaving, turtle shell jewelry making, and traditional wooden mask carving. A variety of Dutch period furniture and weaponry can be found in the second room. On September 10, 2013, the final gallery, the ‘Sri Lanka China Friendship Gallery,’ opened. It has exhibits on the 14th Century Fleet Admiral Zheng He (1371–1433) and the Chinese Buddhist scholar Faxian (337–c. 422 CE), as well as historical and archaeological evidence of economic links between China and Sri Lanka. In the Southern region, the Galle National Museum serves as an important educational center.

Dare Devils of Galle Fort

jumpers in galle fort

Cliff divers in Galle Fort are daredevils who leap from the fort’s ramparts, plummeting into the sea amid crops of jagged outcrops. These fit young guys frequently congregate at Flag Rock, which is located at the southern end of the Galle Fort and was previously used by Dutch maritime officials to warn ships of the treacherous rocks. Cliff jumping began in the early 1990s and is the version of the bungee jump, although much riskier because the guys don’t utilize an elasticized rope to pull you back from the near-death experience, nor do they use a completely clear landing location. Even on a windy day, each diver magically avoids the hazardous rocks below and dives into only a few feet of water, often as little as three to four feet. A few foreigners have attempted it and, predictably, have been severely injured, including a Japanese tourist who fractured both of his legs and an Italian tourist who crashed head first on the rocks and crushed his face and arms to bits. The jumpers normally appear between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Take a good camera with you if you want to capture the guys in action, and listen to their advice on the ideal areas to watch these jumpers’ incredible feats so you can capture a moment you’ll never forget.

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