Galle Fort
Galle Fort

Exploring Galle: From forts to culinary delights in Sri Lanka's coastal town

The captivating allure of this southern coastal town in Sri Lanka steals the limelight

The little-known coastal town of Galle is almost a Sri Lankan secret. It takes about a two-hour drive from Colombo to reach this port city that was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century when the likes of Vasco da Gama were exploring the Southern part of the subcontinent which included Ceylon. Colonial architecture, especially martial, is its leitmotif: Portuguese and Dutch forts and British colonial buildings make it a postcard-worthy place, or a selfie taken against the azure waters of the Indian Ocean from the ramparts of the Dutch fort is totally Instagrammable.

Holding Fort: The Galle Fort was star-shaped as the strategy of the times demanded it. A star fort, or trace italienne, is a fortification designed to withstand cannon fire, when gunpowder became the decisive factor in a battle. The Moon Bastion, designed in arrow shapes, ensures comprehensive defence from all angles, equipped with crenelations for large cannons.

Now, in peacetime, the fort’s 14 bastions offer a panoramic vista of the sea from its coastal power position. The 130-acre, 3,490-year-old fort is a mini-town in itself; its ramparts lined with ancient houses, basilicas, boutiques and restaurants protected by the tropical sun by terracotta-tiled roofs. Descending from the ramparts, a leisurely stroll along the fort’s well-organised streets will take you by gabled houses with tiled gambrel roofs which reflect hybrid colonial building style. Venture towards Flag rock Bastion, situated at the fort’s southernmost edge. En route, pass an array of enchanting boutiques, cafes, and gelaterias, where your inner shopaholic comes to life

Galle Dutch hospital
Galle Dutch hospital

Building it up: Galle’s British and Dutch colonial architecture exhibit similar order and symmetry. The Dutch, adept in masonry, favoured stone and brick over the British wooden bungalows. Their architectural adaptations are visible in tropical locations featuring broad eaves, internal courtyards, and colonnaded verandas for ventilation and shade. The Dutch’s gambrel roof, concealing living space to avoid building taxes on multiple stories, is a sneaky story in itself.

Epic Cure for Hunger: This ancient fort city anchors a gastronomic hub teeming with a diverse array of top-tier dining establishments, laid-back pizzerias, and quaint cafes dotting its historic narrow cobblestone streets. In tandem, intimate family-owned eateries proudly present time-honoured recipes safeguarded and shared across generations. Further enriching the scene, an emerging collection of bars and cosy taverns are shaping Galle into a focal point of the island’s dynamic cocktail culture.

Renowned throughout Asia, Dharshan Munidasa’s Ministry of Crab stands as a culinary icon. At The Tuna & The Crab in Galle Fort’s Old Dutch Hospital, this chef-entrepreneur seamlessly blends his Japanese and Sri Lankan heritage. Try the fresh sashimi and tekka maki at the sushi bar, accompanied by dishes like Mud crab okonomiyaki and sirloin from the teppan grill, all prepared with the day’s catch.

Main Stays: Leaning on tree-lined Church Street, the hotel Amangalla’s noteworthy veranda and magnificent Great Hall, or ‘Zaal’ as it was known in Dutch times, welcomes guests much as they did from 1683. Offering views of the fort and harbour on one side and the hotel’s opulent gardens and swimming pool on the other, the lofty-ceilinged bedrooms with traditional furniture radiate a feel of peace. The British built Galle light house in 1848. It is an allegory guiding travellers’ hearts into the 16th century.

The New Indian Express