Galle (pronounced as Gaul) is Sri Lanka's fourth largest city, situated 116 km from Colombo on the southwestern tip of the island. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, this city is one of the best forts built by the Europeans in the region, standing on a peninsula with a fine natural harbour and excellent defences. Galle was the first major port in Sri Lanka and still handles shipping and cruising yachts to this day.
Galle Fort is renowned for being the best preserved sea fortress in South Asia, first built by the Portuguese in the 16th century with further development by the Dutch during their period of colonial rule two centuries later. The Portuguese, Dutch and English colonial styles are all apparent in the fortifications around the city from the bastioned stone walls to colonial villas, making it a distinct area with a unique combination of European architecture and South Asian tradition. The streets are dotted with boutique style accommodation in renovated villas and museums and antique shops that display trinkets from the colonial era, and the area boasts remarkable views of the ocean.
There are many attractions to visit in Galle: The Dutch Reformed Church, situated close to the entrance of the fort on Church Street, was built at the highest point in Galle around 1750 and is a must visit for its structural beauty and history. The Dutch Museum, housed in a restored mansion containing paintings, documents, ceramics and other treasures from the Dutch colonial era and the National Maritime Archaeology Museum exhibiting marine artifacts some dating 800 years are also worthwhile places to visit in Galle.
With the opening of the new Southern Express Highway, it only takes one hour to reach Galle from Colombo. Visitors here can also travel to the nearby beach hotspot Unawatuna for excellent water sports and activities.