Galle is without doubt Sri Lanka’s most historically interesting living city. The town is said to date back to Biblical times, where King Solomon is believed to have obtained gems and spices. The port of Galle developed after the arrival of the Portuguese and later as a fortress town by the Dutch in the 17th century. Galle developed as a port, notable for its British built lighthouse and well preserved ramparts encircling the old town’s narrow streets. It was the island’s major port until the construction of breakwaters at Colombo Harbour was completed in the 19th century; it still handles shipping and cruising yachts today.
The old town or Fort is delightfully quiet but atmospheric with a real sense of history. It stands in almost perfect repair and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The British built the Fort’s main gate in 1873, to handle the heavy flow of traffic into the old city. Most of the buildings inside the Fort date from the Dutch era and include an interesting Dutch Period Museum, in a well-restored house in Rope Walk Street. There is another museum next to the New Oriental Hotel, the hotel itself was originally built in 1684 for the Dutch Governor and officers and is well worth a visit for its colonial atmosphere. The town has a lively bazaar, fish market and fruit and vegetable market giving visitors a taste of the Galle of today.
Galle’s beaches lie to the north and east of the town, where most tourist accommodation is located. Unawatuna Bay, to the east has a lovely curving beach of sand, protected by an offshore reef.
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