Things to do in Galle (that kids will love too!)
Hello from Sri Lanka! We loved visiting the tiny colonial city of Galle on the south coast of Sri Lanka with our three kids. We’d been really looking forward to finding things to do in Galle (it’s also a UNESCO Heritage Site) and partaking in some of the tea culture that the city is famous for, and it didn’t disappoint. For our other posts on Sri Lanka, click here.
We caught a tuk tuk from the beach resort of Unawatuna and whizzed along the coastal roads for around 20 minutes to Galle. Approaching the town we spotted the Portuguese-built fort walls, surrounding the town and providing a barrier between the houses and the ocean (this was one of the reasons that Galle didn’t suffer too badly in the tsunami of 2004).
We stopped at the main gate and embarked on foot, taking in the best sights, sounds and of course tastes that the town has to offer. Here are 10 things to do in Galle that kids will love too!:
- Walk around the city on top of the fort walls. The perimeter only covers 1 kilometre so it is manageable for even the most reluctant walkers and kids! It does get very hot from around 10am so either get there before breakfast (Sri Lankan breakfasts are a dream) or wait until around 6pm when the most intense heat has passed. You’ll be rewarded with views of the aquamarine Indian Ocean on one side and quaint colonial buildings on the other; you can also make out the neat grid formation of Galle’s streets.
- Have afternoon tea at the Galle Fort Hotel. You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back into another era, where ladies and gentlemen sipped from fine china each day and nibbled delicate pastries in a shaded courtyard. The Galle Fort Hotel has a stunning courtyard with a turquoise pool and serves full afternoon tea from 3-5pm each day for just 1200 LKR (around £6!)
- Visit the post office. This old fashioned post office runs just as it has done for decades, untouched by modern machinery or systems; it’s again like stepping back in time. It’s so famous that tourists come here to post letters just so people can have the Galle Post Office stamp on their mail.
- Relax on the beach. There is a small perfectly formed beach just underneath Galle’s lighthouse. It’s popular with locals and is a real gem; bright white sand and clear turquoise water with lots of trees providing shade. Fruit sellers and ice-cream vendors pop down to the sand or set up on the path at the top of the steps- at 15 LKR (around 7p!) for an ice lolly, you can’t say no!
- Visit the National Museum. The Galle National Museum is located in the oldest Dutch building within the fort, built in 1656. Open as a museum since 1986, visitors can view cultural relics such as ancient wooden carvings, masks used in traditional rituals and Dutch weapons used by the colonising soldiers. The museum is open from 9am-5pm Tuesday-Friday except public holidays. Entry is £1.50 per adult and under £1 per child.
- See the lighthouse. The original lighthouse, built in 1848, was unfortunately destroyed by a fire in 1934. It is a pretty structure just above the beach at ‘Point Utrecht Bastion’.
- Peek inside the churches. Galle’s churches are big and beautiful, thanks to the Dutch colonial architecture. There are some fascinating plaques with information about residents from centuries ago, giving an insight into what life was like before British rule. The churches are still active and hold frequent Protestant services; they must be good as we even spotted a large monitor lizard trying to sneak in!
8. Check out the two-storey shopping mall, housed in the old Dutch hospital. The mall offers higher end shops selling jewellery, books and art work, as well as several coffee shops and restaurants and a courtyard in which to get a bite to eat.
- Visit the Maritime Museum. The old museum was completely destroyed in the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 and re-opened after three years. Traditional fishing techniques, exhibits of local boats and all kinds of watercraft used for transport and trade are shown within the museum. There is also an exhibit about marine life including native flora and fauna, sea birds, turtles and marine mammals. There is even a whale skeleton hanging from the roof. The museum is open from 9am-5pm Tuesday-Friday except public holidays.
10. Watch the sunset. Of all the things to do in Galle, this is the cheapest 😉 Sri Lanka offers some spectacular sunsets and Galle has one of the finest. Watch the warm light flood the streets at dusk and stand on the city walls to get the best view. Treat yourself (and the kids) to a mocktail at the swanky (but reasonable) Church Street Social club- we can personally recommend the passion fruit mocktail, the fresh orange juice and the ‘virgin mary’ mix.
Where to stay in Galle
Galle is one of the higher-end places to stay in Sri Lanka, offering quaint boutique hotels and peaceful colonial vibes. That said, it is still Sri Lanka and the prices offer incredible value. Here are our top picks for places to stay in Galle:
Treat yourself (higher-end hotels);
Perfect for a romantic break or relaxing time away as a family, the Galle Fort Hotel offers a peaceful ambience with luxurious rooms and suites, a shaded courtyard and relaxing seating areas for residents. Situated within the walls of the fort, the hotel is ideally located for organising day trips and strolling through the streets in the cool of the evening.
This boutique hotel has a swimming pool and is built on the highest point of Galle, offering a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the city. The rooms are ultra-contemporary and you can enjoy cocktails and dinner at the roof-top restaurant each evening. Ayurvedic treatments are also available in the spa.
Enjoy deluxe rooms or themed suites at the Jetwing Lighthouse hotel and indulge in one of the six restaurants and bars offering fusion twists on Sri Lankan cuisine and Indian Ocean views. Jetwing Lighthouse will also happily arrange babysitting for you and has cots for babies.
Every room at the Closenberg has sea views and a private balcony, perfect for watching the sun go down with a cool drink. There is free WiFi throughout the property and tea and coffee making facilities in each room.
Set 100 metres from the lighthouse, Antic offers rooms with seating areas, flat-screen televisions and complimentary WiFi. Hotel staff are happy to arrange tours such as snorkelling or Sri Lankan cookery lessons for you and hire bicycles or cars to get you around.
This restored colonial manor house has beautiful family and deluxe rooms and is less than 10 minutes’ walk from the National Museum, the Maritime Museum and Galle Fort. There is also a family friendly restaurant for casual al fresco dining.
If you like to book through Booking.com, click here for Galle accommodation.
I hope you enjoyed our itinerary with 10 things to do in Galle. We really enjoyed our day there are will definitely be back to catch another sunset, relax at the beach and send a postcard! Don’t forget to check out our other travel guides including our Sri Lanka travel guide, our Thailand travel blog and our essential guide to Bali!