Galle is a ‘must-see’ destination when you visit the south of Sri Lanka specifically to experience a tour of the Galle Fort which is the largest remaining fortress built by European occupiers in Asia. Galle was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.
Long before Western invasions, Galle had been a busy seaport with Arabs, Chinese, Greeks, Indians, Greeks, and Malays trading through this port until a small Portuguese fleet led by Lorenzo de Almeida happened to come upon Arab merchants loading cinnamon & elephants at this Port in 1505. They built a rather slip-shod stockade in 1594. However, with the Dutch invasion, there was a siege and bloody battle and the Dutch captured Galle in 1640. The present Fort was built by the Dutch in 1663 with a fortified wall of solid granite. They also built three bastions which were called “Sun”, “Moon” and “Star”. From 1649 onwards (17th century), the Dutch greatly reinforced the city. 300 year old Dutch atmosphere is still very much alive around the fort and amidst its many historical buildings. There are some important churches within the fort. Among these is the Groote Kerk, considered to be the oldest Protestant church in Sri Lanka. The beautiful beach of Unawatuna is just 6km south east of the city centre.
The Flag Rock situated at the south end part of the Fort. This was earlier a Portuguese bastion and today it has become a popular place to catch the sunset. During the reign of the Dutch approaching ships were signaled from the top of Flag Rock to warn them of dangerous rocks. Hence its name.
Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1640 originally, but the present building dates back to 1752 to 1755. The friendly caretaker will tell you that the floor has been paved with gravestones from the old Dutch cemetery and he will show you where remains are held in the walls and under the floor. The beautiful pulpit made from calamander wood from Malaysia and also the organ from 1760 are still well preserved.
Marine Archaelogical Museum is one of two maritime museums of Galle. The entrance is behind the old Bell Tower. There are plenty of videos and interactive displays that bring out the maritime past including many shipwrecks in the waters around.
The Old Gate: The British coat of arms is carved on the top outside of the entrance. On the inside, are inscribed the letters VOC, standing for Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Dutch East India Co.) with the date 1669 with two lions on either side topped by a cock.