Galle | Sri Lanka | Destination Guide


The historic port city of {en:Galle} in the southwest of Sri Lanka has a splendid natural harbour and was in use in pre-Christian times, but gained importance after the 12th century. By the 14th century it was arguably the most important port in the country, and it retained this pre-eminence until 1873 when an artificial harbour was built in Colombo. The great Chinese admiral Zheng commemorated his visit by leaving a trilingual inscription in 1411; the three languages were Chinese, Tamil, and Arabic, implying a cosmopolitan trading community. The Portuguese arrived in 1505, and later built a small fort; but it was after Galle was captured by the Dutch in 1640 that the city rose to its greatest prosperity. The Dutch rebuilt the town and strengthened the fortifications.

The English took over in 1796 but made few changes to the infrastructure, and its Dutch architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries which gives the town its present character and charm. Galle is known as the centre point of the southern coastal area & the fourth largest city in Sri Lanka. Even to someone who doesn’t know of the cities colonial past, it is hard not to notice the European influence in architecture in the area. It is undoubtedly Sri Lankas’ best preserved Colonial town.

According to James Emerson Tennent, Galle was the ancient seaport of {en:Tarshish}, from which King Solomon drew ivory, peacocks and other valuables. Certainly, cinnamon was exported from Sri Lanka as early as 1400 BC and the root of the word itself is Hebrew, so Galle may have been the main entrepot for the spice.

Galle had been a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays and Indians were doing business through Galle port. The “modern” history of Galle starts in 1505, when the first Portuguese ship, under {en:Lourenço de Almeida} was driven there by a storm. However, the people of the city refused to let the Portuguese enter it, so the Portuguese took it by force.

In 1640, the Portuguese had to surrender to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch built the present Fort in the year 1663. They built a fortified wall, using solid granite, and built three bastions, known as “sun”, “moon” and “star”.

After the British took over the country from the Dutch in the year 1796, they wisely preserved the Fort unchanged, and used it as the administrative centre of Galle.

Hotels in Galle

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