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With Sri Lanka emerging as one of the hottest travel destinations for Indian tourists, we are launching this series on travels in Sri Lanka. Earlier this week, we brought to you this list of things nine things you must do in Colombo, the capital of the country. Today, we travel south from Colombo, along Sri Lanka’s west coast to Galle.

Galle is Sri Lanka’s fourth largest city. But it is also one of the quaintest and the prettiest town you will encounter in all of Sri Lanka. If you are traveling along the well-trodden west coast of Sri Lanka, Galle is typically your first or second stop (depending on whether or not you decide to halt at the beach resort of Bentota). The old Dutch quarter that stands in the heart of Galle, known as the Fort, holds everything that there is to see in Galle. The new town of Galle that has spread around the Fort area and has your railway and bus stations, is about as interesting as watching paint dry.

Before Colombo stole its thunder, Galle used to be a very important trading port thanks to its strategic position and its natural harbor. It was the obvious port of choice for the Portuguese who marked their territory here in 1589 and even constructed a fort called Santa Cruz. Before long, the Dutch took over Galle and they expanded the Portuguese fortifications, constructed a series of bastions and planned out the city’s sewer and street systems; these continue to survive to this day.

So, you can imagine the frustration of the Dutch when this heavily fortified city fell in the hands of the British in 1796 after the Dutch were defeated in the Napoleonic Wars. Even so, the Dutch legacy continues to be reflected in its colonial villas, sleepy streets and quaint churches.

Over the years, Galle has become one of the most important tourist centers in Sri Lanka. It is also home to several foreigners who run homestays in the Fort area. The influx of expatriates in the old Dutch quarter has led the government to ban the sale of property within the Fort to non-Sri Lankan citizens.

Even though the 2004 tsunami devastated most of the city including its international cricket ground, the scars aren’t visible today. With the end of the civil war that had ravaged most of the country, the star of Galle, much like that of Sri Lanka, has been on the rise.

It is easy to get lost in the narrow lanes of Galle, admiring its architecture and the sheer quaintness of the city. But if you are one with a plan, here are nine places you absolutely must visit while in Galle.

1. Galle Fort

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Surrounded by the sea on three sides, the Galle Fort is perhaps the most touristy destination in Galle. Built in  1588 by the Portuguese, the fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is so strong that when the Tsunami of 2004 struck the island, the fort remained unscathed. The premises of the fort houses a lighthouse, the Old Dutch Hospital, the Meera Mosque, a gemstone workshop and the ruins of an old Dutch Clock tower.

Visiting hours: 5 am – 7 pm

2. The National Maritime Museum

Opened to public on May 9, 1992, the National Maritime Museum in Galle is located within the Dutch Warehouse building, which itself was constructed in 1671. The warehouse is a long two-storied building and served as an entrance to the fort. Over the centuries, the building served various purposes including that of an complex that housed government offices. This was one of the few buildings that survived the impact of the 2004 tsunami even though most of the artifacts were lost. It took three years of reconstruction and help from the Netherlands before it was back in business. Today, it exhibits over hundreds of artifacts discovered around the coast of Galle such as maps, naval crafts, barrels, ropes, smoking pipes, sailor shoes and guns retrieved from the Dutch East India company that sank into the the sea in 1659.

Entry fee:

Adult: Rs 650 per person

Child: Rs. 320 per person

Visiting hours: 9 am – 4 pm

3. The Dutch Reformed Church

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Formerly known as Groote Kerk, the church was built in 1755 on the highest point of the Galle fort and is perhaps the oldest Protestant Church in Sri Lanka. The church was renovated by the funds of the Dutch Embassy and inaugurated on November 28, 2004 by the the then President and Dutch Ambassador.

Visiting hours: 9 am – 6 pm

4. Enjoy the Galle Fort Walk

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Enjoy a 90-minute walking tour of the fort, along with author Juliet Coombe (Around the Fort in 80 Lives). The walks introduce you to the lesser known spots of the fort and also come in various fun themes. Its gives you an unforgettable insight into the gardens, architecture, artisans, food and wildlife in and around the fort.

Contact: +94 77 683 8659

5. Visit the Galle National Museum

Located the in oldest building of the Galle Fort, the National Museum was established in 1656 and was renovated on March 31, 1986. The museum houses artifacts from the British, Dutch and Portuguese periods and can broadly can be divided into three sections. This is perhaps one the best ways to indulge into the history and origin of Galle.

Entry fee: Rs 300 per person

Visiting hours: 9 am – 5 pm

6. The Rumassala Peace Pagoda at Unwatuna

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Situated in the coastal town of Unwatuna, a suburb of Galle, the glistening white stupa of Rumassala is one of the only three Buddhist stupas in Sri Lanka and is located at a distance of not more than 2km from the Galle Fort. Rumassala Peace Pagoda can easily be spotted from the Galle Fort and was built by a group of Japanese Buddhist monks with an main aim to promote peace temples in war prone areas around the world.

Visiting hours: 9 am – 5 pm

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Unwatuna when translated in english means ‘fell down’. The town is also known for is pristine beach and coral reefs and is associated to the Hindu epic Ramayana. According to folklore, when lord Hanuman was returning with an entire mountain on his back that consisted of the four medicinal herbs needed to cure the wounded Lakshamana, a chunk of the mountain fell down and since then is known as Unwatuna.

7. Shop for antiques

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Galle houses a few of the the most iconic shops and markets that will surely interest you, specially if you’re into jewelry and gemstones. Laksana, Mangala and MM Ibrahim and are few of the antique shops you must check out for sure, for brass, copper, silver and wood artifacts. If you’re looking for handicrafts, jewellery and home decorations, Elephant Walk, Exotic Roots and Barefoot must be your stops. Also, make a visit to the 300-year-old Dutch Market in Galle, known for its fresh produce of fruits and vegetables.

8. Visit the Galle International Stadium

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Considered as one of the most quaint stadiums in the world, the Galle International Stadium was originally built as a race course in 1876 and was then known as ‘The Esplanade’. Eventually, the racing ended and the ground was then used as a cricket stadium. It was officially declared as a cricket stadium in 1927 and hosted its very first, first-class match in February 29, 1984. During the 2004 Tsunami, the ground was all but destroyed but has now been restored to its original glory.

9. Visit the Historical Mansion

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The Historical Mansion, built by Abdul Gaffer is not only one of the rare private museums in the country but an antique shop as well that sells jewelry, table cloths, porcelain cups and handicrafts. Most of the exhibits here have a price tag attached but significantly, there’s no entry fee charged. The Historical Mansion Museum is also the largest private museum in Sri Lanka.

Location: 31-39 Leyn Baan St, Galle, Sri Lanka

Visiting hours: 9 am – 6 pm