Galle Fort lighthouse

A day and a night in colonial Galle

We made a short stop in Galle on the way back toward Colombo, strolled around the old streets and stayed at a guest house inside the citadel. Go for the excellent food and pretty look of things, but leave again for the real Sri Lanka.

Don’t ask me how it happened, but near the end of the trip, we realized we had one more day left than we thought. So the night before we were to leave Tangalle and head toward Colombo with a brief stop to see Galle, instead we booked a night there. And what a great decision that was, as the bus ride was a bit longer and less comfortable than we had expected.

Away from it all on the beaches of Tangalle

Our homestay in Galle

The bus station of Galle is just outside the old citadel, a short stroll or cheap tuktuk ride around the cricket stadium and you’re there. Hotels in Galle seemed to be quite pricey compared to other places we’d been, but there are cheaper options even inside the citadel. We chose to stay at Thenu Rest Guest House, a homestay with a couple of rooms on the top floor in a family home, with a restaurant and tea shop out front. The room was large and bright, and there was an outdoor space with sofas between the guest rooms. We especially loved the relaxed and filling breakfast outside, watching the town wake up. So much better than just a quick stop on the way to Colombo!

Is Colombo worth your time?

What to see in Galle

Galle was like no other place we’d seen in Sri Lanka. The old citadel was built in the colonial times by the portuguese, and all the buildings are low and white, the streets narrow and not much traffic. It’s possible to get up on the old city wall and walk around it. From up there, we saw a swimming school for the local kids. There is a small beach, but I think it’d be nicer to make the short trip over to Unawatuna for visitors who crave some beach time. It’s also possible to look down into the cricket stadium from up the city wall, if you’re not prepared to go inside to watch a full game.

We enjoyed strolling around the old streets, popping into the little shops and galleries. Much of the old center is set up for tourism, but we did need to get some souvenir and postcard shopping done so we quite enjoyed it. Especially after dark, the places lit up and there was music in the streets, and we got some very expensive ice cream and just looked at everything. Pretty neat.

Kids playing cricket in Galle

The best kuththu I had

There are so many restaurants in Galle that look really good, and I could’ve stayed longer just to try some more of them. It should be said that we didn’t find any really cheap places in the citadel, so be prepared to splurge.

Being a vegetarian in Sri Lanka

We had lunch at a nice-looking place called Galle Things Roti, part of Galle Fort Hotel. The food was not too expensive, but drinks, water included, were about the same as food for some reason. We had a kuththu and a roti dish, and both were really really good. I would highly recommend this place for the food, but service was not good. There was one guy waiting tables and a few more cooking behind a counter, but the waiter could not have been less interested in doing his job and the others seemed to try and cover for him whenever they weren’t too busy in the kitchen.

Street in Galle

Would I recommend a stop in Galle?

Sure I would! Although, if you’re on a short trip and won’t be seeing much of Sri Lanka, you should know that this town is nothing like the rest of it. We felt like it was nice to eat westernized food and shop for souvenirs at the end of our trip, having recently recovered from a light food-poisoning, but it is a bit of a shock coming from out in the sticks. I did really appreciate that we still managed to get the homestay experience inside the citadel.

Are you planning a trip to Sri Lanka? Here’s our two week itinerary!

Lighthouses in Galle, Sri Lanka
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