The fort that stands proudly above Galle has become an icon for the South of Sri Lanka, while also serving as a stark reminder of the country’s rich colonial past. The fort is, in fact, a world heritage site and the largest remaining fortress built in Asia by the Europeans. For anyone touring the south, the fort serves as an excellent landmark and central location which connects a number of interesting destinations and attractions to each other.
Though commonly it is referred to as the Dutch fort in Galle, the structure was originally built by the Portuguese back in 1588. Once the Dutch expelled the Portuguese from Sri Lanka’s coast, they set about fortifying it extensively. Now, over 400 years after its construction, the fort still maintains a polished and regal appearance thanks in large part to the extensive renovation works that have been constantly implemented by the Sri Lankan government.
The Galle Fort contains both Portuguese and Dutch buildings within it, and as such reflective of the relationship, Sri Lanka had with the colonial powers. The architecture on display here harkens back to a bygone age when Sri Lanka was ruled by the great powers of Europe. Due to its historical importance, the government of the Netherlands has worked hand-in-hand with Sri Lanka’s to ensure the continued preservation of this site. For example, the two governments collaborated to open the National Maritime Museum in Galle near the gates of the fort. This establishment showcased various artefacts recovered from the surrounding area that belonged to the colonial period. In 2014, the Old Dutch Hospital – one of the oldest building found inside the fort – was renovated and reopened as a dining and shopping complex.
There are quite a few heritage monuments and important landmarks situated in and around the fort. The most notable of these being the Dutch Reformed Church – first established in 1707. There is also the Dutch government house which was once the residence of the reigning commander and the Great War house where military exploits were once planned. All of these and more can be visited and admired during your trip to the fort.