Whether it’s your first or fifth time travelling to the Galle Fort, there’s always something new you can learn about the history of Sri Lanka – particularly this charming ancient form that was once built by the Portuguese during their occupation on the island. And if you’re not a fan of reading through the illustrious, rich history of the Galle Dutch Fort, in the city of Galle, here are 5 facts every traveller must know. You can even impress the rest of your group with these fun facts.
The Galle Fort is over 500 years old!
It was initially built by the Portuguese in 1588, then fortified by the Dutch from 1649 onwards, until it eventually fell to the hands of the British in 1796. Today, it’s a charming town that overlooks the beautiful, enticing waters of the Indian Ocean and offers a keen traveller a plethora of historic buildings, museums, restaurants serving cuisine from all corners of the world from India to Italy, like AQUA Forte, and much more. While we suggest you spend at least 2 days exploring and walking around the fort, if you’re adventurous, you can cover it in one day! Read our guide if you’re hoping to explore Galle Fort by foot.
There are 14 bastions within the Galle Fort. You can currently only visit 13 bastions, while the other one known as the Zwart (black) Bastion is closed off to visitors as it the base of the Sri Lankan Forces. Interested in learning more about the bastions of the Galle Fort? Read our guide.
The Galle Fort is one of the oldest living forts in the world. What does this mean exactly? Well, it’s not just a historic attraction – families live within the ancient ramparts, there are schools, active places of worship like the Groote Kerk and the Meeran Mosque, and there’s a functioning courthouse too! The road that runs parallel to the courthouse is generally closed off when courts in session, but otherwise you can enjoy a stroll along the court too!
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The Galle Lighthouse is actually a replacement of its predecessor which was destroyed in a fire in 1934, roughly 100m from where the new one now stands. The first lighthouse that was built in 1848 was the first onshore lighthouse in Sri Lanka.
There are only two main entrances to the Galle Fort, the Main Gate and the Old Gate. The Old Gate is located close to the sea and can be identified by the intricate carving of the VOC symbol flanked by two lions and a cockerel on top with the year 1669 etched on it. The VOC symbol is from the Dutch East India Company. The Main Gate is located near the Galle Cricket Stadium, and it was first built by the Portuguese when they occupied the fort.
During the occupation of the Portuguese in 1588, the fort was used as a prison camp for locals who opposed the colonist rule on the island. It was only after the Dutch occupation, did they fortify the fort with several prominent buildings, a sewerage system and much more.
Now that you’ve learnt some fun facts about the Galle Dutch Fort, visit Galle with your friends, family or even on your solo adventure to experience life in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.