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5 Museums to Visit In & Around Galle

Jun 11, 2021
Galle Fort

The Pearl of the Indian Ocean has been admired for centuries by travellers all over the world, including the likes of Marco Polo. However, long before any foreigner laid eyes on this land, Sri Lanka had several vibrant civilisations that were far beyond their time and you can still visit most of these sites today.

Whether you’re planning your holiday to Sri Lanka in the months to come or are already on the island, there are a number of museums to visit. However, for those headed towards the south coast for sun, sand and surf; drop into one of the below museums to learn a bit about the country’s colourful history.

Ariyapala Mask Museum
Opening Times: 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM

Found in the small coastal town of Ambalangoda, 34.7 km from Galle, the Mask Museum is the epitome of Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage traditions. The museum celebrates one of the country’s oldest artistic traditions – mask making. There are different types of masks, each unique and serving a specific purpose, however, the most well-known are the devil masks. These colourful wooden masks are worn during traditional rituals that are meant to ward off evil spirits and some even cure ailments that are caused by these unseen forces.

Mulkirigala Museum
Opening Times: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Attached to the Mulkirigala Rock Temple, this museum is located in Tangalle, 74.8 km from Galle. This museum is only an hour away from Galle, and the experience of walking through the temple is well worth the visit. Built in the 3rd century AD by the presiding king, the temple is embedded into a 673-foot-tall rock and requires you to climb to the summit to admire its beautiful stupa and surrounding views. The museum exhibits various archaeological objects found in Mulkirigala, as well as rare artefacts such as palm-leaf manuscripts, tools, old reports and paintings.

Martin Wickramasinghe Folk Museum
Opening Times: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

The Martin Wickramasinghe Folk Museum was established as a tribute to legendary Sri Lanka writer and poet Martin Wickramasinghe. Situated in the picturesque coastal town of Koggala, just 22.4 km away from Galle, the museum showcases various artefacts on rural life in the late 1800s. The museum is located in the home of Wickramasinghe, and its surroundings are what inspired most of his work. The museum also displays rare handicrafts, cottage industries, folk music and art, and folk medicine.

Galle National Museum
Opening Times: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (closed on Mondays & Sundays)

The Galle National Museum is one of Sri Lanka’s four main national museums. Located within the Galle Fort (which in itself is a museum on its own) the museum was established in 1986 and showcases various artefacts pertaining to the Portuguese, Dutch, and British eras. Here, you can see objects such as a range of weapons used by Dutch soldiers in the 17th century and equipment from their ships. Along with these colonial objects, there are a few items that display traditionally southern industries, like beeralu lace, turtle-shell jewellery, and wooden masks.

National Maritime Museum
Opening Times: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (closed on Mondays & Sundays)

Being an island nation, Sri Lanka certainly has a long maritime history. Found within the Galle Fort, the National Maritime Museum is located in an old Dutch warehouse that dates back to 1671 and that is integrated with the Old Gate entryway. Unfortunately, the museum was struck by a devastating tsunami in 2004, and several archaeological objects were lost. Today, the museum is a centre of education for traditional fishing techniques and practices. It also displays several artefacts, that date back as far as 800 years ago, which were recovered from shipwrecks off the southern coast.

Apart from the museums, a visit to Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must as the fort itself is a living museum. It’s the perfect way to end your history tour! Walk through its winding cobblestone streets and admire the centuries-old Dutch villas that line the streets. Replenish and relax with a delicious Italian meal at AQUA Forte. Our Head Chef Roberto will guide you in pairing the perfect Italian wine or spirit with your meal of choice.

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