In the mood for Galle Fort

The side of the National Maritime Museum on Queens Street, Galle Fort

The side of the National Maritime Museum on Queens Street, Galle Fort


About a year ago I travelled to Sri Lanka to frolic around Galle Fort for a couple of days, lured by sunny, picture-perfect postcard images of the town in all its newly polished-UNESCO heritage glory. Of course I had arrived smack-bang in the south-western monsoon, but that minor consideration wasn’t going to deter me. No way! I had BIG PLANS – itineraries to follow, sunsets to capture and cuisine to devour with cocktail in hand. What could possibly go wrong??

Well, unsurprisingly it rained and rained and rained and rained with gruelling monotony.


I don’t know why I thought it would be different for me. Perhaps it was the natural optimism of being a traveller or perhaps when you’ve thrown caution to the wind to do your own thing like I have, failure does not seem like an option. Whatever the explanation, it felt truly galling (pardon the pun) visiting the fort during the monsoon, even as I tried to make the best of it.


Sadly, I pretty much shelved my photos and story ideas about Galle Fort when I came home. My crushing disappointment of the sunless skies were mixed with a lingering doubt that anyone would be interested in a sombre destination. I mean, where was the romance in that? I somehow reasoned it all away and consigned that travel misstep to the recesses of my mind: never to be disturbed.

A couple sharing a moment on top of the Galle Fort ramparts

A couple sharing a moment on top of the Galle Fort ramparts

But things have a way of coming full circle. When some family friends recently visited Galle Fort in the monsoon and had a ball, I tentatively returned those archived memories. One by one I savoured each image with fresh eyes. It was a revelation in many ways.


The absence of maddening crowds had allowed me the time and space to absorb the remains of a way of life in the fort, fast diminishing due to its world heritage status. Its rhythms perfectly in tune with the season. I realised that the pervasive gloom which had previously irritated me gave the fort a mood and a contemplative serenity, highlighting the austerity and grace of its architecture. And the unrelenting rain had given me cause to loiter in museums and galleries and marvel at the remnants of the past in ways I had previously overlooked.


Also, in my self-inflicted melancholy, I had forgotten the intermittent bright moments of sunshine polka dotting the landscape with bursts of energy each day. It was an unexpected joy.

The art at the Pedlar Street Cafe where they sell great ice cream too!

I can’t honestly remember now what tips I had for spending 48 hours in Galle Fort. Those ideas are distant, irrelevant details.

What strikes me as I share these photos of the monsoonal Galle Fort is how beautiful and satisfying to the soul the fort is in any weather. It’s a microcosm you can cocoon yourself in and explore for a few days with great places to stay and eat. The lingering layers of colonial and maritime history will infect your psyche, even if all you do is loiter aimlessly around the old streets. All the while you will find yourself mingling with a small town of multicultural peoples who call this extraordinary place home. And if you’re still left with twiddling your thumbs, Galle Fort has one of the best shopping experiences in Sri Lanka outside of Colombo.


Would I be in the mood for Galle Fort in another monsoon? Absolutely, yes! But this time I’ll leave my sunglasses at home. You miss a lot with your shades on. ۞


Places to eat

I pretty much agree with everything in this blog piece although I would add:

  • the Sri Lankan curry dinner at Church St Social

  • either high tea on the front verandah or cocktails overlooking the Galle Fort rooftops at Amangalla

things to do

  • Visit the National Maritime Museum and the Historical Mansion Museum (this one is a private enterprise)

  • Stroll the ramparts in the early morning or late afternoon as the sun sets

  • Shopping! My favourites are Exotic Roots, Tallentire House and Jo Jo Gems and Antiques

Beside the Spa Ceylon storefront foot installation

The very instagrammable Heritage Cafe motorcycle on Pedlar St

Galle Fort architectural details - wooden columns and windows

Life near the court precinct on Leyn Baan Street

Galle Fort architectural details - wooden columns and doors

Shopping at Exotic Roots

Antique jewellery on display at the Hstorical Mansion Museum

The chic decorative style of the Fort Bazaar Hotel verandah

Colonial door architecture of Galle Fort

Stairs on Galle Fort ramparts

Colours of a Galle Fort local corner shop

An unusually coloured tuk-tuk on Leyn Baan Street

The internal courtyard and pool of the Galle Fort Hotel

The pool at the Amangalle hotel