10 fun things to do in Galle, Sri Lanka

Galle Lighthouse

If there’s one place in Sri Lanka that effortlessly blends the old-world charm with the laid-back vibes of beach life, it’s got to be the coastal gem of Galle.

We visited Galle when staying at the nearby Malabar Hill hotel and I’m so glad that we carved out time to wander this unique destination.

Nestled on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, Galle has this unique feel, where centuries-old architecture meets the endless blue of the Indian Ocean.

Here you can enjoy a mix of leisurely strolls along ancient fort walls, lazy afternoons on sun-drenched beaches, and the occasional dive into the local culinary scene (which, by the way, is as delicious as it gets).

It’s the kind of place where you don’t need a packed itinerary to enjoy yourself. Just being there, amidst the history and the natural beauty, is kind of the whole point.

In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the must-do things in Galle, as discovered through my own meanderings.

From the nooks and crannies of Galle Fort to some off-the-beaten-path spots, I’ve got you covered.

So, grab a cup of tea (or a king coconut, if you’re feeling tropical), and let’s dive into the best things to do in Galle.

This post contains affiliate links.

Author Bio: Jessie Moore

Jessie Moore is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

1. Visit Galle Lighthouse

One of my first stops was the Galle Lighthouse – afterall, it’s the postcard-picture that many of us associate with Galle.

Standing proud at the fort’s southeastern edge, this white beacon against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean is a gorgeous sight.

I loved its picturesque setting (which, by the way, makes for some stellar photos), as well as the sense of history it carries.

The area around the lighthouse is perfect for a leisurely stroll, especially in the late afternoon when the heat eases off and the light takes on a golden hue.

It’s a peaceful spot to just sit and watch the waves crash against the rocks. Maybe even dip your feet in the water if you wander down to the shore.

2. Wander Galle Fort walls

Next up, I’d recommend wandering the Galle Fort walls to really get a sense of the setting.

These historic ramparts, built by the Portuguese and fortified by the Dutch, encircle the old part of the city.

They offer some of the best views you can get, with the ocean on one side and the ancient city on the other.

Galle Sri Lanka

I visited during the day but I can imagine that the Galle Fort walls would make the most incredible sunset spot.

The walls also offer glimpses into daily life in Galle, from kids playing cricket in the fort’s grassy areas to locals and tourists enjoying the evening breeze.

3. Browse the shops

Galle isn’t just about its natural beauty and historic landmarks; it’s also a haven for shoppers looking for unique finds.

Wandering through the quaint streets of Galle Fort, I stumbled upon a variety of boutique shops.

They were selling everything from handcrafted jewellery and bespoke clothing to antique furnishings and local art.

Galle Shopping Street

What makes shopping here so special is the chance to find something truly unique — items that carry the essence of Sri Lanka.

And the shop owners? They’re usually up for a chat, giving you insights into the local culture and stories behind their wares.

4. Check out the National Maritime Museum

Tucked away in a historic 1671 building that once served as a Dutch warehouse, the National Maritime Museum offers a dive into the maritime heritage of Sri Lanka.

The museum, with its collection of marine artefacts, models of ancient boats, and displays on marine biodiversity, offer a fascinating look at the island’s relationship with the sea. 

It’s a quiet spot, perfect for those who enjoy getting a little lost in history.

5. Explore the Old Dutch Hospital

After soaking up some history and culture, the Old Dutch Hospital will be a delightful change of pace.

This colonial-era building has been beautifully restored and now serves as a bustling hub of shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Dutch Hospital Galle

I love the seamless blend of the old and the new – the thick, aged walls now house chic boutiques and eateries serving up both local and international cuisine.

I’d recommend spending a leisurely hour or two here, browsing through the shops and enjoying a delicious meal in one of the open-air courtyards.

The relaxed atmosphere makes it a perfect spot to unwind, people-watch, and maybe even strike up a conversation with fellow travellers or locals. 

6. Visit the Sea Turtle Hatchery Centre

A short drive from the heart of Galle is the Sea Turtle Hatchery Centre and I’d definitely recommend a visit.

Sri Lanka is home to several species of sea turtles, and these conservation centres play a crucial role in protecting these magnificent creatures.

A visit will be both educational and inspiring, offering insights into the efforts to save and rehabilitate injured turtles and protect nests from predators and poaching. 

Plus, who can resist the chance to see baby turtles?

7.  Relax at Unawatuna Beach

While you’re in the Galle area, I’d advise carving out some time to visit Unawatuna Beach – one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka.

With its golden sands and clear waters, it’s an ideal spot for anyone looking to chill by the sea or take a dip.

Unawatuna Beach

The vibe here is laid-back, with plenty of cafes and restaurants lining the shore, making it easy to spend a whole day just beach-hopping or lounging with a good book.

And if you’re up for it, there are water sports available too – personally I’d suggest a spot of snorkelling, or try a surfing lesson.

8. Watch a cricket match

Cricket is huge in Sri Lanka – there are countless cricket grounds all over the country.

If you’re in Galle during the cricket season, try to catch a game at the Galle International Stadium.

Even if you’re not a big sports fan, the energy and excitement of the crowd will be infectious.

It’s a great way to mingle with locals and get a taste of Sri Lanka’s favourite pastime.

9. Go whale watching

You’ll need an early morning start for whale watching off the coast near Mirissa, a short drive from Galle.

The area is known for being a hotspot for a variety of different whales, as well as dolphins.

I spent a long time trying to decide whether to go whale watching. Ultimately I decided not to as I suffer from horrendous sea sickness.

But I’ve got friends who went and said it was a wonderful experience. Of course there’s no guarantee that you’ll see anything, but the chances are pretty good in this part of the world.

Make sure to book with a reputable operator who respects the wildlife guidelines to ensure the experience is sustainable and respectful to the marine life.

10. Stop by Jungle Beach 

For another lovely Sri Lankan beach, I’d recommend stopping by Jungle Beach.

Tucked away and slightly more secluded than Unawatuna, this beach can offer a bit of an escape from the usual crowd.

Just don’t visit at the weekend, as it does get very busy then. If you get the timing right, it’s a peaceful beach surrounded by gorgeous greenery.

It’s perfect for snorkelling or just for a quiet day soaking up the sun.

If you have any suggestions or tips for visiting Galle then do let me know in the comments below!

For more Sri Lanka inspiration, you may also like:

Want up to 25% off hotels?

Subscribe to my newsletter and get immediate access to my guide on how to save money on flights and hotels. Our weekly emails are filled with adventure inspiration, insider travel tips and exclusive discounts.

Jessie Moore
Jessie Moore

Jessie is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

Find me on: Web | Instagram


Want up to 25% off hotels?

Subscribe to my newsletter and get immediate access to my guide on how to save money on flights and hotels. Our weekly emails are filled with adventure inspiration, insider travel tips and exclusive discounts.