Old Town of Galle (Galle, Sri Lanka)

The old city of Galle designated as the World Heritage flourished as the first port of Sri Lanka until it gave its position to Colombo in the 19th century.

The foundation of the current town dates back to Portugal's arrival in 1505. In 1640, Netherlands expanded the small fort created by Portugal in 1589, and the prototype of the actual old city was completed. The thick masonry fort sticking out to the Indian Ocean didn’t budge from the tsunami of the Sumatra Earthquake and stopped the damage of the old city .

In 1796, the town passed into Britain and reached the summit as a calling point for trading and passenger ships connecting Europe with Asia.

"Sleeping city" is the first impression that I walked around the streets of Galle.

When you visit Galle, expecting the city of a well-maintained World Heritage, you might disappoint. Old private houses and lovely alleys still remain, but the prosperity of the old time had gone long ago. There are hotels and souvenir shops for a tourist in places, but the air of the town is the same as ordinary Sri Lankan local towns .

Some of colonial churches of cultural properties are open only two days a week. There is no business suitable for the World Heritage. But, personally, I like this kind of atmosphere that is no grandly developed.

A typical townhouse in Galle has a terrace as a buffer space between an alley and a house. There are similar houses in other towns, but the fact that a lot of number of houses gather together and that those are tied to old-fashioned narrow alleys is the attraction of Galle.

A terrace with eaves is an intermediate space connecting outdoor and indoor. It might be a valuable open space to sit back in a chair and cool down at night in the built-up town although I could not see such way to use.

At first glance, it seems to be a semi-public space as extension of an alley, but it sets up columns with order and handrails with a beautiful moulding as well as it has a white marble on the floor to separate from an alley. Though a terrace is only one step higher than an alley, it tacitly implies that the terrace is a private area due to the difference in the finish of the space from an alley. Such way to create a boundary seemed to me to be a intellectual way to form relationship in the historical city.

A window facing the terrace is ornamented with a stained glass or decorative pattern. It is a part that conveys a status and richness of the family. It must be the aesthetic sense of the old town of Galle that has been taken over for a long time.

In a big plaza, the pavement is renovated and colonial public buildings are undergoing makeups. Improvement for tourism is progressing steadily. In this way, the town will regain the brilliance of the colonial era and revitalization with the power of tourism will be an excellent promotion measure with little new burden in the area.


What I felt taking a stroll in Galle is that the town, where prosperity passed away and which dropped out from the industrial change in the new era, has become old with a good touch even if the town is forgotten in the present history. For a town, there would be an era when it was youthful as well as when it gets old. That is the natural providence and it is not so bad if the town is in a calm old age.

It would be a luxurious wish to hope that Galle keeps taking a doze for a while to have the distant dream of the past ?

To Japanese Version

Google Maps

Within the walking distance of downtown Kataragama



Lonely Planet Guide 'Sri Lanka' (Lonely Planet Publication, 2006)

2008.01 Photos in English version, and photos and text in Japanese version

2018.01 Change of photos and English text

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Townscape of the old town of Galle

Photo by Daigo Ishii