Galle was an international port until the Colombo port was developed in the 19th Century. Galle Harbour was frequented by Chinese sailors and Arabians before the Portuguese occupied Galle in the 16th Century. The Dutch captured Galle in 1640 and handed it over to the British in 1796. Galle is the administrative City of the Galle District. Old Town Of Galle & Its Fortifications has been declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Galle Fort (Archaeological Site)
In 1505, the Portuguese invaded Galle and built a temporary fort which was destroyed by the King of Sitavaka Rajasinha. Thereafter the Portuguese built a much stronger fort in 1619 intended as a permanent structure. A ninety two acre piece of land in this fort was then extensively fortified by the Dutch in 1663. It is characterized by strong ramparts and a series of bastions including those named Sun, Moon, Neptune, Zwart, Aurora, Aeolus, Triton, Clippenburg and Point Utrecht. The wall is five feet in width and 50-70 feet in height. The entrance gate is a half curved tunnel made of granite. On the inside of the old gate could be seen the monogrammed arms of the “Vereenigde de Oost Indische Compagnie” (Dutch East India Company) with the date MDCLXIX (1669) below it. It also contains many residences going back to the Dutch period as well as street names of Dutch origin like Leynbaan Street.the court and the Administrative buildings inside the fort are regarded as some of the best specimens of Dutch architecture in the island. The British took over the fort on 23rd February 1796, a week after Colombo was captured. Thereafter they undertook a few modifications. The remains of various artifacts and buildings belonging to all the colonial powers can be seen here.
Dutch Church (Archaeological Site)
De Groote Kerk or Dutch Reformed Church situated in Galle Fort was built by the Dutch Commander Casparus de Jong in gratitude for the birth of a long awaited daughter in 1752. The Church with its two gables and stained glass windows is in a well preserved state and contains numerous gravestones going back to the Dutch period.
Galle National Museum (Archaeological Site)
Housed in an old colonial Dutch building, this large museum displays a variety of exhibits including Dutch period weaponry, old masks used in folk dances and traditional handicrafts like Beeralu Lace and Turtle Shell ware.
National Maritime Museum (Archaeological Site)
Housed in an old Dutch building dating to 1671 near the old gate of Galle Fort, the museum displays a variety of exhibits connected with sea-faring, fishing and sea-life. This includes the wheel of the first warship of the Sri Lanka Navy, ”Vijaya”, an Oruva or dug-out canoe and models of various local watercraft as well as a Dutch Staaten Jacht.
Visitors can see a number of marine artifacts recovered in underwater explorations in the museum. There are maps, naval craft, ropes, earthenware, beer mugs, smoking pipes, barrels, vast amount of articles including artillery guns and sailor shoes recovered from shipwrecks in the sea off the Southern coast.
Historical Mansion Museum (Archaeological Site)
A private museum owned by Abdul Gaffar, a gem merchant by profession. It is housed in an old Dutch building in Leynbaan Street. In its courtyard could be seen a Dutch period well and a granite slab with the VOC monogram dated 1763. The exhibits include VOC coins, porcelain plates and a variety of lamps including house lamps, train lamps and oil lamps made of granite. Also exhibited are various antique items like smoothing irons, gramophones, telephones, cameras and sewing machines.