Galle, Sri Lanka

General Information

Regional secretariat

Administrative status

Capital of the Province of Galle

Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications

Registration Year


Historical function

Defense and administration

Location and site

Situated in the southwest of Sri Lanka about 100 km south of Colombo, the city of Galle is on the shores of the Indian Ocean. It is constructed on a rocky peninsula which houses a natural port to which access is complicated by the presence of massive coral reefs.

Urban morphology

The peninsula extends from north to south. Inside the fortified enclosure, which has a circumference of 3 km, the urban grid is rectilinear although its regularity is disrupted near the east and west ramparts, where it follows their orientation. The essential layout of the city was established by the Dutch in 1669.

Since the 18th century, Galle has had the appearance of a fortified stronghold. Fourteen bastions are integrated into the wall and a drawbridge protects the fortified fort at the city’s north end. Other buildings of military character – the official residence, the arsenal, the powder depot – were carefully located inside the enclosure. Commercial and storage buildings can also be found near the port. The dwellings built by the Dutch, with their dressed stone walls and large doors, embellish Galle’s quiet streets to this day.

Registration criteria

Criterion (iv): Galle provides an outstanding example of an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Among the characteristics which make this an urban group of exceptional value is the original sewer system from the 17th century, flushed with sea water controlled by a pumping station formerly activated by a windmill on the Triton bastion.

Historical reference

  • The Bay of Galle has been used since ancient times. Known to exist in 545, it protects one of the oldest commercial ports of the Levant. In the 14th century, Galle’s port was one of the most active in Sri Lanka.
  • In 1505, the Portuguese settled on the island. They established a trading post in Galle in 1507, and constructed the small fort of Santa Cruz. At the end of the 16th century, after moving temporarily to Colombo, they returned to Galle and erected a rampart at the north end of the peninsula, on the side of the isthmus. In 1625, when the island was threatened by the Dutch, they added three bastions to this rampart.
  • The Dutch troops captured the modest Portuguese garrison and transformed it into a powerful fortress. They built a rampart around the entire island, with a double wall to close the peninsula on the side of the isthmus. The British, French, Danish and Spanish coveted this Dutch fortress on the Indian Ocean. In the 18th century, Galle enjoyed a period without threat.
  • Under British rule from 1796, it maintained its regional administrative function. Following the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, the island became a British colony, a status it held until 1948.



Mr. Priyantha Godagama Sahabandu

Galle Municipal Council

Colombo Road, Kaluwella
Galle, Southern Province, Sri Lanka

0094 0777203571
[email protected]

Mr. Gihan Abeysooriya

Management Assistant
Galle Municipal Council

Townhall, Kaluwella
Galle, Southern Province, Sri Lanka

[email protected]

Mr. Parakrama Dahanayaka

Municipal Councilor
Galle Municipal Council

Townhall, Kaluwella
Galle, Southern province, Sri Lanka

0094 0777721547
[email protected]