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

Galle illustrates the interactions between European architecture and South Asian traditions of the 17th through 19th centuries. European models have been transposed by local builders to adapt to the geological, climatic, historic and cultural conditions of Sri Lanka: in the structure the ramparts, for example, coral frequently replaces granite; in the plan, all of the dimensions conform to the regional metrology. The layout of the dwellings is another sign of the cultural integration of Galle’s architecture, which is European only in principle. (IV)

Historical reference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 Sahabadnu

Galle Municipal Council

Colombo Road, Kaluwella
Galle, Sri Lanka


Ms. Wasana Gunarathne

Galle Municipal Council

Colombo Road, Kaluwella
Galle, Sri Lanka


Mr. Methsiri de Silva

City of Galle

Colombo Road, Kaluwella
Galle, Sri Lanka