The Galle Fort in Sri Lanka is perhaps the most popular attraction for both tourists and locals today. Much of its architecture remains untouched, but whilst it was mostly filled with residents whose families had lived there for generations until recently, today it is home to chic boutique hotels, luxury clothing and jewellery stores, upscale art galleries and fancy restaurants.
Although it is popularly referred to as the Dutch Fort, mostly due to its heavy Dutch influence, the original fort was built by Portuguese colonists in the 15th Century. After the Dutch successfully took over rule of Galle in 1640, its most significant constructions took place. The most prominent feature of the fort is the ramparts, constructed with granite to an impressive height and width. The streets that run through the fort are also very characteristic of the planning of Dutch cities, as are many of the homes that are still around today. The Dutch Reformed Church is perhaps one of the most visited sites within the fort, especially for the stately tombs and memorials for early Dutch residents in its outer garden.
The fort was officially handed over to British colonists in the late 18th Century, and if was during this time that the famous lighthouse was built. During this time and much after Independence, the fort was largely inhabited by Muslim traders and their families, many of them who continue to call it their home and have introduced their own culture to its multicultural community. This coexistence of different communities have led the fort to become an interesting blend of the East and West.
Over the last few years, many of the buildings within the fort have been repurposed as hotels, shops and restaurants. On almost all days of the week, the fort is filled with visitors from all over the world. It also plays host to the much respected Galle Literary Festival each year, as well many smaller arts events and flea markets at other times of the year.