Founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese, Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, before the arrival of the British. It is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions.

Galle is located at the extreme southwest corner of the island, where the shoreline turns east towards Matara and Tangalle. The Fort, like most of the forts in Sri Lanka, is built on a small peninsula, belonging to the sea as much as to the land. There are treacherous rocks in the water near the fort, and a treacherous current, so a pilot was needed to approach it. The seafloor here is littered with shipwrecks. The only way to attempt a conquest was to attack it from the landside, where the Zon, Maan and Ster bastions are impenetrable.

Galle has something special about it. It is a blend of both the past and the present, the native and the colonial. It was here that the first Portuguese fleet led by Laurenco De Almeida sailed into the country nearly five centuries ago. It was here that the Dutch more than three centuries ago built their famous 90-acre (360,000 m2) fort which still retains its old world charm with its high ramparts and ornate pepperpot towers. It was here that cottage industries such as turtle-shell ware, ebony ornaments and beeralu lace flourished about a century or so ago before gradually declining or passing into oblivion. Galle was no doubt once a leading centre of the native arts and crafts.

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