Insider's Guide to Galle, Sri Lanka
A BIT ABOUT OUR INSIDER:
Name: Hannah Balfour
Occupation: Teacher and owner of Serendipity Pilates Retreats
Hobbies and interests: Pilates, swimming, yoga, hiking, art, photography, travel...
How long have you lived in Galle? On and off since 2010. I’d say about 4 years in total, most recently from 2016 until now.
A BIT ABOUT GALLE, SRI LANKA:
How do you best navigate your city?
Cycling, walking, bus and tuk tuk. I can’t say any are particularly quick or easy - but they’re certainly entertaining!
What do you think Galle does better than other cities?
Cricket! The locals are obsessed and we love catching a game - it’s great fun to watch a match if you visit. The Galle International Stadium is known globally because of the calibre of matches hosted there. Just recently I went to watch the national teams of England and Sri Lanka compete against each other.
Where is your favourite view of the city?
The Japanese Peace Pagoda is beautiful, and has some beautiful views across the sea back to Galle.
Where is your favourite respite from city life?
Exploring inland on an Idle Bike Tour. These bike tours are a unique way to explore the local area - you get to ride through paddy fields, spot local wildlife such as buffalo and peacocks - oh and occasionally you also get to conquer a big hill.
What is your favourite building in Galle?
It’s not easy to describe the location, but I love a small local tailor’s shop with a vivid turquoise facade. I noticed it on my first ever trip to Galle in 2005, and it’s still standing.
Where do you consider to be Galle's most underrated location that more people should visit?
Galle Town which sits just outside the more famous Galle Fort. Take the time to wander around it too, you’ll experience a more local way of life including spice and fish market. There’s also a super cool fashion shop here, called The Old Railway. The owner, Catherine, designs all the clothes herself and has even showcased them at Colombo Fashion Week!
Where would you stay if you were visiting, and why?
Kikili House, a well-loved B&B in walking distance from the town and Fort.
Any etiquette tips for visitors? Dress conservatively, particularly when visiting temples. You’re also supposed to use both hands when paying cash - but don’t worry, you won’t be expected to. Just a nice touch if you remember.
Any unique exercise/work out opportunities?
I mentioned the Idle Bikes Tours above, and this fits well into this category. I’d also love to mention my Pilates Retreats, we run them periodically throughout the year and keep numbers low - but partners are also welcome to join the trips too, they can relax in the villa, hike nearby mountains, or chill on the beach with a beer… whatever they prefer!
TELL US ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE:
Which restaurant serves your favourite dish?
Vegetable samosa from Fortaleza, Galle Fort
Is there a local delicacy we should try?
Sri Lankan hoppers are delicious. They’re served lots of different ways - try them all and decide you’re favourite! [Ed - check our guide to Sri Lankan food to find out more].
Which restaurant has the best atmosphere?
Bed Space in Unawatuna. It’s quirky and understated in both its location and interior but it draws in a decent expat and tourist crowd because of its delicious food!
Where serves the best value for money dining options?
Lucky Fort Restaurant - Rs1,000 pp for a ten dish curry and they’ll refill each dish on request!
Where is the best place to splurge on a delicious meal?
The Tuna & The Crab, Galle Fort. [Ed - sister restaurant to Ministry of Crab as recommended in Colombo]. LINK WHEN LIVE
NOW, ONTO THE NIGHTLIFE:
Where might we find Colombo's best cocktail?
Fortaleza, Galle Fort.
Who has the city's best winelist?
Amangalla, Galle Fort.
And the bar with the best atmosphere?
Wijaya Beach, a stunning spot overlooking the beach - perfect for a sundowner with a balanced mix of expats and tourists.
Which bar is the best value for money?
The Shack, Dewata. It’s also a surf school by day.
And the best splurge?
Amangalla, Galle Fort . And as above, they have a wonderful wine list to peruse as well.
And finally, where is the best place to carry the night on, post-midnight?
Nights out start early here, and seasons prove to be a huge variable. It’s also a transient and developing scene, so I’m always listening out for the new hot spot. I sometimes venture further down the coast to Doctor’s House in Matara for a boogy, or Wijaya Beach is a reliable stop off to carry the night on, particularly in season.
FOR CULTURE VULTURES:
Who is your favourite local artist?
Well, I might be biased (he’s my husband!) but I’d recommend Benjamin Balfour, photographer. Prints exhibited and available to purchase at 63 Pedlars Street.
Can you sum up why you love living in this city?
I love the variety and diversity it offers; so much of the city is still underdeveloped compared to other Asian cities.