Galle National Maritime Museum


The Galle National Maritime Museum is a fascinating cultural attraction within the historic Galle Fort in Sri Lanka. Situated inside a Dutch warehouse that dates back to 1671, the museum offers visitors a glimpse into the region's rich maritime history. The museum's diverse exhibits, educational programs, and stunning artifacts are a testament to the island nation's maritime heritage. Let's explore the highlights of this captivating museum.

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History of the National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum is situated within the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates back to the colonial era. The museum is housed in a Dutch warehouse built in 1671 and incorporated into the fort's fortified ramparts. Over the centuries, Galle Port served as a vital trading hub and an important maritime centre.

The Impact of the 2004 Tsunami

The museum and the attached UNESCO Maritime Archaeology Unit faced severe devastation during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. A significant portion of the museum's collection, which comprised 3,600 archaeological objects salvaged from shipwrecks, was lost. The tsunami caused extensive damage to the infrastructure and exhibits, leaving the museum in ruins.

Reconstruction and Reopening

In the aftermath of the disaster, the Royal Government of the Netherlands provided financial assistance for the museum's reconstruction. After three years of restoration efforts, the Galle National Maritime Museum reopened its doors. The reconstructed museum now serves as an important educational centre and showcases the maritime heritage of Southern Sri Lanka.

Exhibitions and Collections

The Galle National Maritime Museum offers visitors a comprehensive look at the region's rich maritime history and diverse marine ecosystems. With its varied exhibitions and captivating collections, the museum provides a fascinating exploration of the following aspects:

Watercraft of Southern Sri Lanka
  • The first gallery showcases a wide range of watercraft used by fishing communities in Southern Sri Lanka. It highlights the evolution of local seafaring traditions and displays traditional vessels like the ancient oruva and kattumaram.
  • Visitors can witness the craftsmanship and design of these boats, which have been integral to the lives and livelihoods of the local communities for generations.
  • Additionally, the gallery features a notable model of the Dutch Staaten Jacht, providing insights into the historical influence of Dutch maritime culture in the region.
Local Fishing Communities
  • This exhibition delves into the lifestyle, fishing techniques, and cultural practices of the local fishing communities in Sri Lanka.
  • Visitors can explore artifacts, tools, and equipment that fishermen have used throughout history, gaining a deeper understanding of their traditional livelihoods and customs.
  • The exhibition emphasizes the importance of fishing in the local economy and showcases the close relationship between the communities and the sea
Shipwreck Artefacts
  • One of the museum's significant highlights is its collection of artifacts retrieved from shipwrecks off the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
  • Visitors can marvel at ancient treasures such as maps, naval craft, earthenware, beer mugs, smoking pipes, barrels, and even old artillery guns and sailor shoes.
  • These artifacts provide valuable insights into the historical maritime trade routes and the cultural exchanges that took place in the region.
Marine Ecosystems
  • The museum's second gallery is dedicated to showcasing the diverse marine ecosystems surrounding the island.
  • Visitors can explore immersive dioramas depicting early Sri Lankan hunter-gatherers and glimpse their lives from 12,000 BC to 10,000 BC.
  • The gallery also features skeletons of whales and sea turtles, allowing visitors to appreciate the incredible marine biodiversity of the region.
  • Additionally, a stunning collection of corals and shells offers insights into the unique and fragile ecosystems found in the waters around Sri Lanka.

Noteworthy Artifacts

Among the many fascinating artifacts housed in the museum, several stand out:

The Sri Lanka Navy's First Warship
  • One remarkable artifact is the ship's wheel from the first warship of the Sri Lanka Navy. This warship was a Fleet Minesweeper of the Algerine Class, commissioned in 1949.
  • The ship's wheel symbolizes the nation's naval history and its contribution to maritime security. It serves as a reminder of Sri Lanka's commitment to protecting its waters and ensuring safe maritime operations.
Compasses and Anchors
  • The museum proudly displays a collection of old compasses and rusty anchors, providing visitors with a glimpse into the navigation techniques and equipment used by sailors throughout history.
  • These artifacts not only showcase the practical tools employed by mariners but also evoke a sense of the challenges they faced while navigating the open seas.
Traditional Fishing Vessels
  • Visitors to the museum can observe traditional fishing vessels like the oruva and kattumaram, which local fishermen have utilized for centuries.
  • These boats testify to the rich maritime heritage of Sri Lanka's fishing communities. They offer a glimpse into the time-honoured fishing techniques and practices that have sustained these communities for generations.
Dutch Staaten Jacht Model
  • A true highlight of the museum is a meticulously crafted model of a Dutch Staaten Jacht, generously donated by the city of Velsen in Holland.
  • This particular ship played a significant role in the activities of the Dutch East India Company during the 17th and 18th centuries, showcasing the historical ties between Sri Lanka and Dutch maritime history.
  • The model serves as a captivating representation of the Dutch influence on maritime trade and exploration during that era.

The museum preserves relics and trade items recovered from shipwrecks near Galle. Visitors can explore scale models of the wrecks and various artifacts that provide insights into the historical maritime trade routes and the goods transported across the Indian Ocean. The museum offers immersive dioramas that depict early Sri Lankan hunter-gatherers, providing a window into their lives from 12,000 BC to 10,000 BC. Additionally, visitors can marvel at the lifelike displays of marine life, including dugongs, porpoises, dolphins, and whales.

Visiting the Museum

The Galle National Maritime Museum welcomes visitors daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. To make the most of your visit, it is recommended to watch the starting documentary, which provides a captivating overview of the city's history and heritage.

Ticket Prices

  • Local child: Rs 25
  • Local adult: Rs 50
  • Foreign child: Rs 350
  • Foreign adult: Rs 550

The Galle National Maritime Museum represents Sri Lanka's seafaring past and rich maritime heritage. The museum offers a captivating journey into the island's history, fishing communities, and marine ecosystems through exhibits and collections. A visit to this remarkable museum is a must for those seeking to explore Sri Lanka's cultural and maritime legacy.


  1. Can I visit the Galle National Maritime Museum outside the fort's opening hours?
    • No, the museum operates within the fort's opening hours, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  2. Are there any additional charges for guided tours or audio guides?
    • The museum offers guided tours, which may involve additional charges. It's best to inquire at the museum's reception for more information.
  3. Can I take photographs inside the museum?
    • Yes, photography is allowed inside the museum. However, any specific restrictions should be checked with the museum staff.
  4. Is there a gift shop or cafe within the museum premises?
    • Yes, the museum has a gift shop where visitors can purchase souvenirs and a cafe to enjoy refreshments.
  5. Are there any parking facilities available near the museum?
    • Yes, parking facilities are available near the Galle Fort, where the museum is located. Visitors can find parking spaces within walking distance of the museum.


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