Galle was known as Gimhathiththa (although Ibn Batuta in the 14th century refers to it as Qali before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, when it was the main port on the island. Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period. The major river in the area is the Gin River (Gin Ganga), which starts from Gongala Kanda and, passing villages such as Neluwa, Nagoda, Baddegama, Thelikada, and Wakwella, reaches the sea at Ginthota. The river is bridged at Wakwella by the Wakwella Bridge.
Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by the Portuguese in South and Southeast Asia, showing the interaction between Portuguesearchitectural styles and native traditions. The Galle fort is a world heritage site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers. Other prominent landmarks in Galle include the city's natural harbor, the National Maritime Museum, St. Mary's Cathedral founded by Jesuitpriests, one of the main Shiva temples on the island, and Amangalla the historic luxury hotel.