Epithelial cells lining mucosal surfaces impose multiple barriers to viral infection. At the ocular surface, the carbohydrate-binding protein galectin-3 maintains barrier function by cross-linking transmembrane mucins on the apical glycocalyx. Despite these defense mechanisms, many viruses have evolved to exploit fundamental cellular processes on host cells. Here, we use affinity assays to show that herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), but not HSV-2, binds human galectin-3. Knockdown of galectin-3 in human corneal keratinocytes by small interfering RNA significantly impaired HSV-1 infection, but not expression of nectin-1, indicating that galectin-3 is a herpesvirus entry mediator. Interestingly, exposure of epithelial cell cultures to transmembrane mucin isolates decreased viral infectivity. Moreover, HSV-1 failed to elute the biological counterreceptor MUC16 from galectin-3 affinity columns, suggesting that association of transmembrane mucins to galectin-3 provides protection against viral infection. Together, these results indicate that HSV-1 exploits galectin-3 to enhance virus attachment to host cells and support a protective role for transmembrane mucins under physiological conditions by masking viral entry mediators on the epithelial glycocalyx.