Fortaleza

Galle Fort, Galle & South Coast, Sri Lanka Book from Book from £104 per night

An attractive and peaceful small hotel with a popular restaurant, in the heart of Galle's Old Fort
One of the Fort’s oldest colonial buildings, this 17th-century structure is now a lovely small hotel with contemporary flair and a friendly feel, the leafy courtyard out back a chilled hangout-cum-restaurant. British owners Natalie and Liam have been clever with the atmosphere they've created - locals and travellers drop in and out for a drink or something to eat, and it's been sympathetically restored without becoming chocolate-box boutique. There are 15 bedrooms, spread out over this and neighbouring buildings, each with their own distinct personality. Fortaleza's rooms are simple but you have the restaurant on-hand; Middle Street's rooms are more peaceful and luxurious, evoking the experience of staying in an authentic Galle House; Lighthouse Street is full of bright tropical art; Landesi has been rebuilt in Dutch colonial style, with incredible timber doors and ceilings, and No.1 Court Square is a self-contained one-bedroom apartment, offering privacy for independent travellers.

Whichever you choose, Galle’s timeless streets are literally on your doorstep: jewellery shops spilling with gems; ancient ramparts for sunset walks; dusty antique shops selling old framed pictures of the Queen; buzzy restaurants and local cricket matches. Vibrant by day, sleepy at night, a bewitching blend of cobbled streets and hidden courtyards, it’s not hard to fall for Galle. And this collection of cool, airy rooms are a great base to do just that.

Highs

  • Great value
  • A pleasing blend of old colonial elegance and contemporary style
  • Fresh flowers, crisp white sheets and lots of pillows on supremely comfortable beds - everything feels very well looked after
  • Delicious food in Fortaleza's restaurant, drawing on Asian and English influences
  • Under Natalie and Liam’s guidance the staff are very friendly and helpful, lending a family-run air to everything

Lows

  • Galle is quiet after dark so don’t come here looking for nightlife
  • Note, the buildings have quite different atmospheres - Fortaleza and Lighthouse Street are adults only, while Middle Street and Landesi welcome all ages
  • Fortaleza guests do not have access to the communal spaces at the other properties
  • Fortaleza's downstairs Turquoise rooms experience noise but are priced accordingly

Best time to go

The high season in Sri Lanka is from November to March but coming out of season is cheaper and less crowded, for which a bit of daily but almost scheduled rain is the only price to pay. The hotel closes for a few days in mid-April, over Sinhalese New Year.

Our top tips

Even if you’re not into cricket, if there’s a match on, go and take a look, either from the stalls (free) or from the edge of the ramparts. Against the backdrop of The Old Fort it’s a stunning spot and a perfect piece of Sri Lankan life.

Like all seaside towns, watch out for mosquitos; there are mosquito nets in the rooms but it's essential to bring repellent.

Great for...

Beach
Cheap & Chic
Foodie
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 15
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • Welcome but not ideal
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Fortaleza: Turquoise Double Room

Rooms

Rooms are divided between Fortaleza, Middle Street, Lighthouse Street, Landesi and No.1 Court Square (all within a few doors of each other). Expect dark wooden floors, handmade beds draped with mosquito nets and an eclectic mix of authentic colonial fans alongside modern art and photography. Travel guides and fresh flowers give a classy feel, and everything is very clean and well looked after. Bathrooms are small but perfectly formed, with great showers and nice toiletries.

We stayed in Fortaleza’s large Master Bedroom, which had a beautiful carved wooden sofa and a daybed. Although it overlooked the street, Galle is very quiet at night and the whir of the air-conditioning meant we didn’t hear a thing. Bed linens were especially nice, with soft new sheets and lots of pillows. Fortaleza's Turquoise Rooms are downstairs and quite a bit smaller, looking onto the restaurant terrace. Some say they feel a bit claustrophobic but this is reflected in the price.

Middle Street and Landesi are 17th-century Dutch houses, transformed into chic, contemporary retreats. Guest rooms have a slightly more polished look, with indulgent bathrooms and enormous windows gazing over the interior terraces, gardens and lounges. We loved the Lighthouse Street rooms, which were bright and contemporary, with tropical art adorning the walls.

No.1 Court Square is a self-contained one-bedroom apartment overlooking Magistrates Square. Offering a more independent experience, this space spans 2 floors and includes a balcony, kitchenette and lounge. A real home-from-home.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Coffee and tea tray (on request)
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron (on request)
  • Mosquito net
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is served in Fortaleza's restaurant. Choose from eggs any way (try the coddled eggs with spinach), toast and fruit, delicious coffee. Fortaleza’s restaurant is then open for the rest of the day for lunch and dinner; it's a popular spot with locals and travellers.

Everything we ate was delicious. Essentially Liam and Natalie thought about what they’d like to cook, and made that their key criteria in choosing the menu. We thoroughly enjoyed chicken liver pate with toast, pickles and tomato chilli jam, followed by prawn fajitas with tomato and coriander salsa, then banoffee pie for dessert. The wine list is short and simple but does the trick, and the vibe is lovely and relaxed.

There are lots of other restaurants in Galle, ranging from traditional Sri Lankan curries at Hoppa on Pedlar Street to old-school colonial grandeur at the immaculate Galle Fort Hotel. The homemade ice creams at Pedlars’ Inn Cafe are not to be missed. Sublime.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity: I, Ulflarsen

Activities

  • Take a tour of the Old Fort’s ‘secrets’ with a local guide
  • Explore Galle's antique and bric-a-brac shops
  • Have a massage in Galle Fort Spa, a couple of doors up from Fortaleza. It’s calm, sophisticated and super relaxing, and their locally made organic soap makes perfect take-home gifts
  • Jump in a tuk-tuk and head to nearby beaches for a swim and lunch. Hotel guests have free access to a beach club in Talpe, which is a great place to unwind; alternatively Unawatuna and Mirissa beaches are both lovely, about 20 minutes away. Or buy a day pass to The Lighthouse to use their pool
  • Watch cricket with the locals; it’s free and gives a charming view of Galle life
  • Learn to cook Sri-Lankan style in a villa outside Galle, surrounded by paddy fields. Afterwards, have a full-on colonial tea and visit the local temple; Natalie can arrange
  • Middle Street guests can join an early morning yoga practice on the first-floor terrace, attend cookery classes and unwind in the property's guest-only walled garden

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Whale watching
  • Yoga

Kids

The rooms at Fortaleza are suitable for 12+ year olds; Lighthouse Street accepts 10+ year olds; rooms at Middle Street and Landesi are suitable for all ages.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Middle St and Landesi rooms are suitable for all, though families with babies will have to bring their own baby cots.

Kid Friendly: Fortaleza: Turquoise Twin Room

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 4 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
8/10
Food
9/10
Service
8/10
Value
9/10
Overall

We stayed 2 nights in the Queen Bedroom of Fortaleza's Landesi property - quite the most beautiful stay of our whole trip. It felt a real privilege to stay effectively in a private house, complete with staff, that is designed so beautifully. The spaces are huge, furniture tasteful and bed supremely comfortable. The location is excellent too.
Due to bad weather we shortened our stay by a day and the staff at Fortaleza were understanding and flexible.

9/10,

A friend and I stayed in the Fortaleza a few weeks ago and had a fantastic experience. The two managers were so helpful in planning outings and making recommendations to make our stay as fun/seamless as possible. One thing I don't think they mention on the listing but that was a big benefit was the beach club that they manage in Talpe, which all guests have access to. We spent two whole days hanging out there and it kind of made the end of our trip.

10/10,

Fantastic room

9/10,

Stunning room in beautifully restored old building. Great location within Galle Fort. Friendly helpful staff.

9/10,

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Rates for Fortaleza