Fortaleza

Galle Fort, Galle & South Coast, Sri Lanka Book from

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 becoming a chilled hangout-cum-restaurant. British owners Natalie and Liam have been clever with the layout and 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. A couple more properties have since followed, just a few doors along. Middle Street is a slightly smaller and sleeker arrangement, evoking the experience of staying in an authentic Galle House. No.1 Court Square is a self-contained one-bedroom apartment, offering ample privacy for independently spirited travellers.

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

  • Fortaleza is good value, Middle Street is a little more peaceful and luxurious, while No.1 Court Square is a true home-from-home
  • 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
  • The building have quite different atmospheres - Fortaleza is adults only, while Middle Street welcomes all ages
  • Fortaleza guests do not have access to the communal spaces at Middle Street
  • Fortaleza's downstairs Turquoise Rooms can experience noise, though they're priced to compensate
  • We're yet to personally visit Middle Street and No.1 Court Square, but we hear good things

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...

Cheap & Chic
Beach
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
Room:

Rooms

Rooms are divided between Fortaleza, Middle St 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 - useful for friends travelling together as all beds are doubles. 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.

Library Room is just a bit smaller, but it’s flooded with light during the day, thanks to a huge circular window. Turquoise Rooms are downstairs and quite a bit smaller, looking onto the restaurant terrace. Some say they feels a bit claustrophobic but this is reflected in the price.

Middle Streetis another 17th-century Dutch house, this time transformed into a chic, contemporary retreat. Added in 2015, we’re yet to personally view it, but guest rooms have a slightly more polished look, with indulgent bathrooms and enormous windows gazing over the interior terraces, gardens and lounges.

No.1 Court Square, a self-contained one-bedroom apartment, is newer still and overlooks Magistrates Square. Offering a more independent experience, this space spans two floors and includes a balcony, kitchenette and lounge.

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 or Middle Street, depending on which building you’re staying in. 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, and just a minute’s walk from Middle Street.

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 hole-in-the-wall noodles at Wok on the Wild Side on Pedlar Street (a great spot for lunch on the go) 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:

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 the Bodi Spa, a couple of doors up from Fortaleza and also run by Natalie. 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; Unawatuna and Mirissa 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
  • Whalewatching
  • Yoga

Kids

Fortaleza is an adults-only hotel, but Middle Street is suitable for all ages.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

Middle St is suitable for all, though families with babies will have to bring their own baby cots. The Superior King Room has the option of adding 4 single beds via an adjoining kids' room. There's also a Twin Room.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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