Galle Fort Hotel

Galle & South Coast, Sri Lanka Book from US$250

Reviewed by Emma Taylor
Tucked inside Galle's historic fort, this former merchant's home is now a gem of a hotel, with a restaurant and pretty pool
Galle Fort is a spellbinding mixture of Dutch, British and Sri Lankan history and architecture, with fewer than 200 homes inside its 17th-century ramparts. Now one of these is a hotel - and what a hotel it is. Antique four-poster beds, wooden shutters, wide verandas and a colonnaded court evoke its former life as a gem merchant's mansion. Today there's also a boutique pool, a choice of yoga and beauty treatments, and a clutch of bedrooms and suites which mix contemporary décor with quirky nods to the building's past.

The hotel also has a café-restaurant, where new arrivals can get their bearings over a cocktail, beneath high ceilings and grand archways. For dinner, expect Chinese-Thai cuisine, friendly, relaxed service and candle-lit tables. Ask for advice about how to navigate the fort next morning or perhaps join one of the hotel's tours. Finish the day with a sunset meander along the historic fort walls.

Highs

  • The rooms are stylish, spacious and comfortable - and The Grand Apartment has views over the fort
  • The inner courtyard is ideal for lazy days under the sun and the pool is wonderfully cooling
  • The restaurant and bar have a great atmosphere for meeting other travellers
  • Well-located and local tours can be arranged

Lows

  • The hotel will be undergoing refurbishments in September - guests may experience some disruption during this time
  • The restaurant and bar are open to non guests, but the rest of the hotel is private and serene
  • Most rooms face the central courtyard and have no town views - privacy can also be limited
  • Negotiating the stairs to your bathroom (in the loft suites) can be tricky at night
  • There's been a change of ownership since we visited, and we've heard mixed reports about the service in recent months

Best time to go

October to April are considered the best months in this part of Sri Lanka. Temperatures hover around 28C all year but heavy rains usually fall in May/June and September/October. Book well in advance if you want to visit during the busy Christmas period.

Our top tips

Take half a day to venture out of Galle and visit the Kataluwa Buddhist temple. Hidden in the jungle, it has some of the most interesting frescoes in Sri Lanka and you don’t have to share it with busloads of tourists.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Foodie
Spa
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 11
  • Restaurant + bar (open daily)
  • Children over 3 welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Garden Room

Rooms

Arranged over 3 floors around the central courtyard, all but one of the rooms and suites face inwards. You won't get views of Galle, but you will get a quiet, simple and spacious retreat - elegantly furnished with just a few antique pieces.

Standard Garden Rooms open directly on to the poolside and garden area. Although smaller than other rooms, they're comfortable, cool and restful, with pretty, tiled lightwells, and make a good value option.

The Loft Suites are above these rooms and open onto a wide, shared balcony furnished with comfortable chaises longues. Each is spread over 2 floors, with a kingsize bed upstairs and a living room and small bathroom downstairs. The Porcelain Suite is the same size, but with vaulted ceilings and beautiful blue and white porcelain decorations.

The Admiral Cheng Ho Suite and the Library Suite are even more lavishly decorated and a tad larger. The former has a carved Chinese opium bed, columns, intricate oriental furniture and a waterfall shower.

If you're travelling as a family or honeymooning in style, then splash out on The Grand Apartment. It has 2 large double rooms, a spacious lounge, a large private balcony and - what the other rooms lack - a view of Galle, with its churches and mosques poking up among rows of sun-baked, terracotta-tiled roofs.

Lastly, more of a villa within the hotel, is the Mews Suite - a self-contained outhouse with a private courtyard. It has a kingsize bed for grown-ups and a mezzanine level with a large day bed for children.

Features include:

  • Terrace
  • Wifi internet
  • Phone
  • Wifi internet
  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Fan
  • Mosquito net
  • Extra beds
  • Bathrobes

Eating

The hotel is a charming environment in which to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner: white pillars, grand vistas of high ceilings and archways, and a calming atmosphere.

Stroll down from your room to breakfast on the veranda - it consists of the usual fruit, toast and eggs, although there are lovely coconut hoppers (a new take on an old Sri Lankan favourite) and the coffee is excellent.

For lunch and dinner, the food is a combination of Chinese and Thai flavours. Expect dishes such as crab cakes with coriander and lime, huge chilli prawns the size of lobsters and wok-fried chicken with jasmine rice, perhaps with pineapple and mint sorbet for dessert.

For all meals, you can sit in the lounge, in the more formal air-conditioned dining room or - best of all - outside on the veranda beside the candle-lit, turquoise pool.

The hotel also serves afternoon tea, has an extensive cocktail list and offers a good wine selection.

Features include:

  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Bar
  • Vegetarian menu
  • Breakfast
  • Food and wine
  • Walk to restaurants
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Take a stroll around the Fort, a Unesco World Heritage site. Start with a sunset (or sunrise) walk around the walls - 2.5km in all - and wander around the cobbled, labyrinth-like streets for a real insight into life here
  • Explore the many small boutiques which are springing up around Galle Fort - Karl is a fount of knowledge on them and will happily provide recommendations. Start at AA Ibrahim's for fantastic gems, from made-to-order rings to ready-made necklaces and belt buckles, head to Mimimango for Indian clothes and shoes and try Elephant House for gifts, homeware and cards
  • You can reach some great beaches from Galle - head to hippyish Unawatuna for laidback bars by the sand or trendy Weijia for socialising with eccentric expats
  • Mingle with other travellers in the hotel and share your Sri Lankan adventures
  • When you want to retreat from the heat, enjoy a massage from the hotel's extensive menu of beauty treatments, which combine oriental oils with modern techniques

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Food and wine
  • History religious
  • Museum
  • Scuba diving
  • Snorkeling
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Shopping

Kids

Children over the age of 3 are welcome at the hotel, though the owners limit the total number of children staying at any one time in order to retain its "grown-up" feel.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra beds can be provided in most rooms (excluding the Garden Rooms), however the most spacious options are the Admiral Cheng Ho Suite, the Library Suite and The Grand Apartment.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement.

Kid Friendly: Admiral Cheng Ho Suite

Our guests' ratings...

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

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