The Best Places to Stay at the Galle Fort

Although Galle is not the kind of tourism spot that is normally besieged by droves of loud, noisy camera-happy tourists as some very popular sites are, it still has its own steady stream of visitors and sightseers that keep its hotels, rest houses and restaurants busy.  Being once a highly active port city, Galle is not new to the business of providing accommodation to visitors. In fact, as far as hotels and restaurants go, Galle has some of the most outstanding.

The historic Amangalla for one offers more than just the standard hotel amenities. It gives customers both a glimpse and a feel of the colonial times with its high ceilings, chandeliers and overhead fans especially seen in its Zaal or Great Hall, as the Dutch used to call it. This Great Hall with its fascinating design, which serves as the main entrance to the resort, is the hotel's main attraction. Located in 10 Church Street right at the heart of the Galle Fort, the Amangalla, which once served as the Dutch governor's mansion and quarters for the British troops, readily serves tired sightseers cold beer, lime soda as well as other more substantial and sumptuous food like its specialty of chicken and coconut milk curry and tiffin. A verandah facing the tree-lined street in front of the hotel provides comfortable seating to tourists who may want to take a brief respite from their sightseeing to simply enjoy the cool breeze while sipping a tall drink and letting the world go by as they admire their magnificent surroundings. The hotel also provides light meals and snacks every morning and tea every afternoon.

The Lighthouse Hotel located in Dadella, which is 2.5 km northwest towards Colombo, is a luxurious 3-star beachfront hotel that boasts of a spectacular view of the Indian Ocean. Designed by famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, the scenic hotel is perched atop a hill located close to a chain of lowland tropical rainforests. Inspired by the influence of Dutch architecture, the beachfront hotel offers guests a touch of history and class served along with splendid food and world-class service. The hotel's facilities include 60 well-furnished and spacious environmentally friendly rooms in teak with central air conditioning. Those whose budgets can afford it have a choice of three luxury suites themed in Chinese, Moroccan and Dutch. Another interesting feature of the hotel is its main staircase that holds unusual figures depicting Portuguese settlers in Sri Lanka.

The Galle Fort Hotel at 28 Church Street is also situated right in the middle of the Galle Fort. Like the New Oriental Hotel, it first saw the light of day as an 18th century Dutch villa thus adding to Sri Lanka's select band of luxury old-colonial hotels. Travelers to the fort attest that the Galle Fort Hotel provides magnificent accommodation and provides visitors with one of the "most uplifting historical experiences" they could have while visiting Sri Lanka. The hotel's facilities include access to beaches, heritage sites, tea plantations, rainforests and game parks. Yoga and massage is available to those who want to pamper their tired bodies.

The Closenberg Hotel on 11 Closenberg Road is roughly 2 km out of Galle on the Matara Road. This hotel is also a former 19th century villa and was built in 1858 for a certain Captain Bailey. Another beautiful old-colonial Dutch-inspired home, this hotel, is decorated with original antique furniture and bordered by a beautiful garden with many tropical trees and flowers. Built on a promontory overlooking the sea, the five-minute descent leads to a fine sandy beach. The Closenberg Hotel is one of Galle's best mid-range hotels.

Aside from the hotels, there are also some fascinating guesthouses that provide magnificent accommodations to visitors of Galle. The Old Dutch House, for instance, located on 42 Lighthouse Street in the middle of the fort area, is another lovely and historic colonial style villa that was beautifully restored to house three magnificently decorated suites that each offers an ambience of luxury and style unmatched in the magical island. Patterned after the luxury hotels of Asia, Hongkong publisher Geoffrey Dobbs who undertook its restoration made sure that the beautiful ambience suited an 18th century building. The fact that the building only offers three suites gives the visitors a sense of ownership of the place and privacy in the exotic island. The main attraction of the Old Dutch House is its stunning infinity pool.

Equally luxurious and stylish as the Dutch House is the Sun House, which was also beautifully restored by Geoffrey Dobbs and patterned after the luxury hotels in Asia. Located in 18 Upper Dickson Road, the Sun House was built in the 1860s by a Scottish spice merchant. An amazing showcase of modern-day luxury combined with an old colonial feel, the 6-suite Sun House is set in the hills overlooking the town of Galle, giving it an atmosphere of total peace and relaxation. A haven for romantic couples and those seeking solitude, the place is also renowned for its superb cooking and excellent service. Of course all this luxury comes at a price and a brief stay in both the Sun House and the Old Dutch House can prove to be quite pricey for the ordinary traveler.

Another place for Galle visitors to stay is the Lady Hill Mansion located at 29 Upper Dickson Road. A beautifully restored 19th century mansion quietly perched on top of the highest point in the city of Galle, the Lady Hill Mansion allows visitors to view the lush green tea plantation stretching down the mountainside to merge with the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The ideal place for tourists, the mansion is close to both the city of Galle and to the best beaches in the area and provides magnificent views of the fort and the harbor. 

A slightly modest yet appealing place for tourists is the family-owned Rampart View guesthouse located some 500 m from the Galle Railway Station inside the Galle Fort. With 5 air-conditioned rooms available for occupancy, Rampart View offers a spectacular view of the lighthouse, the rampart and the sea. It also serves as an ideal starting point from which to start one's tour of Galle and the South Coast.