The historic Galle Fort Hotel in Sri Lanka reopens inside the UNESCO World Heritage site, after massive two-year restoration.
Sri Lanka’s most iconic heritage hotel, Galle Fort Hotel, reopened on 23rd February 2022, after completing an extensive two-year restoration process.
Located inside the UNESCO World Heritage Galle Fort, the ultra- luxe boutique hotel is housed in a Dutch mansion that dates back 300 years.
The property was once a warehouse and served as the residence of a renowned family of gem merchants during the British era. It was also used as Royal Air Force barracks and even a cricket pitch.
The heritage restoration of the Galle Fort Hotel was done, working in line with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Archaeology to ensure that the building’s 300-year-old Dutch walls and facade were conserved as authentically as possible.
In its new look, the Galle Fort Hotel features 11 luxurious suites with varying themes and decor.
The Loft Suites have been given an entirely new look inspired by the Dutch East India Company, while the newly introduced Garden Suite draws its theme from the illustrations of a Dutch botanist.
The Admiral Cheng Ho Suite features a Chinese-inspired decor, to reflect Galle as a historic crossroads of trade, while the entry-level Garden Room stands out with its massive hand-painted wall, commissioned to a local artist. Expert restorers were brought in to work with the antiques, which are seen across the hotel and suites.
One of the structural highlights of this property is the stunning Palladian colonnade verandah, which houses the Galle Fort Hotel Bar, with its exclusive selection of gins from across the globe. The adjoining gourmet restaurant is one of the best tables in the Galle Fort and serves up Western fusion cuisine.
The architect who has contributed to the different stages of this building’s history is Channa Daswatte, while Sri Lankan interior decorator Eranga Tennakoon has curated the decor, antiques, and art within the property.
Amrit Rajaratnam, founder of Maitland & Knox Heritage Hotels, an experiential luxury company that owns the hotel says, “The refurbishment of an iconic property like this one is always a challenge, and Covid pre- presented its own set of hurdles. That said, the hotel is still one of the finest examples of Dutch architecture in the Fort.”
He added, ” The Suites play on these strengths and draw inspiration from the Dutch East India Company, and the spice trade, which was used as an underlying theme to decorate the Loft Suites, among others. At Maitland & Knox, our properties act as experiences and not mere hotels. Sri Lanka is an ideal destination for im- immersive, experiential luxury.”
Shayan Kannangara, Director, Maitland & Knox Heritage Hotels, comments, “Experiential luxury travel has always been our forte at Maitland & Knox Heritage Hotels. Galle Fort Hotel is poised to take this ethos to new levels with curated mini adventures in the local lifestyle and food & beverage.”
He continued, ” Sri Lanka is the ideal boutique hospitality destination if marketed strategically to high net worth tourists, encompassing FITs as well as small families and groups of friends. This is where the boutique segment can truly be showcased.”
About Galle Fort Hotel
With foundations dating back over three centuries, the property was originally a Dutch mansion and warehouse, and as such the 18th century doors and windows on the building’s façade are perhaps the best examples of their kind within the Fort.
A regency top floor was added during the British era when the house was refashioned for the Maccan Markars, a renowned family of gem merchants. Along with a grand Palladian colonnade, a ceremonial entrance arch was installed, which, to this day, never fails to take guests’ breath away.
In 2007 UNESCO awarded the hotel the Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Distinction, calling it “a masterpiece of cultural heritage and conservation”. The restoration work on the property laid a marker for how every other building in the Fort should be restored, and continues to be its most splendid example today, one of the best historic hotels in Galle.
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