Bet you thought the oldest luxury hotel east of the Suez Canal would be in China, Japan or India? Think again! It is, in fact, in the country that has been voted the No. 1 Travel Destination in the World for 2019 by none other than Lonely Planet. Let me break it to you that we are talking about the Galle Face Hotel in Sri Lanka.
The Galle Face Hotel Sri Lanka, which opened in 1864, sprawls magisterially beside the Galle Face Green in Colombo, lulled by the murmur of the surf and cooled by the eternal sea breezes.
This hotel started as a Dutch villa was converted to a full-time hotel in 1894 and oozes history from every pore, where every nook and cranny has a story, and timeless traditions and characters abound. Experience the charm of a hotel where Arthur C. Clarke wrote his final odyssey, 3001, where guests have included the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Noel Coward and Mark Twain, from a cavalcade of royalty to heads of state, from Che Guevara to Richard Nixon, Vivian Leigh to Roger Moore, and from the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin Sri Lanka’s own Stephen Hawking, the mathematician, astronomer and astrobiologist Chandra Wickramasinghe.
The Empress Suite in the hotel has a history of itself. Wife of Napolean III, Emperor of France, and Empress Eugenie are some of the names that have stayed in this luxurious suite in the early 1900s. The suite comprising of three stately bedrooms, living area, multiple washrooms, a sitting room and a balcony that sits atop the principle hotel driveway looking over the Iconic Galle Face Green.
The Story of the Restaurants, Bars and the Pub
The tale of food and the tradition at the Verandah is more than a century and a half old. This open restaurant is where the breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet is served. The spread consists of western delights with their scones being the best in Colombo to dishes that speak of Ceylonese heritage including but not limited to Sri Lankan Curry and Rice. If going for something from old Ceylon, do not forget to try the Ambarella Chutney.
In complete contrast, 1864 is the restaurant which boasts of an innovative modern menu and comes coupled with its own wine cellar. It has some of the rarest to fanciest collections that you will find.
The most historic landmark within the hotel and arguably in the whole of Colombo - The Chequerboard is an open area right outside the verandah. If you are looking for a drink anytime during the day or if you are waiting for ‘Pimms O'clock’ in the evening this is the place to be.
There is the Pool bar, the Travellers bar and there is the ‘King of the Mambo’ and the drinks menu is inspired by Cuba. Santeria, Black Mambo, El Guajiro and El Chumbero are some of the popular cocktails here.
Flag Lowering Ceremony at Sunset
Every evening there is a Flag lowering ceremony at one of the prettiest sunsets of a lifetime. This ceremony is synonymous with the brand and takes place near to the renowned ‘Chequerboard’. Hotel’s resident piper shows dignified respect to the Sri Lankan flag as it is ceremoniously lowered at sunset every evening.
The Galle Face hotel is also the home to the only L’occitane spa in the country. The spa is spread across a sizeable portion in the new wing of the hotel. And if you are staying in one of the junior suites of the premier rooms, you would also enjoy a discount on the pricing. So if you are planning a visit to Sri Lanka, reserve a day to pamper yourself.
The Gym, the Historian and the Tours
The hotel also offers an open bus sightseeing experience of Colombo and a fleet of Mercedes cars to help you travel within the city or to and fro from the International Airport on request. More recently they have launched the Galle Face Expeditions, which is a tour of the very best that Sri Lanka has to offer, going all the way to Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. If you are a history buff, do not miss the regular in-house tour with the resident historian and a visit to the beautiful museum. The swimming pool that sees over the expanse of the Indian Ocean or the 24-hour gym is to cater to the fitness lovers.