Colonial hotels with unparalleled majesty.

Colonial hotels with unparalleled majesty
The breathtaking masterpiece of Victorian architecture, the Galle Face Hotel is the place of choice to stay in Sri Lanka for Royalty and celebrities from all over the world.

Although the British left Sri Lanka in 1948, the magnificent Victorian buildings of the colonial times remained as a beautiful legacy of the era. The impressive verandahs lined with ornamental arches, stately, broad mahogany stairways and the pristine white walls emblematic to these aged buildings continue to overwhelm their visitors with unparalleled majesty. Some of Sri Lanka’s oldest and the most prestigious hotels are considered to be so, owing to their authentic colonial architecture and even more so, for the history and the romantic fables linked to them. The ‘Ceylonese Edition’ of Colombo Things-to-Do takes a look at some of these extraordinary hotels scattered throughout the island.

The Galle Face Hotel

The breathtaking masterpiece of Victorian architecture, the Galle Face Hotel is the place of choice to stay in Sri Lanka for Royalty and celebrities from all over the world. The classic hotel was initiated by four British entrepreneurs in 1864, as a Dutch Villa named ‘The Galle Face House’. The hotel was the centre of the British high-life during the early 1900’s and was even immortalized in a song about the hotel’s legendary night club – ‘The Coconut Grove’. The hotel also employs the world’s oldest hospitality-industry doorman, Kottarapattu Chattu (K.C.) Kuttan. ‘K.C.’ Joined the hotel as a bell boy in 1942, and after 68 years, has become an iconic figure of not only the hotel, but also of the Sri Lankan tourism industry.

GFH boasts an extensive list of royalty and distinguished personalities from across continents, including the husband of Queen Elizabeth II – Prince Philip- Duke of Edinburgh, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, the American President Richard Nixon, Cricketing legend Sir Don Bradman, the beloved James Bond actor-Sir Roger Moore, American actress Carrie Fisher who famously played Princess Leiah in Star Wars and even the first man in space-Yuri Gagarin. The Gall Face Hotel nearing its 150th Jubilee is thought to be one of the most beautiful and the most historic hotels of Asia, and as rightly spoken of by one of its royal visitors – Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: ‘Happiness is the Galle Face Hotel’.

mount lavinia hotel

Mount Lavinia Hotel

The romantic hotel Mount Lavinia is a place that is overpoweringly nostalgic of the bygone Colonial era.  Situated next to the Indian Ocean which guarantees spectacular sunsets almost every evening, the hotel has many wonderful tales linked to it. Its origins date back to the early 1800’s when the then governor Sir Thomas Maitland built the stunning structure for his personal use. The legend has it that Sir Maitland fell in love with a Sri Lankan gypsy girl who was an exotic dancer – her name was Loveena, which Maitland pronounced as ‘Lavinia’. Although both knew that their romance could never have a happy ending, the two lovers continued to meet in a secret underground tunnel which Maitland had built for the exact purpose. Although Thomas Maitland was forced to leave his love for the duty for the crown, it is said that he never loved again and chose to die a bachelor many years later. But their love was eternalized by the name ‘Lavinia’ given to the town and the mansion (the present hotel) where the secret tunnel (now closed down) still lies beneath the building bearing witness to the romantic saga.

The Mount Lavinia hotel was also a popular setting for local and foreign motion pictures during the 50’s and the 60’s and some scenes of the celebrated film The Bridge on the River Kwai were also shot here. Mount Lavinia Hotel in all its magical glory, is a wonderful relic of the Colonial era where you can still feel the romance of a bygone time in its sweet, sea-swept air.


Out of all Colonial hotels in Sri Lanka the southern gem Amangalla is the grand old lady. Lying amidst the living monument  of a 17th century Dutch fortress and owning a fascinating history stretching beyond 400 years, the building’s architectural and historical values are priceless and unsurpassed. The buildings have been used as headquarters for the Dutch commandeur and his naval officers of the Dutch East India Company and later as a garrison of British soldiers. In 1865, the building was renamed the ‘New Oriental Hotel’ and in its prime , before and after the Second World War it was among the top lodgings in Sri Lanka. The architecture of the building is typically Dutch colonial and its resilience to time is largely due to the sturdy walls as think as 3 feet.

The building holds an impressive array of memorabilia of it’s time of origin, while the world heritage site – Galle Fort and the ancient Dutch Reform Church neighbouring the resort, only complete this picture of a colonial village left behind by time. During the four centuries, this remarkable building has seen war, peace, pirates, traders, prisoners, colonists and now as the Amangalla resort, bliss.




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