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Colombo's grand old lady — the Galle Face Hotel

Galle Face

We found records of the Galle Face Hotel dating back to 1864, five years before the Suez Canal came into operation. A journey through the Suez Canal was a breakthrough in every respect, and from 1869 onwards the Galle Face was commonly hailed as "the most luxurious hotel East of Suez". It is – together with the legendary hotels of the former British colonies like the Taj Mahal in Mumbai, the Strand in Yangon, Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Georgetown on the island of Penang and Raffles in Singapore – one of the most legendary hotels of South East Asia. If you add The Oriental in Bangkok, the Metropole in Hanoi, The Peninsula in Hong Kong, the Manila in Manila and the Imperial in Tokyo, you have completed the list of all "the maidens of the East".

There is hardly any event of importance that hasn’t taken place at Galle Face Hotel. Situated at the crossroads of all travel from East to West and back, and publicised as the oldest and the best hotel ‘East of Suez’, it has played host to everybody who was anybody ever to visit the island of Sri Lanka. 
It has hosted emperors and empresses, kings and queens, famous authors, entertainers and exhibiting artists. It has been home to everybody from ambassadors and their embassies to doctors, clerks and travelling salesmen. The Galle Face Hotel is the venue of choice for holy matrimony, because marriages sealed in traditional style at the Galle Face Hotel, as they say, 'last forever'.
Sun seekers and keen swimmers relish the island’s only seawater pool, and romantic souls love the nightly flag-lowering ceremony and the unobstructed sunsets. They all enjoy Pimm’s o’clock, meet at the bars and terraces and discuss the best flight connections and trains to the highlands of Sri Lanka, just as –  one hundred years before them – planters and traders debated rubber, coffee and tea prices, the new road to Kandy or the recent visit of the Prince of Wales. 

A book put together by the experts on famous and historic hotels: researcher and historian Carola Augustin, and her husband, Andreas, the hotel storyteller, who so entertainingly compiles fascinating facts and long forgotten tales into a true Treasury of the Galle Face Hotel, one of the last truly great grand hotels on the traveller’s map.


Above: Terrace in 1907, below, Pool today


Its location right at the Indian Ocean has made it one of the most famous and charming hangovers of colonial manners and services. It was the focal point of British colonial life style in the island for almost one century. Today it is the revolving point of Colomob's elegant, young and energetic society. The hotel has been patronized by some of the most famous names of the past centuries, among them the Emperor of Japan and Germany, pop- and movie stars and travel writers. The hotel is owned by the Gardiner family for generations. This seems to safeguard the old magic.


Established in 1864 it soon became one of the most exquisite hotels east of Suez. The Galle Face has been hailed as a masterpiece of Victorian Architecture. It resembles a stately home facing the Indian Ocean.

As a charming hangover of colonial manners and services it was the focal point of British colonial life style in the island for almost one century. The hotel has been patronized by some of the most famous names of the 20th century and the granite plaque in the lobby gives a list of some of these persons i.e. Don Bradman, Indira Gandhi, Imran Khan, Alfred Karupp. The hotel is owned by the Gardiner family for generations. This seems to safeguard that the old magic remains.

No wonder many writers have exclaimed that the GFH is one of the few un-spoilt hotels, left in the world. The hotel, having survived the 19th and 20th centuries is now set to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Since 2005 the new Regency Wing is completed.

THE MOST FAMOUS HOTELS IN THE WORLD are conducting research about the history of the hotel, as a result this database will be updated on a regular base.

Ths list is endless: To name but a few, here we have Richard Nixon, Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Neru, Emperor Hirohito, Don Bradman, Roger Moore and the legend Yuri Gagarin.

And that is what they have said:

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: "Happiness is the Galle Face Hotel"

Lord Mayor - Brisbane Sally Anne Atkinson: "7 days at the Galle Face Hotel was bliss. To stay longer would be heaven, an exalted state to which I'm aiming"

Business Traveller Alan Moores: "If the Galle Face Hotel (Asia's Emareld on the Green - Grande dame of Serendib) endures it is largely due to the charm and sagacity of its venerable Chairman Cyril Gardiner"

Pakistani Prime Minister Ali Bhutto: "It was a great pleasure for me to return to this famous Hotel after 13 Years"

Australian Business Review Weekly's (BRW) Eric Ellis: "Forward letter to Cyril Gardiner - he will reply in the most gracious language". The GFH has nothing of the impersonal sameness of the Hiltons, Hyatts and the Sheratons.

London "Independent": "It is worth visiting Sri Lanka just to see the Galle Face Hotel"

Simon Winchester: "No wonder the Galle Face is regarded with such affection all around the world" the author and journalist wrote on his own experience "So pleasant a change from the dreary ordinariness of most modern hotels. This is an Island of charm on a charming Island."

The late doorman Kuttan was one of the longest serving employees at the hotel since 1942.
He still remembered (and used to tell the story with great gestures) the day when - during World War II - a Japanese Zero fighter grounded in front of the hotel on the large green field, called the Galle Face.

S.D. Ephraums
G.M. Nisbeth
J.H. Dean
J.A. Maitland
S. Penny
Arthur William”
1871 G. Hawkins
1883 J. H. Dean
1885 J. H. Dean
1891 J. Fliming
1892 Mr. H. I. Bell
Mr. Mason
I. Bell
1896 Mr Stroud
1899 Mr. P. Hackel
1899 Mr. Rudolf Vygen
1901 Mr Henry Schutz
1904 J. Hoffer (Manager; formerly Hotel Cecil, London)

1905 Conrad Peter
S.C. Howar
E.A. Chandler
1940 R. G. Townsend
1957 E. Iloilo
1960 P. Raab
C.G.G. Best
Sydeny de Zoysa
Navin Gunaratne
Lalith Rodrigo”
Regent International
Duncan Shakeshaft
Allan Wade
Richard Wager
Norman Dupont
Raffles International
Bert Kan
Lalith Rodrigo
Anura Locuhetty
Rajiv Khanna
Chandra Mohotti”
2011 Jason Cooley
2012 Antony O’Neil
Tony Fleming
Anthony G. Paton
Deni Ohlsen-Dukic”
2018 Robert C. Hauck
2020 Daniel Grau

156 rooms and suites Rooms

Royal Suites

These suites are probably the largest in any hotel in the city.

The rooms offer the guest a magnificent direct view of the Indian Ocean. They are air-conditioned, and equipped with a mini-bar, refrigerator, TV and IDD telephone facilities. Direct sea view with the a/c, T.V. attached private bathroom with the hot/cold water, hair drier and local/IDD facilities direct from the room.

After having taken a photograph with doorman legend Kuttan, retire to the garden where a stunning view awaits you. Stunning Sunsets


Experience a typical English high tea on the Veranda facing the sea and enjoy the dramatic Indian Ocean sunset with a cocktail..


Enjoy dramatic Sunsets with your cocktails. At the Galle Face Hotel there is no escaping a spectacular Sunset. And there's no better way to drink-in nature's splendour than to relax with one of Galle Face Hotel's bestseller cocktails. A popular spot is the Checkered Floor area in the open air in the centre of the garden Later experience the new Wione Lounge: Leading off from the main lobby of the Galle Face Hotel - Regency, the Wine Lounge is designed to pay tribute to the hotel's grand history. Inspired by elements of nature, its teak wood floors and wall panelling set the tone. The unusual blend of fabrics used in the interior design, the lighting in fire colours of red, orange and yellow, and the spectacular view combine to create a mood of elegance and intimate luxury. The music is ethnic, and chosen to create a sense of haunting mystique unique to Galle Face Hotel. The Wine Lounge is more than a place to savour your favourite vintage with friends. It is a lifestyle experience for lovers of fine wines, cheeses and cigars.


The hotel now has its own museum, with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh's first private car on display.

Galle Face Hotel Spa, a 20,000 sq. ft. spa inclusive of Colombo's largest saltwater swimming pool and gymnasium

The once largest ballroom East of Suez is at your disposal

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Our Select Member Hotel

Galle Face
Country: Sri Lanka
City: Colombo
Opening date: 1864

Note from the Host

General Manager

Allow me to welcome you at the most iconic hotel East of Suez. Our history goes back to the middle of the 19th century, but our tradtion of great hospitality is most contemporary! I am confident that you will enjoy your stay at the Galle Face Hotel.


2, Galle Road
3 Sri Lanka, Colombo

Tel: 941 12541010/16 (941) 12543565/77
Fax: (941) 12541072/74

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