The Best Boutique Hotels in Galle, Sri Lanka

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Photo of Emma Sparks
3 May 2021

Galle, in the south of Sri Lanka, is famous for the Unesco World Heritage site of Galle Fort, and the best way to explore the area is by staying in one of Galle’s boutique hotels – all bookable on Culture Trip.

Galle is drenched in history, a major port long before the Portuguese established a colony in the 16th century – followed by the Dutch 200 years later – on an outcrop of land surrounded by fortified walls, and full of quaint hotels, shops, museums, galleries and eateries. The city spreads inland from the fort and is a great place to spend a few days, soaking up the sun and taking walking tours.

The Bartizan

Boutique Hotel
4.6/5 (28 Reviews)
242213854
Courtesy ofThe Bartizan Galle Fort / Booking.com

Where better to contemplate the trading port history of Galle than on a rooftop terrace overlooking the ocean? You can do just that at The Bartizan, a carefully renovated colonial building next to the old town’s ancient ramparts. Hip bijou rooms on the ground floor open onto a cool, cobble-stoned courtyard, while those on the top floor have sea views. Walk south along the coastal walls until you reach Flag Rock, the southernmost point of the fort and prime sunset viewing spot.

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The Dutch House

Boutique Hotel

With just four suites (featuring roll-top baths and four-poster beds), The Dutch House feels super-exclusive – even celebs such as Sting have stayed here. The 18th-century house blends old and new, with colonial antiques and modern art, a traditional – yet tropical – English garden and an L-shaped infinity pool skimming the treetops. And if things getting a bit too competitive on the croquet lawn, take a tuk-tuk to the old town to see the seaside cricket stadium and other historic sights.

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Kahanda Kanda

Luxury, Boutique Hotel
4.9/5 (14 Reviews)
188690136-1
Courtesy of Kahanda Kanda - Level 1 Safe & Secure / Booking.com | Courtesy of Kahanda Kanda - Level 1 Safe & Secure / Booking.com

The 10 plush Kahanda Kanda villas sit within a 5ha (12-acre) working tea estate in the Galle hills; all have huge verandas, while some have outdoor showers and private pools. The gym, pool and yoga pavilion overlook tropical jungled hillside, adding to the sense of seclusion. It’s an easy drive to Galle Fort; but if you’ve had your fill of history, head east to surfer-friendly Weligama Beach – both are just 30 minutes away.

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The Fortress Resort & Spa

Boutique Hotel, Resort, Spa Hotel
5037688
Courtesy of The Fortress Resort & Spa / Booking.com | Courtesy of The Fortress Resort & Spa / Booking.com

The Fortress is actually a 25-minute drive from Galle Fort itself, but has an equally mesmerising location, overlooking a mile-long beach. This stretch of coastline isn’t ideal for swimming, but it’s lovely for early morning or sunset walks; keep an eye out for sea-turtle tracks along the sand (Koggala is a popular nesting spot). Is the sound of lapping waves not quite sending you off to sleep? Treat yourself to a pre-bedtime massage under the stars at the Twilight Spa.

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Le Grand Galle

Boutique Hotel
4.6/5 (94 Reviews)
179860474
Courtesy of Le Grand Galle By Asia Leisure / Booking.com

Occupying a little peninsula to the west of Galle Fort, Le Grand Galle benefits from being on the outside looking in – the views of the clock tower and ancient wave-battered walls are second to none. The centuries-old colonial streets of the Old Town – packed with hip boutiques, art galleries and cafes – are just a lazy post-brunch stroll away, if you can bear to leave the shimmering ocean-front pool.

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Why House

Boutique Hotel
5/5 (1 Reviews)
137136586
Courtesy of Why House / Booking.com

Why House. Why not? First off, you’ll feel at home here – thanks to host Henrietta, her friendly staff and adorable resident dachshund Nigella (Jelly for short). Second, you’ll have access to a divine jade-green pool, a peacock-peppered tropical garden and lavish lodgings. Finally, a smorgasbord of things to do – temple hopping, Old Town shopping, boat tours and beach trips – are all within easy reach.

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Taru Villas, Rampart Street

Boutique Hotel, Villa
5/5 (5 Reviews)
68680127
Courtesy of Taru Villas - Rampart Street / Booking.com
This 200-year-old Dutch house in the centre of historic Galle Fort features a walled garden and pool (a rarity in the old town), and just four spotless rooms – all with carved four-poster beds and shady outdoor space. Need a culture hit? The artsy boutiques, quaint cafes and colonial museums of Galle are just moments from your romantic sanctuary.
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  • Galle Fort Hotel

    Boutique Hotel
    4.6/5 (71 Reviews)
    47329343
    Courtesy of The Galle Fort Hotel / Booking.com

    The transformation of Galle Fort Hotel from 300-year-old former gem merchant’s mansion to modern luxury boutique impressed even Unesco, who declared it “a masterpiece of cultural heritage and conservation”. Check in to get an up-close look at the original 18th-century woodwork and Sri Lankan antiques that make this such an atmospheric place to stay. Happy with a swimming pool and a Singapore sling? You’ll be satisfied too.

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    Tamarind Hill

    Hotel
    4.6/5 (63 Reviews)
    6c8a95b0
    Courtesy of Tamarind Hill / Booking.com

    Who said Galle Fort had to get all the limelight? Tamarind Hill – a former Dutch admiral’s mansion near Mahamodara Lake – is a worthy contender for your affections, thanks to the colonial-era architecture and charming decor. Lounge by the photo-worthy pool, share a romantic dinner in the pretty courtyard garden, or spot tropical birds and troupes of monkeys on a river safari tour.

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    The Fort Bazaar

    Boutique Hotel
    4.8/5 (50 Reviews)
    149023654
    Courtesy of Fort Bazaar / Booking.com

    This 17th-century former spice merchant’s residence in the heart of Galle Fort doesn’t ham it up or rely on colonial heritage to charm guests; in fact, the rooms and suites are refreshingly modern, with contemporary four-poster beds and white subway-tiled bathrooms. Sip a G&T under an old mango tree in the Moroccan-style lantern-lit courtyard, luxuriate in a black tea and cardamom body wrap at the spa, or walk two minutes down the road to explore the National Museum.

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    Mango House

    Boutique Hotel, Villa, Hotel

    With snug but good-value rooms and a shady walled garden, this Dutch colonial house has been brought up to date with Bollywood movie posters and lime and fuschia soft furnishings. Can’t get enough colonial history? Head to the quirky Historical Mansion Museum just around the corner from the hotel – it’s packed with antiques and trinkets from centuries gone by, and there’s even an 18th-century well in the courtyard.

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    Sun House

    Boutique Hotel, Homestay, Villa
    4.6/5 (8 Reviews)
    dd98db37
    Courtesy of The Sun House / Booking.com

    This hilltop former home of a Scottish nutmeg merchant is a 15-minute walk from Galle Fort, and features eight bright, high-ceilinged bedrooms. Sip a watermelon martini by the pool beneath the shade of a frangipani tree; curl up in the colonial-era lounge with a vintage copy of National Geographic; or tuck into an outstanding banana blossom curry at the hotel restaurant – previous guests include celebrity chef Rick Stein.

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    Amangalla

    Boutique Hotel, Resort, Hotel
    fc1833d0_z
    Courtesy of Amangalla / Booking.com

    Having spent more than a century welcoming steamship passengers from around the world (as the New Oriental Hotel), this former colonial headquarters has been reborn as Amangalla, part of the uber-luxe Aman hotel chain. Highlights include a standout spa (with steam rooms and cold baths) and the emerald garden pool. Two of the most noteworthy Galle attractions – the National Museum and 18th-century Dutch Reformed Church – are just next door.

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    Orana Velarde contributed additional reporting to this article.

    These recommendations were updated on May 3, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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