Galle, Sri Lanka

Fort Bazaar

Rates per night from$184.00

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (USD184.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Keeping it cool

Setting

Within these fort walls

Time travel to Galle’s colonial past while staying in one of its coolest contemporary hotels, Fort Bazaar. Once home to spice, tea and gem traders, the actual gems may be long gone from this stylish stay, but there are still many valuable treasures to discover. Take Sri Lankan tea in the colourful courtyard and be pampered from head-to-toe with Balinese remedies in the hotel’s restful spa. Set in the heart of the 17th-century Dutch-founded city Galle, the hotel’s in prime position for early-morning trips to the market, lazy strolls along the fort walls and sun-worshipping on Sri Lanka’s sandy shores.

This boutique stay is one of the stops on our Sri Lanka itineraries.

Smith Extra

Get this when you book through us:

A 15-minute head massage each for two

Facilities

Photos Fort Bazaar facilities

Need to know

Rooms

18, including three suites.

Check–Out

Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. You can keep your room till 6pm for 50 per cent of the room rate, and you can leave your luggage at reception and use the hotel facilities after check-out. Earliest check-in, 2pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $184.00, excluding tax at 30.082 per cent.

More details

Rates include á la carte breakfast (pastries and breads, fresh fruit, yoghurt, eggs, and traditional Sri Lankan curries), afternoon tea and an evening 'mocktail'.

Also

Until 2006, the hotel’s site lay derelict; Teardrop hotels transformed the space with the help of Colombo’s PWA Architects, using more than 65 labourers (and three dogs, if you’re counting). Remnants of the ruin still remain; the bar at Church Street Social was once part of the rafters.

At the hotel

Free WiFi throughout the hotel. In rooms: a TV, a gym-bag with yoga mat, air-conditioning and fan, minibar with soft drinks and snacks, a Nespresso coffee machine and tea-making facilities.

Our favourite rooms

If size matters, choose one of the Upper Suites; at a spacious 75sq m, they have high ceilings, private balconies and an adjoining seating area in the bedroom. Families with small children should stay in the Upper Family Suite which has all the perks of the Upper Suites, plus an additional loft space for kids.

Poolside

While the pool is being built, catch a tuk tuk (free) to The Beach Club in Talpe or to the Lighthouse Hotel where you'll have full access to their pools.

Spa

The Z Spa has three treatment rooms; two of which are kitted out with private steam showers. Treatments use tea-infused local products; enjoy a deep-tissue massage, a restful wrap or soothing facial to get that ‘yes, I’ve been on holiday’ glow.

Packing tips

It’s not about what you bring, but what you can take home: lots of spice jars and bags of locally grown tea from plantations and markets.

Children

Children of all ages are welcome. Interconnecting rooms and baby cots are available. Book a babysitter for US$10 an hour (a minimum four hours must be booked); request the service two days in advance. The restaurant has children’s menus and highchairs.

Food and Drink

Photos Fort Bazaar food and drink

Top Table

Set in the front rooms of the hotel, the indoor bar spills out onto the veranda and into the street, so your choice of seat will be determined by the city heat.

Dress Code

Stay cool with lightweight, laid-back leisurewear.

Hotel restaurant

From breakfast through to dinner, Church Street Social bustles with hotel guests and locals. The restaurant wholly embraces Fort Bazaar’s history, from the traditional picks on the menu to the decor. However, there’s a touch of modernity too; inside, the dining room is decorated with exposed industrial lighting and an embossed metal ceiling, plus, the bar top is made of reconstituted rafters from the original building. Inspired by Galle’s multicultural past, the restaurant serves a melting pot of cuisines; take your pick of burgers and fries, Moroccan lamb tagine, spicy Sri Lankan fish curries and Asian Malay chilli crab.

Hotel bar

Church Street Social is awaiting a liquor license; in the meantime pick up a bottle or two of your favourite tipple at duty-free to enjoy at the hotel.

Last orders

Breakfast is served from 7am to 10.30am, lunch from 11am to 4pm and dinner from 7pm to 11pm (last order at 10pm); all meals are served in Church Street Social or can be taken on the veranda.

Room service

The full restaurant menu is available while the kitchen’s open.

Location

Photos Fort Bazaar location
Address
Fort Bazaar
26 Church Street
Galle
Sri Lanka

Planes

Bandaranaike International Airport is slightly under two-and-a-half hours away by car. Leave all your travel bits to our Smith24 Team (03334 145 550), who can organise both your flights and transfers to the hotel (US$125 each way).

Trains

A daily express train connects Colombo’s Fort Station to Galle; it’s a two-and-a-half-hour journey, but beautiful beach and jungle views will distract you as you chug along the coast. Our Smith24 Team can arrange tickets and transfers from Galle station.

Automobiles

Taxis, tuk tuks and hired drivers are a relatively cheap and easy way to explore the island, but if you want to discover it at your own speed, hire a car at Bandaranaike; our Smith24 team can help you to secure a set of wheels. You’ll need an International Driving Permit and a Sri Lankan recognition permit, which you can get at the AA in Colombo. There’s no parking at the hotel, so you’ll have to find a space in Galle’s narrow streets.

Worth getting out of bed for

With more than 400 years of heritage to uncover, there’s plenty to do in this Unesco World Heritage site. Your historic Galle hit-list includes the curious carvings on the tombstones in the Dutch Reformed Church, the lavish stained-glass windows of the Anglican Church, the old spice warehouses of the Maritime Archaeology Museum and the Historical Mansion Museum to see how the city’s other half (read, colonists) lived. The hotel’s staff can impart their expert local knowledge on a guided tour of the fort. Alternatively, escape the fort walls and bomb past the nearby paddy fields and tea plantations on a bike borrowed from the hotel, or head to Sri Lanka’s golden coastline for relaxing afternoons on Unawatuna beach, whale-watching in Mirissa, and snorkelling and scuba-diving around fish-filled coral reefs and centuries-old shipwrecks.

Local restaurants

From lobsters and jumbo prawns bought at that morning’s fish market, to rice grown on nearby paddies, and fruit and vegetables harvested at neighbouring farms, Galle Fort Hotel’s restaurant is all about fresh fare. Pop next door to try their varied menu that explores flavours from the old Spice Route. For a more formal dining experience, walk two minutes down Church Street to Amangalla. The indoor Dining Room has old-world charm and grandeur with antique furnishings, glittering chandeliers, elegant silverware and tall French windows that open onto a veranda. For a night to remember, ask our Smith24 Team to organise a private dinner in the hotel grounds; dine under the stars, serenaded by a local flautist or with a private fire-dance performance. Alternatively, experience a traditional Sri Lankan roti dinner for two at Amangalla for US$285.​

Local cafés

Pedlar’s Inn was the first coffee shop to open in Galle Fort in 2004, and the laid-back eatery is now a must for tourists and locals alike. Just as the 19th-century British post office that first occupied the building, the diner's menu offers dishes from near and far, with Sri Lankan fish curries, crispy pizzas, creamy carbonara and full-English breakfasts. Stop by their ice-cream shop at 61 Pedlar Street for gelato while exploring Galle. Royal Dutch Café’s (+94 (0)77 177 4949) owner, Fazal Badurdeen has more stories to tell of Galle than he does types of tea – and that’s a lot. Stop by for a home-made curry lunch or a nice cup of cinnamon- or cardamom-spiced milk tea (the list goes on and on) and let Fazal regale you with yarns about the fort’s former life.

Local bars

Sample the local brew or try an arrack sour at Amangalla’s rooftop bar, which overlooks the city and Galle bay beyond. Venture beyond the fort’s walls, to Dick’s Bar at the Sun House in central Galle to enjoy glasses, or pitchers, of Ginger Rogers rum cocktails: a moreish blend of ginger, lime cordial, soda water and the island's favourite spirit; we also recommend their Bloody Marys or another tot of arrack in their signature tipple, the Sun House Sundowner.

Reviews

Photos Fort Bazaar reviews
Alison King

Anonymous review

By Alison King, Journeying journalist

Founded by the Portuguese in the 16th-century, the sturdy ramparts and enchanting colonial-era streets of Unesco World Heritage-listed Galle Fort is a Sri Lankan must-see. In its heart, you’ll find Fort Bazaar: a former merchant’s mansion that has been renovated beautifully over a substantial 11-year project.

Arriving on a damp November afternoon, Mr Smith and I are welcomed into the open, airy foyer with cool towels and refreshing mango smoothies. Its stripped-back chic takes inspiration from the building’s 17th-century roots – a building that comes complete with an open courtyard, an adjoining restaurant, a ‘Z spa’ and a cosy, fully stocked library. 

Large whirring fans hum around you and the smell of jasmine wafts through a spacious courtyard perfect for relaxing on plump cushions and enjoying cake-abetted afternoon teas.

Throughout, the furnishings nods to its heritage: woven Sri Lankan fabrics, vintage prints, pale wood, hand-painted ceramic tiles… Our room at the end of the courtyard’s balcony, next to a Banyan tree, is adequately sized and has all the essentials; some luxuries too. The bed, for one, deserves honourable mention for sheer comfiness. With the room’s unobtrusive lighting, cooling fan and balcony, it makes for a calm hideaway for the final days of our Sri Lankan adventure.

The service is friendly and relaxed yet completely efficient. The staff seem genuinely interested in making your stay a happy one and on more than one occasion we ask for advice, directions and requests – all are met and offered with a smile.

Though the swimming pool is not yet built (it will be by May 2018 we’re told), the hotel is happy to offer trips to the seductive beaches in reach at Talpe, Dalawella and Unawatuna. They also offer free tuk-tuk rides to and from the famous Geoffrey Bawa-designed Jetwing lighthouse (just 10 minutes away) in order to use their vast swimming pool and beachside facilities.

On our first night, Mr Smith and I dine at the hotel’s adjoining restaurant, the Church Street Social. There’s no alcohol license yet (they’re mid-application) but guests are free to buy alcohol elsewhere and drink it in the restaurant where you can choose from a vast range of Sri Lankan and global dishes. We share the sesame-seared kingfish carpaccio with jalapeños, ginger and soy: a simple, elegant and a delightfully fresh starter. After eating hearty curries almost every night since our arrival, we opt for comforting Western mains: Mr Smith goes for a Australian rump steak; I opt for a grilled chicken and avocado burger. No complaints here, only compliments.

After a quiet, balmy stroll through the small, beautiful fort, we retire for a wonderfully peaceful night’s sleep, awoken only by birdsong the next morning. 

Come breakfast time, the restaurant is awash with platters of Sri Lankan fruits, buttery pastries, teas, coffees, yogurt, granola, jams and toasts. Having ogled another guest enjoying some good-looking eggs benedict, I save myself for that. It’s everything I imagined and more, adding bacon and avocado into the mix, with eggs oozing onto a thick toasted slice of challah bread all soundtracked by some soothing Debussy, Massive Attack and Miles Davis. I haven’t stopped dreaming about it since. 

On our second afternoon we take a stroll along the fort walls and discover more of its history. We visit the National Maritime Museum and the Historical Mansion Museum. The latter is impressive for its sheer magnitude: a cornucopia of collections ranging from pottery to jewellery; embroidery to metal work. Artists still work here in the courtyard but be warned: they really want you to buy their wares.

Early evening we indulge ourselves at Fort Bazaar’s tranquil spa. We both go for the signature 90-minute ‘Z massage’. It’s not just massages on offer, though: you can unwind with facials, body scrubs and detox wraps that all use notable Spa Ceylon products.

Ravenously hungry after our heavenly interlude we return to Church Street Kitchen for a traditional Sri Lankan crab curry. (Hint: Prepare to get mucky and/or have claws flung into your face.)

With its attention to detail, ideal location, soothing spa and guaranteed good nights’ sleeps, Fort Bazaar is the perfect place to unwind. This was our last stop in Sri Lanka, but given how welcome we felt, we could’ve started all over again.

 

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Fort Bazaar’s Guestbook below.

We loved

Lovely room, comfortable and nicely decorated. The spa was nice too.

Don’t expect

A pool.

Rating

Stayed on 23 Sep 2018

We loved

We loved the interior decor – the perfect blend of colonial, traditional and mid-century modern meets minimalism in a tasteful colour palette that gave a sense of relaxed luxury. The service was equally laid back, unobtrusive and considered, ensuring all of our needs were met and catered for without cramping our vibe. Couldnt fault the on-site spa service which we made good use of for the one day we were there. Spa prices are a little higher than wed found in other areas of Sri Lanka, but still represented exceptional value for money as the wraps and massages were the best we'd experienced. Fort Galle itself is a gorgeous clean town with a European feel. You can very easily spend a day wandering through the town and along the coastline, browsing in shops, and chilling out in one of may cafes/restaurants – most of which have placed an emphasis on good interior design to deliver an experience that feels quite different to other parts of Sri Lanka. We loved Fort Bazaar so much that well definitely be booking in again when we return to Sri Lanka in 2019. If you're looking for nightlife you could head 15 minutes out of town to Unawatuna which is further along the south coast. This is a popular tourist areas and attracts a young crowd, with a number of bars on the beach serving food and cocktails. There is usually at least one bar that stays open until around 4am for people who want to party.

Don’t expect

Dont expect to fill your day with sightseeing and activities as there seemed to be few on offer – Fort Galle really is a place to just unwind and enjoy the peaceful ambience and slow pace. We managed to find a bar (there are a few in the old hospital) to go to after dinner, but it seemed as though there wasnt much else happening in terms of nightlife - this is quite likely to be due to the town preparing for a festival the following day, and could be quite different to a regular night. If you want to have a glass of wine or beer with dinner, check with the restaurant first as they dont always serve alcohol. They may, however, be happy for you to bring your own.

Rating

Stayed on 13 Apr 2018

We loved

Stepping out of the heat of the streets of Galle Fort and into this little oasis of a hotel is bliss! Rooms are beautifully decked out in modern decor and the location is in the heart of the fort close to shops and restaurants.

Rating

Stayed on 16 Nov 2017

We loved

Such a beautiful room, and an incredibly well restored hotel with great history. Its location is fantastic, and home to the famous Church Street Social restaurant – so delicious!

Don’t expect

Alcohol, as there's no liquor license.

Rating

Stayed on 4 Nov 2017

We loved

We liked the modern take on a colonial aesthetic, the stylish rooms and lobby, and the good western and local breakfast choices.

Don’t expect

Alcohol in the bar. We also had problems with the power cuts in the evenings that woke us up.

Rating

Stayed on 2 Aug 2017

We loved

The service, location and interior decor. Sri Yoga 30 minutes away by tuk-tuk. Dinner at Amangalla. Day trip to Geoffrey Bawa garden estate which hotel will arrange make sure to make lunch reservation. Also visit Bawa's Lighthouse hotel very nearby which the hotel has arrangement with to use the pool. Very classy.

Don’t expect

A good view, a pool.

Rating

Stayed on 22 Jun 2017