Finally… after some thirty cities on my Grand Tour, I’m here, at last, at the grandest of the grande dames East of Suez, the Galle Face Hotel Colombo.
Built in 1864 by four English gentlemen, Galle Face Hotel is believed to be the oldest purpose-built hotel in the East. Certainly, it inspired the likes of the Raffles Hotel, which came after it in 1887.
The hotel was initially a Dutch residence called Galle Face House, that had stood here on Galle Face Green. The equivalent of the Esplanade in Singapore, Galle Face Green had been tremendously popular with the English, who would take to it for walks or rides in horse-drawn carriages.
From 1894 to 1909, the Hotel continued to expand, becoming first a two storey building, and then erecting North and South wings to the central building.
Like many other of its equivalents, the Galle Face Hotel was the centre of Colombo’s social circle, playing host to royalty, heads of state, celebrities, writers, artists, sportsmen and other luminaries in its time. And it continues to do so today.
In the 2000s, the hotel underwent a major restoration and only recently re-opened in time for its 150th birthday in 2014. Interestingly, the Chairman of the hotel today is descended by one of the hotel’s 1911 shareholders.
Today, the Galle Face Hotel remains as magnificent as it once was in the early 1900s and I was delighted to stay here during my sojourn in Colombo.
Next step on The Grand Tour: Cochin (Kochi).