The Grand Oriental Hotel (GOH, previously the Taprobane Hotel) is a heritage property located in the Fort district of Colombo.
The building was formerly a barracks for the British Army and was converted to a hotel in 1875, with 154 rooms. Ads at the time claimed it was “the only fully European owned and fully equipped hotel in the East”; also, “the hotel is lighted throughout by electricity and all the public rooms and bedrooms are kept cool by means of electric fans”.
It was an elegant place to visit in the 19th century. It had a tropical garden, was illuminated at night by colored lights, and had its own orchestra which performed daily. The hotel underwent a thorough a refurbishment in 1920 when en-suite bathrooms were introduced. Around 1940 the hotel’s business focus shifted from serving only tourists to including Sri Lankan clientele.
Significant hardships occurred when the country’s Civil War began in the 1950s. The GOH had to downsize to 54 rooms, remove the garden, etc, measures that meet with limited success. Famed Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa was hired in 1966 and did an extensive remodel; the hotel reopened in 1991.
Even today the hotel continues to serve tourists and locals in Colombo. I’ve never stayed at the GOH but have dined here a few times. Its food is good and reasonably priced.
Besides restaurants and rooms, the hotel offers services like a pub, nightclub and a laundry service. It’s worth dropping by while exploring the Fort district, if for no reason than to get into a cool air conditioned lobby to refresh yourself after dealing with the tropical heat.
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