Old fashioned hotel with vintage bar that makes for a fabulous sunset spot
Grand harbour view
The Harbour Room at the Grand Oriental Hotel is flat out one of the best spots from which to watch the sunset in Colombo. Expansive windows open up to the Colombo Harbour, with its crenellated warehouses built a century ago, its wide wharfs and its newer, more industrial additions in full view. Watch the cargo ships come and go, the cranes ceaselessly load and unload goods. To your left, watch the Port City emerge out of the sea, a transformation that will no doubt monumentally change this view in a few years. Sit down and order a tea and some signature Sri Lankan butter cake. The roasted cashews are a favourite to have with a glass of beer on the balcony as you enjoy the soft evening breeze, finally rid of its hot, dusty glaze from the day.
In the old days when most travellers arrived by ship, this hotel was a top-rated luxurious hotel. Located just outside the port entrance, the Grand Oriental saw brisk custom from business travellers as well as colonial administrative officers. Old artefacts litter the lobby including an ancient telephone with a stand of its own. It still works.
In her 1914 guidebook ‘How to see Ceylon’, Bella Woolf wrote: “It is said that if you wait long enough in the hall of the Grand Oriental Hotel, you will meet anyone worth meeting”. In those days the hotel’s rooftop offered the perfect place for a sunbath and the garden a place to chat and rest while listening to the well-known band – Blue Star. Famous guests who stayed here include Queen Elizabeth and the Duke and Duchess of Kent. Other illustrious patrons include Dr Jose Mercado Rizal Y Alonzo, a national hero of the Philippines - who visited the Grand Oriental Hotel no less than four times - and famous Russian author Anton Chekov aboded at the Hotel where he started writing his legendary novel ‘Gusev.’