Curacao sightseeing


Airplanes and cruise ships annually transport more than a million visitors to the country of Curaçao, one of the four states of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The primary destination of travelers is the island's capital Willemstad. In the historic port and trading city, guests encounter more than three centuries of Dutch-influenced settlement history.

Willemstad - historical building

Willemstad - historical building


Willemstad - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

UNESCO recognized the historic center of Willemstad in 1997 with its inclusion in the list of world cultural heritage. So far, only a few Caribbean destinations have received such an award. Decisive for the award were the Dutch colonial architecture as well as the influences of the Caribbean and South American regions.

Traditional architecture - Governor de Rouville restaurant

Traditional architecture - Governor de Rouville restaurant


 

 

Willemstad's special architectural style

Many of the buildings built between 1650 and 1800 represent the Healingçao baroque style. It is characterized by curved Dutch gables and a variety of colors. A notable example of this particular architecture is that dating from 1708 Penha building in the Punda district.

Willemstad - Penha building on Breedestraat

Willemstad - Penha building on Breedestraat


Willemstad's neighborhoods and attractions

Willemstad consists of four historic districts. The two most characteristic parts of the city are Punda and Otrobanda. We will go into their attractions below. A free map from the Willemstad Tourist Office provides useful suggestions for a city tour.

The Punda district

Punda, Willemstad's oldest district, was built next to the Sint Annabaai. That came about first FortAmsterdam and I baked the Waterfort. Both were built from 1635 to protect the port access. The governor of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and individual ministries reside in Fort Amsterdam. In the courtyard of the fort stands De Fortkerk, Curaçao's oldest Protestant church. The church lacks a bell tower; inside it is beautiful to look at.

Willemstad - Fort Amsterdam - the Governor's Palace
Willemstad - De Fortkerk


Fort Amsterdam is the starting point and end of the Trolley Train Tour by Willemstad. The hour-long tour takes you past the city's most famous attractions. Adults pay $ 25 for the tour.

The Waterfort was built at the same time as Fort Amsterdam. Originally it was a fortification wall secured with cannons. Later, in the middle of the 18th century, arched vaults, so-called “boogjes”, were added. They served as ammunition and provisions stores. Bars and restaurants were set up in some of the arches.

In the walls of the Waterfort you can see the hooks to hold the chains with which ships were blocked from entering the Sint Annabaai in the past.

Willemstad - Waterfort with the Plaza Hotel Curaçao & Casino
Willemstad - Waterfort with the Plaza Hotel Curaçao & Casino
Willemstad - the Waterfort Boogjes
Willemstad - the Dal Toro restaurant in the Waterfort Boogjes

 

The one built along the Sint Annabaai trade cade reminds of an Amsterdam canal thanks to its representative house front. Merely the colorful paintwork of the buildings would not suit Amsterdam.

On the corner of Handelskade and Breedestraat is the supposedly most photographed commercial building in Willemstad, the Penha building.

Willemstad - the Handelskade with the Penha building, next to it the Queen Emma pontoon bridge
Willemstad - the Penha building

 

The more than 300 year old merchant's house has sales areas for cosmetics, perfumes and branded fashion on the ground floor. It is a typical example of the Curacao baroque style.

The Mikve Israel Emmanuel Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the western world that has remained in operation without interruption.

Willemstad - Mikve Israel Emanuel Synagogue

Willemstad - Penha building on Breedestraat


It was built in 1732. The synagogue and the adjoining one Jewish Historical Cultural Museum are considered to be the main tourist attraction of the city.
Address: Hanchi Snoa / Columbusstraat

In March 2018, the Floating Market a 101 year old tradition in Willemstad. At the water blowhole Venezuelan traders mainly sold fruit, vegetables and spices directly from messengers. Since Curaçao does not have enough fertile cultivation areas, the traders coming from Venezuela by sea took over the supply of Curaçao. It should be noted that there are 60 kilometers of sea routes between Curaçao and Venezuela. An instruction by the Venezuelan head of state banned the cross-border trade in goods in 2018. The floating market is still described by many travel guides as existing.

Willemstads Floating Market when closed
Willemstads Floating Market when it was originally open

 

The neighboring Ronde Markt, the round market hall, is of little interest. It is quite different with the Plasa Bieu, the Old Market. Visitors are offered authentic, Caribbean and, above all, inexpensive food at communal tables in the dim building.

Willemstad's Plasa Bieu - the Old Market
Willemstads Plasa Bieu - the food stall in the Old Market

 

The central square in the Punda district is the Wilhelminaplein. In the center of the square is a statue of Queen Wilhelmina. She ruled the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1898 to 1948. On the north side of the square is the head-high lettering "Curaçao". He is a popular one Selfie point.

Willemstad - Curaçao lettering on Wilhelminaplein

Willemstad - Curaçao lettering on Wilhelminaplein


Emanu-El Synagogue Willemstad owned a second Jewish sacred building. It was built next to Wilhelminaplein in 1867. After the merger of the two Jewish communities and the abandonment of this synagogue, the beautiful building resembling a church is the seat of the public prosecutor's office.

Willemstad - former Emanu-El synagogue on Hendrikplein

Willemstad - former Emanu-El synagogue on Hendrikplein


The Wilhelminaplein is also worth a look Joint Court of Justice, the Supreme Court jointly maintained by Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. The facility includes the special Dutch administrative units of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba.

Willemstad - Joint Court of Justice

Willemstad - Joint Court of Justice


Physical well-being is also taken care of. Numerous restaurants and bars surround the square..

The Otrobanda district

The Otrobanda, the "other side", called the district lies west of the Sint Annabaai. After there was a lack of building sites in Punda, the opposite side was developed. The first houses were built in 1707. The buildings looked representative, the plots were spacious. Over time, many of the formerly extensive properties were built on with small, modest houses and shops. The medium-sized character was lost. The originally bourgeois town quarter turns out to be a labyrinth of winding streets.

Willemstad Otrobanda - Hotel & Casino Otrobanda
Otrobanda - Keizershof - Sunu street art

 

In 2001, the Dutch entrepreneur and philanthropist Jacob Gelt Dekker acquired a spacious ensemble of buildings stretching over eight blocks. He had the area renovated and restored. The complex, designed in the architectural style of the 17th and 18th centuries, encloses the modern 4,5 * Boutique hotel Kurá Hulanda, a conference center, a spa area, a shopping area and that Kura Hulanda Museum. The anthropological museum focuses on the history of slavery. All in all: Even if you don't stay overnight in the hotel; Kurá Hulanda is definitely worth a visit.

Otrobanda - Kurá Hulanda Hotel & Museum
Otrobanda - out and about in the Kurá Hulanda hotel complex
Otrobanda - Kura Hulanda Hotel
Otrobanda - Kura Hulanda Museum

 

Opposite Fort Amsterdam and the Waterfort is the one built in the late 1820s reef fort. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One and a half meters thick coral limestone walls and 56 cannons protected the entrance to the Sint Annabaai from the west. The fort protected the port from pirate attacks and armed conflicts. The fortress was completely renovated. Today the fort houses shops and dining options.

The Rif Fort
The Rif Fort
The Rif Fort - courtyard
Access to the UNESCO World Heritage Rif Fort

 

The neighboring one Renaissance shopping mall comprises more than 50 stores of well-known luxury brands as well as catering establishments The passengers of the cruise ships lying at the Mega Pier cannot avoid passing the mall.

Willemstad - Renaissance Shopping Mall

Willemstad-Renaissance Shopping Mall


 

 

Speaking of cruise ships: Otrobanda's cruise terminals are located in different places. It is the Mega pier the large ships and the one within sight of the Queen Emma pontoon bridge Mathey Wharf.

Willemstad - Mega Pier with Carnival Horizon
Willemstad - Mathey Wharf with MS Rotterdam

 

Since 1888 the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge the districts of Punda and Otrobanda. The picturesque pedestrian bridge will be opened for every ship passing through Sint Annabaai. If the bridge is not passable because of a ship passage, passers-by take the ferry to cross the inlet free of charge.

Willemstad - Sint Annabaai with the Queen Emma pontoon bridge
Willemstad - Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge opened
Willemstad - a cargo ship enters the Sint Annabaai
Otrobanda - Sint Annabaai - Ferry at the ferry terminal

 

More Attractions

One of the most famous buildings in Willemstad is that Bolo di Bruit, the wedding cake house. The building is now used as a national archive. It is also one of the most photographed houses in Willemstad.

Willemstad - the Bolo di Bruit house

Willemstad - the Bolo di Bruit house


Address: Scharlooweg 77-79

The HealingCao Maritime Museum represents 500 years of Curaçao's maritime history. Nautical charts, nautical accessories, ship models and audiovisual techniques ensure a museum experience.

Willemstad - the Curaçao Maritime Museum

Willemstad - the Curaçao Maritime Museum


Address: N. van Den Brandhofstraat 1

The most interesting building in the Pietermaai district is the Cathedral of Pietermaai. It is the largest and most impressive church on the island.

The Saliña district was created where salt was originally extracted in the salt pans in the east of Willemstad. The attraction of the neighborhood is that Landhuis Chobolobo. The term stands for "freedom". Chobolobo produces the world-famous Blue Curaçao liqueur. A tour of the factory shop adds an experience to the visitor. Namely: Blue Curaçao liqueur is available in a lot of Colors and flavors. The liqueur is made from the peels of bitter oranges. If you want to know how mixed drinks made from Blue Curaçao liqueur taste, try the cocktails on site.

Chobolobo Blue Curacao Liqueur Factory
Chobolobo Blue Curacao Liqueur Factory - Old Production Plant
Chobolobo Blue Curacao Liqueur Factory - the bar list
Chobolobo Blue Curacao Liqueur Factory - an unusual sight

 

Another Chobolobo product is Alcolado Glacial, a menthol splash lotion. As we hear, it works against headaches, colds and flu, stomach pain and itching from mosquito bites.

Chobolobo - employees pack Alcolado Glacial

Chobolobo - employees pack Alcolado Glacial


Address: Elias RA Moreno Boulevard
The Landhuis Chobolobo is visited as part of organized sightseeing tours.

The Mirador Kaya Guinea in the suburb of Jan Thiel provides views over the southeast of the island. Below the lookout point is the picturesque Spaanse Water bay with boat moorings and holiday resorts. The rest of the huge area is restricted area.

Willemstad - View of Playa Caracasbaai from the Mirador Kaya Guinea
Mirador Kaya Guinea - View of the Spaanse Water

 

Address: Kaya Guinea

Destinations outside Willemstad

A few kilometers from Willemstad is the fishing village in the west of Curaçao Boca Sami. The settlement also known as “Sint Michiel” is an oasis of calm.

Between Boca Sami and Willemstad the Piscaderabaai. Several hotels, a golf course, the picturesque Pirate Bay bathing bay and the flamingos living in the Piscaderabaai are the main attractions of the bay.

Curaçao - Beach of the Pirate Bay Beach Club
Piscaderabaai - Flamingo habitat Saliña Sint Michiel
 
Update July 2022

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