A popular cruise ship stop-off, Aruba’s brightly colored capital is filled with modern shops, upscale restaurants and colonial-era buildings.
Oranjestad is a small and cheery capital with candy-colored Dutch architecture. Every day, large cruise ships pull into its port and hundreds of passengers flood its street. Oranjestad has plenty of tourist-oriented offerings to keep visitors entertained. Splurge in the malls and diverse shops, stroll the sunny waterfront boulevard and explore its past at interesting museums.
Prior to the arrival of European explorers, Oranjestad was just a small fishing outpost used by the Arawak Indians. Spanish explorers arrived in the late 15th century and it was later colonized by the Dutch in the mid-17th century. With the exception of a brief British interlude, it has remained under Dutch control to this day.
Delve into the past at Fort Zoutman, the oldest building on the island. This defensive fortress was built in 1798 and was designed to protect the city from pirates. Be sure to see the Willem III Tower, once a lighthouse, and the Historical Museum, which houses a permanent exhibit tracing the history of the island. For a look at the island’s pre-colonial history, stop by the National Archaeological Museum of Aruba.
Take a walk down the waterfront L.G. Smith Boulevard, where shops, restaurants and busy marinas dominate the scene. Just a few blocks inland, Main Street offers more shopping opportunities, with everything from independent boutiques to internationally recognized luxury brands. For a shopping experience with more local flavor, go to the Flea Market near the harbor, where locals barter at open-air kiosks selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to fish.
Recharge at the Queen Wilhelmina Park, where manicured lawns look out over fishing boats bobbing in the water. Nearby beaches, including Druif Beach and Manchebo Beach are good for sunbathing and swimming. Wait until evening to check out the elegant Town Hall, also known as Stadhuis, which is lit up after dark.
Oranjestad is located on the south coast of Aruba. Make use of the city’s free tram system to get around. It runs from the cruise terminal through the downtown area. Hop on and off as often as you please.