The capital of the Caribbean Island of Curaçao, Willemstad has a multicultural feel, natural beauty, colorful buildings and a deep sense of history.
The range of attractions in Willemstad is as varied as the colors of the houses lining the streets in this harbor city. Learn about its Dutch history, seen in much of the architecture, hike through pristine wilderness or wander through lively markets.
Start your visit to Willemstad in Punda, the original part of the city. Here, you’ll find a blend of multicolored colonial buildings and modern shops. Punda is also home to Fort Amsterdam, one of eight surviving forts in Curaçao. Opposite the fort is Penha House. It was built in the 1700s and is a prime example of a Dutch-styled merchant house. Continue along Columbusstraat to the western hemisphere’s oldest synagogue, Mikve-Israel Emanuel.
Willemstad is split into two main districts by the Santa Ana Bay. Punda is to the east and Otrobanda (“other side”) is to the west. The pedestrian-only Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge connects the two sides. When the bridge is open, jump on a ferry and cross the bay to get a view of the city from the water.
In Otrobanda, wander along narrow, twisting lanes, including the main commercial street, Breedestraat. Learn about the African and slave trade history of the island at Kura Hulanda Museum. Spend an afternoon at Riffort Village. At this former fort, you’ll find outdoor cafés, boutique shops and galleries.
Beyond Willemstad’s historical center you can enjoy the area’s natural park and beaches. Blue Bay Beach has a playground, restaurant and bar, umbrellas and loungers. Get a close-up view of the area’s marine life at the Curacao Sea Aquarium on the oceanfront.
Willemstad’s cuisine draws from the flavors of over 50 cultures. Go to Marsche Bieuw (Old Market) to sample cheap local dishes, including yuana, which is stewed iguana. At the Floating Market, merchants from Venezuela sell fresh fish and spices, fruits and vegetables.
Taxis and rental car is the best way to get around Willemstad. There is a public bus service but it’s not frequent.