The places to explore in Willemstad.
My first impression upon arrival in Willemstad I instantly notice the very colourful, brightly painted houses and buildings throughout all the streets. Curacao is one of the most photographed islands in the world due to these exact buildings, and I have to say, the pictures of the streets look just as they do in the photos and postcards! No photoshop filters required to enhance these bright colours. Willemstad is a destination full of history, fine arts, stunning landscapes, unique culture, famous beaches, and amazing landscapes. Willemstad deserves all the praise it gets. It’s full of lively and attractive places and is quickly getting on people’s radar. I spend a lot of my time here and I love it as it is a part of my healing process.
You will not be able to take your eyes off the colorful buildings of Willemstad. According to a Legend, the buildings in Willemstad, Curacao were white. A past Ruler was ill, he experienced severe headaches, and his Doctor told him the cause of his headaches is white structures all around Willemstad. So, he ordered to paint all the buildings with different colors. These buildings are very eye-friendly and you’ll love watching and exploring them.
Although the whole city is commendable, here is a list that I consider to be one of the best things to explore in Willemstad:
Queen Emma Bridge
This bridge is amazing, it floats and its length is 167 meters, it connects the Punda and Otrobanda quarters of the capital city, Willemstad. The bridge is hinged and opens regularly to enable the passage of oceangoing vessels. Queen Emma Bridge is also called the “swinging old lady” by locals, is a wooden pontoon bridge originally built in 1888 and restored / was completely renovated in 1939, 1961, 1983-1986, and 2005-2006 and now during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. The lighting arches were installed in 1955, to celebrate the royal visit of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard, which nowadays give an extra touch on the nightlife. Locals told me that it is free to cross now but originally there was a fee of 1/2 a cent to walk across the bridge if you were wearing shoes, but it was free if you had no shoes on (people caught on very quickly).
When a ship wants to sail, the bridge opens at one end to create a clear path. You are able to stay on the bridge while it’s moving, if the bridge opens while you are on it, you are perfectly safe. This colorful, capricious bridge drives you from the Rif Fort to Punda. It also has music and lights in the evening. The bridge is a nice place for photos and video’s, with the colourful houses of Willemstad in the backdrop. How about hearing the sound of the opening bridge? Its a very amazing experience, and I would recommend you to go there.
Queen Wilhelmina Park
I would like to start by saying, A great place for a Photographs. This Park is in the Punda area of Willemstad. I love this park, as the people getting together in harmony. There are huge CURACAO & DUSHI signs, and many of the people stop by to take a photo with them. The Park also has a huge statue of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.
On my visit, my guide described the role of Queen Wilhelmina in Curaçao history. The square is named after Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and was given this name in 1901 to celebrate her marriage to Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin – before this date the square was named “Fo’i Porta.” The statue of her to the left off the park dates back to 1933.
Many shops and cafes border the park, So It’s a great place to sit and get a refreshment and watch the people go by. Since it is a public park, it is free to everyone, and is open 7 days a week.
HELLO DUSI Sign
The DUSI Sign located also at at Queen Wilhelmina Park, has a big meaning for the locals in Curacao. The local people coupled with the perfect year-long weather, the sunshine and the beautiful surroundings are what makes Curacao truly Dushi. Dushi stands for everything that is sweet, beautiful and nice, probably comes from the Spanish word “dulce”, which means sweet. And that is exactly what the locals in Curacao want to express: to make the world a bit more beautiful, happier and friendlier. Incidentally, the word originally comes from Papiamento and literally means “baby”. It is not without reason that many children in Curaçao are nicknamed Dushi.
Plasa Beau, also known as Marché Bieu: the Old Market, is a very popular restaurant among the natives. A local suggested to me, to have this place for lunch. The six different horeca operators located in Plasa Bieu are: Chichi di Plasa, Yvonne di Plasa, Grasia di Dios, Kushina di Rignald, Fung’s Kitchen & Zus di Plasa. Yvonne de Plasa was the food stall I choose, the service was lovely and food delicious. I ordered the goat stew and I loved it. Its a bit noisy there, but that’s how locals do. They offer 3 different types of Cuisines: Caribbean, Cajun & Creole. And in special diet they offer Vegetarian Friendly Food.
Ronde Markt is a traditional indoor market located in Punda, which is the downtown area of the capital city of Curaçao. Not only tourism comes here but also many locals.
The circular building houses not only vendors selling fresh produce, household items and souvenirs, but also food stalls serving local and regional cuisine. So if you are searching for a nice Souvenir from Curacao then you should try the Ronde Markt.
Willemstad is a city filled with many spectacles, and exploring the city on feet sometimes can be very difficult due to high temperatures. So, here is the solution, The Tuk-Tuk City Tour.
I tried it once, and I loved it. The driver not only lets you meet all your landmarks, but he also acts as a tour guide. My guide was very informative, and he was continuously explaining the history behind each place. He showed me the must-sees as Scharloo’s mansions, the floating market, the Fort Amsterdam; and helped me to capturing the places with my camera, it was a joyfull day overviewing of the city.
If you are in Willemstad for a short time, I would recommend you give it a try. On average TukTuk City tour charges $25 per person, and its operating hours are 9am to 5:00 pm, and they do not work on Sundays.
Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue
Easy to find in a yellow building in Punda, Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Americas. Nearly 300 years old, the Jewish place of worship is an architectural jewel with a mahogany interior, brass chandeliers and a sandy floor as a tribute to the earliest Jewish settlers who muffled their footsteps when meeting in secret during the Spanish Inquisition. Although the Jewish population has dwindled in recent years, services are conducted Friday evening at 6: 30 p.m. and Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Open for tours weekdays from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., appropriate dress is encouraged which means no sleeveless clothing for women and button-down jackets for men. The $10 entrance fee includes admission to the Jewish Cultural Historical Museum, built in 1728 as the rabbi’s residence, and the adjacent gift shop.
OTROBANDA — or the “other side” in Papiamentu
The Riffort is located at the entrance of the St. Anna Bay in Otrabanda, Willemstad.The fort was built in 1828/1829 to protect the entrance of the St. Anna Bay and the outer part of Otrabanda. When the fort was finished it was bombproof and armed with 56 cannons, barracks, a gunpowder magazine and a water-tank.Today, Rif Fort is a tourist attraction that features great local restaurants, live entertainment, trendy bars with Latin and Caribbean music and the rough waves that smash through the ends of the walls.
The Fort was redeveloped by the Renaissance Curaçao Resort and Casino. Locals and tourists visit this site frequently. At present the fort is freely accessible, and used as a shopping mall with cafes and restaurants. Many world renowned brands can be found here such as XOXO, Mango, Guess, Max Mara, Diesel, Starbucks and a cinema theater.
Serena’s Art Factory
Searching for the perfect local art experience ánd an amazing souvenir to take home? A visit to Serena’s Art Factory in Punda will help you out. Here you can treat yourself and your family for a fun day out or even a handmade Chichi® by the local artists and craft women from Curacao! Chichi doll, a signature of Curaçao’s culture, learn more about Chichis ® and their cultural backstory! If you are already familiar with the story behind the Chichi® and they can also offer you a fun painting lesson (including drinks and a snack) where you can paint your own Chichi® to take home as a souvenir.
A larger-than-life Chichi® stands at the entrance to Serena’s Art Factory, located near Curaçao’s famous Ostrich farm, which is picture perfect as memory.
Dutch Treat is a unique and must-visit food-place in Willemstad. It is on the west side of Queen Emma Bridge. This food spot is well situated for tourists. I went there, I loved it and I would say, Marvelous finger food with a remarkable view and excellent services. Its operating hours are 11am to 10:00 pm, and is open 7 days a week, and they offer two types of food: Fast Food, and Dutch Food. Give it a shot. For more information you can follow their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GODUTCHTREAT/
Kura Hulanda Museum
The Kurá Hulanda or Kura Hulanda Museum is an anthropological museum in Otrabanda, on the site of a former slave depot above St. Anna Bay. Kura Hulanda Museum houses the largest collection of African slave trade artifacts in the Caribbean. It was founded in 2001 by the Dutch businessman Jacob Gelt Dekker. In 1997, the historic center of Willemstad was placed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO.