Willemstad

Overview

Introduction

Dutch heritage in Willemstad, Curacao, is best expressed in its the rows of pastel-colored, red-roofed town houses. The island's capital city, Willemstad is divided into two parts: Punda (old-world Dutch ambience and great shopping) and Otrobanda ("the other side"—also good shopping, but with a more contemporary flavor).

Punda and Otrobanda each take about a half-day to see, and they're connected by ferry, a land bridge or the Queen Emma pontoon bridge. Take a guided walking tour of the town to observe the architecture. Ask the tourist office for a list of guides, or check PasaBon, the entertainment guide.

Most of the tourist sites are in Punda, which is the oldest part of town. Its collection of historic buildings is a big reason why Willemstad and its harbor have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Of special note are Wilhelmina Park, Breedestraat (the main shopping street) and the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue.

The many brightly colored buildings in Otrobanda give this section of the city a fairy-tale feel. There are several bars and restaurants that afford stunning views of the Handelskade (the best-known and most photographed row of Dutch Colonial buildings in the city). The ramparts of the Rif Fort—built in 1828 to guard the harbor entrance—offer another good spot to take in the views.

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