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Visiting Willemstad? 10 Things You Need To Know About Curaçao’s Vibrant Capital

Of course, the majority of travelers come to Curaçao for a tropical beach vacation but with Willemstad, the island’s capital, being designated a UNESCO World Heritage City, it would be a shame to come all this way and not do a little urban exploration too. To get you inspired, here are some need-to-know facts about Curaçao’s vibrant capital.

Culture and History

Curaçao’s capital boasts a wealth of cultural attractions that are not to be missed. Get to grips with the island’s history at the Curaçao Maritime Museum or visit famous Fort Amsterdam for an insight into the island’s past. Here are a couple of interesting historical facts that are worth noting:

A City of Two Parts

Divided by St. Anna Bay, to the east you have Punda and to the west, you’ll find Otrobanda (which literally translates to "other side"). The Queen Emma Bridge, also known as the swinging old lady, links the two sides of the capital.

The Story Behind the Colorful Architecture

You can’t fail to notice the multi-colored Dutch style houses of Handelskade. Legend has it that after suffering terrible headaches that he blamed on the glare of the white houses, Governor-general Albert passed the 1817 law that stated that pastel colors must be used on all of Willemstad’s buildings.

Willemstad - Emma pontjesbrug

A view of Punda, in Willemstad, Curaçao. Photo courtesy of Rutger Geerling

Art in The City

Art is the lifeblood of Willemstad and visitors are sure to be in awe of the artistic talent the city boasts and with the likes of local artists like Francis Sling showcasing their work on the city’s streets you’ll be sure to be in for a treat.

Art is all around

Unlike some cities where you need to visit a museum to see the great works of art, in Willemstad, it’s impossible not to be immersed in the art world. Street art and graffiti abound in this city and the scene is constantly changing, so expect to be surprised at almost every corner.

An Instagrammable City

Willemstad is a photogenic place, so don’t forget your camera! A picture on the Queen Emma Bridge is one you must take! The Scharloo District has become synonymous with street art, providing a lovely backdrop for those cool Instagram shots, and the area between Hanchi Snoa and Breedestraat is also popular with Instagrammers.

Straatkunst Scharloo

Shopping

Shopaholics will delight at the wares on offer in Willemstad. Whether it's a trinket to remind you of island life or international brands you are after, this city has it all.

Souvenirs Galore

Curaçao is a charming destination and there is no doubt you’ll want to take home a little bit of island life to share with loved ones. With so many quirky souvenir vendors dotted around Willemstad, visitors will have ample opportunity to get their hands on some island treasure.

No Shortage of International Brands

Willemstad boasts an impressive range of shopping facilities. Whether you’re looking for clothing, jewelry, perfumery, or electronics you are sure to find what you are looking for in the capital. With reputable brands like Victoria’s Secret, Little Switzerland, and MAC cosmetics readily available, quality items are guaranteed.

The Legendary Caribbean Nightlife

It’s almost sacrilegious to visit Curaçao and miss out on the legendary Caribbean nightlife offerings. Thankfully, there is no short supply of fun to be had in Willemstad.

Thursday Night ‘Punda Vibes’

Come Thursday night, Willemstad is the place to be. Punda Vibes, a weekly event where locals and tourists come together to indulge in the sounds of local music. It’s also a great opportunity to check out the latest pop-up shops, with many stores keeping their doors open after hours too.

Punda Vibes

Ending the Night In Style

Punda Vibes always goes out with a bang, literally, as the evening festivities close with a stunning fireworks display. Grab a spot on the Queen Emma Bridge for the best views.

Dining Out

And when hunger strikes, you’ll find many great eateries and restaurants in Willemstad that’ll help you satisfy that appetite.

The Hotspots

With so many great spots to choose from, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed! Iguana Cafe overlooking the harbor is a firm favorite and Plein Cafe Wilhelmina is famous for its live music and finger foods.

The Pietermaai Area

For greater variety in dining options head towards the Pietermaai area. Here you’ll find a range of locally-owned restaurants that serve island delicacies. Kome, De Heeren at Sea, and Ginger are some popular spots that are worth a try. With so many excellent culinary offerings available, you’ll certainly go home feeling satisfied.

Willemstad is an eclectic capital city that is just waiting to be discovered. Whether it’s art, history, nightlife, or food that motivates you, it’s certainly worth tearing yourself away from the beach to get acquainted with Curaçao’s wonderful urban hub.