In between the beautiful picture-pretty beaches that mark Curacao you’ll find the center of shopping, culture and color: Willemstad. For a relatively small island like Curacao you’ll won’t need anything else than a city like Willemstad, and if you’ll find yourself looking at a map of Curacao you’ll see that Willemstad takes in almost half of the island. Willemstad is vivid, colorful, big and has a warm ambiance – it definitely feels like the capital of paradise.
The main center of Willemstad is separated in two quarters: Punda and Otrabanda which basically means ‘City’ and ‘The other side’. As you can guess: Punda is more touristic: there are more cafes, restaurants, general stores (as well as souvenirshops) and the overal architecture looks more modern and maintained. As fun as Punda is to see, you’ll find a more authentic side of Curacao at Otrabanda – and that definitely counts for something! If you are going to Willemstad the best way to discover Punda and Otrabanda is by foot.. just take in every street you’ll cross. But of course, like every city there are some highlights you cannot miss. And those are exactly the things I’m going to share with you today.
Queen Emma Bridge
The Queen Emma Bridge connects Punda to Otrabanda and is definitely something you most see (also something you can’t miss, actually). The Queen Emma Bridge is a floating bridge, as well as it is the ONLY floating bridge at the world. Because of the fact that it is a floating bridge it means that you must be careful crossing it when the water is rough and when there is a strong wind.. you’ll feel like you’re on a boat. Also, it means that you can’t always cross it: when a boat has to pass through to get to the harbor of Curacao, the bridge ‘opens’ which means you’ll have to take the ferry to the other side. At night the bridge changes into a colorful scenery, so be sure to also see it when it gets dark!
When walking through Otrabanda you’ll notice a huge fort at the waterside, defining the end of the city, and the beginning of the ocean. Rif Fort is now both a historical building, as well as one of the best places in Willemstad to eat your dinner. Thanks to the amazing view you’ll get over the ocean and the amazing ambiance because of the live bands. Also, Rif Fort has a couple of cute stores you must visit, for example Delfts Blauw and Buddha to Buddha.
It’s not a floating market as how you’ll find them in Thailand, but definitely worth checking out: at the Sha Caprileskade in Punda you’ll find loads of market stands selling (local) fruits and vegetables and sometimes fish. Definitely a ‘Caribbean experience’.
Queen Juliana Bridge
Wherever you’re standing in Willemstad: you can’t miss the Queen Juliana Bridge. Why? Mainly because it’s a 60 meters tall bridge, defining the skyline of Curacao. The Queen Juliana Bridge is therefor something to check out, to photograph and to admire.
Mikve Israel Emanuel Synagoge
When driving into Punda this synagoge is one of the first things you will see: I’ve already photographed it long before knowing what it was. This synagoge is just beautiful to see, and definitely a must-do when you visit Willemstad.
Kura Hulanda Museum
A visit to Curacao isn’t complete without learning about the people, culture and history of the island. Learn about all this in the museum Kura Hulanda, located in Otrabanda. The museum is rated as one of the best and most impressive museums of Curacao, and that is exactly why you should visit it as well. Also, as you’ll only get it in Curacao: Kura Hulanda is also a restaurant, beach club, hotel and spa.
The Handelskade defines Curacao, and no matter what you’ll type in at Google (Curacao-related) you’ll get pictures of the Handelskade. No surprise actually, I mean the Handelskade exists out of some beautiful buildings as you will only find in Curacao. The houses are build in an ‘Amsterdam’ style as you’ll notice if you’ll look at the rooftops. However, while Amsterdams houses are brick-colored, the houses of Curacao are amazingly colorful. And that is exactly why they are so special to see.
Fort Amsterdam used to be a fort that protected the city of Willemstad. Now it is used as a governmental building. However, you can still walk through it and discover the building. While it may seems like it is a small building you’d be surprised of how big it actually is. Don’t be shocked to find out you can walk around there for at least more than an hour!