Top Things to Do in Willemstad & Rest of Curacao
Curaçao might be known for its gorgeous beaches, delicious cocktails and swimming in the clear blue waters, but there’s a surprising amount of other places, activities and sights to see. Either way, it’s no surprise that this place is one of the top spots for Dutch tourists looking to fly south-west for winter!
The capital Willemstad is split into two sections, Punda to the east, and Otrabanda to the west, with the Sint Anna Bay between. On each side of the water are the famous brightly coloured de Stijl houses you’ve likely seen on any advert, feature or blog on the island. Standing on each side, or on the cute Queen Emma Bridge are some of the best places to snap a nice landscape shot. Most sights are on the historic Punda side, and its narrow streets and relatively small size are more than easy to explore on foot in a few hours.
Top 10 Things To See and Do in Willemstad
The Pontjesbrug/Queen Emma Bridge (Punda, Otrobanda)
Take a walk across the pedestrianised Pontjesbrug or Queen Emma Bridge and snap some lovely shots of the colourful houses. For an added bonus, you can see the bridge opening when ships want to pass, and you can even stay standing on the bridge as it turns to let the big boats through.
Maritime Museum Curacao (1 Brandhofstraat)
If you’re into sailing, ships and all things nautical, give this small two floor museum a tour. A great overtime of maritime history, with lots of tales of the various ships that docked in Curacao over the many years. The standout is the guided harbour boat tours that the museum operates and which take place twice a week.
Kura Hulanda Museum (Klipstraat)
Found on the Otrabanda side, this insightful museum, with its bronze African sculpture in its courtyard, details the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, along with the influence of African cultures of the Carribbean and Curacao today. There is also a stunning amount of African sculptures, art and antiques.
Plasa Bieu (De Ruyterkade)
This green and yellow market hall with canteen style seating with lots of local kitchens serving up Curacaoan fare.
Curacao Museum (Van Leeuwenhoekstraat)
Situated a bit away from the historic centre, this local museum, housed in a former hospital, includes lots of rare artifacts, old colonial style rooms to explore, and impressive art collections. My favourite bits were the ancient Royal Dutch Airlines Mail Propeller Plane and the old yellow steam train in its gardens!
Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue (29 Hanchi Snoa)
In operation since the 1600s, this religious site has an insightful museum with hundreds of impressive artefacts detailing the history of Jewish communities in Curacao since the 17th century.
Gallery Alma Blou (4 Frater Radulphusweg)
Yellow happens to be my favourite colour, so this bright yellow-coloured art gallery in a landhuis was right up my street. Full to bursting with Carribean and Antillean art, there’s stunning paintings and photographs, along with sculptures, some of which are in its gardens. One of the buildings is only partly restored, so its second floor is an open air sculpture courtyard, which was something special.
Landhuis Bloemhof (6 Santa Rosaweg)
This unique art centre, set in a beautiful landhuis (colonial-style manor house) celebrates local art, with galleries and workshops. The highlight has to be the Cathedral of Thorns, an incredible labyrinth cathedral art piece made out of crosshatched thorns, inspired by the El Injun rocks, which lights up at night. I couldn’t decide if it was scary or beautiful as I walked through it, which is kinda cool.
Fort Amsterdam (Plaza Piar)
Only a small section of the original 17th century fort walls remain today, and it’s now more famous for the grand Governor’s Palace, and the UNESCO listed Fort Church. The Fort Church has some impressive stained glass and a little museum to boot.
Fort Beekenburg (Caracasbaiiweg)
This is a much better fort to explore than Fort Amsterdam, as it’s mainly intact, though it is a 20 minute (10 km) drive from the centre. It’s not huge, but the little fort has cannons, little spots to explore, and most importantly, a great view of the city!