Willemstad is the capital and largest city of Curaçao. The city center and the waterfront is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Willemstad is mostly a destination for cruise ship tourists who usually spend one, max. two days there. Prices in bars, restaurants and shops tend to be very high and the originality and quality of products sold is often questionable - especially in the main tourist district Punda. But by comparing prices and using happy hours (usually 1h per bar, sometimes between 4pm and 8pm) costs can be reduced considerably.
Cocaine and cannabis is offered to tourists pretty openly, but a friendly "no, thank you" is sufficient to be left alone.
- Punda: The historic city center, today the main destination for tourists, has lots of shops and restaurants.
- Otrabanda: Residential neighborhood just across St Annabaai from Punda, connected by the Queen Emma bridge and a ferry. The rif fort and mega pier are on Otrabanda's side of St. Annabaai. Some restaurants and fast food joints line up on St Annabaai, lots of shops targeted at locals can be found along Breedestraat.
- Scharloo: Scharlooweg, between Van Radersstraat and Bargestraat, was the main avenue of Jewish merchants at the end of the 19th century.
- Brievengat and Gosie: Residential neighborhoods at the northern end of Willemstad.
- Buena Vista - Gasparitu: A residential, suburbian district built for employees of the refinery.
- Santa Maria: Residential neighborhood between Hato airport and the refinery.
- Suffisant: Residential neighborhood between Santa Maria (to its west) and Brievengat (to its east).
Cruise ships moor either at Otrabanda's mega pier or at the entrance to the harbor - all mooring locations are within easy walking distance to the main tourist attractions.
Since Willemstad is the capital of Curacao one can take a bus from any part of the island.
phone: +599 9 888-0101address: Plaza Margareth Abrahamis a 10 minute car ride from the city center. Buses from the airport leave roughly every hour during daytime; taxis cost between USD20 and USD60, depending on time of day, ability to haggle and destination.
The main tourist destination, the district of Punda, can be covered on foot easily (and much faster than by car).
Regular buses are cheap but they don't serve many points in Willemstad.
Shared taxis are inexpensive and flexible about the route they take. The main shared taxi spot in Punda is just behind the floating market.
Regular taxis are expensive, renting a car is usually the cheaper option if one wants to visit the various beaches in and around Willemstad.
While it is possible to get to all places by bicycle it is not advised for inexperienced riders since dedicated bike lanes are rare, cars tend to speed and the always blowing wind and slight but long elevations can be strenuous for untrained people.
phone: +5999 434 7765address: Klipstraat 9This anthropological museum chronicles the African slave trade as well as the cultures of Curaçao.
- Postal Museum, Willemstad.
phone: +5999 465-2327
- Queen Emma Bridge (a.k.a "The Swinging Old Lady"), Willemstad. A floating pontoon bridge that links the "Punda" (Point Side) and the "Otrobanda" (Other Side) of the Willemstad across the Sint Annabaai Channel. You get to see the bridge open and close to allow marine traffic into St. Anna Bay. (In the event the bridge is open for a prolonged time, there is a ferry service across the channel as well.) There is not a feasible way off the bridge if you're caught on it when it opens.
- Queen Juliana Bridge, Willemstad. At 185 feet, this is highest bridge in the Caribbean (and one of the tallest bridges in the world.) The bridge overlooks St. Anna Bay as well as Willemstad. The observation platform has been closed to pedestrian traffic.
- Fort Amsterdam, Punda Side, Willemstad. The seat of the Netherlands Antilles, Fort Amsterdam sits at the mouth of the harbour at the end of the Sint Annabaai Channel on the point. The complex has restaurants, shops as well as the Governors Palace.
- Fort Nassau, Willemstad. Fort Nassau was built on the hill to defend both St. Anna Bay as well as part of the city of Willemstad. The fort is open for tours and there is also a restaurant that overlooks the bay.
- The Floating Market, Punda Side, Willemstad. The "floating market" is actually a mini boat fleet that comes in from Venezuela and sells fresh fish and fruit. You'll find it roughly one block north of the Queen Juliana Bridge on the east side of the harbour mouth.
phone: +599 9 461-1067The oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere, with a sand floor and museum containing ancient artefacts.
- Luxury goods: Most shops in Punda specialize in luxury goods, though it is sometimes questionable whether they are real or fake. Prices are, despite huge tax breaks, not always competitive and one might get the same goods for cheaper in one's country of residence.
- Blue Curacao: Historically just a double accident (the oranges from Spain did not grow well and were inedible and how the distillate of the peels once turned blue is a mystery - nowadays it is colored with food coloring) it's still the most famous local product and comparatively cheap.
- Hammocks: Some merchants from Venezuela offer high quality hammocks for a good price (about USD20) at the floating market and in stalls in Otrabanda, along St. Annabaai.
- Souvenirs: Since Curacao's culture is one of mixed heritage there are no typical local goods, most people settle on T-shirts instead.
- Electronics: Along Breedestraat in Otrabanda several shops offer electronics for competitive prices, this is a good opportunity to replace broken gadgets without paying the premium asked for on cruise ships.
Note that one can pay in Antillean Guilders (Nafl) or USD everywhere, the exchange rate is fixed. Change might be given in guilders, though.
phone: +599 9 461 8806address: Penstraat 47Local cuisine along with fusion dishes. Good value for money.
phone: +59995109189address: Mgr. Niewindtstraat 205 rooms in a historical building in Otrabanda (10 minutes walk to Punda). No dorms, private rooms only; minimum stay 3 days. Shared kitchen, lounge and terrace; BBQ on site, 200m from a big supermarket. Very accommodating management and lots of tourist information. Airport transfer for half the price of a regular taxi and also easily reachable by an hourly bus from the airport. Fast WiFi. Since it is located in a residential area restaurants are much more affordable than the ones in touristy Punda.
phone: +599 97367888address: Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd 78, WillemstadAll inclusive beachfront resort. It includes three restaurants; Jimmy's Buffet(Continental and Island Dishes), Pastafari (Italian-style), and Munasan (Japanese Cuisine), plus a beach grill, and a children's snack bar.
phone: +599 9 462-5000address: John F Kennedy Boulevard PO Box 2133, Willemstad
phone: +599 94651012address: van den Brandhofstraat 12, WillemstadA new hotel in town, an old colonial building that has been totally restored.
Free WiFi is omnipresent; some networks require a signup with a social media account or an email address.
All of Curacao: Every possible destination on Curacao can easily be done as a day-trip. With your own car or a taxi you can reach the southernmost point in 20 minutes, the northernmost point in 40 minutes.