Discover Willemstad Curacao on foot by taking an incredibly colorful, historic, free walking tour of Willemstad Curacao from the Mega cruise terminal to the UNESCO heritage sites (quarters) located within Willemstad, enjoying history, scenery, music, loads of free fun, and infamous landmarks, and use it as a fantastic way to walk off cruises ship earned calories and cruise ship leg fatigue.
Venture through 1.5 miles of simple flat walking because there are a lot of things to do and see, and you will be rewarded with a lot of great highlights and bucket list items of Punda, Otrobanda, and Scharloo to photos and enjoy!
Dawn those walking shoes and enjoy the island that puts the ‘C’ in the ABC Islands \(the country of Curacao) to discover shopping, culture, and history while marking off some big Curacao bucket list items right inside the Willemstad area.
I heart cruising, and I enjoyed my time with Holland America, whom I was a media partner of and hosted while cruising on this journey.
Table of Contents
Why You’ll Love The Walking Tour of Willemstad Curacao
You are officially in the Dutch Caribbean and the capital, Willemstad, is the largest city there. If you have been docked here with your cruise, hopefully, you’ll get 16 hours to cut loose (well our cruise provider had that much time here) you have plenty of time to really get out and explore Curacao.
- You can easily access the walk on a straightforward path that can range from ½ a mile to 1 ½ miles depending on where you choose to go. (roundtrip is about 3 miles) .
- The walking area from the cruise port in Curacao to each local district I will share is flat and easy to walk, with many pedestrian-only streets.
- One neighborhood is brilliantly decorated in street art and is a must-see, and we will if you follow this walking tour.
- The entire walking area is family-friendly, great for couples, and you can push a stroller easily as well
- Take advantage of the great shopping malls and outdoor vendors on both sides of the pedestrian-only bridge.
- Willemstad has a lot of great history, and you don’t have to walk far to discover it
- Everything in this article is free to access, so no money is needed to discover Willemstad Curacao on foot, nor is it part of a cruise or group tour; you walk and leave the port.
- Experiencing the walk by day was dramatically different than by night, so you’ll want to repeat the smaller portion of the walk to see this. You get to feel the rhythm of the area differently.
Where Does The Walking Tour Of Willemstad Curacao Go To And From?
As mentioned, we walked from our cruise ship and then ventured over as far as the art district, which was over a mile and a half, but I have a very adventurous spirit, and we walked much further.
I will detail the flow of our walk and everything we did from beginning to end, and you can mimic it or change it up depending on your interests.
You can see a lot in over a mile and a half, and I’ll detail that as follows. You can extend your walk and go farther as we did; it depends on how much you feel like exploring and walking!
- We will walk through a fabulous shopping plaza
- Visit a historical fort
- Enjoy outdoor shopping before the pedestrian-only bridge
- View another famed bridge in the area
- Cross the pedestrian bridge to visit Handleskade
- Walk down pedestrian-only streets to explore, eat and shop and explore Punda.
- Seek out the big signs that you’ll want to get photos in
- Travel to visit larger mansions and the arts district
- Return by night to the floating bridge
Things You Want To Know Before Walking
Before taking a walking tour, I highly recommend taking a private taxi tour around the island to see what all it has to offer; we did that first. Then we spent the second half of the day walking about Punda, Otrobanda, and Scharlaroo.
So once again, I suggest that once you get back from your private tour and start walking, to see even more.
Isn’t a walking tour really touristy? Yes! But what is travel about? Being a tourist!
These items should answer many questions, including if you should get off the cruise ship and take the walking tour. Never be afraid to ask questions and want to know more it is a great thing to educate yourself when you visit any new vacation spot that is unfamiliar to you!
- We pulled into the Mega Cruise Terminal (useful to know as there are two cruise ports)
- Along the way, there are public restrooms (yeah), and just in case you are curious, cafes and eateries, and plenty of souvenir items to purchase at reasonable prices!
- The currency used in Curacao is officially the Antille Guilder, and there are multiple ATMs along the way with the ability to exchange USA Dollars into their currency. I suggest doing so for any purchase of more than $20.
- You’ll find places to sit, ranging from benches to steps and, of course, the walls by the pedestrian-only bridge!
- The languages spoken throughout Curacao range from English to Spanish to Dutch.
- Everything I am sharing can be used by those on a cruise ship or not on a cruise ship, and that would make your starting point at RIF or by the swinging bridge.
- Group touring is a great way to be together and enjoy it so you can chat it over when you are back on the ship!
A Foot Tour Beginning At The Mega Cruise Terminal
I will not suggest shopping along the cruise terminal pathway unless you are headed back to the ship empty-handed because you got so engrossed in sightseeing and never stopped to shop!
I always refer to the shopping along the pathway as ‘sucker shopping, but sometimes it is the fastest way to find what you want and hops on that ship!
While you stroll along the Mega Cruise terminal pathway port in Willemstad, seek out the larger-than-life Clog with cheese. The cheese is a product of Holland, so it makes sense that it is there, right?
Don’t worry. You are about to find more shopping areas ahead from street vendors and many stores, so if you disembark to shop, walk, and then walk more!
Things to Explore In Downtown Willemstad On Foot
Since the exploration is throughout the downtown districts of Willemstad, this list will better define for you the local districts you will walk through and lightly touch on the things you will see, and if you want an app with maps on it to get around, then use something like this app to get around.
- Punda is considered the Holland Side.
- The Spanish side is ‘Otrobanda.’
- You can visit both Punda and Otrobanda in 1 day.
- Rif Fort was restored/updated and now fosters shopping, dining, and entertainment, yet keeps history & architecture in place and remains a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The best views and crazy good photo ops happen inside RIF Fort. Share the panoramic views across to PUNDA.
- St Anna Bay lies between both Punda and Otrobanda, and you can cross it via the swinging Old Lady bridge (Queen Emma’s bridge) that connects Punda(City) and Otrobanda (the other side).
- Queen Juliana’s bridge also connects Punda and Otrobanda, but it is the famed bridge above the water, not on the water. Sides as well.
If you prefer to plan your itinerary, you can use the free Curacao travel guide App here.
RIF FORT + RENAISSANCE MALL
Once you’ve left the path by the cruise ship port, you will find sidewalks you can follow, with plenty of signage leading you to the Renaissance Mall and Rif Fort and Rif Fort Village.
You will see the sign below just outside of the Fort before entering the main downtown district! ↓
Along the way, color appears around every turn and is bolder and brighter than a box of crayons.
Use the inside of the Fort Rif Village, for eateries, history, and plenty of shopping and seating to stop and take a break.
Dutch colonists built Willemstad, so you will see a lot of Dutch/Spanish architecture, and it pops in colors of the rainbow that are sherbert-like!
I was exploring inside Fort Rif before heading over the swinging Bridge and you can too! ↓
Perhaps I loved Fort Rif the best as part of our Willemstad walking tour, as you almost seem sheltered from the world, yet everyone is all around you.
The walls that make up the Fort are almost 5 feet thick coral walls that are awe-worthy.
Don’t stop to gawk at the mighty walls; you will want to go up those stone steps and look out the fort windows because, in my opinion, this view is the money shot and the one that will stay with you forever!
You are in luck because this UNESCO World Heritage Site is within minutes of the cruise terminal in Curacao, and it is free to enter and a great thing to explore.
Vendors and The World Famous Bridge
Once you exit Fort Rif, you are right in the heart of Otrobanda, and you’ll find vendors selling souvenirs along the path to the Queen Emma Bridge, also known as the Swinging Old Lady bridge.
In the photo below, you can see the Swinging Old Lady Bridge at eye level and when it is open to allow boats through so pedestrians may not cross.
Plan on spending about 1/2 hour of your time here because you’ll want to see the bridge both open and shut.
The bridge opens and closes and is a pedestrian-only bridge that spans across the bay.
Chances are better than average that you will arrive at some point during our walking tour and want to use the footbridge but won’t be able to because it will be opening or closing, so rest assured you will see the Old Lady Bridge opening and closing.
No foot traffic is allowed when it opens as it allows boats and ships to pass through St. Anna bay.
If you must be back on a cruise ship, this bridge can punish you if you are unaware that it opens and closes, leaving you ‘stranded’ on the opposite side.
Keep that in mind if you are running late and must be back on your ship; you might NOT make it if the bridge is closed, and you need to make a run for it as it takes a bit to open and close this.
BUCKET LIST BRAGGING RIGHTS IN CURACAO
The Old Lady Swinging Bridge is the only bridge in the world that opens and closes like this, and it is manned by a person who uses a steering wheel to complete the task.
The Swinging Old Lady bridge was open to foot traffic, and we were on the Otrobanda side taking the photo to the PUNDA waterfront side known as Handelskade (the sherbert colored buildings).
Walking Tour Of Willemstad Curacao Over The Bridge To Punda
Hello, shopping, and welcome to the flagship store for Penha.
You can’t help but notice PENHA on the corner in Punda, so you want to stop and shop!
The only thing I suggest is to go shopping after you get your walking out of the way because you may not get to everything you want to see.
But it’s brilliant yellow, on the corner and you can hardly forget it is there, so walk, then shop!
Hello yummy sherbert-colored, picturesque streetscapes, offering more shops than you can ever accomplish in a day, plus so many restaurants you won’t know which one to hit up first!
The streets inside Punda are loaded with shopping, eateries, and fun things to see; walk until you can’t walk anymore to take it all in!
Endless walking tours inside Punda abound especially because the streets are pedestrian-only (though traffic does seem to flow one-way).
Every step of the walking tour of Willemstad brought a colorful route, and we grabbed ice cream here after all; how many times do you see a fun bull like this?
We walked towards Queen Wilhelmina Park inside of Punda, and along the way, we were fascinated with every bit of detail.
You will find the shared Spanish/Portuguese/Netherlands architecture and vibe throughout Punda.
Walking Tour of Willemstad (in Punda), Go To Queen Wilhemina Park
You’ve got to find these big letters and get your photo!
Inside Queen Wilhemina Park in Punda, you will find these larger-than-life letters spelling out Curacao to take photos of and with. in Punda, you will find these larger-than-life letters spelling out Curacao to take photos of and with.
Head to Queen Wilhelmina Park inside of PUNDA and find the big CURACAO letters for fantastic photos, and don’t forget to see the DUSHI sign too!
The DUSHI sign is bigger than life. Make sure to seek it out on your walking tour of Willemstad Curacao.
Just around the same area, there is a postcard greeting sign you can also pop your head inside of and snap a photo for your Instagram or Facebook feed.
I mean, you want everyone to know where you are, right?
Send Social Media Greetings from This Larger than-life greeting card in the heart of Punda before entering Queen Wilhelmina Park
Text It. Tweet it. Facebook share, IG it, or whatever social platform you prefer, live in that fabulous Curacao vacay moment!
Done! Now keep walking and touring and vacationing!
From Punda to Discover To Scharloo: 2 Must-See Buildings
Admittedly this is a bit more of a walk, but it is not hard; you don’t want to miss your ship if it is leaving in the afternoon; however, our cruise ship was not leaving anytime soon, so we had time to navigate to Scharloo.
As you can see in the map below, your walking distance to Scharloo from the ship, via Otrobanda, over the pedestrian-only bridge through Punda is just a little over a mile.
You might want to get off the ship and head straight over to the Scharloo Abou local district, then work inward; if you love art, you’ll spend time here, that I can guarantee.
You will be looking at beautiful art and seeking the houses known as the wedding cake house and the Flower house( I don’t think this is the correct name, but I do know it should be called that!)
The Wedding Cake House + The Flower House (with Google Map Proximity)
The Wedding Cake House, a.k.a. Bolo di Bruit, is in the Scharloo neighborhood, and well, it’s a must-see, so use the map and take a walking tour from the Queen Emma Bridge to the Scharloo Abou neighborhood.
The most photographed building in Curacao is Bolo di Bruit. It is now a national archive but a popular stop for foot tours!
I will tell you that there is a good deal of traffic throughout, but you are walking, so traffic won’t affect what you are doing, but it is not a pedestrian super friendly neighborhood, so keep your eyes posted for vehicles.
Once you have found the house in the Scharloo Abou neighborhood, you have discovered the most photographed building in Willemstad!
Keep on strolling in the neighborhood and seek out the Flower House; there is no way you can miss it with the brilliantly colored florals it drew us in, and I had to stop!
Punda Love Lock Sculpture
On your return walk to the cruise ship; before you leave Punda, look for the love lock sculpture, and if there is a vendor, buy a lock and add it to it as this, in my opinion, is one of the most romantic things you will find in Curacao!
The Love Lock Heart Sculpture is on one end of the Old Lady Swinging Bridge. You won’t miss it. Lock your love together forever in Willemstad Curacao.
Willemstad By Night Makes An Exceptional Night Walk Tour
The personality of the area and the ambiance change at night, and the vibe is very different, too (all in a good way!)Don’t try to shop, they are not open, but you can get your party on with live bands and yummy drinks!
The bridge is one of those experiences by night; when you see it, you feel like you have been transported to a different location!
To truly appreciate the mesmerizing beauty of this bridge, visit it two times. Claim the bragging rights!
So by day, it is one thing to see the pontoon bridge, but by night it is very different and even prettier. You can watch the short video below to see more of a live version of the illuminated bridge.
Watch The Queen Emma Bridge At Night
So there is no such thing as a wrong time to see the bridge, and at night it lights up; it’s incredible for lack of a better word.
Discover Willemstad Curacao on Foot To Inifty And Beyond
Infinity Pool At the Renaissance Resort & Casino Curacao is deceiving and possibly one of the craziest photos I snapped on the way back to our ship.
To gain access, I had to get into the hotel, and I did, which was a feat on its own, but so worth it!
The view from the Infinity Pool At the Renaissance Resort & Casino Curacao makes it appear as though the cruise ship is part of the beach and wading area. Still, the reality is that the Infinity pool creates this fabulous illusion.
Using those to have a ‘moment’ look at how they seem to be wading towards the cruise ship in port is impossible, right?
We are (so are they) standing in the infinity pool which resides at the Renaissance.
To be clear: The cruise ship is docked at the mega cruise terminal, and we are at the Infinity Pool nearby along the footpath in Willemstad.
Walking Tour of Willemstad From Mega Cruise Port FAQs
Can I Catch A Cab And Head To Punda Instead Of Walking From The Cruise Ship Port?
Yes. You can, but do note that you will miss The Renaissance Mall and the Rif Fort experience, which provides some great shopping, often live entertainment, eateries, and all of the outdoor shopping at the RIF Fort, and the view of Handleskade from the Rif Fort viewing windows.
Is Willemstad Designated A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE?
Is PUNDA Close To The Mega Cruise Port Terminal?
Yes, if you exit the ship and walk using a basic stride directly to it without stopping, you will be there in about 10 minutes by foot. Do note that your ability to access PUNDA is directly affected by the pedestrian bridge (The Queen Emma Bridge) as it opens and closes multiple times a day for ship and boat passage, resulting in delays crossing from Otrobanda to Punda.
Can I Walk Across The Floating Bridge
Absolutely! You can walk across the Queen Emma Bridge, connecting you from Otrobanda (portside) to Punda (many pedestrian-only streets that you will want to discover). The Floating bridge in Willemstad is a pedestrian-only bridge that opens and closes to allow ships and boats to pass through St. Anna Bay.
If I Walk Into Otrobanda Can I Get A Great Photo of The Queen Julianna Bridge?
Yes, you absolutely can! If you walk to the Queen Emma Bridge, you are in the center of Otrobanda, and from there you will be able to capture wonderful vantage points of the bridge ahead and above! Do look at the different perspectives on the Punda side as well!
Can I Push A Stroller Or A Wheelchair To Move Through Otrobanda To Punda?
Yes, you absolutely can! The RIF Fort and Renaissance Mall are easy to navigate and allow you to easily connect from its shopping, food, and historical area, to more sidewalks and pavement to the Queen Emma Bridge, where you can push the stroller or the wheelchair across.
Do I Have To Pay To Walk Across The Floating Bridge In Willemstad?
No. You do not have to pay. It is free to walk from Otrobanda to Punda and vice versa.
Can I Still Add Locks To The Big Heart On The Punda Side Of the Queen Emma Bridge?
Yes, you can. It is located at the end of the Queen Emma Bridge on the Punda side along Handleskade.
Can I Use Credit Cards For Shopping And Dining Or Cash?
Yes, you can use a credit card! Remember if you have conversion rates they will be assessed, but that is based on your travel credit card and something you would already know.
However, we were advised if we were using cash in any purchase beyond $20, to convert the currency to the Antillean Guilder, which is the currency used there.
My Opinion: Walking Safety By Day and Night In Curacao (Willemstad)
By night, I preferred Otrobanda, perhaps because it was closest to the ship.
Generally, I felt safe walking everywhere we went because that is one question I get asked about every destination I travel to! It was a lot of fun to walk, sightsee and enjoy the area, and there is a lot to see.
I did go to the floating bridge at night, and we walked across, and then we came back, and there were no issues.
We were advised not to walk between buildings at night and to stay on the paths, which is what we did, and in return, we were rewarded with a great time from day to night.
Download the Free Printable Walking Tour List For Willemstad
So go, get out, and enjoy Curacao and its fun walking tour!
In case you need a downloadable map of Willemstad, use this one.
Enjoy ~ Dana XO
Dana Vento is an award-winning travel writer who loves cruising to destinations, traveling to fabulous countries, and spending time learning the area. Dana writes about places she has personally experienced or does not appear on her website.