I’ll share how to best discover Willemstad Curacao on foot if you want to see a lot fast!
Dawn those walking shoes and enjoy the island that puts the ‘C’ in the ABC Islands to discover shopping, culture, and history!
Seek Out These Experiences on a Walking Tour of Willemstad Curacao
You are officially in the Dutch Caribbean and the capital, Willemstad, is the largest city there!
Simply put, after seeing the rest of the island by taxi and tour, we then had time to ourselves!
Earlier in the day we had arrived via cruise ship and had about 16 hours to uncover and discover Willemstad, Curacao.
One of the best things we ever did, was to stop at Curacao, but are there really interesting things to experience in Willemstad Curacao? YES!
Everything we are about to visit is completely accessible to everyone, it was not part of the Cruise or any package or a media trip!
Walking is best to discover Willemstad Curacao and we rocked the walking shoes!
A walking tour of Willemstad Curacao
The current protocol for tourism since >> COVID << read the Curacao website for travel updates.
Ships pull into Willemstad and most cruise-goers can’t wait to take off their sea legs!
The best way to get your sealegs back to land legs is to walk.
So take a walking tour of Willemstad Curacao and seek out these 15 interesting things to discover!
Do note that even if you are staying anywhere in Curacao, take a cab, rent a car, and come seek out these fun experiences in Willemstad Curacao.
I heart cruising and I enjoyed my time with Holland America, who I was a media partner of and hosted by while cruising on this journey.
Isn’t a Walking Tour of Willemstad Curacao really touristy?
Yes! But what is travel about? Being a tourist!
Come on and Indulge.
- Expect to take a walk that can last anywhere from 1 hour to a few it’s really up to your stepping power!
- Make sure to skip any you don’t care to seek out.
- Also, make time to take a stroll in the later afternoon and redo a shorter version at sunset!
- Why? For those on a cruise ship, or staying locally, you get to feel the rhythm of Willemstad day and night and by night it’s a whole different experience!
Honestly, the one thing I loved the most was how Willemstad and the Swinging Old Lady Bridge were illuminated by night!
Good Things to know about your walking tour of Willemstad Curacao
- Along the way, there are public restrooms (yeah), and just in case you are curious, a coffee shop, and plenty of souvenir items to purchase at reasonable prices!
- Spend both times during the day and night to experience and feel 2 very different vibes that happen in the city center.
- Willemstad is walkable, friendly, clean, and flat.
- All this can be found by either being dropped off via taxi near the Swinging Old Lady Bridge or via cruise ship port.
Welcome To Curacao Information Booth Via Cruise
Cruising is about discovery and unlike any other method of travel, you can see so much each day and unpack JUST one time.
We are heading to discover in Willemstad Curacao to the town center.
Remember you could do this same walking tour all the same if you are visiting and take a cab and walk the same places I am sharing! Enjoy.
#1 – Walking tour of Willemstad Curacao, start off with portside shopping?
Giggle, look, stop. Sport a smile, take that photo, and move along! I call it ‘sucker shopping’ but also last minute if you found nothing else.
Make sure to look for this larger-than-life Clog with cheese, the cheese is a product of Holland, so it makes sense that it is there right?
The city was built by Dutch colonists, so you will see a lot of Dutch/Spanish architecture and it pops in colors of the rainbow that are sherbert-like!
Should you stop and shop at the Port of Call stores?
The immediate shopping on the port is just ‘eh’ in my opinion, but it definitely warms you up for the upcoming plaza and street vendors!
If all you want to do is disembark for a few minutes and then have the pool to yourself on the ship, well, shop here and get back on.
Personally, I’d save my shopping for getting out of the port and striking gold here at the Otrabanda street vendors. ↓↓
Once we sauntered through Rif Fort we ran smack dab into the vendors!
This is for those of us with the pang or a bit of culture, and a pang for adventure.
Naturally, as you would expect the selection in port is just average, but the prices are higher than the stores we will stroll to shopping about and visiting in PUNDA and Otrabanda today, plus there are great finds inside the Port Rif area too!
Just for an example, at port shopping, we priced cigars, which were far more than they were in Punda, just in case that’s your thing after meals during vacay!
There’s a world of options ahead to purchase so keep moving out of the port and toward the vendors I showed you above and then over to PUNDA!
I am getting ahead of myself, so let’s roll back and keep strolling from the port where the ships come in and ‘park’ for the day!
The Willemstad (Inner City & Harbor) is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
Get your cameras ready because the color is about to appear around every turn, and is bolder and brighter than a box of crayons.
How to best discover Willemstad Curacao offers experiences, window shopping, history, and better yet, you don’t have to spend a DIME to enjoy any of it!
Otrobanda + Punda. Wait What?
Well, you do need a little history lesson so that you can understand the experiences in Willemstad Curacao and why they are what they are!
Otrobanda is a word you will hear a lot because the locals throw the word around refers to the Spanish side of Willemstad and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Conversely, Punda, ‘the other side‘ is considered the Holland Side.
Experience culture, history, shopping, dining, and fun things to see wrapped up into 2 locales.
6 interesting facts to understand this walking tour a bit further
- Punda is considered the Holland Side
- The Spanish side is ‘Otrabanda’
- You can visit both sides in one day: Punda and Otrabanda.
- 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.
- Best views and crazy good photo ops happen inside of RIF Fort share the panoramic views across to PUNDA (Brionplen)
- St Anna Bay lies between both Punda and Otrabanda and you can cross it via the 2 following methods: the swinging Old Lady bridge (Queen Emma’s bridge) connects Punda(City) and Otrabanda (the other side).
- Queen Juliana’s bridge also connects both sides as well.
Now you’ve got the background let’s keep walking!
No. 2 Rif FORT Renaissance (UNESCO’s World Heritage Site) & The Photo Opportunity of a Lifetime!
Perhaps I loved this part of our walk best, you almost seem sheltered from the world, yet everyone is all around you.
The history here and culture and there’s more, so keep moving and don’t let anything out of sight, see it and you will love it!
The walls are almost 5 feet thick coral walls, how cool is that?
No. 3 Top View: Rif Fort
It’s not just the fort that is amazing or the village for entertainment and shopping, there’s something no amount of money can buy.
In my opinion, this is the money shot and it is nothing short of breathtaking and across the way you can see the sherbert-colored buildings we will walk to also known as Punda and shopping!
My favorite photo opportunity came from up in the fort.
After I climbed the steps and kind of found a moment of solace.
I saw these cool windows and a really incredible photo: the Dutch sherbert-colored buildings which you can see here or in the Netherlands and nowhere else so really snap those cameras.
#4 We are Going Inside Rif Fort then Outside of it!
Really that brand is one I have not seen in years, so yes I was a tad preoccupied with it!
As you can see from shopping fun to ice cream, beverage stops, and endless photo ops it’s all here inside Rif Fort Village.
At its core, whether it is day or night, this is the BEST path to follow to and from the boat for shopping and accessing all that follows in my walking guide, both day and night!
Upscale, clean, and lots to experience right here, so don’t walk on by or you’ll miss something huge!
Oh, by the way, no charge for entering or seeing!
During the day there were multiple souvenir shops and I stopped for a photo with this clog- look for it, it’s Instagram-Worthy!
No 4. Queen Emma Bridge (Pontoon Bridge)
So how much time should you plan on spending to view the Queen Emma Bridge, also referred to as the Swinging Old Lady bridge?
Plan on spending about 1/2 hour of your time here because you’ll want to see the bridge both open and shut.
If you must be back on a cruise ship, this bridge can punish you if you are not aware 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, or you might NOT make it if left on the PUNDA side!
Words escape me so this video should do it.
This is the only bridge in the world that opens and closes like this and it is actually manned by a person who uses a steering wheel to complete the task.
Queen Emma Bridge Tips
Claim the experience by watching this open and shut and by walking it and enjoying it!
If you are on the bridge walking you hear an alarm that the bridge is going to move.
Hustle a bit, because you have to get to one side or the other.
The pontoon bridge sits across St. Anna Bay and as aforementioned connects PUNDA and Otrobanda.
The photo above is via Otrobanda and we were headed to PUNDA (the colorful city with photo moments everywhere)!
We were so not pressed for time so I watched it open and shut 2x that day, and remained fascinated, it’s just that cool and it’s a free attraction and I consider it yet another bucket list item!
No. 6 ~ PUNDA (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Hello yummy sherbert-colored, picturesque streetscapes, offering more shops than you can get to and scads of restaurants!
Walking is endless!
The streets are pedestrian-only (though traffic does seem to flow one-way).
Discovering Willemstad Curacao: continues in Punda. ♥♥♥
Your eyes will roam nonstop, and you’ll miss a lot while you ogle at everything because everything comes in so many shapes, sizes, and colors.
Stop and smell the roses, oh well, I mean stop and enjoy life.
No. 7 Walls + Buildings + Streets
A vividly colored area that commands and holds your attention with each and every step.
Photo, but ENJOY from more than behind the camera, please!
From the streets to the alleys, color abounds, and for those of you who love to shop till you drop (I DO) get your fill of it in this area.
The PUNDA area very much shares all of this: Spanish/Portuguese/Netherlands architecture and vibe.
Let’s keep on taking the walking tour of Willemstad Curacao to the heart of PUNDA.
No. 8 & 9 The Big Letter Signs of CURACAO & DUSHI
You’ve got to find these big letters and get your photo!
Head to Queen Wilhemina Park inside of PUNDA.
Don’t Forget to seek out the DUSHI Sign Too!
You just gotta, and that’s all I have to say about it!
Don’t forget this sign, it is in the same area too!
No. 10 Send your greetings from Willemstad Curacao
I mean you want everyone to know where you are right?
Keep on vacationing!
The Floating Market
This market is permanently closed but we did get to see it when we were in Willemstad on the Punda side.
I mention this just to share it, and while it used to be part of my list of experiences in Willemstad, it no longer exists.
No. 11. Wedding Cake House
Moving to architecture and color for the last part of interesting experiences in Willemstad but do note there is so much more, these are just the ones I could quickly cover to share!
The Wedding Cake House, a.k.a. Bolo di Bruid is in the Scharloo neighborhood, and well it’s a must-see but you will walk from Queen Emmas Bridge to the Scharloo neighborhood for about 15 minutes.
I will tell you that there is a good deal of traffic throughout Scharloo but you are walking so it does not matter!
Pop this in our Google Directions App: 1) Queen Emma Bridge, Willemstad, Curaçao 2) Scharloo, Willemstad, Curaçao – that will get you here!
It’s the most photo’d building and it is pretty plus should be on your ‘gotta see in Willemstad’
Yes, it’s a bit further than PUNDA but totally worth the walk.
If you want to see the most photographed house, this is it.
It’s called the Wedding Cake House and my shot hardly does it justice.
No. 12 Flower House in Scharloo
Don’t miss this in the same Scharloo neighborhood, it’s gorgeous and fun to look at while you stroll!
To the person that wrote in and told me this was nothing more than a building with Graffiti, you are so wrong!
This may be one of the most romantic things you will find in Curacao!
The Love Lock Heart Sculpture is on the one end of the Old Lady Swinging Bridge you won’t miss it.
I did not get to fulfill, and I wish we had, but there were no vendors selling locks.
This sculpture is one of a few pieces of art you will see when you get to the PUNDA side of Willemstad.
While not one of the numbered experiences in Willemstad, it should be dubbed just as important, shopping y’all!
How can you not be entranced by the paint of the building and yet the contents within are even better.
It’s the flagship store of Penha! Shop till you drop! ~
Walking Tour of Willemstad Curacao by Night
Willemstad’s personality totally changes at night and the vibe is very different too (all in a good way!)
Don’t try to shop, they are not open!
Now it’s time to party in the middle with live bands, and great drinks!
No 14: Night-Time Lighting Of Queen Emma Bridge
This is the TOP of the last few of the interesting experiences in Willemstad because it will light you up with smiles to see!
So by day, it is one thing to see the pontoon bridge, but by night it is very different and even prettier.
So there is no such thing as a bad time to see the bridge, and at night it lights up, it’s for lack of a better word, incredible.
#15 To Infinity & Beyond Or So It Appears!
Infinity Pool At the Renaissance Resort & Casino Curacao is definitely deceiving.
Using those to have a ‘moment’ look at how they seem to be wading towards the cruise ship in port, not possible right?
We are (so are they) standing in the infinity pool which resides at the Renaissance.
Now take a look at the bottom half of the photo. Do you see the pool?
So cool and when we took a break from walking in the afternoon, I hiked to the top of our ship and spied this infinity pool and had to see it out!
Yes, I gained a passage into the hotel and the 2nd floor of the hotel right to the infinity pool.
Safety and Walking IMO
My bet is that this is the safest area in Curacao.
The typical tips for travel apply no matter where you go: follow the walking path, stay where there are plenty of people, and don’t solo tour, you’ll be fine.
Generally, I felt safe walking everywhere we went because that is one question I get asked about every destination I travel to!
If however, I am being honest, my least favorite place was further out of the Punda side, but there were no issues, I just didn’t prefer that part of the city.
So go, get out and enjoy!