Dawn those walking shoes and enjoy the island that puts the ‘C’ in the ABC Islands!
You are officially in the Dutch Caribbean and the capital, Willemstad, is the largest city there!
Seek These 15 Interesting Things To Experience in Willemstad Curacao!
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 15 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 the best way to discover a destination up close so let’s go!
By Cruise Or By Taxi: 15 Interesting Things to Experience in Willemstad Curacao
Current protocol for tourism since >> COVID << read the Curacao website for travel updates (no cruise passengers at current)
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.
If you seek out these 15 interesting things to discover in Willemstad Curacao, walk you will!
However, if you are staying anywhere in Curacao, take a cab, rent a car, and come seek out these fun experiences in Willemstad Curacao.
Touristy? Yes! But what is travel about? Being a tourist! Indulge.
Do note, 15 interesting things to experience in Willemstad Curacao can take anywhere from 1 hour (if you speed walk) up to 5 hours if you really indulge!
Skip any you don’t care to seek out, and try to plan for a later afternoon to sunset time walking tour!
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!
General Information: Interesting Things to Discover In Willemstad Walking
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 or via cruise ship port.
Simple Things Closer To The Port
Cruising is about discovery and unlike any other method of travel, you can see so much each day and unpack one time.
I heart cruising and I enjoyed my time with Holland America, who I was a media partner of while cruising on this journey.
Now off the cruise ship and let’s seek out those 15 interesting things to discover in Willemstad Curacao walking from the ship 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.
Stop Or Not At The Port Shops?
The immediate shopping on the port is just ‘eh’ in my opinion, but it 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.
But for those of us with the pang or a bit of culture, and a pang for adventure, walk on!
Naturally, as you would expect the selection is ok, but the prices are higher than the stores we will stroll to shopping about and visiting in PUNDA!
Cigars were more than they were in the Punda, just in case that’s our thing after meals during vacay!
There’s a world of options ahead to purchase so keep moving!
No. 1 of 15 Interesting Things To experience in Willemstad Curacoa: 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!
Did you know that 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.
This discovery trip that I am sharing will really give you 15 interesting things to experience in Willemstad Curacao and you don’t have to spend a dime to enjoy them!
Otrobanda + Punda. Wait What?
Well, you do need a little history lesson so that you can understand the 15 Interesting things to experience in Willemstad Curacao and why they are what they are!
Otrobanda 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 locals. I will share that you can actually visit on foot to discover and enjoy!
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 bridge (Queen Emma’s bridge) connects Punda(City) and Otrabanda (the other side). (literal translation)
- Queen Juliana’s bridge also connects both sides as well.
Now you are ready to continue our 15 interesting things to experience in Willemstad Curacao because you have some more background!
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 (Continuing our 15 interesting things to experience in Willemstad!)
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. Look.
My favorite photo opportunity came from up in the fort. After I climbed the steps
I saw these cool windows and a really incredible photo. (I should have listed this window ALONE, not just the view, as one of the 15 interesting experiences in Willemstad alone, but there’s only so much time to read!) The Dutch sherbert colored buildings which you can see here or in the Netherlands and nowhere else so really snap those cameras. #Bucketlist.
No. 4 ~ Inside Rif Fort Village
Really when I wrote 15 interesting things to experience in Willemstad, this village stood out! IT’s what we experienced first and foremost!
We are entering Rif Fort Village to discover a waterfront mall with boutique stores, souvenir shops, bars, and eateries, including the Swatch shop I mentioned. 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)
Plan on spending about 1/2 hour of your time here because you’ll want to see the bridge open and shut.
If you must be back to 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:
Really a huge piece of the 15 interesting things to discover Willemstad Curacao is this bridge and the following experience so you can claim 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 15 interesting things to experience in Willemstad Curacao continues in Punda. Willemstad. ♥♥♥
Stop and smell the roses, oh well, I mean stop and enjoy life.
No. 7 Walls + Buildings + Streets
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.
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.
No.’s 8&9 of 15 interesting things to experience in Willemstad are in the heart of PUNDA, so walk a bit more!
No. 8 & 9 Big Letter Signs of CURACAO & DUSHI
Head to Queen Wilhemina Park inside of PUNDA.
DUSHI Sign Too!
You just gotta, and that’s all I have to say about it!
We happened to be there before all the holiday decor got taken down so I snapped the Santa pic too!
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?
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 15 interesting experiences in Willemstad, it no longer exists.
No. 11. Wedding Cake House
Moving to architecture and color for the last part of the 15 interesting experiences in Willemstad and these stand out!
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.
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 –
Don’t miss this in the same Scharloo neighborhood, it’s gorgeous and fun to look at while you stroll!
Lock your love together forever in Willemstad Curacao. This is one of the 15 interesting experiences in Willemstad I did no 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 15 interesting 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! ~
Continue Marking Off The List of 15 Interesting Things to Experience in Willemstad Curacao – now 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 15 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 having 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!