Willemstad, Curacao | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Willemstad, Curacao

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 are often questionable - especially in the main tourist district Punda. But by comparing prices and using happy hours (usually 1h per bar, sometimes between 4 pm and 8 pm) costs can be reduced considerably.
Cocaine and cannabis are offered to tourists pretty openly, but a friendly "no, thank you" is sufficient to be left alone.

Districts

  • 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... Read more

Willemstad, Curacao

Destination:
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 are often questionable - especially in the main tourist district Punda. But by comparing prices and using happy hours (usually 1h per bar, sometimes between 4 pm and 8 pm) costs can be reduced considerably.
Cocaine and cannabis are offered to tourists pretty openly, but a friendly "no, thank you" is sufficient to be left alone.

Districts

  • 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).

History

Punda was established in 1634 when the Dutch captured the island from Spain. The original name of Punda was de punt in Dutch. Otrobanda, which was founded in 1707, is the newer section of the city and is considered to be the cultural center of Willemstad. Its name originated from the Papiamentu otro banda, which means "the other side."

The Curaçao synagogue was built by Sephardic Portuguese Jews from Amsterdam and Recife, Brazil.

Source:
Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

Willemstad, Curacao: Port Information


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.

Get around Willemstad, Curacao


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.

What to see in Willemstad, Curacao


  • Museum Kura Hulanda, +5999 434 7765. Open Daily from 10 AM till 5 PM. This anthropological museum chronicles the African slave trade as well as the cultures of Curaçao.  
  • Postal Museum, Willemstad.
  • Maritime Museum, +5999 465-2327. Open Tu-Sa 9 AM-4 PM.  
  • 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 the 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.

What to do in Willemstad, Curacao


  • Fort Amsterdam

    , Punda Side, Willemstad. The seat of the Netherlands Antilles, Fort Amsterdam sits at the mouth of the harbor 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 harbor mouth.
  • Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue

    , +599 9 461-1067. The oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere, with a sand floor and museum containing ancient artifacts. 

What to eat and drink in Willemstad, Curacao


Eat

Local cuisine in Curaçao is a mixture of European, West-Indian and East Asian (particularly Indonesian) flavors. Dutch influences are found in the use of cheeses, bread, and seafood, which are also important in Curaçaoan food. Indonesian cuisine, a migrant from Suriname, another of the Netherlands' former colonies, can be found on the island and explains the widespread availability of Sate and Peanut sauce along with the islands more Caribbean fare. Also, Chinese "snacks" can be found all over the island serving cheap Chinese food. They cater mostly to locals, but most serve good food.

Vegetarians will find enough options available if they are willing to go a bit out of their way to look. Also, some knowledge of basic Spanish or Dutch words describing the food is helpful when speaking with locals to determine whether a dish is vegetarian.

Restaurants

Snacks
Curacao is littered with 'Snacks,' small bar restaurants which serve Chinese Food. These are typically inexpensive, double as convenience stores and bars, and are typically open later than most other restaurants which cater to local (rather than European) patrons.

Budget
  • Five Fingers (Indonesian/Suriname Bar Restaurant), Breedestraat 1, Otrobanda (Blue House on the corner of Roodeweg and Mgr. Niewindtstraat. Across from the Curoil and Colon Shopping Center), ☎ +599 9 521 4002. 11:00 am to 6:30 pm. Surinamese Restaurant & Seafood, Everyday Specials, Home-Cooked Meals & for a Good Price.
  • Plasa Bieu, located in Punda, about 300 meters ENE of the floating bridge in Punda, is the favorite lunch spot of most, if not all, of the island's local-born population working in Punda. Open M-F, 10 am-3 pm, the Plasa Bieu has about five restaurants within it, serving Chinese, Jamaican and Krioyo (local) food. Try t Cabritu Stoba (stewed goat) at Grasia di Dios, for an excellent example of the island's local cuisine, at one of the only restaurants in Punda which offer it. 
  • Downtown Cafe at the Hotel Estoril Breedestraat 179 (O), located 200 west of the Arti Supermarket, on the Otrobanda Side's main shopping strip (the Breedestrat/Roodeweg) Open seven days per week 7 A-8 P, 'el Estoril,' as the locals call it, packs its seven or so tables full from about 10 am-4 pm, with Venezuelan, Colombian and Dominican expats. The Estoril serves a mix of local and Latin dishes, all served in a more typically Latin style. Order at the bar and sit down when a seat becomes available. You'll be expected to share a table if your party cannot fill it.
  • Seaside Terrace is located next to Breezes Hotel and close to Lions Dive Hotel and Mambo Beach near the end of Penstraat. Seaside Terrace has a limited menu, but serves delicious fresh fish (red snapper, dradu, tuna, etc.) and, if available, very well prepared lobster against very fair prices. The owner "Amigo" is very friendly and makes you feel at home right away.
Mid-Range
  • On y va picnic With a picnic basket full of delicacies from On y va, your day at the beach becomes a unique experience. Order your favorite basket one day in advance and pick it up along the way to the beach, or let us deliver it. We are located on your way to the beautiful beaches on the west side of the island.
  • Gouverneur de Rouville is a popular restaurant in Willemstad that serves a variety of continental European dishes in a wonderful atmosphere. Located Just north of the floating bridge on the Otrobanda Side.
  • Oceans Restaurant is located at Habitat Dive Resort in Rif. St. Marie on the SW coast. Serves a wide variety of International and regional cuisine. Overlooks the Caribbean Sea in an open-air casual decor. Has a full-service bar. 
  • Wilhelmina Plein Cafe located 200 meters East of the Floating Bridge in Punda, this cafe is a favorite among the island's many Dutch interns and businessmen. Wilhelmina Plein Cafe offers exclusively outside seating along a major pedestrian thoroughfare, with good food and one of the island's better beer selections. 
  • Vincent's Cafe Copa Cabana is a relatively hidden cafe just East of the Iguana Lounge's Main bar along the water on the Punda side of the bay. Skip the overpriced and mediocre waterfront restaurants on the Punda side and go to Vincent's for great sandwiches as well as a number of good daily special entree's. Vincent's is an outdoor Cafe under the shade of a number of trees and the two buildings between which it is sandwiched, which also create a very pleasant breeze.
  • Old Dutch Cafe Located on the Pietermaaiweg 500m East of the Bay on the Punda Side, the Old Dutch Cafe serves inexpensive Dutch cuisine with a Kitchen that stays open late into the night.
  • Kontiki Beach Club is a seaside restaurant offering good food in an idyllic location right on the beach. It is a little outside of the city, but it is well worth the short drive.
  • La Granja is a Peruvian influenced chain restaurant with a very local feel, serving great Latin cuisine, including excellent Whole Chicken, Lomo Saltado, and other great dishes. 
  • Il Forno is a popular Italian/pizza restaurant with two locations, (Caracasbaai location and Doormanweg location) serving European (though not Italian) style pizzas with fresh and delicious ingredients. 
  • Kasbanini located in the Rif Fort, 100m South of the floating bridge on the Otrobanda Side, is probably the best of the Rif Fort's five or so mid-level restaurants. Offering typical seafood and chops with a bit of local flair.
  • La Pergola located in the Old Fort on the Southwest Side of Punda is likely the island's best Italian restaurant. Offering good pasta dishes as well as a few innovative 'secondi', La Pergola's quaint waterfront view completes an excellent dining experience. 
  • Golden Star is located on the Dr. W.P. Maalweg, on the way to Salinja. It serves local Creole food and drinks and is a good value for the amount of food you get.
Splurge
  • L'Aldea (Brazilian all you can eat steakhouse), Santa Catharina 66 (Right before Koral Tabak), ☎ +599-9-7676777. 6 pm till 11 pm. L'Aldea is a Brazilian all you can eat steakhouse. Huge salad bar with cold and warm dishes. Ambiance: rainforest and Mayan and Inca's ruins. Free shuttle from Hotels available with reservation.  
  • Bistro le Clochard, located in the Rif Fort, offering outstanding French Cuisine with a beautiful waterfront view, Bistro le Clochard is an excellent restaurant with superlative service. Open 7 days.
  • Sculpture Garden Restaurant located in the Kura Hulanda Hotel one block West of the Governeur Restaurant, Sculpture Garden offers excellent international cuisine with some very innovative specials

Drink

  • Amstel Bright Beer. Amstel Bright is a beer that used to be locally brewed by Antillaanse Brouwerij which is a subsidy of Heineken International. It is a pale style lager and usually served with a wedge of lime.  
  • Curacao is famous for the blue alcoholic beverage of the same name, now also available in yellow/gold. It is made from bitter oranges grown on the island. 
  • Tap Water, which comes from a large seawater desalination distillation plant, is excellent tasting and perfectly safe for consumption. 

Shopping in Willemstad, Curacao


  • 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 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.

Safety in Willemstad, Curacao


Safety is not a big issue on Curacao. The locals are friendly, welcoming, and willing to give assistance. After all, a major part of their island's income comes from tourists. There is a crime but this is not something the average tourist needs to worry about.

It is generally safe to walk the streets of the capital, Willemstad, during daylight, even in some of the less populous areas. This island is most definitely among the safest of Caribbean travel destinations.

If you rent a car, do not, under any circumstances, leave any personal belongings in the car. Like anywhere else, car break-ins are not uncommon on the island. If you think you are alone, you may not be. If you think your trunk is a safe place to store belongings, it is not. Even if your items are of little value, you still have to deal with the cost for a replacement window, the headache of dealing with your rental car company, and a wasted day filing police reports. Safety is not a big issue on Curaçao. The locals are friendly, welcoming, and willing to give assistance. After all, a major part of their island's income comes from tourists. Just take normal precautions for a tropical island and use common sense.

Car break-ins are a reoccurring problem so that some car rental agencies even prohibit parking rental cars at some specific places. In general, it is a good idea to never ever leave valuables in a car.

Language spoken in Willemstad, Curacao


The native language of Curaçao is Papiamentu, which is a richly unique mixture of Portuguese and African languages, Spanish, with some influences from Amerindian languages, English, and Dutch. Most people from the island speak this language in addition to Dutch, English, and Spanish. Almost everyone speaks some English. A few people also speak French, Portuguese or German.

LOCAL TIME

12:02 pm
July 23, 2019
America/Curacao

CURRENT WEATHER

28.85 °C / 83.93 °F
overcast clouds
Wed

27.52 °C/82 °F
light rain
Thu

27.45 °C/81 °F
light rain
Fri

27.55 °C/82 °F
light rain
Sat

27.55 °C/82 °F
light rain

LOCAL CURRENCY

ANG

1 USD = 0 ANG
1 EUR = 0 ANG
1 GBP = 0 ANG
1 AUD = 0 ANG
1 CAD = 0 ANG

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