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The Best Things To Do In Willemstad, Curacao


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Nikoletta Alton



Welcome to the colorful and vibrant island of Curacao, located in the southern Caribbean Sea. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and pristine beaches, Willemstad, the capital city of Curacao, offers a plethora of exciting activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, history enthusiast, or simply seeking relaxation, Willemstad has something to offer everyone.


From exploring the historic district and its iconic landmarks to immersing yourself in the local culture and indulging in mouthwatering cuisine, Willemstad boasts a wide range of attractions and experiences. The city’s colorful buildings, reminiscent of the Dutch colonial era, add a unique charm to the already picturesque setting.


As you wander through the charming streets of Punda and Otrobanda, you’ll be captivated by the fusion of European and Caribbean influences that unfold in front of your eyes. The laid-back atmosphere and friendly locals create a warm and welcoming environment that makes exploring Willemstad an unforgettable experience.


In this article, we will guide you through the top things to do in Willemstad, Curacao. Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or a beach lover, we’ve got you covered. So pack your bags, put on your sunscreen, and get ready for an incredible adventure in the heart of the Caribbean.


Explore the Historic District

One of the highlights of a visit to Willemstad is exploring its historic district, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Step back in time as you wander through the narrow, cobblestone streets lined with beautifully preserved colonial buildings.


Start your exploration in the neighborhood of Punda, known for its vibrant colors and architectural charm. Here, you’ll find the famous Queen Emma Bridge, also known as the “Swinging Old Lady.” This floating pontoon bridge connects Punda to the neighborhood of Otrabanda and swings open to allow ships to pass through. Take a leisurely stroll across the bridge and enjoy the incredible views of the harbor.


As you continue your journey, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Fort Amsterdam, the historic seat of government in Curacao. Built in the 17th century, the fort now houses government offices but is open to the public. Explore the fort’s grounds and learn about the island’s colonial history.


Next, head to the neighborhood of Otrabanda, located just across the St. Anna Bay. Otrabanda, which means “the other side” in Papiamentu (the local language), offers a different perspective with its colorful buildings and charming alleyways. Don’t miss the picturesque Gomezplein, a small square lined with cafes and boutiques.


For those interested in the island’s history, a visit to the Kura Hulanda Museum is a must. Located in the heart of the historic district, this museum tells the story of the African slave trade and the impact it had on Curacao. Marvel at the expansive collection of artifacts and artwork, offering insight into the island’s past.


End your exploration of the historic district with a visit to the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. This beautifully restored synagogue dates back to 1732 and showcases the island’s Jewish heritage.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply appreciate beautiful architecture, exploring the historic district of Willemstad will transport you back in time and leave you with a deeper appreciation for the island’s rich cultural heritage.


Visit the Floating Market

No visit to Willemstad would be complete without experiencing the vibrant and lively atmosphere of the Floating Market. Located in the heart of the city, along the waterfront of Sha Caprileskade, the Floating Market is a unique and colorful sight to behold.


The Floating Market is a bustling hub where local fishermen from Venezuela dock their boats and sell a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood. The market is a vibrant kaleidoscope of colors, with boats lining the waterfront, each filled with a colorful array of produce.


As you walk through the market, you’ll be greeted by the friendly vendors, eagerly offering samples of their fresh fruits and encouraging you to taste their catch of the day. The scent of the sea and the vibrant colors of the market create a sensory experience that immerses you in the local culture and traditions.


Take your time to explore the market and interact with the vendors. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the local products and exchange stories with the locals. You can even purchase some fresh ingredients and indulge in a delicious meal prepared with the flavors of Curacao.


For photography enthusiasts, the Floating Market is a visual delight. The vibrant colors of the boats and the produce make for stunning photographs, capturing the essence of the island. Don’t forget to bring your camera and capture the unique sights and scenes of this lively market.


The Floating Market is also a great place to experience the true essence of Willemstad’s multicultural diversity. You’ll find locals, tourists, and expats alike strolling through the market, creating a vibrant melting pot of cultures and languages.


Whether you’re a food lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply looking to immerse yourself in the local culture, a visit to the Floating Market is a must-do experience in Willemstad. Embrace the lively atmosphere, savor the flavors of the island, and create unforgettable memories in this unique cultural hotspot.


Discover the Queen Emma Bridge

A visit to Willemstad would not be complete without crossing the iconic Queen Emma Bridge, also known as the “Swinging Old Lady.” This floating pedestrian bridge connects the neighborhoods of Punda and Otrabanda, and is a sight to behold.


The Queen Emma Bridge is a pontoon bridge that spans the St. Anna Bay and swings open horizontally to allow ships to pass through. It is the only pontoon bridge of its kind in the world and has become a symbol of the city.


As you step onto the bridge, you’ll feel a gentle sway beneath your feet, giving it the name “Swinging Old Lady.” The bridge is pedestrian-only, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the stunning views of the harbor and the colorful buildings that line the waterfront.


One of the unique features of the Queen Emma Bridge is that it opens and closes several times a day to accommodate the passing of ships. It’s a spectacle to watch as the bridge gracefully swings open, revealing the clear blue waters and allowing the vessels to navigate through.


Walking across the Queen Emma Bridge gives you a different perspective of Willemstad. From the vibrant Punda side, you can admire the historic buildings, bustling markets, and quaint alleyways. As you continue across the bridge, the view of Otrabanda unfolds, showcasing its colorful facades and lively atmosphere.


At night, the Queen Emma Bridge is illuminated, creating a magical ambiance as you cross between the neighborhoods. The twinkling lights reflect off the water, adding to the enchantment of the experience.


Whether you choose to cross the Queen Emma Bridge during the day or night, it offers a memorable and picturesque experience. The combination of the stunning views, the gentle movement of the bridge, and the vibrant surroundings make it a must-visit attraction in Willemstad.


So, take a leisurely stroll across the Queen Emma Bridge, capture the beauty of Willemstad through your camera lens, and embrace the unique charm of this iconic landmark.


Take a Stroll along Handelskade

One of the most picturesque and iconic spots in Willemstad is Handelskade, the waterfront promenade that showcases the vibrant and colorful facades of the historic buildings. Taking a leisurely stroll along Handelskade is a must-do activity for visitors to the city.


The row of pastel-colored buildings lining the waterfront is a feast for the eyes and a photographer’s paradise. As you walk along Handelskade, you’ll be mesmerized by the array of architectural styles, from Dutch colonial to Caribbean influences, creating a harmonious blend of cultures.


These beautifully restored buildings date back to the 18th century and once housed the offices and warehouses of merchants. Today, they are home to charming cafes, boutique shops, and restaurants, adding a vibrant touch to the surroundings.


The best time to visit Handelskade is at sunset when the fading light casts a warm glow on the buildings, enhancing their vibrant colors. The sight of the buildings reflecting in the calm waters of St. Anna Bay creates a picture-perfect moment that you won’t want to miss.


As you stroll along Handelskade, take the time to admire the intricate details of each building, from ornate balconies to colorful shutters. You’ll also notice the unmistakable Dutch gables, a signature feature of the architecture in the historic district.


For a different perspective of Handelskade, you can hop on a boat or take a harbor tour to see the vibrant buildings from the water. This will provide a unique vantage point and allow you to appreciate the full beauty of the waterfront scene.


As you walk along Handelskade, be sure to stop at one of the waterfront cafes or restaurants and enjoy a refreshing drink or a delicious meal. You can relax, soak in the atmosphere, and savor the flavors of the local cuisine while marveling at the stunning view of the colorful buildings.


Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply looking for a picturesque stroll, Handelskade offers a delightful experience. Immerse yourself in the beauty of these charming buildings, capture the perfect photo, and create treasured memories in Willemstad’s iconic waterfront promenade.


Explore the Rif Fort

If you have a penchant for history and want to delve deeper into the island’s past, make sure to explore the Rif Fort in Willemstad. This historic fortification dates back to the 19th century and provides a glimpse into Curacao’s military heritage.


The Rif Fort is strategically located at the entrance of the St. Anna Bay, guarding the city against potential threats. Built by the Dutch to protect the island from invasions, the fort played a significant role in Curacao’s defense system.


Today, the Rif Fort has been transformed into a bustling entertainment complex, offering a mix of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Step inside and you’ll find a lively atmosphere filled with music, laughter, and the aroma of delicious food.


As you explore the fort, you’ll notice its impressive architectural features, including the thick stone walls and arched passageways. Take a moment to imagine what life was like for the soldiers stationed here, as you walk through the historic corridors.


Within the Rif Fort, you’ll find an array of boutique shops offering a variety of unique products, from fashionable clothing to handmade crafts. Browse through the shops and discover one-of-a-kind souvenirs to bring back home.


When hunger strikes, head to one of the many restaurants and cafes within the fort. From local Caribbean cuisine to international flavors, there is something to satisfy every palate. Enjoy a leisurely meal while taking in the views of the surrounding harbor and the neighboring Otrobanda district.


If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the fort, visit the Curacao Heritage Museum located within its walls. The museum showcases artifacts, exhibitions, and interactive displays that provide insights into the island’s past and its colonial heritage.


In the evenings, the Rif Fort comes alive with live music and entertainment. Take a seat at one of the outdoor terraces and enjoy a refreshing drink as you soak in the vibrant atmosphere.


Exploring the Rif Fort in Willemstad is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the island’s rich history while enjoying the modern amenities and entertainment it offers. So, don’t miss the chance to visit this unique and historic landmark during your stay in Willemstad.


Visit the Curacao Maritime Museum

For maritime enthusiasts and history buffs, a visit to the Curacao Maritime Museum is a must-do activity when in Willemstad. Located in a beautifully restored colonial mansion in the historic district, this museum offers a fascinating look into the island’s rich naval and maritime history.


The Curacao Maritime Museum provides a comprehensive overview of Curacao’s maritime heritage, showcasing the island’s role as a major port in the Caribbean. Through interactive exhibits, models, artifacts, and informative displays, visitors can learn about the island’s maritime trade, shipbuilding, and the influence of naval forces on the island.


As you explore the museum, you’ll uncover the stories of the Dutch West India Company, which established a significant presence in Curacao during the colonial era. Discover how the island served as a hub for the Atlantic slave trade and played a pivotal role in global commerce.


One of the highlights of the museum is its collection of ship models, which depict various types of vessels that sailed the Caribbean waters throughout history. These intricately crafted models offer insight into the construction and design of these ships, and their importance in trade and exploration.


Another notable exhibit is the underwater archaeological section, which showcases artifacts and discoveries from shipwrecks found around Curacao’s coast. Learn about the underwater excavation process and see firsthand the treasures that have been recovered from these historic wrecks.


The museum also houses a dedicated section on the island’s lighthouses, including the iconic Seaquarium Lighthouse. Discover the important role these structures played in guiding ships safely along Curacao’s coastline.


For those looking to get a hands-on experience, the Curacao Maritime Museum offers interactive activities such as knot-tying workshops and navigation simulations. These experiences allow visitors to immerse themselves in the maritime world and gain a deeper understanding of seafaring traditions.


After exploring the exhibits, don’t forget to visit the museum’s gift shop, where you can find unique nautical-themed souvenirs to take home as a memento of your visit.


A visit to the Curacao Maritime Museum is not only educational but also provides a fascinating glimpse into the island’s seafaring past. It’s a captivating experience that will leave you with a greater appreciation for Curacao’s maritime heritage and its significance in shaping the region’s history.


Go Snorkeling at Playa Knip

If you’re a water lover and enjoy exploring the underwater world, a visit to Playa Knip is a must on your trip to Willemstad. Located on the western coast of Curacao, this stunning beach offers crystal-clear waters and a vibrant underwater ecosystem that is perfect for snorkeling.


Playa Knip, also known as Grote Knip, is famous for its postcard-perfect setting with its white sandy beach, swaying palm trees, and turquoise waters. The beach is easily accessible, with a large parking area and facilities that include restrooms and snack vendors.


Grab your snorkeling gear and make your way into the calm and inviting waters of Playa Knip. As you swim further from the shore, you’ll be greeted by an abundance of marine life and colorful coral reefs waiting to be explored.


Snorkeling at Playa Knip allows you to encounter a variety of tropical fish, such as parrotfish, angelfish, and yellowtail snapper, among many others. Keep an eye out for gentle sea turtles that often frequent the area.


The coral reefs here are teeming with life, with intricate formations and a range of coral species. As you glide through the water, you’ll witness a mesmerizing underwater world, filled with vibrant colors and fascinating marine creatures.


Snorkeling at Playa Knip is suitable for both beginners and experienced snorkelers due to the calm and shallow waters near the shore. It’s an excellent spot to introduce yourself to the wonders of snorkeling or to refine your skills.


Be sure to bring along sunscreen, as well as snorkel gear and fins, if you have them. If you don’t have your own gear, you can rent snorkeling equipment from the nearby vendors.


After your snorkeling adventure, take some time to relax on the beach and soak up the sun. Enjoy a picnic with the stunning backdrop of Playa Knip or simply unwind and take in the tranquil atmosphere.


Visiting Playa Knip for snorkeling is not only a fun and exciting activity but also a chance to connect with nature and witness the beauty of Curacao’s underwater world. Immerse yourself in the vibrant marine life, let the warm Caribbean waters envelop you, and create unforgettable memories at Playa Knip.


Explore the Hato Caves

For a unique adventure that takes you underground, make sure to explore the Hato Caves during your visit to Willemstad. Located on the northern coast of Curacao, these limestone caves offer a fascinating glimpse into the island’s geological history and are filled with natural wonders.


The Hato Caves were formed thousands of years ago and have since become an important cultural and natural landmark. As you venture into the caves, you’ll be greeted by impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and other stunning formations that have been shaped by water and time.


Embark on a guided tour to learn about the history and significance of this underground marvel. Discover the geological processes that formed the caves and the ancient rituals conducted by the island’s indigenous people within these sacred chambers.


One of the highlights of the Hato Caves is the Cathedral Chamber, a large open space with high ceilings and breathtaking acoustics. The chamber is often used for concerts and events, providing a unique and magical setting.


As you explore deeper into the caves, you’ll come across underground streams and pools, adding to the enchanting ambiance. Be sure to look out for the resident bats that inhabit the caves, a fascinating sight to behold.


During the tour, your knowledgeable guide will share intriguing stories and legends associated with the caves, adding to the mystical allure of the experience. A visit to the Hato Caves is a journey through time, immersing yourself in the natural wonders that lie beneath the surface of the island.


While the caves are well-lit and easily accessible, it’s advisable to wear comfortable footwear as you navigate the paths and stairs. The temperature inside the caves remains refreshingly cool, providing a pleasant escape from the Caribbean heat.


After your exploration of the caves, take some time to visit the gift shop, where you can find unique souvenirs inspired by the natural beauty of the Hato Caves. From handmade crafts to jewelry, there are plenty of treasures to bring back as mementos of your underground adventure.


Visiting the Hato Caves in Willemstad is an unforgettable experience that offers a glimpse into the island’s geological wonders. Marvel at the stunning formations, learn about the cultural significance, and immerse yourself in the mystique of this underground world.


Visit the Curacao Sea Aquarium

A visit to the Curacao Sea Aquarium is a must for marine enthusiasts and families alike. Located just a short distance from Willemstad, this interactive aquarium offers an up-close and personal experience with a wide variety of marine life from the Caribbean Sea.


The Curacao Sea Aquarium is not your typical aquarium. It is home to a diverse range of sea creatures, including tropical fish, sharks, turtles, and even dolphins. With its focus on marine conservation and education, the aquarium provides a unique opportunity to learn about the fascinating underwater world.


One of the highlights of the Curacao Sea Aquarium is the daily scheduled dolphin show. Watch in awe as these majestic creatures showcase their intelligence and agility through a captivating performance. Visitors also have the chance to interact with the dolphins through interactive programs, which allow for a hands-on encounter with these magnificent animals.


Explore the different exhibits throughout the aquarium, each showcasing a different aspect of the vibrant marine life found in the Caribbean. Marvel at the colorful coral reefs, observe the graceful movements of the sea turtles, and learn about the various species of fish that call these waters home.


For those seeking a more adventurous experience, the aquarium offers the opportunity to go on a guided snorkel tour in the open ocean. Dive into the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea and swim alongside tropical fish, rays, and even friendly nurse sharks.


The Curacao Sea Aquarium also plays a key role in marine conservation efforts, with ongoing research and breeding programs to preserve endangered species. Visitors can learn about these initiatives and gain a deeper understanding of the importance of protecting our oceans for future generations.


In addition to the animal exhibits, the aquarium also features a touch tank where visitors can interact with sea stars, sea cucumbers, and other fascinating creatures. There are also educational presentations and demonstrations throughout the day, providing further insights into the marine world.


After your visit, take some time to explore the surrounding area, with beautiful beaches and stunning coastal views just a stone’s throw away. Enjoy a leisurely walk along the shoreline or relax on the sandy beaches, taking in the tranquil beauty of the Caribbean Sea.


Visiting the Curacao Sea Aquarium is not only entertaining but also offers a chance to learn and appreciate the diversity and wonder of the ocean. Immerse yourself in the underwater world, witness incredible marine life up close, and gain a deeper appreciation for the need to protect our precious ocean ecosystems.


Enjoy the Beaches of Curacao

When it comes to soaking up the sun and unwinding in paradise, the beaches of Curacao are simply unparalleled. With pristine turquoise waters, powdery white sands, and a range of activities to enjoy, the beaches of Curacao offer the perfect setting for relaxation and adventure.


From the bustling and popular Mambo Beach with its vibrant atmosphere to the secluded and tranquil Cas Abao Beach, there is a beach to suit every taste and preference on the island.


One of the most famous beaches in Curacao is Playa Porto Mari, known for its crystal-clear waters and stunning underwater world. Snorkelers and divers flock to this beach to explore its vibrant coral reefs and encounter a variety of tropical fish and marine creatures.


If you’re seeking a quieter beach experience, head to Klein Curacao, a small uninhabited island located just off the coast. With its pristine white sands and turquoise waters, this slice of paradise is a dream for beach lovers.


If you’re looking to blend relaxation with some adventure, try Playa Kenepa, also known as Knip Beach. This popular beach provides excellent snorkeling opportunities and breathtaking panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea from the cliffs above.


For those who appreciate a bit of history, visit Playa Piskado, also known as Boka Sami. This is the beach where local fishermen bring in their daily catch, offering a glimpse into the island’s fishing traditions. If you’re lucky, you might even spot sea turtles swimming near the shore.


Don’t forget to indulge in the local cuisine while you’re at the beach. Many of the beaches in Curacao have beachside restaurants and bars where you can savor delicious seafood dishes and tropical cocktails while enjoying the stunning scenery.


Whether you’re seeking an active day of snorkeling, sunbathing, or simply looking to relax with a good book, the beaches of Curacao provide the perfect backdrop. Take your pick from the numerous beaches dotting the coast, and let the warm Caribbean sun and gentle sea breeze complete your ultimate beach getaway.


Remember to pack sunscreen, beach towels, and any other beach essentials you may need for a day of fun in the sun. Soak up the beauty of Curacao’s beaches, listen to the waves crashing on the shore, and create unforgettable memories on these pristine shores.



Willemstad, Curacao, offers a wealth of experiences and attractions that cater to every type of traveler. From exploring the vibrant historic district and iconic landmarks to immersing yourself in the underwater wonders and relaxing on picturesque beaches, this Caribbean destination has it all.


Willemstad’s historic district offers a glimpse into the island’s rich colonial heritage, with its colorful buildings and charming streets. The Queen Emma Bridge and Handelskade provide stunning views of the waterfront, while the Rif Fort offers a mix of history, entertainment, and shopping.


For those seeking natural beauty, snorkeling at Playa Knip allows you to discover the abundance of marine life beneath the surface. The Hato Caves take you on an underground adventure, while a visit to the Curacao Sea Aquarium provides an up-close encounter with marine creatures.


And let’s not forget the beautiful beaches of Curacao, where you can relax, swim, and enjoy the Caribbean sun. From popular spots like Mambo Beach to secluded gems like Klein Curacao, the island’s beaches offer a slice of paradise for all beach lovers.


With its perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, Willemstad, Curacao, is a destination that will captivate your senses and leave you with lasting memories. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply looking for a tropical getaway, Willemstad has something to offer everyone.


So, pack your bags, embrace the vibrant colors of this charming city, and explore the hidden gems that await in Willemstad, Curacao. From historic landmarks to stunning beaches, this Caribbean gem promises an unforgettable experience that will leave you longing to return.