The heart of Curaçao, Willemstad, has 4 historical areas that each have a special ambiance you need to experience for yourself. The four areas are Punda, Otrobanda, Sharloo and Pietermaai.
1. Fort Amsterdam
Punda is the oldest district of Curaçao, which was first built in the 17th century. They started with the construction of Fort Amsterdam in 1635 for protection and also as headquarters of the WIC. Nowadays Fort Amsterdam is were the offices of the cabinet and governor are located. It is also part of the Unesco World Heritage Site. You can walk over there freely to take a look.
Walk around the colorful streets and do some shopping. There are plenty of stores to choose from but I think the most famous building of course is the Penha Building built in 1703. It’s such an iconic building and it’s actually a store, they sell perfume and other cosmetics. So second tip is: do some shopping in the colourful streets of Punda.
3. Mikvé Israel-Emanuel
At the hanchi Snoa in Punda you will find the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel synagogue. It was consecrated in 1732 and it is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Americas. It brings you back to history when the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. You can read more about their history here.
We visited it a long time ago when we our oldest was still a toddler but we quite enjoyed it. When you enter the men pick out a skullcap and you get to walk on real sand from Israel. The stained glass windows are gorgeous and the interior is made of dark mahogany wood. As we were with a toddler we kept it short but I am glad we got to experience it. Tip number three is to walk over to the hanchi Snoa and visit the synagogue.
4. Local dishes at Marshe Bieu
I have 4 kids and I know some kids are very difficult with eating new meals but I think you should try some local dishes when you visit Curaçao. There are several good ones spread out of the island and in Punda you have Marshe Bieu. This is where locals go to and I think you should give it a try.
The food is all local and written in Papiamentu and English so it should not be very difficult but let me give some ideas.
- Stewed Beef (karni stoba)
- Stewed Goat (kabritu stoba)
- Salt Fish (Bakijou)
- Conch (Karko)
- Red Snapper (Piska Kora)
You can get it with mashed potatoes, rice and beans, white rice, funchi or fries (and sometimes “tutu” which is made of black peas). My favorite is red snapper with rice or tutu. You get the whole fish (with eye) so be prepared if you’ve never seen it before, but it tastes delicious!
You might get overwhelmed when you enter because it’s new and the ladies will try to sell you their dishes. So when you enter you will see a lot of tables and each kitchen has it’s own section with tables. Here is a good site where you can see some photos, although the website is in Dutch. So the first step is to decide which kitchen you want to order from. Just explain that you are there for the first time and take your time.
5. Have a drink at the Handelskade
You should definitely sit at the Handelskade near one of the cafes and just relax and enjoy the view. Often times the Emma Bridge will open for passing ships or cargo, sometimes closing right away and other times staying open much longer. Either way, take time to just sit and savor the view. Let your kids draw what they see and enjoy this time together.
6. Take a stroll over the Queen Emma Bridge
The Queen Emma Bridge is another iconic landmark of Curaçao. Around 1868 there were around 4000 people that crossed the St.Anna Bay daily by small ferries. Finally in 1886 Leonard Burlington Smith, the American consul, came up with the idea of a swinging pontoon bridge so the shipping would not be hindered. Originally it was a toll bridge and people had to pay the toll but if you didn’t have shoes you could pass without paying. This changed later. The bridge is also known as “the Swinging Old Lady”. Why do you think it is?
When you hear the bell ring, that means the bridge is about to open, so if you are on the bridge you better hurry or get stuck on it. The orange flag means it’s for a short period, and the dark blue is for a longer period. Always good to know if you decide you want to stay on the bridge until it closes again. Let me know if you’ve been there and the article was helpful to you. I have another post about 10 things to do in Curaçao with your kids. Check that out here. Thanks for reading!