çao, Netherland Antilles, Willemstad


Fish circle
Fish circle

Willemstad, Curaçao

Willemstad is the capital of the Island of Curaçao and is referred to as Little Amsterdam.

Founded by the Spanish in the 1500s as the town of Santa Anna it was renamed by the Dutch traders in the 1700s. In contrast with other popular tourist destinations, Willemstad first and foremost is islanders' town. Modern and quaint, bustling and quiet, illuminated by fireworks and mysteriously dark - all these conflicting words can be used to describe Willemstad.

The town is wrapped around St. Anna bay (Sint Annabaai) and consists of two main parts looking at each other from opposite sides of the bay: Punda and Otrobanda. These are connected by two spectacular bridges: Queen Emma pontoon bridge and Juliana auto bridge. The bay branches out as Schottegat and Waaigat. Asiento, an irregular peninsula on the north side of the Schottegat, is the site of several large oil refineries. Oil discovery in 1914 rescued the island from the economic downturn caused by emancipation.

View on Willemstad from Juliana bridge View on Willemstad from Juliana bridge eastbound: Punda is right ahead, Otrobanda is left behind. Queen Emma bridge near the St. Annabaai entrance can be seen far away with tall Plaza Hotel building overlooking Fort Amsterdam on the Punda side of the bay.
Governor's palace Governor's palace building is located in Punda. It overlooks Saint Anna Bay (St. Annabaai) and Otrobanda across the bay. The palace is a residence of the Governor of the Netherlands Antilles, and architecturally is a part of Fort Amsterdam, which was constructed in first part of 17th century and from historical and cultural perspective, represents one of the major attractions of Willemstad.
Queen Emma ponton bridge Queen Emma pontoon bridge in twilight in direction from Otrobanda to Punda with Governor's palace right ahead. Queen Emma bridge (400-foot) is quickest and only way to get by foot from Punda to Otrobanda and vice versa. The bridge is folded against the Otrobanda shore every time a ship enters or exits the bay.
Fort Amsterdam Fort Amsterdam (Punda) as seen from Fort Rif (Otrobanda). Plaza Hotel is the tallest building in Willemstad. If you are on Curaçao it is almost inevitable that you will visit the Plaza Hotel to shop in its boutiques, to plan your stay at the tourist activity desk, or simply to mingle with the cheerful careless crowd. The hotel also hosts a multitude of parties and fireworks throughout the year.
Punda Punda in twilight from Queen Emma bridge. Willemstad waterfront is decorated by multicolored façads of centuries-old buildings. Punda ("the point") is the oldest part of Willemstad. At some point it was walled on three sides, to protect the European settlers from dangers making housing expansion impossible. The wall remained in place until the 1860s.
Punda Punda in twilight from Fort Rif, Otrobanda. Famous Penha (1708) is standing right behind Punda-side end of Queen Emma bridge.
Fort Rif Fort Rif entrance: inside restaurants, shops, and bars. From second level you can enjoy beautiful view on St. Anna bay, ships, Punda's Fort Amsterdam. Built in 1828, Rif Fort was build to defend Otrobanda.
Otrobanda Otrobanda. Walled Punda soon became over populated and over built. In 1707 the director of the West India Company formally issued a permission to allocate grounds on the other side of the St. Annabaai under condition that only small houses (no more then one story) were built there. Thus, Otrobanda, "other side" in the local language Papiamentu (via French "Autre Bande" and Spanish "Otra Banda") came into existence.
Otrobanda Otrobanda. Behind the waterfront façad you can see dilapidated buildings in Otrobanda.
Otrobanda fireworks Otrobanda. In anticipation of New Year fireworks are cracked all over the Otrobanda waterfront.
Otrobanda night Otrobanda at night.
New Year celebration in Otrobanda A glimpse of the New Year celebration in Otrobanda. If you celebrate New Year on Curaçao and failed to schedule any parties, do not worry - just go to Otrobanda, mix with the crowd, listen to cheerful, sweet, and heart-wrenching songs performed by local bands, and eventually meet 12:00 AM while drinking wine from a bottle, watching fireworks, and screaming in unison with surrounding people. Note, however, that Dutch youths are especially wild and keeping a little bit away from their firecracker's experiments is recommended.
Punda Otrobanda map Punda-Otrobanda map located on Punda end of Queen Emma bridge.

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