"Willemstad" Willemstad by Tetreus

Willemstad Travel Guide: 48 reviews and 188 photos

The origins

A much-debated question, is when and after whom the city Willemstad was named. According to one historian, Willemstad was named after Stadhouder (stadtholder) William II, but a second historian, who made a very deep study of Willemstad, thinks that the city was named after Stadhouder William III, who occupied this position in 1672 and later on, in 1688, became King of England.

The latter William seems to have been very much sought after. Further the possibility was mentioned that the naming of Willemstad in that decade could have been related to the fact that in 1674, the new West Indian Company was instituted and in 1675, Willemstad was declared a free port in the hope that this would stimulate the economy. The free port needed a suitable name that would attract people’s attention. The first time the name Willemstad is mentioned in the archives was in 1680.

Willemstad, capital of Curaçao and the Netherlands Antilles, is one of the richest cities in the world in terms of culture and diversity. The city itself is actually divided in two sections—Punda and Otrobanda—connected by the Queen Emma pontoon bridge. Both sections provide visitors with duty-free shopping. Willemstad covers an area of some 450 square kilometers, and has a population of 135,000, which is composed of 55 nationalities.

Like Havana (Cuba) and San Juan (Puerto Rico), Willemstad is a typical port town. However, it is one without a hinterland, and focused on trade with the surrounding colonies, mainly the Spanish colonies on the South American continental coast, but also with French and English colonies.

According to a comprehensive survey by the government monument bureau there are 750 historic buildings in Willemstad alone, which merit preservation. New scaffolding goes up almost every month. Progress has been astonishing in just ten years and it is likely that, in the very near future, regions of the city will have regained their former splendor.

  • Last visit to Willemstad: Dec 1993
  • Intro Written Nov 5, 2005
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