Curaçao Things to Do Tips by dlytle Top 5 Page for this destination
Curaçao Things to Do: 125 reviews and 160 photos
Riffort is now a shopping mall in Curacao
Riffort was built in 1828, on the Otrobanda side of the harbor entrance, to compliment the Waterfort or Fort Amsterdam (on the Punda side) and defend the outer section of Otrobanda. These two forts have guarded Curacaos harbor against pirates and enemies for centuries. Riffort was constructed to store the chain with which the harbor could be locked up. The chain could be transported from Otrobanda to Punda with an unsinkable raft. The Riffort had its own barracks, canon, powder magazine and rainwater storage tanks. It was considered completely bombproof.
During World War II a steel net was stretched across the bay between Waterfort and Riffort to prevent enemy ships, especially submarines from entering the harbor. In the course of time the Riffort has housed the Authority, Public Works, the police and even Boy Scouts have found shelter here.
Nowadays it houses a modern shopping mall and a restaurant whose terrace overlooks the harbor.
Directions: Towards to Mega Pier Cruise Terminal at the mouth of the harbor on the Otrobanda side of the town.
1708 Penha Building in Willemstad, Curacao
Anchoring the famous Handelskade ["Merchants' Street"] skyline is the arresting architecture of the Penha Building with its curlicued gables and arched galleries. This picturesque building proudly displays its birth date of 1708 and finds itself still in commercial use today. Be sure to notice the elaborate decoration of this building from all three of its viewable sides. This is one of the most often photographed buildings in Curacao!
Most of the buildings in the Punda date from the 18th and 19th centuries. All of the buildings are a kaleidoscope of colors ranging from pastel tints to vibrant blues, greens, reds, purples, jades, and buffs in a wide variety of shades.
Directions: You cannot miss it. It is the mustard-colored building right on the corner as you cross the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge into Punda .
Punda's Handelskade in Willemstad, Curacao
The unique crayon-colored architecture of Curacao sets the stage for a vacation more colorful than you ever imagined. In Willemstad, the capital city, colorful European-style buildings line the harbor reflecting the exuberant mix of cultures, languages, history and beauty contained within her shores.
One of Curacao's most famous sights is Punda's Handelskade, a historical waterfront street with colorful colonial houses.
So just why are the buildings in Willemstad so colorful? Blame it on headaches!
In 1817, after being plagued by recurring headaches, which he blamed on the glare of white houses, Governor-general Albert Kikkert passed a law that pastel colors must be used on all buildings - hence the color explosion throughout Willemstad.
You will delight in strolling through the colorful streets of Dutch style homes and buildings, creating a truly unique Caribbean cultural experience.
Pontoon Bridge in Willemstad, Curacao
The Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge connects the two parts of town, Punda and Otrobanda. It swings wide many times daily to allow access to one of the busiest ports in the world. It also separates the two halves of the city. This bridge, known as the swinging old lady, was built in 1888 by Leonard Burlington Smith and named after Queen Emma who reigned in Holland from 1890 to 1898.
The bridge consists of bridgework supported by 16 floating pontoons. This explains why the Queen Emma Bridge is also known as the Pontoon Bridge. It opens and closes by two powerful ship motors, a process which takes about two minutes.
This 107-year-old bridge originally was designed to cost the poor nothing to cross it while the well-to-do paid to cross. Legend has it that it cost walkers one cent to cross the bridge with shoes on, but it was free to cross it barefoot. The rationale being that the poor couldn't afford shoes. These days, the crossing is free, regardless of foot coverings.
The pontoon bridge is definitely one of the sites to go see and experience. When you’re in town take a few minutes to walk across the bridge and enjoy the breeze and the scenery and the hustle and bustle of the town. I think that you will find that the time will fly by and you won't regret taking that unique walk.
Queen Juliana Bridge in Willemstad, Curacao
The Queen Juliana Highway Bridge was named after Queen Juliana who was queen in Holland from 1948 to 1980. This bridge is one of the highest bridges in the world. It is 185 feet (56 m) above the sea level of St. Anna Bay, weighs 3,400 tons and has 4 traffic lanes. It took almost a decade to build this bridge that was officially opened in 1974.
Although I never traveled on the Queen Juliana Bridge, I was told that a person will always be delighted with the breathtaking view. Depending from which side you come from, you can see the entire panorama of Punda, Otrobanda and the Schottegat. I believe that on the Otrobanda side you can pull over to make photos or videos of the harbor and historic districts.
Directions: North part of the bay, beyond the Punda district.
Curacao's Floating Market in Punda
The floating market (mercado flotante) is where Venezuelan merchants dock and sell their fresh fish, produce and spices. Vendors make the sea trip from Venezuela every morning with fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood - the stalls aren't actually floating, but they're close enough to the water to justify the name.
Be sure to notice the awnings of magenta, green, red, yellow and blue that billow over the Dutch tile counters of the floating market on Santa Anna Bay. The market is at its most colorful each morning as Curacoans stuff mangoes, bananas, onions, fresh nutmeg; chiles, limes, cinnamon sticks and potatoes brought by schooner from Venezuela into their shopping bags. The vendors sing along with the ranchero music on their radios, while the schooners' crews play cards, fish, or lounge in hammocks on the boats' decks.
Directions: Along the Waaigat on the north side of the Punda district.
Pedestrian street in Punda, Curacao
Punda's Breedestraat is a main shopping thoroughfare, likely to be crowded with tourists and cruise ship passengers most any time of the day. The road is partially blocked off for pedestrian traffic.
The shopping is not duty-free, but is "duty-relaxed", meaning the shopkeepers pay low duty. And since there is no sales tax on Curacao, you should be able to get some fairly good deals. You'll also find an array of shops on the Punda side, particularly at the Waterfort Arches on the harbor front. Many town shops also have branches in hotels around the island.
On Breedestraat, try Boolchand's for cameras and electronic equipment, Little Holland for fine cigars, Eccolet for designer shoes for men and women, and Little Switzerland for watches, china, leather goods, and jewelry. One of the more intriguing stores is J.L. Penha and Sons, in a large, circa 1700 building. This store is a large department store, with jewelry, per-fumes, electronic equipment, and more.
Also for local crafts, try the Public Market in Punda, near the Wilhelmina bridge. Remember that the Public Market closes at 2 p.m.
On Trompstraat in Punda, is one of the town's better art galleries. You'll find contemporary work from Curacao and from around the world, including oils, sculpture, and photography.
Directions: Punda district, east side of the harbor.
Panorama of Willemstad's Punda district
The Dutch have left their lasting mark on Curacao in many areas, but perhaps none as striking as the architecture. Nowhere else in the world outside of the Netherlands are there so many exquisite 17th and 18th Century Dutch colonial buildings.
The city of Willemstad dates from the Dutch capture of Curacao by victory over the Spanish in 1634. While the Spaniards had been content to erect simple stone dwellings, the Dutch began to fortify the island. Willemstad is divided in two by Santa Anna Bay. The oldest part, Punda ("The Point") is east of the harbor mouth.
Early settlers brought with them all their traditions, including their architecture and their notion of what made a proper home. In time, styles were modified to fit the realities of a dry and breezy climate by incorporating Caribbean influences such as verandas, porches, fretwork and shutters -- and by adopting a palette of Caribbean colors undreamed of in Amsterdam.
Along what are now Columbusstraat, Madurostraat and Handelskade ("Commerce Street") the up-and-coming Dutch Protestant merchants built their combined offices, warehouses, stores and living quarters. The basic layout of this area, with its narrow perpendicular streets, hasn't changed over the centuries.
Especially beautiful are the restored mansions of Scharloo and Pietermaai, dating from the 1700's. These neighborhoods, along with the historic city center in Willemstad, have been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, commemorating their unique value to the world's cultural and natural heritage. Along with Schottegat Harbor, the largest in the Caribbean, they have joined the ranks of the extraordinary: the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Acropolis, and Vatican City are also on the UNESCO list.
Address: East side of the harbor in Willemstad, Curacao
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