The Most Enjoyable Things To Do in Willemstad, Curaçao

Willemstad is the capital of Curacao and covers about 1/4 of the entire island. It’s quite a sizable city with approximately 140,000 residents, yet it still exudes a relaxed atmosphere. During your vacation, you’ll likely explore only a small part of Willemstad around the neighborhoods of Punda, Pietermaai, Otrabanda, and Sharloo. These neighborhoods constitute the center of Willemstad, where you’ll find most hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Apart from the beach, there aren’t many things to do, so one day should suffice to explore the center of Willemstad.

Taste Curacao’s Cuisine at Plasa Bieu

If you want to experience the local cuisine of Curacao, you must visit Plasa Bieu. Here, you won’t find a trendy restaurant with a fancy interior; instead, you’ll find simple tables and various small kitchens serving a variety of local delicacies. You can get a bit of everything, but to help you understand the menu better, here are three dishes we recommend. Firstly, there are stobas, which are stews made from various meats and/or vegetables, usually served with rice, potatoes, or funchi, a type of cornmeal dish that’s popular in the Antilles. Another traditional dish is giuambo, a fish and okra soup (no, not orca, but a type of vegetable). Lastly, you can also try kadushi, a soup made from the local cactus, with a unique flavor and a somewhat slimy texture. In short, there are plenty of new flavors to discover during lunch in Willemstad!

Opening Hours: Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Enjoy Cocktails on Nieuwestraat in Pietermaai

You’ll find coziness in several places in Willemstad, but for a nice meal followed by a cocktail evening, we recommend Nieuwestraat in the Pietermaai district. Here, you’ll find various bars and restaurants clustered together, allowing you to hop from one to the next. The street is adorned with fairy lights, and the houses are painted in different cheerful colors. Near the end of the street, you’ll find Mundo Bizarro, a Cuban spot where you can dance to live music every Saturday from 9:30 PM onwards. Other great bars include Roast Cannibal Rumbar and Mr. Porter. If you’re looking for a fantastic dining experience in Pietermaai, make a reservation at Caña. It’s our favorite restaurant in Curacao, but be sure to book ahead!

Extra Tip: If you want to take a nice photo with the typical colored houses, this well-known location in Pietermaai is perfect.

Wander Through the Colorful Neighborhoods of Otrabanda and Sharloo

The Otrabanda and Sharloo neighborhoods are located around the center of Willemstad and used to be not very safe, but they have undergone a transformation. Sharloo isn’t as far along as Otrabanda in this process, but various local projects are making progress. Both neighborhoods are very colorful and feature lots of street art. You can explore beautiful spots on your own, like the ‘Colorful stairs Otrabanda‘ and ‘Street Art Skalo‘ but if you want to learn more about the neighborhoods, their history, and the locals, it’s recommended to book a tour with Dushi Walks. This 2-hour walk will take you to places that tourists don’t usually visit and give you a better understanding of Curacao. The cost is 35 guilders ($20) per person.

Tip: For a nice lunch in Otrabanda, visit Maira’s Kitchen.

Stroll Across the Floating Bridge

The Handelskade and the floating bridge are perhaps the two most iconic attractions in Willemstad. The floating bridge, officially named the Koningin Emmabrug, is unique because it can swing open entirely when a boat needs to pass through. This is why the bridge also has a third name: the swinging old lady. If you’re lucky, you’ll be there when a large cruise ship sails through. A bell rings, and then you have a short time to leave the bridge. You can also stay on it, but with a big ship, you might end up waiting on the bridge for half an hour to three-quarters of an hour.. 

Stroll Along the Handelskade

From the floating bridge, you have a view of the Handelskade on the Sint Annabaai. The canal houses here are typical Dutch warehouses but adorned with the vibrant colors of the Caribbean islands. Unfortunately, the history of this place is less cheerful than its current appearance. This is where European ships used to arrive to load and unload their goods and slaves. It may be hard to imagine now, but this was once the epicenter of the slave trade. Enslaved Africans were sold here to other countries on the American continent. That’s if they had survived the horrific conditions during the boat journey, as on average, 30% of the slaves died during the voyage.

Visit the Impressive Kura Hulanda Museum

If you’re interested in the entire history of the slave trade, then walk over to the Kura Hulanda Museum, just around the corner from the floating bridge. This museum tells the whole story of the slave trade and houses an impressive collection of African art. It may not leave you feeling very cheerful, but you really shouldn’t leave Curacao without visiting this place.

Opening Hours: Monday through Saturday from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM

Relax at Mambo Beach in Willemstad

We’ll conclude this list with something lighter because you’ve surely come to Curacao to enjoy the sun, sea, and beach. In Willemstad, you can find that at Mambo Beach. Here, you can relax on a beach chair at a beach bar like Cabana or Chill Beach Bar and Grill. You’ll be under the palm trees with your feet in the sand and the beautiful blue water in front of you. Let those cocktails come your way!