If your life has been lacking some color lately, we have a cure called Curaçao. This small tropical isle is one of the gems of the Dutch Caribbean, known for the kindness and good-spirited nature of its locals, its exquisite beaches and of course, its quaint, European-style architecture that looks something like a postcard from the multi-colored Venetian island of Burano.
Here’s Emily Vukovic from The Weather Network explaining the charms of Curaçao more affably than we ever could:
Have a Stroll in Downtown Willemstad
The island’s capital, Willemstad, holds the scepter of the architectural heritage of Curaçao. The city was established in 1634, after the Dutch usurped Spain’s rule of the island. The influence of the Dutch Golden Age – when Holland led the world in its artistic and cultural enterprise – left its imprint on the buildings, which feature pastel- and bright-colored façades that are like candy eyes hungry for culture.
Willemstad has been setting an example for other cities with a colonial past through its architectural upcycling. Over the last 20 years, countless buildings that were falling prey to disuse and decay have been lovingly renovated, with particular attention given to maintaining original features. Pietermaai is a great example – it went from slums to hot real estate in a couple of years, and now proudly displays an array of trendy restaurants, bars, luxury apartments and street art.
Enjoy the Feast of Caribbean Color and Splendor
The old-world elegance of Willemstad permeates every corner as you walk through the cobbled streets in the city centre. Beautifully terraced restaurants serve lunches on the sidewalk that feels more like a Roman ‘piazza’ along the harbor. You’ll feel the melting pot of ambiences and cultures caress your spirit as you admire the artistry of the red rooves and white, lace-like coving adorning the cheerful blocks of yellow, pink and teal.
Willemstad is a must-see for design geeks and continues to churn out eye-catching urban projects that fuse traditional architecture with contemporary space suaveness.
Tick off Queen Emma Bridge from Your Bucket List
The capital city is also the site of the only working pontoon bridge in the world. Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge is a one-of-a-kind man-made wonder especially interesting for architecture vultures. It connects the historic Punta and Otrobanda quarters of the city and opens at intervals to let incoming ships and ocean-faring vessels into the harbor. A spectacular wedding of technical prowess and aesthetic excellence makes this industrial feature an unmissable stop on our journey.
Experience the Airy Brilliance of the Buildings
Willemstad’s architecture isn’t just the prettiness of one UNESCO World Heritage acclaimed street after another. The buildings are lovely to look at and be around but also functionally ingenious. As Emily discovered from her interactions with a friendly and knowledgeable Curaçaoan, the older buildings were designed to promote natural air circulation in their courtyards. Perfect for enjoying an al fresco lunch in the sunshine without overheating!
Delve Deeper into the Artistic Nature of the Locals
The art scene in Curaçao is also thriving and exotic to boot. You can take home a piece of the island aesthetic seen in local markets selling hand-made jewelry and artifacts. If you want to really dip your toes into Curaçaoan art, visit Jan Kok. This plantation house dating back to the 18th century is where the celebrated beauty queen-turned-painter Nena Sanchez creates and doubles up as her studio and gallery.
Further afield, you can venture to the contemporary art center Instituto Buena Bista and Alma Blou, the oldest and largest art gallery on the island. Landhuis Bloemhof stages exhibitions, lectures, and creative workshops in a wonderful space upholstered with antique furniture and cool, artsy vibes.
Don’t miss out on a truly Caribbean touch during your stay. Hilton Curaçao has the white-sand beach, creek, green hillock view and blue ocean you’ll be dying to retreat to after your satisfying days of culture-hopping.