Willemstad is the capital of Curacao. Willemstad is home to the Curaçao synagogue, the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas. The city centre, with its unique architecture and harbour entry, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tourism is a major industry and the city has several casinos. The city centre of Willemstad has an array of colonial architecture that is influenced by Dutch styles. Archaeological research has also been developed there.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Curaçao is from May to November, during the off-peak season. During these months, you’ll find the lowest airfares and hotel rates, with rooms often priced up to 50 percent lower than they are in the high season. Plus, you won’t be vying for beach chairs with throngs of other vacationers.
Top Places to visit in Willemstad
1. Klein Curaçao
Shipwrecks, ruins, and turtles are all that remain on this haunting Caribbean ghost island. Called Klein Curaçao (Dutch for “little”), it is a ghostly island that has been uninhabited for generations. Measuring just over half a square mile in size, the silent, flat coral atoll is home only to a deserted lighthouse, the shipwrecks of vessels it failed to save, several collapsed ancient stone buildings, and a burial site. The lighthouse, once painted a vibrant coral pink was built in 1850. Standing alone in the centre of the island, it is now abandoned. The wooden stairs to the top of the lighthouse are still intact, as are the two stories of rooms that housed the lighthouse keepers; with no natural source of running water, it must have been a desolate place to live and work. Klein Curaçao neatly highlights the effects of the nature on the island. The northern side is a tropical paradise of palm trees, white beaches, and crystal waters. The southern, windward side, more exposed to the elements, is an unforgiving shoreline of pounding surf, and ragged coral reefs.
2. The Abandoned Pietermaai Mansions
The mouldering manses of wealthy colonials still pock the streets of a Curaçao neighborhood. As tourism began to increase, many of the colorful mansions have been restored into boutique hotels, diving centers, and restaurants. But many of the buildings remain dilapidated, living side by side with the newer developments. A local initiative has seen many of the empty buildings set aside as giant canvases for local artists. The crumbling plasterwork is now painted over with giant murals, many of which depict the slave trade which once characterized the colony.
3. Williwood Sign
This tiny tropical village was sick of anonymity so the locals made this sign, which actually changed the name of the town. Previously, the remote town was best known for its grand church that dates back to the 1880’s, but in recent years the town’s independently constructed “Williwood” sign has taken the spotlight as the can’t miss attraction. Taking the nickname for the area and writing it large in a parody of California’s iconic Hollywood sign, enterprising citizens built a new identity for their town. The sign itself rests on a modest hill at the back of a barren soccer field and is prone to blowing over during storms, but the monument is so beloved by locals that people will run out before the gales are even over and fix any fallen letters, claiming bragging rights if they get their first. Now visitors, of which there are markedly more, can buy hats, t-shirts, and other pieces of tat bearing the Williwood name with nary celebrity to block traffic in site.