Curaçao Map
Site Index
Contact
Random
Our Travel Books
Advertising / Press

Curacao’s Maritime Museum

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Ever since the dawn of the 16th century, when it was finally drawn onto the maps of European explorers, Curaçao’s fortunes have been tied to the sea. The Maritime Museum, located across from the Floating Market at the beginning of the Waaigat Harbor, is a must for anyone interested in understanding the history of the island.

Maritime Museum Curacao

The museum occupies one of the most stunning mansions of the Scharloo, directly at the end of the pedestrian L.B. Smith bridge. This two-story house was built as a private residence in 1729, but burnt to the ground in 1988. After a complete renovation, the building re-opened to the public in 1998 as the Maritime Museum.

The renovation of the property was marvelously done, with an interior designed to evoke the hull of a ship, including portholes, railings and even the spiral staircase which leads to the deck… although in the museum’s case, it leads to a third-story room for special exhibitions.

Maritime Museum Curacao

Even those without a special interest in the seas should find plenty inside this museum to hold their attention. The exhibits start at the very beginning, with the canoes employed by the Arwak Indians to reach Curaçao from the Venezuelan mainland. The museum then moves on to the “discovery” of the island, its occupation by the Spanish and Dutch, and the Atlantic slave trade.

We enjoyed the section about the dawning of cruise ship tourism. I had never thought about when this phenomenon began, but it’s older than I would have guessed. The first cruise ship reached Curaçao from New York City in 1901. Passengers in those days eschewed the island’s beaches, disembarking primarily to shop in Willemstad, which was known for fashions and jewelry at prices unheard of in Manhattan.

With further exhibitions about the Isla Refinery and its dry dock, as well as old nautical maps and uniforms, this museum could easily occupy an hour or more, and we highly recommend a visit. Keep in mind that they also offer a ferry tour of the Schottegat Harbor two days a week. If you plan correctly, you can buy a joint ticket for both the museum and the tour.

Location on our Map
Curacao Maritime Museum – Website

Hotels In Curacao

Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
, , , ,
February 25, 2016 at 12:14 pm Comments (0)

The Mansions of Scharloo

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Found across the Waaigat Bay from Punda, Scharloo is the newest of Willemstad’s four historic districts and, as evidenced by its abundance of stately mansions, was home to Curaçao’s richest citizens. Today, the wealthy have moved on to other neighborhoods, but the mansions have remained.

Scharloo Mansions Willemstad

Because it was outside of the city walls, Scharloo had been considered an undesirable place to live for much of Willemstad’s early history. It wasn’t until the 1870s that the neighborhood came into fashion. Jewish merchants were the first to recognize its potential and mansions began to spring up along Scharlooweg. The process only accelerated after Pietermaai was devastated by a hurricane in 1877, prompting Curaçao’s elite to look for a more secure home.

But the glory days of Scharloo were short-lived. The grand residences are still there, but few (if any) of them are owned by families as private homes. Some have been bought by businesses, others by the state, and a considerable number have been left to deteriorate.

Scharloo Mansions Willemstad

We took a stroll through the Scharloo on a quiet Sunday afternoon, and found the vibe to be more of “desolate creepiness” than “refined opulence.” All the stores were closed, and the only people we encountered were two drunk guys, one of whom decided that he was going to give us a tour of the neighborhood, protests to the contrary be damned. Luckily, stumbling drunks are easy to outdistance.

But the mansions in the Scharloo really are amazing. Most of them are on Scharlooweg, the long street which runs parallel to the Waaigat Harbor. Just like all the houses on Curaçao, Scharloo’s mansions come in a rainbow of vibrant color. Forest green, cotton candy pink, blood red, sky blue, and all of them with neoclassical flourishes like white columns, triangular pediments and decorated cornices.

Scharloo’s golden age might have come to an end, but that doesn’t mean its story is over. Seeing the potential in the neighborhood’s grand architecture, investors have been renovating them as guesthouses and boutique hotels, similar to what’s already happened in Pietermaai. Although we love the romantic and mysterious atmosphere generated by huge, dilapidated mansions, it’s a good thing that this historic neighborhood isn’t being totally neglected.

Location of Scharlooweg on our Map

Cheap Flights To Curacao

Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
Scharloo Mansions Willemstad
, , , , , ,
January 18, 2016 at 11:06 pm Comments (0)

First Impressions of Willemstad

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao and by far its largest city, with about 98% of the island’s total population. In many respects, Willemstad is Curaçao. And for 91 days, it would also be our home.

Curacao Blog

Willemstad was founded by the Dutch West India Company in 1634, immediately after the Netherlands took over Curaçao from Spain. The city has preserved much of its colonial architecture and style, prompting UNESCO to name it a world heritage site in 1997.

The location for Willemstad was chosen because of the Schottegat, a large natural port which connects to the Caribbean by way of the Saint Anna Bay. It was ideal geography for the sea-faring Dutch, who settled down on the bay’s eastern side, and began constructing a neighborhood that wouldn’t look out of place in Amsterdam. This eastern section, known as Punda, is the oldest of Willemstad’s four historic districts.

Once Punda became overcrowded, in the early 19th century, people started to populate the western side of the bay. This new neighborhood was called Otrobanda, literally “other side,” and presents a slightly different style of architecture to that of Punda. Today, Otrobanda is considered to be Willemstad’s cultural heart, where locals come to shop, eat and party.

Curacao Blog

The other two historical districts are smaller, but still of interest. To the east of Punda, Pietermaai is where the Dutch ship captains and officers settled. This neighborhood is notable for its proximity to the sea, old theaters, and neoclassical architecture. Finally, there’s the Scharloo, just north of Punda, across the Waaigat Bay. This was home to the upper-crust of Curaçaoan society, and still preserves many of its colonial mansions.

We spent our first day in Curaçao walking around the capital city. The first thing I noticed was the city’s outrageous color scheme. Almost every building in Willemstad is a different shade of blue, yellow, green or red. This rainbow array is actually mandated by law in Curaçao — before 1837, when sunglasses were not yet in widespread use, the buildings had been completely white, and the glaring sun caused headaches and eye problems. The colors helped, and the law has stuck around into the present day. Curaçaoans seem to take great pride in their buildings; we often saw homeowners at work repainting their houses.

After the color, the next thing I noticed was the music. Our first excursion into Willemstad was on a Saturday afternoon, and cumbia, samba and salsa were blasting out of houses, booming from the windows of passing cars, and being played by bands at touristy restaurants. We even saw a DJ who had set up on a regular street corner in Otrobanda. Curaçaoans apparently enjoy living with a constant soundtrack of feel-good rhythms.

Curacao Blog

Other random first impressions: there seem to be as many tourists as locals, but this surely waxes and wanes whether a cruise ship is in port. The family across the street from us owns a rooster. Policeman are rare, though there are a lot of security guards protecting higher-end shops. Also, there are plenty of dogs but we hardly saw cats. And there’s all types of income-levels: During our first week in Willemstad, Microsoft founder Paul Allen’s yacht, the Tatoosh, was docked in the bay (this is a boat which comes equipped with multiple other boats and a helicopter). I was admiring it, when a crazy-eyed guy with a yellow beard and an apparent drug habit came up to me. “What a boat! Hey man, you have a guilder?”

With all the music, the people randomly dancing, the bars spilling out onto the streets, the festive atmosphere, the sun’s warmth, and the brightly-colored houses, Willemstad is certainly not a city for those who enjoy being dour. There’s nothing gray about it, and it would be difficult to stay in a bad mood once you’re outside and mixed up in the happy-go-lucky vibe. In fact, during the extent of our stay in Willemstad, I don’t think I had a single grumpy day. That can’t possibly be true, but it’s how I remember it… and I guess that’s all that matters, now.

Book Your Flight To Curacao Here

Curacao Blog
Curacao Blog
Curacao Blog
Curacao Blog
Curacao Blog
, , , , , , , , , ,
December 10, 2015 at 9:09 pm Comments (0)
Curacao's Maritime Museum Ever since the dawn of the 16th century, when it was finally drawn onto the maps of European explorers, Curaçao's fortunes have been tied to the sea. The Maritime Museum, located across from the Floating Market at the beginning of the Waaigat Harbor, is a must for anyone interested in understanding the history of the island.
For 91 Days