Found in the former military hospital, the Curaçao Museum opened its doors in 1948, making it the oldest museum on the island. Its exhibits include world-class works of art, and period furnishings that pay tribute to the opulent past of the island’s richest days.
From now on, when I hear the word “Curaçao,” I’ll think primarily of soft, sandy beaches, and colorful buildings. But there was a time (not that long ago!) when the only connotation brought to mind would have been “liqueur.” Blue Curaçao has long been a staple at bars around the world, and we went to the Landhuis Chobolobo to see the factory in which it was originally produced.
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.
Punda was the first area in Willemstad to be colonized by the Dutch, and today has become famous for the superb condition of its colorful, 18th-century buildings. Although we lived in Otrobanda, we crossed the bay almost daily to spend time in Punda, to eat, shop, or just enjoy the neighborhood’s lively atmosphere.
When you think of “Curaçao,” you’re likely to think of things like “scuba diving,” “liquor,” “beaches,” “cruise ships” and “historic Jewish community.” Wait… what was that last one?! It’s unexpected, but this little island has the oldest Jewish congregation in the Western Hemisphere, with a history that dates to 1651. And Willemstad’s Mikvé Israel-Emanuel is the New World’s oldest synagogue.
Plasa Bieu, or the “Old Market,” borders the Waaigat harbor near the central post office and the Round Market. It looks like a small, rundown factory… and I suppose that’s what it is. A little factory which has been manufacturing delicious, affordable Curaçaoan cuisine for decades. From the looks of things, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that nothing has changed in fifty years; not the stands, the pots, nor the people ladling out stew or frying up fish.
Colonial-era Willemstad was protected from marauding pirates and enemy navies with an extensive set of eight forts, six of which have survived intact into the present day. The oldest and most important is Fort Amsterdam, found at the entrance to Saint Anna Bay.