We're not going to sugarcoat it—Willemstad’s first colonial settlement started as a hub for Dutch slave traders. Now a World Heritage site, this modern city center has a distinct Euro-Caribbean atmosphere, its preserved colonial buildings housing fashion boutiques, art galleries, and sidewalk cafés. Wander down Punda's narrow cobblestoned alleys, then snap a signature photo at the Wilhelminaplein’s giant Curaçao and Dushi signs. The neighborhood gets extra lively during the free Punda Vibes event every Thursday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., featuring an outdoor market, live music, and local folkloric dancing.
By Lebawit Lily Girma, AFAR Local Expert
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Curaçao's capital is famous for the neon colonial buildings lining its waterfront. Dutch settlers originally painted the houses with bright colors to minimize the glare from the island's harsh sun, but today their main purpose is to pose for your Instagram photos. For more interesting architecture, take a walking tour throughWillemstad's historic district, starting with its oldest defensive structure, Fort Amsterdam. The 17th century fort now houses the Governor’s Palace and Fort Church, a Dutch Protestant church with a single cannon ball lodged in its façade from an 1804 dispute with the English.
By Matt Long