Going to Willemstad? Get answers from our friendly locals
Willemstad is the capital city of Curacao, an island in the southern Caribbean Sea that forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Formerly the capital of the Netherlands Antilles prior to its dissolution in 2010, it has an estimated population of 140,000. The historic centre of the city consists of two quarters: Punda and Otrobanda. They are separated by the St. Anna bay, an inlet that leads into the large natural harbour called the'Schottegat'. Punda was established in 1634, when the Dutch captured the island from Spain.
The original name of Punda originally was de punt in Dutch. Otrobanda, which was founded in 1707, is the newer section of the city and is considered to be the cultural center of Willemstad. Its name originated from the Papiamentu otro banda, which means "the other side." Punda and Otrobanda are connected by Queen Emma Bridge, a long bridge of boats. Although still in use, these days most road traffic now uses the Queen Juliana Bridge built in 1967 (rebuilt 1974) which arches high over the bay further inland. Nearby is also the now non-functioning Queen Wilhelmina Bridge draw bridge. The city center of Willemstad boasts an array of colonial architecture that is influenced by Dutch styles. The city center, with its peculiar architecture and beautiful harbour entry, has been made a UNESCO World heritage site. The Snoga Synagogue in Willemstad was built by Sephardic Portuguese Jews from Amsterdam and Recife, Brazil. It is modeled after the Esnoga in Amsterdam. Congregation Mikve Israel built this synagogue in 1692; it was reconstructed in 1732 and is the oldest surviving synagogue building in the western hemisphere.