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What to do in Willemstad, Curacao on a Cruise Visit
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Buildings in Otrobanda quarter along the waterfront in Willemstad, Curacao

Cruise ships call into Willemstad in Curacao from all over.  It is an easy port to navigate from the cruise port since that is right in the center of town.  You don’t need a taxi to explore the town and we strongly suggest visiting both sides of the town.  Otrobanda is the poorer section of Willemstad and is separated from the much more popular side of the city known as Punda by the St. Anna Bay.  There is a pontoon bridge connecting this section of the city with the more prosperous Punda quarter that swings open to allow ships and boats to pass.  The first time crossing it, we didn’t realize this happened.

The main shopping precinct in Otrobanda.

The main shopping precinct in Otrobanda.

The main shopping street in Otrobanda goes up through the town from the bridge and is filled with mostly shops that cater exclusively to locals (i.e. no t-shirt and souvenir shops) which we found interesting.  Shoes and apparel were the main categories you will find up and down the street and we did find some interesting things we could not find in the states at reasonable prices.  This is not the side most visitors will explore unless you are the type who likes to experience the local aspect of a destination or are curious about discovering more about a destination.  If you’re looking for Ralph Lauren, he’s on the other side of the bridge!

The back alleys of Otrobanda are full of treasured historic buildings.

The back alleys of Otrobanda are full of treasured historic buildings.

After spending time walking in and out of shops we took some of the back alleys back toward the bay and quickly discovered some fascinating historic structures in various states of disrepair.  If you are into photography there is no shortage of material on this side of the bridge.

Building facade in Otrobanda.

Building facade in Otrobanda.

The faded colours and sheer disrepair of the buildings was terrific to discover – something I hadn’t seen since I had first visited Rumania many years ago.  Some had scaffolding and others just looked to be in need of repair.  There appeared to be a housing estate that was modern mixed into the historic alleys too.  And while there were no tourists about this district at all, we didn’t feel threatened in any way.

An alley in the historic quarter of Willemstad called Otrobanda.

An alley in the historic quarter of Willemstad called Otrobanda.

It was extremely hot in Curacao the day we visited and we didn’t spend as much time as we’d have liked just wandering around – we needed to get back to some shops that had air con pretty quickly.  But if you like to explore areas that are interesting and curious and not visited by many tourists, a stroll around this quarter is highly recommended.

Your day continues with a look at the other side of the bridge where most of the tourists will be: Continued in Part 2

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