Willemstad, Curaçao

General Information

Regional secretariat

Administrative status

Capital of Curaçao

Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour, Curaçao

Registration Year


Historical function

Comercial and administrative

Location and site

The people of the Netherlands established a trading settlement at a fine natural harbour on the Caribbean island of Curaçao in 1634. The town developed continuously over the following centuries. The modern town consists of several distinct historic districts whose architecture reflects not only European urban-planning concepts but also styles from the Netherlands and from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial towns with which Willemstad engaged in trade.

Urban morphology

The architecture of Willemstad has been influenced not only by Dutch colonial concepts but also by the tropical climate and architectural styles from towns throughout the Caribbean region, with which the settlement engaged in trade. Early residences constructed in Punda, the oldest historic district of the city, followed Dutch urban design. In the 18th century, local materials and craftsmanship as well as new architectural elements, such as galleries, began to appear. As the city expanded beyond Punda, the architectural style of the residences evolved. For example, the development of Otrobanda was not restricted by ramparts, and houses were built on spacious lots and resembled plantation houses surrounded by galleries. Moreover, the social and cultural differences from Afro-American, Iberian, and Caribbean inhabitants have contributed to enriching the building traditions as well as the city’s cultural life. The result is a European architectural style with regional adaptations in a rich array of Caribbean colors. The colorful buildings of Willemstad are a local tradition dating from 1817 when the previous style of white lime finish on a building exterior was prohibited, apparently to protect eyesight from the glare. Predominant colors are red, blue, yellow ochre, and various shades of green.

Registration criteria

Criterion (ii): The Historic Area of Willemstad is a colonial ensemble in the Caribbean, which illustrates the organic growth of a multicultural community over three centuries. It also represents a remarkable historic port town in the Caribbean in the period of Dutch expansion with significant town planning and architectural qualities.

Criterion (iv): The four historic urban districts of Historic Willemstad show the subsequent stages of historical development over the course of centuries of the city. The city can be easily read and used as a textbook for its historical and cultural development.

Criterion (v): The historical urban fabric and the historical architecture are based on examples of European traditions that are transferred to the New World. Influences of the Americas and Africa and cultural elements of the region transformed the European elements into a typical Caribbean development.

Historical reference

The Historic Area of Willemstad is an example of a colonial trading and administrative settlement. It was established by the Dutch on the island of Curaçao, situated in the southern Caribbean, near the tip of South America.

Starting with the construction of Fort Amsterdam in 1634 on the eastern bank of Sint Anna Bay, the town developed continuously over the following centuries.

Source : https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/819/



Mr. Charles Cooper

Minister of Traffic, Transport and Urban Planning
Government of Curaçao

Berg Arrarat Perceel C
Willemstad, Curaçao

[email protected]

Ms. Caroline Gonzalez-Manuel

Sector Director - Infrastructure and Urban Planning
Government of Curaçao

Berg Arrarat Perceel C
Willemstad, Curaçao

(+599 9) 465-1477
[email protected]