The famous houses of Willemstad

Curaçao is famous for its colorful houses in the capital city of Willemstad. They adorn all brochures and travel guides that you can find about the island and in fact they are so famous that you can’t go anywhere on the island without seeing them on a bottle, a car, a shop and so on.  But why are they so colorful?

Willemstad is situated at the southwest coast of the island. The bay of Sint Anna, where huge vessels come and go all the time, cuts the old city center in two halves. On one side there is the Otrabanda district and on the other side is the Punda district. Around here all houses have colored facades, but it’s the set of houses on the Punda side that are world famous.

The benefits of a migraine

Our guide Sharla told an amusing anecdote about why the houses in Willemstad are so colorful. Generations ago, the city governor suffered from severe migraines. His doctor told him that the white stucco houses in the city could be the cause of it all: the bright sunlight was reflected so intensively by the white facades, that is provoked headaches. The governor promptly gave orders to all citizens of Willemstad: all white facades must be painted in a different color! All the official buildings, the governor’s house and the town hall included, were painted yellow. Within a month, Willemstad turned into the colorful city that it is today! Afterwards though, it turned out that the governor was a shareholder of the company that supplied the paint… Or at least that is how the story goes!

A little variation on the cliché photo: Willemstad and Sint Anna’s Bay from up high, taken from the Queen Juliana bridge.

The colorful row of houses in Punda pop up everywhere you go in the city:

On car plates
On art ((in this case it’s the derriere of a Chichi doll)
On art (in this case it’s the derriere of a Chichi doll)
On souvenirs
On souvenirs.
In bars.