22:03 PM

On Curaçao, Contemporary Design Meets Old-World Elegance

It’s fitting that Curaçao’s name is a derivative of coração, the Portuguese word for heart. For centuries the Caribbean island was the pulsing center of European trade in the region and a melting pot for Dutch, Iberian, South American, African, tropical, and even Sephardic Jewish influences (one of the oldest and most popular buildings on the island is 400-year-old sand-floored temple Mikva Israel-Emanuel). Colonized by the Netherlands after its independence from Spain in 1634, Curaçao’s capital, Willemstad, has a distinct architectural tradition kept alive by its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage City. In recent years the city has also fostered a nascent design scene with global reach.

At first glance Willemstad looks a little like a candy-coated version of Amsterdam. The main canal is lined with the bright pink, yellow, and teal buildings that run along Handelskade Street in the Punda District; the law requires that they be kept in a vibrant color palette and repainted every two years. Nearby, the Otrobanda District is better known for its numerous cobblestone alleyways, reminiscent of 17th-century Dutch provincial towns. The area also contains several European-style open-air plazas, most notably the Floating Market, which sells fresh fish caught off the coast of Venezuela, local fruits and vegetables, and artisanal crafts and jewelry.

Read the full story, originally published on November 18, 2015, on Travel+Leisure.