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Walking Tour of Oranjestad

Walking Tour of Oranjestad

Tourists head into the bustling capital city to shop, eat, bar hop, and play the slot machines. But, you’ll miss a lot if you don’t take the time to stroll aimlessly through the streets and stop to visit the museums and historic sites.

Locate Wilhelmina Park on the main waterfront highway, L.G. Smith Boulevard, at the southeast end of down, just before the highway crosses a lagoon. This is an excellent place for rest and orientation. The lush park is named for Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who reigned for 50 years (1898-1948) and abdicated in favor of her daughter, Juliana, after ruling through two world wars. A statue of the popular queen stands on a green lawn in the center of the landscaped park.

The Renaissance Hotel is beyond the park, on the water at Paarden Baai/Bay, and the popular Seaport Marketplace is tucked between the north side of the park and the boat-filled yacht harbor. Across the main street, you’ll see a sprawling marbleWorldWar II memorial set beside the lagoon.

Walking toward town on Smith Blvd, you’ll come to the Historical Museum (Museo Arubano) located inside Fort Zoutman, the oldest building on the island. It was built in 1796 and named after a rear admiral in the Dutch navy who had an honorable fighting record against the British.

The coastline ran alongside the fort until the harbor was filled in during construction in 1930, so the fort’s four cannon were well placed to protect the island from 19th-century pirates and foreign navies. It’s worth the $2 admission just to get inside the building. The haphazardly arranged displays include fossils, tools, furniture, and other items from the island’s earliest times to the present.

Today, you can visit the Historical Museum inside the restored fort’s walls weekdays, 10 am-noon and 1:30-4:30 pm..

If you want to take a break or do some shopping, continue past the yellow Parliament Building and Government Offices to the Seaport Village Mall and the businesses along Main Street, directly behind the Renaissance Resort.

Otherwise, turn inland on Oranjestraat and walk a block northeast to Zuidstraat 7 (near the Chamber of Commerce building and parking lot). Here you’ll find the Numismatic Museum of Aruba, also known as Mario’sWorldwide Coin Collection. You don’t have to be a coin collector to appreciate the 35,000 pieces in this treasury owned by Mario Odor and run by his daughter. It represents 400 countries, including ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, and China, and is said to be much larger and more complete than the distinguished American collection in Colorado Springs. Facts and background are displayed with the coins, so if you have an interest in world history, put this stop at the top of your sightseeing list. The museum is open 7:30 am-3 pm.

Work your way north along Wilhelminastraat (behind the Renaissance Resort), to the Protestant Church, which was established in 1846 and is the island’s oldest house of worship. Although the present building was built in 1952, it stands on the site of the original chapel. Asmall no-charge Bible Museum is open here on weekdays from 10 am until noon, and services are held at 10:30 am on Sundays.

Turn right off Wilhelminastraat onto Emmastraat and head east toward the best gallery on Aruba, the Archeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Aruba). It’s a bit of a walk, but well worth it. The museum is in a courtyard behind San Francisco Catholic Church, near the University of Aruba and the central post office. Inside the small museum you’ll find pre-Columbian pottery, burial urns, tools, and cooking implements that have been uncovered by both organized digs and random backyard encounters. Some of the objects have been carbon dated to 500- 900 AD. All the documentation is written in both English and Papiamento. History/archeology buffs should allow plenty of time for this small wellorganized collection. Admission is free, and the museum is open weekdays, 8 am-noon and 1 pm-4 pm.

Last updated September 18, 2008
Posted in   Aruba  |  Aruba
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