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If you ask someone who’s traveled to Aruba if they’ve seen Oranjestad, chances are, they’ll say yes! But have they really?
If you ask someone who’s traveled to Aruba if they’ve seen Oranjestad, chances are, they’ll say yes! But have they really? The new Aruba Walking Tours allows you to rediscover our capital in a way you never have before. Besides the great shopping and dining scene, Oranjestad has a very rich colonial history and distinct culture. Curious to what you will experience while walking in Oranjestad? Keep reading, we’re about to break it down for you:
What better way to start off your day than with a leisurely stroll? Oranjestad walking tours will provide you with a a better understanding of what the small island of Aruba has passed through in order to become the lovely island nation we all know and love today. By walking through the beautiful city, you’ll find yourself totally immersed in the wonderful story of Aruba.
Meet up with your Local Expert at 9:00 am at the designated spot, appropriately located at a historical building that was built in 1910, and which was one of the very first government buildings on the entire island! That building is now the home of a design store called Cosecha, which sells and displays genuine arts and crafts made by local artists. Once the team is assembled, it’s time to discover Aruba!
Surely you’ve noticed the beautiful old-timey buildings and statues in O ’Town? Below some of the origins are highlighted.
If you haven’t visited Aruba in a while, you may be surprised to see a few new equine editions in Oranjestad: Statues of blue horses! These horses represent a re-visitation of the rich history of Paardenbaai (Horse’s Bay). The Paardenbaai harbor enabled horse trade, which took place starting back in the 1500s, when Aruba was colonized by the Spanish. It was a huge catalyst for commerce on the island! Why are the statues blue, you ask? Your local expert will explain that part to you during the tour.
This is the Arends Building; a beautiful structure with a strong Caribbean architectural influence. The house was built by Dr. Jacobo Eloy Maria Arends. After Dr. Arends’ passing in 1960, the house was left to his son, Jesus Eloy Arends. Jesus was a dentist and used the building to house his practice. Many years later the house was sold to the Aruban Government. After restauration in 1997, the building serves as City Hall where locals and visitors alike tie the knot!
Fun Fact: In Aruba many years ago, it was customary for men to own a fully furnished home before they even asked a woman for her hand in marriage, nor was she allowed to see the house before the wedding day!
Hotel Colombia, built in 1918, is located at the junction of the Zoutmanstraat and Oranjestraat. “Nadie” Henriquez owned this building; which was one of Oranjestad’s most luxurious buildings at the time. In 1925, this building too was purchased by Dr. Arends. The building later was named Hotel Colombia, and is now known as the building that housed the very first commercially operated hotel on the island. Unfortunately, a fire broke out causing irreparable damage to the original construction, but the building was restored and is now the home of the Population Registry.
On the tour, you will pass the old Protestant church that was built way back in 1846; which makes it the oldest church on the island. The property once belonged to the Arends family, who sold it to the Protestant community in 1844. Today this monument is used for special occasions.
This house is called: La Casa Rosada, which is Spanish for The Pink House. It may not have its beautiful pink color anymore, but the name remained. Its history is a bit fuzzy. It was believed to be built by order of Mr. Julio Habibe, who traded aloe products. Aloe Vera is considered to be one of Aruba’s first sources of revenue. La Casa Rosada is currently undergoing restauration to restore the very prominent architectural characteristics of country houses of the Dutch Caribbean.
No tour of Oranjestad is complete without making a stop at the 2 Aruba museums housed in monuments.
The historical museum located in Fort Zoutman, also a cherished monument, is a must-see; a great way to get to know the island is by exploring its beginnings! Check out the timeline of Aruban history in a collection of documents and developments from the past.
On Tuesday evenings (6:30 – 8:30), you are invited to the fort for the Bon Bini (welcome) festival; a weekly celebration of folkloric song and dance!
Fort Zoutman was built in 1798 by the architects of the Military Committee of the Netherlands, to protect Aruba against pirates, since all the land beyond it used to be water. The Fort now no longer has its military function but houses the Historical Museum. The Willem III Tower has been a striking landmark in Aruba since the 1868. It was formerly used as a lighthouse; today it too houses the Historical Museum.
Fun fact: The fort was also the home of Aruba’s first prison which had only 3 cells!
The 15-minute stop at the National Archaeological Museum is a welcoming break! Go inside and explore a multitude of historic and prehistoric exhibits and artifacts while you cool down. Learn everything you need to know about Aruba’s first inhabitants! There are replicas of their living quarters and over 10,000 authentic Amerindian artifacts. From the stone tools they used to prepare food with, to building tools, there are over 5,000 years of history of history to explore.
This building was purchased by the Aruban Government in 1997, but the restoration didn’t start until 2006. The exhibit halls were created and financed by the Aruban Government and the Union of Cultural Organizations (UNOCA). This museum opened in July of 2009.
Fun Fact: You can enter a real cistern that was used to collect and distribute water throughout a home. It held 55 liters; enough to supply a family for 4 months back then!
The number one thing that makes Aruba so special is our local community. To get a truly authentic feel of the island, the tour also allows you to mingle with some notable Arubans. Curious to who holds the title of Best Dressed Aruban; or would you like to find out who catches the freshest fish? Let those who know the island best tell you!
Besides interacting, you will also get an in-depth tour of where we, the locals, shop and hang out as you traverse the shopping area of Caya Betico Croes, a.k.a. The Main Street. From back-to-school shopping to last minute Christmas presents, this street livens up as soon as there is shopping to be done. When the holidays come around this street stores stay open a bit longer to make sure everyone gets a chance to do their shopping during the Holiday Shopping Nights.
All that walking surely builds up an appetite! Don’t worry, during the tour you will get the opportunity to stop for multiple local snacks! Once you try the Aruban pastechi at Lolita’s, you might want to hound your Local Expert for a recipe! While you’re at it, do not hesitate to ask your Local Expert where you can enjoy the best Aruban Cuisine on the island.
There is much more fun to be had, and many more things to learn on the Aruba Walking Tour. This blog post was just a little taste. Now it is time to experience it for yourself. Book your Aruba Walking Tour today!
If you want more information about the monuments in Aruba, visit the Aruba Monuments Fund's Official Website.