Historical Capital CityLocated on Aruba's picturesque southern coast, Oranjestad is the historical Dutch capital city where the tall multicolored houses of Wilheminastraat combine carved wooded doors and traditional Dutch tiles with airy open galleries and sloping, Aruban-style roofs. Along the wharf, merchants come to sell fresh fish and produce right off the boats every morning. All of Aruba's government buildings and main offices are located in the capital city. Aruba's charming capital is best explored on foot. Its palm-lined central thoroughfare runs between old and new pastel-painted buildings of typical Dutch design (Spanish influence is also evident in some of the architecture). The town is named after the Dutch royal house of Oranje, and has been the island's capital since 1797.
Oranjestad is also the place to shop or to browse in the marketplace for Aruban art and local handicrafts. Depending on the time of year, you could also find yourself in the middle of Carnival, a summertime festival, the New Year's fireworks, or even a parade in honor of the Queen. At any time of year, Oranjestad is the bustling meeting place of tourists and locals alike.
Oranjestad attracts more shoppers than sightseers. There are many malls with boutiques and shops in Oranjestad; downtown and Seaport Village are the major shopping areas. Every morning the wharf teems with activity as merchants sell produce and fresh fish - often right off their boats. You can also buy Aruban handicrafts and T-shirts at this dockside bazaar, where bargaining is expected and dollars or florins are accepted. Island schooners and houseboats anchored near the fishing boats add to the port's ambience. Wilhelmina Park, a small tropical garden on the waterfront along L.G. Smith Boulevard, has a sculpture of the Netherlands' Queen Wilhelmina, whose reign lasted from 1890 to 1948.
Lloyd G. Smith Blvd. becomes awfully crowded with tourists during cruise ship arrivals, but the street is well-prepared for the influx. Dozens of shops line the thoroughfare. The Seaport Village Mall, on the north side of the street, and the Seaport Marketplace, on the east side of the yacht basin section of the harbor, contain the best of the chichi shops, as well as small cafes. Caya G. F. Betico Croes, or Main Street, runs roughly parallel to the waterfront several blocks inland. It's another major shopping venue. If you are looking for a little culture, Oranjestad has a handful of museums and houses of worship that are worth a bit of your time.