Not only is Oranjestad the capital city of Aruba, it’s the centre of “town” activities. With its stunning Dutch Colonial architecture, busy harbour and bustling shops, Oranjestad is a must-see, even if your plan in visiting Aruba was to just park on a beach and read; don’t miss this lovely town!
When you hear locals say “OJ”, they don’t mean orange juice; they mean, affectionately, Oranjestad. Resplendent with colourfully-painted houses and a glorious outdoor shopping mall at Royal Plaza, Oranjestad has the best of urban life without the usual problems. Its population of roughly 35,000 isn’t enough to clog the streets with cars and people, so its open, airy sensibility is stark.
The downtown area of Oranjestad is walkable and picturesque (be certain to bring your camera). Great care has been taken to preserve the Dutch heritage of the island of Aruba, and buildings in its capital are no exception; they are in excellent condition, a reflection of the overall prosperity of this Netherlands-owned island in the Caribbean (together with Bonaire, Curaçao and Sint Maarten). Holland clearly ensures things are picture-perfect in its treasured Aruba.
A walking tour will enable tourists to view the pretty, unique structures in the form of the court house, various churches, the archaeological museum, a range of plazas, and the university. Statues abound, as Aruba has a grand, long and varied history.
The port area is endlessly busy, and markets sell a selection of wares and foodstuffs, some of them directly off the ships. The city is lined with eating establishments of all tastes and varieties; try local dishes or international fare.
Although Oranjestad is situated, technically, on the south coast, the island is not on a north-south/east-west grid, so Oranjestad appears to be more on the west side slant of the south shore. A portion of the land — the section with Renaissance Marketplace and Queen Wilhelmina Park — is reclaimed fro the sea, in grand old Dutch tradition.
And while on Aruba, be sure to visit one of its other towns, San Nicolass; here the locals hang out with the tourists at some of the best “character” and themed bars in the Caribbean. Beach, town or city, Aruba manages to be both laid back and sophisticated at once.