Historic ship in the fortress village of Willemstad
Historic ship in the fortress village of Willemstad

This historic fortified settlement emerged in the late 16th century when, under the orders of William of Orange, seven imposing fortifications were built to establish the village of Ruygenhil as a key strategic position on the confluence of the Hollands Diep, Haringvilet and Volerak waterways. While plans to create a naval port here never came to fruition, the village – renamed Willemstad after the death of William of Orange – served for several years as an important fishing and trading centre. 

Beautifully well-preserved, the Willemstad of today retains its historic charm and has been largely untouched since the bastions and ramparts appeared here all those centuries ago. In the 1970’s Willemstad’s main, seven-pointed star-shaped district was declared a conservation area to protect the centuries-old buildings, monuments and fortifications, and it is here where you will find the most interesting and impressive sights. The 17th century Mauritshuis, the former residence of Prince Maurits; the Dome Church, the Netherlands’ first Protestant worship site; the gothic-revival style Blessed Virgin Mary Church; D’Orange Mill from 1734; and the 18th century Arsenal building are among the most popular of Willemstad’s many attractions.  

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