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Oranjestad Travel Guide

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Colonial architecture in Oranjestad © Dutch Caribbean Travel Center

Aruba's capital, Oranjestad, is the first stop for most visitors. Its small harbour, once reserved for schooners and fishing boats, now attracts cruise ships from all over the world, and the island's Queen Beatrix airport is located just south of the city. Despite the thousands of tourists that pour into the town it has managed to retain its traditional charm.

Oranjestad's downtown streets are lined with pastel-coloured Dutch colonial houses adorned with ornate gable roofs, and the average tourist will be unaware that many are recent imitations. The presence of many an orange coloured façade, too, not only points to the capital's name, but to the island's connection to the Netherlands and William of Orange, a Dutch monarch instrumental in the gaining of Dutch independence

A highlight in Oranjestad is the Archaeological Museum, with exhibits on Aruba's original Arawak inhabitants and, in the restored 18th-century Fort Zoutman, the Museo Arubano displays Aruba's pre-European and colonial eras. The Numismatic Museum has a large collection of coins from over 400 countries, many salvaged from shipwrecks in the surrounding area. The fort itself is one of Oranjestad's most popular attractions, and built in 1796, it played a pivotal role in battles between Curaçao and British troops in 1803. In the late 1800s, the Willem III tower (named after the Dutch king at the time) was added to act as a lighthouse.

Although shoppers will find central Oranjestad packed with boutiques, shopping complexes and glitzy 24-hour casinos, it is possible to escape this tourist zone and discover the more authentic town with its lively, if slightly run-down bars where one can enjoy a quiet beer and meet the locals.

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