With its many monuments, downtown Willemstad is culture-historically quite valuable and unique in the region. The town finds its origin in the construction of Fort Amsterdam (1635) by the Dutch West Indies Company, on the eastern side of the harbor entrance (St. Anna Bay). In the second half of the 17th century, the town of Willemstad was created north of the fort. The previously on three sides walled city, situated on a tip of a peninsula, is now called Punda. During the 18th century three suburbs arose outside the city walls; Pietermaai, Scharloo and on the western shore of the St. Anna Bay, Otrobanda. These four districts now comprise Historical Willemstad.
In the oldest part of the city you can now only find a handful of buildings from the 17th century. From the subsequent 18th century several beautiful merchant houses are preserved. These are built in the typical Curaçao baroque style with its curved façade lines, scrolls and arcades in the façades.
Thanks to a flourishing colonial trade the prosperity can clearly be seen in these 18th century monuments. The subsequent architecture from the first half of the 19th century is quite subdued.
During the second half of the 19th century the local architectural style is mainly influenced by the neo-classicism in both a simple and a more exuberant form. This style has spawned several stately symmetrical buildings in particularly the districts Scharloo and Otrobanda. Plenty of construction took place downtown in the 20th century; in particular in commercial districts. Some specific examples can be found in the Functionalism and Art Deco.