Fort Nassau: quiet dining and panoramic views of Curaçao
Sitting atop a high hill in Willemstad, where St. Anna Bay meets Schottegat (inland bay and harbor), Fort Nassau provides a commanding view of Willemstad and Schottegat as well as housing the upper scale Fort Nassau Restaurant.
Built in a strategic location, the fort once protected the city of Willemstad and the Schottegat harbor and attracted the attention of invading navies. It was taken by the British in 1807 and returned to the Dutch in 1816. Fort Nassau may have suffered from an identity crisis by having multiple names over the years. Originally built by the Dutch as Fort Repubelik, it was renamed Fort George by the British and renamed again in 1816 by the Dutch as Fort Oranje Nassau. During World War 2, the Fort housed a detachment of US military and in 1959 became a restaurant.
Fort Nassau Today
Fort Nassau is home to Harbor Control, the Fort Nassau Restaurant and a public viewing area. For first time visitors, the drive to the fort which is north of the Queen Julianna Bridge may be a bit confusing, but after circling several times, perseverance will pay off. As a caution, while driving up the last narrow winding hill, watch for people, as the hill with its steep climb is used for physical training. Parking is available to the right of the fort entrance.
The entrance to the fort is up a long set of steps leading through an arched hall that is about 10 meters or 30 feet long. Once inside the structure, the restaurant entrance is to your left and the access to the viewpoints are up a few more steps and to your right. Visitors are welcome to walk around the top of the fort, except for the Harbor Control area. Hang on to your hat (literally) as the trades winds blow very nicely at the top.
Visiting Fort Nassau in the daylight is worthwhile, but the full experience requires a return trip after dark to view the city lights. A second option is to arrive in the late afternoon, stroll around the fort taking in the city panorama, then at 6:00 pm, when Fort Nassau Restaurant opens, relax over a very tasty meal while watching the lights of the city emerge. By arriving at the restaurant at opening time you will likely be able to get a table along the outer wall of the fort.
As you eat, you will appreciate the view of the arched Queen Julianna bridge, the more distant Queen Emma pontoon bridge, and the historic buildings of the Otrobanda and Punda districts. If you are there for photos, the best viewpoint for pictures of St. Anna Bay is from the far west end of the restaurant.
You will experience original settings, attentive service by friendly staff and delicious food served with great presentation, all at a reasonable price.
From your table in the restaurant, with the vast view of the island that spreads to the horizon of the ocean, there is a quietness and stillness that washes over you. Lights of the bridges and buildings, along with those of the distant ships on the ocean, invite you to relax, slow down and simply “enjoy.”
Additional historical information can be found at the Fort Nassau website.