A Self-Guided Historical and Culinary Tour of Aruba
by Maia Muttoo Jan 7, 2019
Whether you’re a visitor, a long-time resident, or a Belonger, you can follow this self-guided tour of Aruba’s historical hot-spots to learn more about the island’s rich story. Fuel your day out with local food along the way.
The Dutch Pancake House
Image via Aruba Restaurants
Before you begin exploring, start your morning with a delicious breakfast at the Dutch Pancake House in downtown Oranjestad. Giving a nod to Aruba’s Dutch settlers, the restaurant serves up thin Dutch-style pancakes with sweet or savoury toppings. North American-style options like eggs, bacon and hash-browns are also available on their varied menu.
Next: Walk northeast for two minutes to the Museo Historico Aruba
Museo Historico Aruba
Image via Wikipedia
Brush up on your Aruban history at the Museo Historico Aruba. Here, you’ll learn about the country’s Caiquetio indigenous populations, the Dutch colonial period, and modern-day achievements. The museum is a piece of history itself – it is housed in two of the oldest buildings in the country, Fort Zoutman (1798) and the Willem III Tower. Fort Zoutman was built in 1798 as a defense against pirates and other antagonists; the Willem III Tower was constructed as an addition to the fort in 1868, and included a lighthouse, spire, and the island’s first public clock.
Next: Walk northwest for seven minutes to explore Downtown Oranjestad
Image via Beaches of Aruba
Heading north west from the Museo Historico Aruba, you can explore the streets of downtown Oranjestad. You’ll pass a number of beautiful historic buildings on your walk, including the 1846 Protestant Church, and the bright green City Hall. Enjoy the opportunity to shop as you take in the Dutch colonial architecture of the Royal Plaza Mall across from the cruise terminal. The iconic building in Oranjestad is one of many in the city that boasts ornate architecture in pastel colours.
Next: Drive north for six minutes (3km) to the Aruba Aloe Factory Museum and Store
Aruba Aloe Factory Museum and Store
Image via Afar
The Aloe plant was first introduced to Aruba in 1840. Since then, it has become one of the island’s key exports. Tour the aloe factory and museum to learn more about the aloe plant and its uses.
Next: Drive northwest for five minutes (4km) to Gasparito
Image via Aruba Bound
Stop off for lunch at Gasparito, a small Noord restaurant in a historic farmhouse. The dining spot offers authentic Aruban food with great customer service in an intimate setting. Due to the island’s arid environment, restaurant gardens can be rare in Aruba; Gasparito offers a unique dining experience serving dishes made with fresh ingredients from their garden.
Next: Drive east for four minutes to Saint Ann’s Church
Saint Ann’s Church
Image via Wikipedia
Saint Ann’s Catholic Church has been rebuilt over the years, but its early history dates to the 1770s. The buttery yellow church is a beautiful example of neo-Gothic architecture, and offers services in both Papiamento and English.
Next: Drive east for eight minutes (4km) to Alto Vista Chapel
Alto Vista Chapel
Image via Viator
Enjoy a peaceful moment at Alto Vista Chapel, constructed in 1952 on the site of Aruba’s first Catholic Church. Lining the twisting road to the chapel are white crosses that symbolize the Biblical Stations of the Cross. There is also a labyrinth on-site where visitors can spend time in contemplation, meditation or prayer.
Next: Drive southeast for 18 minutes (10km) to the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins
Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins
Image via In Your Pocket
Your final historical hotspot features the Bushiribana Gold Mill ruins on the island’s arid north eastern coast. From 1824 to 1916, over three million pounds of gold were mined on Aruba.
The breathtaking site stands silent on an expanse of empty land, and makes for a stunning experience to end your self-guided tour.
This tour only scratches the surface of Aruba’s history and heritage – there is so much more to discover. Head to the northern tip of the island to see the California Lighthouse, or drive south for the San Nicolas Community Museum to learn more about Aruba’s fascinating history.