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The Bank that Looks Like a Cake: Bright, Happy Architecture of Scharloo, Curaçao

What a fun building, Cucaçao!

What a fun building, Cucaçao!

Prepare to feast your eyes on buildings that look like wedding cakes. As I found out on my recent trip to Curaçao, the Willemstad neighborhood of Scharloo is THE spot for ogling opulent, vibrant architecture.

But how did these edifices come to be? Let’s take a trip through history…

Scharloo is the historic Jewish neighborhood of Willemstad.

Scharloo is the historic Jewish neighborhood of Willemstad.

In the 18th century, Curaçao was a bustling port, and shipyard owners were making good money. What to do with all that new wealth? Why, build mansions on the land next to the harbor, of course!

The neighborhood became a center for Curaçao’s Ashkenazi Jewish community — Jews originally from Eastern Europe (like my ancestors!) who had migrated to the Caribbean and found great success there as merchants.

Mmm... architectural details like yummy icing...

Mmm… architectural details like yummy icing.

In the 19th century, these merchants began to compete to see who could have the most ornate and fabulous mansion. Now, that’s some useful competition for those of us who love architecture!

The green mansion pictured above, for example, was built in 1916. It is called “The Bride’s Cake” and indeed, almost had me licking the curly white trim due to its uncanny resemblance to icing. The building now houses the National Archives of Curaçao.

See my little reflection in this traffic mirror?

See my little reflection in this traffic mirror amid the mansions?

This brings us to a charming update: These mansions are no longer residential, but rather, are now used for office space and government buildings. What this means is that the street boasts a bank that looks like a froofy blue cake!

What about that cute red building in the first photo of this article with the swooping white trim? That is now the office of a local newspaper! Lucky journalists, right? I can just hear them now: “Oh, this red cake building? That’s where I work. Please don’t eat my office.”

A tall, handsome fellow of a building.

A tall, handsome fellow of a building.

It’s not all banks and government buildings in Scharloo, however. A curvy yellow mansion now houses the Maritime Museum, and a mint green house has become this well-reviewed hotel. If you’re looking for great accommodations just a mile from Scharloo, I stayed at this hotel and loved it. (These affiliates support this site at no cost to you.)

Word on the street is that most of these houses have lovely courtyards in their hearts: airy patios where the merchants kept cool in the Caribbean heat.

A creamy vanilla building.

A creamy vanilla building in Scharloo.

Admiration must now be paid to the people who have worked so hard over the years to maintain and renovate these historic buildings, so their glory can be enjoyed, hundreds of years later.

I’m reminded of the wonderfully restored architecture of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, and know that on both these islands, keeping buildings gorgeous over centuries takes a tremendous effort… which pays off in the happiness of all who see them today!

Willemstad, Curaçao has great architecture, and the Scharloo neighborhood features historic mansions that look like brightly-colored wedding cakes! See these happy, fun buildings here.

The magenta flowers complement the houses perfectly.

Let us also sing the praises of the landscapers: People who helped the magenta and gold flowers flourish around the jewel-toned houses, complementing their hues and proclaiming festivity throughout the street.

This wonderful building is now a bank!

This wonderful building is now a bank!

Examine the architectural details in the photo below for a moment. Can you imagine painting each loop-de-loop with a little white-dipped paintbrush, trying not to sweat onto your strokes as the Caribbean sun shines down?

I just love the red, green, and yellow “citrus slices” above each window, with the white “bubbles” popping out on the corners. Scrumptious!

Jolly details poking above a wall.

Jolly details poking above a wall.

Intrigued, and hungry for more about the cake buildings of Scharloo? Check out this excellent video about the neighborhood and its storied history from the Curaçao Tourist Board. It even reveals which building in Scharloo boasts the only mural-decorated ceilings in all of Curaçao!

Curious for more delicious, food-style architecture? You’ll love these real-life “gingerbread cottages” in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Don't forget to admire the flowers.

Don’t forget to admire the flowers.

So what do you think? Have you visited the ABC Islands or this part of Curaçao? Is this wedding cake architecture your cup of tea? Which of these buildings is your favorite? Do share!

The stairs look like outstretched arms.

The stairs look like outstretched arms.

Thank you to the Curaçao Tourist Board and Alex David Rosaria for historical research help for this article. Though I was a guest during my wonderful stay in Curaçao, all opinions and desires to lick buildings that resemble icing are my own. Happy travels!

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Agness of Fit Travelling

Thursday 25th of January 2018

Astonishing architectures, Lillie! I fell in love with these buildings and Curacao has definitely lots to offer. When's the best time of the year to explore Curacao?

Lillie

Thursday 25th of January 2018

Great question! Because Curacao is outside of the Hurricane Belt, many times work. I went in July and it was perfect.

Izy Berry

Friday 19th of January 2018

Adorable! I like the yellow one the most.

Ariana

Wednesday 17th of January 2018

Oh, these are so cool...and funny, and delicious all rolled into one!!! Love them!

Lillie

Wednesday 17th of January 2018

Delicious is right!

Dianne

Tuesday 16th of January 2018

We were there years ago and what fun to see these beautiful colorful pictures!

Lillie

Wednesday 17th of January 2018

I wonder how it's changed over time!

susanna

Monday 15th of January 2018

I just love all the colours! So gorgeous. I've not been - but I want to go now!

Lillie

Wednesday 17th of January 2018

Do it!!!

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