Oranjestad is a historic harbour town which is divided into two main sections. Lower Town is a strip of buildings just above sea level along the waterfront, which borders on the island’s safest beach. Lower Town includes dive shops, numerous colonial-era ruins, and the harbour. Upper Town has a restored historic core, and is also the island’s main commercial and residential centre.
The main historical site in Oranjestad is Fort Oranje, a well-maintained, 17th-century fort in the direct centre of the town, overlooking the waterfront. This cliffside fort has cannons, intact bastions and a courtyard. Nearby is a museum, the ruins of one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere, and a Jewish cemetery.
The town's historical features also include a Dutch Reformed church built in 1755, which is partly in ruins but still accessible (its tower can be climbed for long-distance views), various restored 18th-century merchants’ residences - including the oldest one, the Gezaghebber House (former Lieutenant Governor’s residence) on Kerkstraat - and restored wooden Caribbean-style houses. Snorkeling in Oranje Bay is also interesting because of the parts of 18th century buildings on the bay side that were swept into the sea.
Oranjestad itself contains grocery stores, restaurants, bars, a library, schools, a clinic and the administrative offices of the government. Oranjestad is a major shopping destination for people from neighbouring Saint Kitts, as many goods, especially imported foodstuffs, are cheaper.