With an influx of foreign investment fueling a seemingly endless real estate boom, Panama City is being discovered by those seeking old-world culture combined with a bustling capital city nearly as sleek and vibrant as Miami while boasting the unspoiled natural beauty of the only protected tropical rainforest within the limits of a modern metropolis. To mistake Panama City as just another polluted and over crowded Latin American capital would be to miss out on discovering one of the most exciting and interesting cities in the world.
There is such a wide variety of exciting things to do and see in Panama City that it’s difficult to know where to start. That is especially true if you are short on time. But for starters, a day tour of Panama City should be at the top of your list of must sees and dos in Panama City.
Visitors to Panama City are immediately impressed about how Panama City is really a city of three contrasts: the modern sky scrapers that includes luxury residences and the Trump Ocean Club which is the only 5-star resort in Panama; the ruins of the original Panama City that was discovered in the 16th Century called Panama Viejo or Panama la Vieja; and Casco Antiguo which is the colonial city that was built when Panama City was burned to the ground by Henry Morgan.
The best way to start your guided tour of Old Panama City is by exploring the ruins of the original city. Panama Viejo, or Old Panama, comprises the oldest capital in the Americas. Pedrarias Davila arrived in 1519 with his Spanish expedition and founded Panama. At one point, Panama City was one of the richest cities in the world with so much Incan gold and then silver passing through. But then in 1671 the infamous Pirate Henry Morgan attached the city and burned it to the ground.
The ruins cover about 57 acres on the eastern edge of the City. Climb the stairs of the Tower and you’ll have some incredible views of the City and surrounding area. You’ll also be impressed by the unusual tranquility of the ruins with tropical birds fluttering all around you.
Next, head to Casco Antiguo and choose one of the excellent restaurants and indulge in a typical Panamanian lunch. You will then have plenty of energy to stroll the narrow cobblestone streets of this quaint colonial city that was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997. You’ll find Spanish, Italian, and French style architecture with bougainvillea lined plazas which have led to comparisons of Casco Antiguo with Havanah or Cartagena.
Stop in at the Canal Museum and see the original charter signed by Jimmy Carter granting ownership of the Panama Canal back to Panama in 1999. Take in the ambience of the colonial city and admire the beautiful plazas such as Plaza Bolivar, Plaza de Francia and the Plaza de la Independencia. You won’t want to miss the Presidential Plaza and the National Theatre. And the highlight of the day may be the opportunity to see the Altar of Gold at the Church of San Jose. Organized walking tours are the best way to see the highlights of Casco Antiguo.
Modern Panama City
The skyline of Panama City is changing on a daily basis with the construction of luxury high rise residences, the 5-star resort Trump Ocean Plaza, and the addition of much needed hotels throughout the business and banking areas of Panama City.
Being that Panama is a true melting pot of people and culture, you can find authentic food from all corners of the world. Hip new nightspots continue sprouting up like weeds. Probably the best place for eating, drinking, and seeing the magnificent skyline of Panama City is on Amador Causeway. It’s a place where Panamanians and tourists alike go to enjoy the outdoors, fantastic views, and socializing over cold drinks and great food.
No trip to Panama is complete without discovering everything Panama City has to offer and at Panama Travel Consultants we include a Panama City and Miraflores Locks Visitors Center Tour in each of our customized vacation packages!