Panama City has historically been an international crossroads. Founded in 1517, Panama City was the first European city built on the Pacific Coast of the New World. The Spaniards needed a location with which to load up all of the riches that they were plundering from the local cultures. Panama City was also the starting point for the expeditions that conquered and looted the Inca Empire in Peru in the mid part of the 16th century. The abundance of valuable goods led to the 1671 siege and eventual burning of the city by English pirate Henry Morgan. Centuries later the building of the Panama Canal in the early part of the twentieth century, reaffirmed the importance of Panama City as an important gateway between the Pacific and Atlantic.
Three Cities in one
Panama City has three distinct sectors or “cities” all within the city limits! Firstly, is Panama La Vieja (the old town). Also, known as Casco Antiguo- is full of picturesque ruins and a fascinating museum chock full of archaeological excavation items. There not only the time of the Spanish settlement but also from the indigenous people that inhabited this area. Now a fascinating mix of many styles of architecture. All in all, truly a visual history of all of the important eras of Panama City. Beautiful Art Deco, Colonial and Caribbean building styles are found right next to the ruins of the original Spaniard colony.
The Casco Viejo
The Casco Viejo sector of the city that dates from the 17th-century Spanish occupation of the area. This area also is a visual reminder of how long it has been a crossroads between the Americas and the rest of the world! Seventeenth-century convents, churches, and other historic buildings are all part of this sector of the city. Some now converted to trendy restaurants! Even the headquarters of the French company that attempted the first Panama Canal is available for touring. Lastly, the biggest sector of the city is right on the spectacular Panama Bay. All with a busy and prosperous business district and modern skyscrapers, many restaurants, and nightclubs!
Gateway to Panama
Panama City has a well-developed infrastructure system that makes it a hub for all travel throughout Panama and the world! Domestic flights and many other forms of transportation are available to get you anywhere that you might want to go to Panama. Come to the incredible archipelago of Bocas del Toro, the spectacular National Parks or miles of beautiful beach on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
A settlement in the oldest district of Panama, Founded in 1519 by Pedro Arias Dávila. Also, the first European settlement to be permanent on the Pacific side. Panama Viejo was a starting point for exporting gold from the rest of the area. Being right on the water it was the perfect base of operations. Within 150 years the settlement grew from 100 to 10,000 inhabitants. It also went through many problems over the years from some attacks by pirates and Indigenous people to large earthquakes and fires. Pirate Henry Morgan Gave one final blow to the city by setting most of it on fire, many peoples were killed, and Panama City moved several kilometers west of the original site.
The Panama Canal is an 80 kilometer long waterway that connects the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean. The first vessel transited the canal in 1914. The Panama Canal is popular amongst tourists for its historical as well as economical value.
Go shopping at the YMCA in Balboa: This large, artisan market is a great place to buy the Molas – colorful tapestries created by indigenous artists.
Go to the city mall for a sublime city view: You might be surprised to learn that the best view of the city is free, right from the food court at the mall.
Take a day trip to Taboga Island: Visit this small island located just a couple of kilometers off the mainland and spend a day on the beach, hiking and learning about the history of this gem.
Panama can be reached by shuttle or plane from all major destinations. Panama Airport is a very important transit between Central and South America. Planes are the easiest way to go since the average travel time from San Jose Costa Rica to Panama City is 12 hours.
Panama City has a wide variety of options available for eating out and when exploring the town, you will bump into various high-quality restaurants and bars. La Posta offers international cuisine such as Italian and Mediterranean as well as local dishes. Vegetarians and vegans are also welcome! For a real local flavor, visit Donde Jose and savor its Latin American dishes!
Where to stay
Hotels in Panama City are known for its high luxury and class. About 1.5 hours away from Tocumen Airport, you will find the Breezes Panama Resort. This stunning resort offers comfort and luxury as well as miles of beach for romantic walks. Marriott Executive Apartments Panama City Finisterre is a select, quiet, upscale, all-suite boutique hotel. Standing 18 stories tall, its views towards Panama City, the mountains, the ocean and the Panama Canal are striking. This Panama City hotel has modern and spacious non-smoking rooms that range from 600 square feet to 1,300 Sq Ft. This 4-star hotel is just minutes away from international airports, shopping centers, entertainment venues and great places to eat.