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Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo (the old quarter) was founded in 1673 after the famous Capt. Morgan for whom the rum is named burned down the original city. It sits on a peninsula with Bahia De Panama on one side and ships lining up for passage through the Panama Canal on the other.

In 1997 UNESCO declared the Casco a world heritage site. The area is still developing with many of the old buildings in a rundown to ruined state.

This is the most interesting part of Panama City and one of the most dangerous. The old town is currently being restored and there are some magnificent pristine colonial buildings standing against derelict houses and burnt-out churches. Must-sees are the very pretty Plaza de Francia, with its harbourside walk, Plaza Independencia, the wreck of the Club de Clases y Topas, where Noriega used to spend his time, the grand Teatro Nacional, the presidential Palacio de las Garzas (Palace of the Herons) and several churches. It is best to walk in the morning and stay east of the Plaza Independencia or take a tourist taxi from any hotel. Take taxis in this area at night.

As you walk down Central Ave towards the ocean look for Plaza Bolivar on Calle 4 and Ave B. Here you’ll see an amazing statue celebrating the independence from Columbia. In a house surrounding the Plaza the Declaration of Independence for Panama was written.

Follow Central Ave the other direction and it quickly becomes a pedestrian street, with shopping everywhere you look. For some really great deals look for “Orange” a full department store that will lighten your mood but not your wallet. For shoes under $10 shirts as low as $2 and watches right around $5.

To get to Casco Viejo, take a bus to the Cinco de Mayo Plaza. Walk Central Ave. Shop along the way. Grab lunch at the Coca-Cola Café at the end of Central Ave ($3-$5) Stop in Luna’s Castle and ask for directions to the Old Cigar shop ( Hand rolled Cigars $.50 and up) and enjoy the view across the Bahia De Panama of the ever changing Panama City Skyline. And grab bed at Luna’s Castle ($12) or a cab back to your hotel around sunset.


Other neighborhoods in Panama City: El Cangrejo, El Valle De Anton, The Causeway, Casco, Bella Vista, La Exposicion and Los Angeles.

By Jason O'Rourke
Jason O'Rourke is an adventure travel writer, with a background in the entertainment industry. His travel began in High school after winning a...
06 Oct 2011

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Things to do in Casco Viejo

Presidential Palace

123585Nicknamed "Palacio de las Grazas" after the African herons that stalk its grounds, this modest but beautiful building is the office of Panama's president. The street is quite heavily ...
Historical Building
Casco Viejo , Panama City, Panama

Plaza Bolívar

123586Away from the bustle of Lima’s downtown lies the green park of Plaza Bolívar, flanked by three of Lima’s more interesting museums. Travel back 8,000 years as you peruse the Pre-Columbian ...
City Plaza
Casco Viejo , Panama City, Panama

Iglesia de San Francisco de Asis

123587This cathedral was one of the original structures from Casco Viejo. It was ravaged by fire in 1737 and again in 1756. The cathedral was restored in 1998, and is now one of the most striking churches ...
Historical Building
Casco Viejo , Panama City, Panama

Teatro Nacional

123588Fronted with busts of famous writers, this cultural center hosts operas, plays, ballets and performances of all types. The building is about 100 years old, and is decorated with frescoes by Roberto ...
Historical Building
Casco Viejo , Panama City, Panama

Plaza Francia

123589This plaza is part of a monument honoring France's contributions to the construction of the Panama Canal. There's often a delightful breeze blowing through, and from the end of the walkway you can ...
City Plaza
Casco Viejo , Panama City, Panama

Plaza de la Catedral (AKA Plaza de la Independencia)

A great place to start on a walking tour of Casco Viejo. This plaza marks the spot where, on November 3 1903, Panama declared its independence from Colombia. Although pleasant, the plaza in not a ...
City Plaza
Casco Viejo , Panama City, Panama

Museo de Historia de Panama

Museo de Historia de Panama is a small museum featuring paintings, artifacts and models detailing the history of Panama City. The focus is on colonial history. There are also temporary exhibits. It ...
Casco Viejo , Panama City, Panama

Iglesia Compania de Jesus

Iglesia Companía de Jesús is a beautiful old church which, as of July 2008, was locked up for restoration. It's still worth walking by the check out from the outside, however, and should be ...
Historical Building
Casco Viejo , Panama City, Panama

Antiguo Club Union

This ruin was once an elegant neoclassical building. It was constructed in 1917 as the posh Union Club. It was later transformed into an officer's club for the Panamanian army. Apparently, it was ...
Casco Viejo , Panama City, Panama

Tiger's Hand Bastion (Mano de Tigre)

This crumbling ruin is one of the last remaining sections of Panama's 17th-century fortifications. As a historical site, it's not particularly impressive. As of July 2008, a homeless man was living ...
Casco Viejo , Panama City, Panama

Iglesia San Jose

Although this church dates back to 1677, it has obviously bee restored. The interior feels quite polished and new. It's worth a visit to see the spectacular baroque golden altar. Apparently, the ...
Historical Building
Casco Viejo , Panama City, Panama
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