Quest’s World of Wonder – Panama City, Panama

Richard Quest, an English journalist best known for his reporting on CNN, recently launched a new video series called Quest’s World of Wonder, where he travels the globe to explore interesting places and meet fascinating people.

Quest’s World of Wonder – Panama City, Panama

Traveling is not just about seeing places with the most likes or getting iconic photos. It’s about finding a city’s DNA, meeting people who share its secrets. It’s about making discoveries that wow you and make you feel like a child again.

Quest’s World of Wonder – Panama City, Panama Trailer

Watch Quest’s World of Wonder – Panama City, Panama full episode here.

On Quest’s World of Wonder – Panama City, Panama, the 23-minute episode starts with the following Édgar Ramírez quote:

Panama is a country that’s been dealing with issues of identity since its very birth…

Following the quote, viewers see images from the Panama Canal, Portobelo and Panama Viejo while Richard Quest narrates:

Through the morning mist, it all becomes clear. A land so rich, so perfectly positioned between oceans Atlantic and Pacific; so advantageous, conquerors have sought possession for centuries. The place where life’s colors are rich and the water is the life blood of Panama City.

Quests World of Wonder Panama Viejo

 

Quest embarks upon his journey to Panama City, Panama at the mouth of the Panama Canal.

As Quest travels along the Panama Canal under the Bridge of the Americas, he comments that:

I’ll admit before this trip I knew very little about Panama City, besides the obvious; the eponymous canal, the dictator General Noriega and the scandal of the Panama Papers.

Now I want to understand the DNA of this place, and I quickly realize the isthmus of Panama is, of course, a bridge; a land bridge between North and South America, a water bridge between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and a cultural bridge bringing together all societies.

As a result, Panama is in the middle, and that’s created an identity crisis here… Who and what are the Panamanians?

Quests World of Wonder Panama Canal

 

Richard Quest in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Quest proceeds to explore Casco Viejo, where he tries on various Panama Hats and visits a variety of points of interest belong to the Casco Viejo walking tour.

Quests World of Wonder Panama Hat

Quests World of Wonder El Arco Chato Casco Viejo Panama

Quests World of Wonder Casco Viejo Panama

Quests World of Wonder Casco Viejo Panama City Panama

Quests World of Wonder Santa Maria La Antigua Basilica Cathedral Casco Viejo Panama

Casco Viejo Panama Quests World of Wonder

Watch Quest’s World of Wonder – Panama City, Panama full episode here.

Casco Viejo Museums

Founded by the Spanish in 1519, Panama City is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas that has been continuously occupied since its establishment.

The original city center was located in Panama Viejo for 152 years. Following a series of slave rebellions, fire and pirate attacks, the city center was moved in 1673 approximately 7.5 kilometers southeast to the area known today as Casco Viejo. The relocated town, positioned on a small peninsula at the foot of Ancon hill, had better access to water and, more importantly, could be fortified. Casco Viejo’s morphological conditions were advantageous for military engineers during the construction of a city wall, which prevented direct naval approaches by an enemy. While in Casco Viejo, check out Las Bóvedas. Las Bóvedas, or The Vaults, is the name commonly used to refer to the structures that form the walls that surround the Plaza de Francia, or France Plaza. The monumental complex consists of seven vaulted spaces that made up the city’s defensive system.

Casco Viejo as a Museum

Casco Viejo, Panama’s modern day historic district and home to an array of hotels, restaurants and bars, could be considered a museum itself. Its narrow streets, colonial facades and colorful residents make any trip through Casco Viejo a unique, exciting experience. Check out 10 unique things to do in Casco Viejo.

Declared a UNESCO protected district in 1997, Casco Viejo is home to several buildings that are important for Panama’s 17th-20th century heritage. Take a walking tour of Casco Viejo to discover them all. Amongst the various structures, the most notable are the churches, especially the cathedral with its five aisles and timber roof, as well as San Felipe Neri, San José, San Francisco and La Merced, which features a well-preserved colonial timber roof. All are included within the Casco Viejo walking tour.

Casco Viejo Panama

View from Magnolia Inn’s 3C

Present-day Casco Viejo is characterized by a unique blend of 19th and early 20th century architecture inspired in late colonial, Caribbean, Gulf Coast, French and eclectic (mostly Neo-Renaissance) styles. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, building styles underwent significant changes, though spatial principles were fundamentally preserved. Casco Viejo’s layout, a complex grid with streets and blocks of different widths and sizes, is an exceptional and probably unique example of 17th century colonial town planning in the Americas. These special qualities, which differentiate Casco Viejo from other colonial cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, resulted from the construction of the railroad (1850-55) and the canal (1880-1914) that linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Museums in Casco Viejo

While in Casco Viejo, check out the following museums.

Panama Canal Museum

The Panama Canal Museum, or Museo del Canal Interoceánico de Panamá in Spanish, is a non-profit museum open to the public in Casco Viejo Panama. Located within Plaza de la Independencia on Calle 5a Este, it showcases the history of the construction of the Panama Canal and the efforts that were made to construct the canal, including the first time canal construction that was attempted (but then abandoned) by the French. The Panama Canal Museum traces the history of the construction by the United States and the transfer of its control to the Panamanian government.Panama Canal Museum

The building that houses the Panama Canal Museum is historically significant. Constructed around 1874, it served as the original headquarters for both the French Canal Company and the United States Isthmian Canal Commission. In 1912, the building served as Panama City’s Main Post Office.

The Canal Museum is filled with planning materials and interesting artifacts from the construction. Photos, site plans and much more are on display. The construction was an engineering feat for its time and placed the republic of Panama on the map. The entire museum is signposted in Spanish, and there are English speaking guides available, as well as audio tours that you can purchase for a small fee. Admission is free to Panamanians and legal residents on Sundays.

Panama History Museum

The Panama History Museum, or Museo de La Historia de Panamá, is housed within the Demetrio H. Brid Municipal Palace, located in front of the Plaza de la Independencia, diagonal to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama. The Municipal Palace is the seat of the mayor’s office and the council of the municipality of the district of Panama.

The Municipal Palace’s current structure, designed in the neoclassical style by Italian architect Genaro Ruggieri, who also designed the National Theater of Panama, was inaugurated in 1910. The colonial structure that stood prior to the current Municipal Palace was the Cabildo, or Town Council, that existed during the Spanish colonization. Despite the building’s relatively new construction, Panama’s Municipal Council is the oldest government institution on Tierra Firme of the American continent, initially founded in 1510 by Diego de Nicuesa in Santa María la Antigua of the Darién province and transferred to Panama City in 1519. The independence of Panama from Spain and from Colombia were declared during the Town councils of 1821 and 1903, respectively. The original acts are located within the Manuel A. Guerrero Session Room. The property was restored around 1975.

The current Panama History Museum was inaugurated in 1977 on the building’s second floor. The museum is framed in the context of the country’s history during the colonial period (1501 – 1821) the departmental period (1821 – 1903) and the republican period (1903 – present). The first Panamanian flag is housed within the museum, made by María Ossa de Amador, wife of Manuel Amador Guerrero, who also played a decisive role during the movement that led to the proclamation of the Republic of Panama.

Endara House Museum

Endara House Museum, or Museo Casa Endara, located on Avenida A and Calle 12, is the former residence of Panama photographer Carlos Endara. The building’s construction was completed in 1910, and has been beautifully restored. The museum opened in November 2008 and houses a selection of photographs and objects of Carlos Endara. A must for those interested in photography!

Museum of Religious Art

The Museum of Religious Art, located on Calle 53 Este, is part of the Santo Domingo Convent, which belongs to the list of 18 museums that are managed by the National Historical Heritage Office of the National Culture Institute (INAC). The Museum of Religious Art is Panama’s only colonial religious museum, featuring primarily visual arts from the 16th and 17th centuries and offering insight into Panama’s religious art history.

Casa Góngora

Casa Góngora, located on the corner of Avenida Central and Calle 4a Este, is the 17th century home of Paul Góngora Caceres, a Spanish pearl merchant. Casa Góngora is one of Panama’s oldest houses and an incredibly important piece of Panama’s colonial history. The house was originally constructed around 1760 and was restored in 1998-99. During the renovation, much of the original woodworking from the 17th century, including ornate doors, balconies and armor, was all kept in their original nature. The home is now owned by the government of Panama and it is the site of regular artist exhibitions featuring prominent Panamanian artists.

5 Little Known Facts about the Panama Hat

The Panama hat is an icon of Panama. They keep the sun off your face in an incredibly stylish fashion, as well as being a perfect souvenir for your loved ones back home.

The Panama hat has been around for over 100 years. Theodore Roosevelt and his team proudly sported their Panama hats upon returning from Panama in 1906, during which they visited the Panama Canal construction.

 

Theodore Roosevelt using a Panama hat

US President Theodore Roosevelt using a “Panama hat” at the opening of the Panama Canal

 

Later, the glamorous style of the 1940s put these hats on an even more visible pedestal. Throughout history, people from all walks of life, including presidents, artists, and politicians, have sported Panama hats. Household names throughout the 20th and 21st centuries have used the Panama hat, including Humphrey Bogart, Orson Welles, Gary Cooper, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, Paul Newman, Alberto Santos Dumont and celebrities of today like Johnny Depp, Sean Connery, Kevin Spacey, Madonna, Monica Bellucci, and Javier Bardem, among many others.

 

Gregory Peck holding a Panama hat on the set of To Kill a Mockingbird

Gregory Peck holding a Panama hat on the set of To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Robert Redford wears a Panama hat in the Great Gatsby in 1974

Robert Redford wears a Panama hat in the Great Gatsby in 1974

 

Following are 5 facts that you may not have known about the famous Panama hat:

1. The Panama hat is made entirely in Ecuador

This fact usually tops the list of Panama hat facts. Though it may no longer be “little known”, it’s a fun fact to share since many people still believe that the Panama hat is made in Panama, an easy assumption to make!

Panama hats are hand-woven in Ecuador by craftsmen hailing from the cities of Cuenca and Montecristi. These hats became known as “Panama hats” due to their massive export from Ecuador to Panama during the 19th century, promoted by Manuel Alfaro y Gonzalez and his wife during the construction of the Panama Canal. Legend has it that Manuel Alfaro y Gonzalez provided the hat that Theodore Roosevelt was photographed using during the Panama Canal inauguration on the condition that he said that the hat had been made in Ecuador, which did not happen. To make the Panama hat’s origin even more unclear, the hats were exported worldwide from Panama, leading people to associate them with their shipping origin rather than their manufacturing origin.

Creating a Panama hat includes over 30 steps, from the selection and harvest of the toquilla straw to the tightness of the weave. The two most common weave patterns for the Panama Hat are the Brisa and the Cuenca. Read more about Panama hat weave patterns here.

2. The Panama hat is made from toquilla straw

Toquilla straw comes from the leaves of the toquilla palm, whose scientific name is “carludovica palmata”. The plant is grown on the Ecuadorian coast, mainly in the province of Manabí. Farmers cultivate the toquillales and harvest the stems before separating the fiber from the outer skin. This is boiled to remove chlorophyll and dried for bleaching. Using this fiber, weavers produce the pattern, the crown and the brim of the hat and complete the process by washing, bleaching, oven treatment, ironing and pressing. Weaving a hat can take from one day to eight months, depending on its quality and finesse.

3. Not all Panama hats are equal

Though no industry-wide grading systems and standards exists for Panama hats, everyone can agree that quality can greatly vary among hats and sellers. Buyer beware… One seller’s grade 10, for example, can vary greatly from another seller’s grade 10.

A Panama hat’s quality is determined by a variety of factors, most notably the straw and the weave.

  • The Straw: In general terms, the finer, the more identical, and the more evenly colored the straw, the better the quality of the hat.
  • The Weave: The denser the weave and the more even they are, the better the quality of the hat.

Oftentimes, hats are categorized as “Montecristi fino” or “Montecristi superfino” and so on. Some manufacturers and retailers supply numbered grades, such as 1-20, but, as previously mentioned, these aren’t universally recognized terms.

The best way to measure the fineness of a woven hat is to count the rows of weave per inch (or 2.5 centimeters), first horizontally then vertically. Read more about Panama hat grades here.

The finest Panama hats have over 2,000-4,000 weaves per square inch, taking the hat maker between four and eight months to produce. Taking into consideration the time and skill involved, these hats will not come cheap.

4. Panama hats come in a variety of styles

A Panama hat’s style is determined by two primary characteristics: the shape and size of the brim and the crown.

The most common Panama hat styles are:

Fedora Panama hat

The Fedora style rose to fame during the 1940s, being the hat of choice in a variety of classic films, including Casablanca and Key Largo. It remains the most popular style today, and includes a variety of variations.

Panama Hat in Casablanca Humphrey Bogart Ingrid Bergman

Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman using a Fedora Panama hat in Casablanca

 

Anthony Hopkins using a Fedora style Panama Hat in Hannibal

Anthony Hopkins using a Fedora Panama hat in Hannibal

 

Optimo Panama hat

The Optimo is the classic Panama hat style, called the Natural in Ecuador. The Optimo gained popularity among British travelers and expats while traveling the tropics of countries like India, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Even today, the Optimo style is more popular in the UK than in the US. Like the Fedora, the Optimo comes in a variety of styles.

Peter O'Toole using an Optimo Panama Hat in the Last Emperor

Peter O’Toole using an Optimo Panama hat in the Last Emperor

 

Gregory Peck using an Optimo Panama Hat

Gregory Peck using an Optimo Panama hat

 

Monte Carlo Panama hat

The original Planter style, as immortalized by Clark Gable in Gone With The Wind. Charlton Heston wore a very wide brim version in his portrayal of a South American plantation owner in Naked Jungle.

Nowadays, the most common interpretation of this style is usually called a “Gambler”. Since most of them are shaped on a hat press, the outer edge of the brim turns up a bit.

 

Panama Hat in Gone with the Wind Clark Gable

Clark Gable using a Monte Carlo Panama hat in Gone With The Wind

 

Panama Hat in The Naked Jungle Charlton Heston Eleanor Parker

Charlton Heston & Eleanor Parker using a Monte Carlo Panama hat in The Naked Jungle

 

5. The finest Panama hat ever woven has an estimated value of $100,000

In 2008, B. Brent Black commissioned the finest Montecristi hat ever woven, also known as “The Hat”. It took master weaver Simon Espinal, who lives in the village of Pile in the Montecristi Canton of Ecuador, five months to weave, and four more weeks for five more artisans to do their parts to finish it.

100000 dollar Montecristi Panama Hat

“The Hat”

Where to Get Ice Cream & Popsicles in Casco Viejo Panama

Panama City is the ideal spot to take advantage of a cold treat. The Republic of Panama, located on the isthmus linking Central and South America, has a tropical maritime climate, where the daily high is around 32° Celsius (or about 89° Fahrenheit) and the daily low around 25° Celsius (or about 77° Fahrenheit). Panama is also very humid, especially during the rainy season, which runs from May to December, where the humidity is around 80%. Get for your skin, but not so great for those that tend to overheat (or suffer from frizzy hair).

So, after being embraced by Panama’s heat and humidity for over a decade, what’s the best way to cool down? From the inside out!

While in Casco Viejo, check out the following shops where you’re guaranteed to find a delicious, refreshing treat.

Ay Mi Negra

Website: http://ayminegra.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ayminegra/
Telephone: 388-8452
Address: Avenida B, Casa Perez (next to Hotel Tantalo), Casco Viejo, Panama

Ay Mi Negra, boasting over 75,000 followers on Instagram, is a self-proclaimed “exotic dessert bar”, offering a menu of crepes, ice cream rolls and waffle pops. Ay Mi Negra’s most recommended menu items include the Kinder Addict, Mi Otro Amora, María María and the Waffle Pop de Nutella.

Ay Mi Negra prepares their unique, artisinal desserts right in front of your eyes on a cold stone. Though the locale and dessert variety are relatively small, the presentation and flavor combination are on point. The prices are reasonable and the portions are HUGE. Come hungry or ready to share!

Although (and most likely because) the desserts are so delicious, the wait can be very long (depending on the day and time of day)… Anywhere between 20 and 90 minutes.

 

Forever Yogurt

Website: http://www.foreveryogurt.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/foreveryogurt/
Telephone: 228-6756
Address: Av. A Casa Vidal (next to Las Bovedas), Casco Viejo, Panama

Forever Yogurt is a franchise self-serve froyo shop. With over 85 rotating flavors (and approximately 14 at any one time) and over 100 toppings, it’s hard to go wrong! Are you Kosher? Or allergic to gluten? No problem! Forever Yogurt is certified Kosher in Panama, as well as provides options that are gluten free, sugar free and lactose free.

Toppings range from healthy, like nuts and fruit, to deliciously unhealthy, like Reese’s Pieces and Butterfingers.

Buyer beware… Forever Yogurt charges by weight. At 89 cents an ounce, a yogurt can end up costing $15 and upwards.

GranClément

Website: http://www.granclement.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/granclement_icecream/
Telephone: 223-6277
Address: Avenida Central, between Calle 3ra & 4ta (diagonal to Ministerio de Gobierno y Justicia), Casco Viejo, Panama

GranClément serves traditional, gourmet ice cream and sorbets. Founded in 2005 by a French chef glacier (a chef responsible for preparing ice cream and cold desserts) who had relocated from France to Panama.

GranClément’s kitchen values are quality, flavor and tradition. They use only raw materials that are high quality, natural and without any dye or artificial flavoring. GranClément recently added a vegan dairy-free ice cream and a light ice cream (low in fat and sugar) to their menu.

GranClément’s msot popular flavors are Dulce de Leche, Pistachio, Rocky Road and Blackberry.

 

PalettAmerica

Website: http://palettamerica.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/palettamerica/
Telephone: 389-5238
Address: Calle 1era Oeste, Casco Viejo, Panama

PalettaAmerica serves gourmet, 100% natural paletas, or popsicles.

Customers can choose from simple, fruit-based popsicles, like strawberry or kiwi, or opt for a more decadent option, like the “Kit Kat” or “La Colombiana”. The Kit Kat is a gelatto popsicle with a Kit Kat bar inside. “La Colombiana” is a cappuccino-flavored gelatto popsicle. Customers can also make their own in three simple steps… 1) Choose your popsicle, 2) Choose your dipping, 3) Choose your topping.

The most recommended popsicles are Cheesecake, Mojito, Venezolana, Colombiana, S’mores and Mexicana.

 

La Michoacana

Website: http://www.lamichoacanapty.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lamichoacanapty/
Telephone: 398-5990
Address: Av. B 7, Casco Viejo, Panama

La Michoacana has over 110,000 followers on Instagram, as well as countless pictures that will make your mouth water.

La Michoacana’s claim to fame is their popsicles. Options range from healthy, fruit-based to delightfully sinful, where their most famous popsicle is the strawberry filled with condensed milk. In addition to popsicles, they serve traditional ice cream and “raspado”, or shaved ice, as well.

The most recommended items are strawberry filled with condensed milk, mango and chile, watermelon filled with lemon and the strawberry and mango.

 

Rass

Website: https://www.rasspanama.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rasspanama/
Telephone: 389-8577
Address: Calle 8 Este, Casa Morales, Casco Viejo, Panama

Rass Panama is the self-proclaimed first gourmet “Raspadería”, or Shaved Ice Shop, in Panama.

Rass features a variety of natural flavors, including citrus (orange, lemon and lime), pineapple, coconut, strawberry, passion fruit, blueberry, and cherimoya. To liven up your shaved ice, you can add condensed milk, malted milk or molasses.

The counter features a “diablo rojo”, or red devil, a  symbol of Panamanian culture that have been disappearing from the streets. Diablo rojos are school buses from the United States, bought second hand and shipped to Panama, that undergo a makeover to become an extremely colorful, and oftentimes loud, means of transportation.

 

Benissimo

Website: http://benissimopanama.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/benissimopanama/
Telephone: 388-0559
Address: Avenida A Esquina Calle 4ta, Casco Viejo, Panama

Benissimo is a gourmet gelato and coffee shop, featuring 100% natural, hand crafted ice cream. If you’re in the mood for savory, they have options as well.

Unlike some of the other dessert shops mentioned, Buenissimo’s atmosphere is welcoming and cozy. Whether you’re looking to enjoy your sweet treat in peace, to catch up on some work or to have an informal meeting, it’s an ideal spot.

The most recommended desserts are the straciatella ice cream, the brownie gelato and the waffle gelato.

 

Panama City Casco Viejo Walking Tour

Want to get to know Casco Viejo on foot? From Magnolia Inn, visitors are footsteps away from over 30 points of interest, where some date back to the 17th century. Check out the following Casco Viejo Walking Tour, where the Panama Tourism Authority has conveniently placed bilingual explanations (in Spanish and English) at every stop.

Casco Viejo Walking Tour

  1. National Theatre (Teatro Nacional)
  2. Saint Francis of Assisi Church (Iglesia San Francisco de Asis)
  3. Bolivar Palace (Palacio Bolivar)
  4. Bolivar Plaza (Plaza Bolivar)
  5. Saint Philip Neri Oratory (Oratorio San Felipe Neri)
  6. Palace of the Herons (Palacio de las Garzas)
  7. Former Saint John of God Complex (Antiguo Conjunto de San Juan de Dios)
  8. Saint Anne Plaza (Plaza Santa Ana)
  9. Saint Anne Church (Iglesia de Santa Ana)
  10. Municipality House (Casa de la Municipalidad)
  11. Our Lady of Mercy Church (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de La Merced)
  12. Tiger’s Hand Bulwark (Baluarte Mano de Tigre)
  13. Boyaca House (La Boyacá)
  14. Herrera Plaza (Plaza Herrera)
  15. Saint Joseph Church (Iglesia San José)
  16. Society of Jesus (Compañía de Jesús)
  17. Municipal Palace (Palacio Municipal)
  18. Santa Maria La Antigua Basilic Cathedral (Catedral Basílica Santa María La Antigua)
  19. Main or Independence Plaza (Plaza Mayor o de la Independencia)
  20. Interoceanic Canal Museum (Museo del Canal Interoceánico)
  21. Gongora House (Casa Góngora)
  22. Flat Arch (Arco Chato)
  23. Saint Dominic Complex (Conjunto de Santo Domingo)
  24. Colonial Religious Art Museum (Museo de Arte Religioso Colonial)
  25. Charles V Plaza (Plazoleta Carlos V)
  26. National Institute of Culture (Instituto Nacional de Cultura)
  27. The Vaults (Las Bóvedas)
  28. France Plaza (Plaza de Francia)
  29. Panama Canal Memorial (Monumento al Canal de Panamá)
  30. Esteban Huertas Promenade (Paseo Esteban Huertas)
  31. Soldier’s House (Casa del Soldado)
  32. Ministry of Government (Ministerio de Gobierno)

Casco Viejo, Panama City’s Old Quarter

Panama was founded on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in 1519, and was the first Spanish city on the America’s Pacific coast, as well as the oldest capital established on mainland. After an attack in 1671 by the infamous English pirate Henry Morgan, Panama’s capital city was moved 8 kilometers away to what is now known as Panama La Vieja. The main buildings were constructed within a protective wall, which was mostly demolished in the 19th century.

After Panama’s separation from Colombia in 1903, the city’s streets were paved, water and sewer systems were implemented and new buildings were built. Following the creation of new suburbs, like Chorrera and Arraijan, many inhabitants left the city. By 1950, Casco Viejo’s deterioration and abandonment were obvious. However, by the end of the 20th century, the area had turned back in to the city’s historic center.

#1 – National Theatre (Teatro Nacional)

The National Theater, located in the heart of Casco Viejo next to the Church of San Francisco and the Plaza Bolivar, is a representative work of Panama’s neoclassical architecture. Prior to the theater’s construction, the site was occupied by the former convent of the Cloistered Nuns of the Embodiment until 1862, when the government of General Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera made it a military barracks.

The theater was designed by Italian architect Genaro Ruggieri, with a style of Italian operetta theater. Its construction was ordered by Act 52 of 1904. It opened on October 1, 1908. The theatre can accommodate 853 people.

National Theatre Casco Viejo Panama

*image credit newsroompanama.com

#2 and #3 – Saint Francis Complex

#2 – Saint Francis of Assisi Church (Iglesia San Francisco de Asis)

The temple and convent of Saint Francis of Assisi caught fire in 1737 and 1756. Though the structures were rebuilt, they were abandoned in the 19th century. The temple was remodeled in 1918, which altered the facade and interior, as well as greatly increasing the height of the bell tower. Becoming deteriorated, the temple was restored, and consecrated in 2016.

Iglesia San Francisco de Asis Casco Viejo Panama

*image credit Soy del Casco

#3 – Bolivar Palace (Palacio Bolivar)

The former area of the convent is now occupied by the Bolivar Palace, which is home to Panama’s Ministry of Foreign Relations. Delegates met at this site in the 19th century to negotiate the union of the Americas, which was unsuccessful. Panama’s first constitution was also approved here.

Palacio Bolivar Casco Viejo Panama City Panama

#4 – Bolivar Plaza (Plaza Bolivar)

Built in 1756 following a devastating fire in that left the block devoid of building, Bolivar Plaza was originally called Saint Francis Plaza, named after the church located in front of it. The current ensemble was inaugurated in 1926 in honor of Simon Bolivar, and includes the sculptures “The Architect of Nations” and “Father of American Freedom”, created by Mariano Benlliure. The monument to Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, located on Panama City’s Cinta Costera, was also sculpted by Benlliure. Balboa is credited as the first European that saw the Pacific Ocean (or South Sea) from the Panamanian Isthmus.

Plaza Bolivar Casco Viejo Panama City Panama

*image credit Trip Advisor

#5 – Saint Philip Neri Oratory (Oratorio San Felipe Neri)

Affected by the fires of the 18th century, the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri was handed over to the Saint Vincent of Paul Charity in 1875, who built the building that now hides its facade.

The temple was renovated in 1913, during which the original walls from 1688 were conserved. The Oratory’s prized possessions are its colonial pulpit, its 2-level wood choir and its 14 Stations of Cross, made from enameled glass. The nave’s moving tombstones date back to the 19th century. Its large Nativity scene is on permanent exhibit.

Oratorio San Felipe Neri Casco Viejo Panama

San Felipe Neri in 1875. Photo by Eadweard Muybridge. Part of Vicente Pascual’s collection.

#6 – Palace of the Herons (Palacio de las Garzas)

The Palacio De Las Garzas (Palace of the Herons), or Presidential Palace of Panama, is the official residence of the President and a governmental office. Built in 1673, the palace is home to large African herons, who were gifted to the palace in 1922 during the presidency of President Belisario Porras.

Serving as the home for the Spanish governor during the 17th century, the home has been remodeled a few different times over the course of its history. In 1922, the largest renovations were completed under the management of architect Leonard Villanueva-Meyer. A courtyard, a ‘Moorish’ room, and two new towers were added. It is fun to note that in 1934 an elevator was added for a visit from United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt so that he could get to his bed chambers during his stay. The Salon Amarillo (Yellow Room) is the room where most of the formal events are held. It is widely considered to be one of the most important rooms at the Presidential Palace of Panama. The Salon de los Tamarindos (Tamarind’s Room) is the dining room of the President and it is named for its beautiful murals which were completed by Panamanian painter, Roberto Lewis. Lewis was inspired by his visit to Taboga Island and loved the tamarind trees he saw there.

Panama’s current president, does not live at the palace residence, but several of the Presidents of Panama have lived here.

Palacio de las Garzas Casco Viejo Panama

*image credit presidencia.gob.pa

#7 – Former Saint John of God Complex (Antiguo Conjunto de San Juan de Dios)

The order of Saint John of God occupied an entire Panama City block, which included a convent, a church, a courtyard, a cemetery and an infirmary that attended male patients. In 1862, the area was sold at auction and divided into small private estates. Today, the complex site is home to a school and private residence.

#8 – Saint Anne Plaza (Plaza Santa Ana)

Saint Anne Plaza, located in the heart of the Santa Ana neighborhood, is located on Casco Viejo’s highest point. Decades ago, when Santa Ana was the city center, the plaza was the scene of political rallies, riots and popular fairs.

Originally, the plaza was an empty space, but was was transformed into a closed park with paths, benches and trees in 1892. A gazebo was built in the middle between 1920 and 1922. Santa Ana’s heyday took place during the first 30 years of the 20th century, when hotels, cinemas, shops and cafeterias appeared around the plaza. The Grand Hotel was located there, as well as the famous Cafe Coca Cola.

The neighborhood went into decline over the years, but is now it is experiencing a renaissance and has become the anteroom of the Historical Monumental Complex of Casco Antiguo.

plaza santa ana casco viejo

*image credit La Prensa

#9 – Saint Anne Church (Iglesia de Santa Ana)

The Saint Anne Church was built to honor Saint Anne, the Virgin Mary’s mother. It was consecrated in 1764, and, following a fire, was rebuilt in 1854. Further renovations were made during the 20th century, which gives the church its current appearance.

The Saint Anne Church was declared a national historic monument in 1980.

iglesia santa ana casco viejo panama

*image credit La Prensa

#10 – Municipality House (Casa de la Municipalidad)

The Arias Feraud mansion stands opposite the Our Lady of Mercy Church, known today as the Municipality House. This building was one of the first to be constructed in Casco Viejo, and was originally intended to be a residence, though the bottom floors were commonly uses as shops. The mansion stands atop the site of the original city gate to the walled city. The gate, which closed daily at nine o’clock, was accessible by a wooden drawbridge, which was later replaced with stone.

Considering the city’s rapid growth, the wall was almost entirely demolished in 1856.

Mansion Arias Feraud (1881), Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

*image credit Flickr sminor

#11 – Our Lady of Mercy Church (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de La Merced)

The Our Lady of Mercy Church is Casco Viejo’s only church that maintains its original wooden roof and columns, dating back to the Spanish colonization. The impressive baroque facade was transported stone by stone from its original site, which was abandoned after an attack in 1671 by the infamous English pirate Henry Morgan. The temple’s four bells, located within the right tower, can turn 360 degrees, allowing for great sonority and beauty in its range of tones.

Our Lady of Mercy Church is home to a pipe organ possessing 1,032 tubes, all housed within an antique 18th century armoire. The Our Lady of Mercy museum features valuable objects of worship, a large nativity scene on permanent display and the city’s oldest parish archive.

Iglesia de la Merced Casco Viejo Panama

#12 – Tiger’s Hand Bulwark (Baluarte Mano de Tigre)

The Tiger’s Hand bulwark, or “Baluarte Mano de Tigre” in Spanish, was part of Panama City’s land-based defensive wall, which was demolished in 1856. Following the wall’s demolition, the Tiger’s Hand bulwark was sold “up to and including the outer wall of the dry moat”. Later, several wooden houses were erected in the area, including the Boyacá in 1890.

baluarte mano de tigre casco viejo panama

*image credit lacabanga.com

#13 – Boyaca House (La Boyacá)

The Boyaca House is a triangular-shaped wooden house located next to the Tiger’s Hand bulwark ruins. The house is named Boyacá after a Colombian gunboat. One of its walls belongs to a section of the colonial city’s second protective wall.

Casa Boyacá Casco Viejo Panamá

#14 – Herrera Plaza (Plaza Herrera)

Originally, Herrera Plaza was a residential block, but was abandoned after a fire in 1781. After the fire, the area was used for celebrations and bullfights until 1928, the year in which bullfighting was prohibited. Following the prohibition of bullfighting, the plaza became what it is today.

  • In the center of Herrera Plaza, 0ne can find an equestrian sculpture of General Tomás Herrera (1808 – 1854), a noteworthy Panamanian from the 19th century.
  • On Calle 10a. Oeste, one can find the former headquarters of the National City Bank (circa 1930), which participated in the financing of the Panama Canal’s construction. The interior has been restored as a banquet hall, featuring floors made from the wood of trees that would have been submerged by the Panama Canal.
  • On Call José de Obaldía, one can find “La Reformada” (1917 – 1921), Panama’s first “skyscraper”. The original building included elevators, a novelty at that time. “La Reformada” was restored in 2013.

Plaza Herrera Casco Viejo Panama

#15 – Saint Joseph Church (Iglesia San José)

This rectangular-shaped Augustinian temple was one of the first to be built in Casco Viejo. Church San Jose was rebuilt after a major fire in 1737 left it in ruins.

Following the passage of a law in 1832 that abolished all convents, the Augustinians left Panama. The church was used as a school chapel until the religious order returned in the late 19th century.

The Golden Altar is the main altarpiece of this temple. The altar was covered with gold leaf in the early 20th century.

More information here.

Iglesia San Jose Casco Viejo Panama

#16 – Society of Jesus (Compañía de Jesús)

The Society of Jesus features the ruins of the Jesuit temple and convent. In 1741, a school was built on its grounds, which became Panama’s first university 8 years later. The university functioned until 1767, when the Jesuits were expelled from all Spanish lands. The church was built after 1749, and was most likely never completed. The building fell victim to a fire in 1781, and then an earthquake in 1882, resulting in even more deterioration.

Society of Jesus Casco Viejo Panama

#17 – Municipal Palace (Palacio Municipal)

The City Hall’s original building stood firm until a large portion collapsed after an earthquake in 1882, after which it was rebuilt. In 1903, Panama’s separation from Colombia was proclaimed here. In 1910, a new building was finished by the new Republic. Two structural groups stand out. To the left is Wisdom (standing) and Commerce (seated). The second set includes Work (standing) and Agriculture (seated).

Palacio Municipal Casco Viejo Panama

#18 – Santa Maria La Antigua Basilica Cathedral (Catedral Basílica Santa María La Antigua)

Originally constructed from wood, the Santa Maria La Antigua Basilica Cathedral initiated services in 1674. In 1688, following a devastating fire, the Cathedral’s masonry foundation was laid, though it was not consecrated until more than a hundred years later in 1796. Its two towers, decorated with mother-of-pearl, were the city’s highest for many years. The Cathedral’s interior has 36 large cross-shaped columns and a simple, elegant wooden altarpiece, which dates to 1791.

Santa María La Antigua was Panama’s first Marian advocation. She was officially proclaimed Patron of Panama in 2000.

Catedral Basílica Santa María La Antigua Casco Viejo Panama

#19 – Main or Independence Plaza (Plaza Mayor o de la Independencia)

The Main Plaza, also known as Cathedral or Independence Plaza, was intended to be the city’s only plaza. It was originally square, but changed to a rectangular shape after fire destroyed two city blocks. The plaza was a wide, open space for many years, used for bullfights, horse races and other events.

The plaza is surrounded by busts of Panamanians who participated in Panama’s separation from Colombia in 1903. A figure of Manuel Amador Guerrero, Panama’s first president, is featured in the center.

Plaza Mayor Casco Viejo Panama

*image credit https://mundopuravida.wordpress.com/

#20 – Interoceanic Canal Museum (Museo del Canal Interoceánico)

Built in 1874, the Interoceanic Canal Museum building was originally the Grand Hotel, which was very modern for its time, including gas lights, bathrooms and indoor plumbing. Later, it housed the main offices for the French and American canal construction efforts. Beginning in 1910, it became the headquarters of several public offices. Then, in 1997, it was refurbished and reopened as a museum.

Museo del Canal Interoceánico Casco Viejo Panama

#21 – Gongora House (Casa Góngora)

Gongora House is the best preserved colonial house in Casco Viejo. Though the exact year it was built is unknown, it has appeared on maps since 1779. The house is named after Pablo Góngora, a pearl merchant that called it home. The house was restored in 1999, and retains its original design of thick walls, large plank doors and a wooden balcony.

Casa Góngora Casco Viejo Panama

#22 – Flat Arch (Arco Chato)

The Convent of Santo Domingo, built in 1678, was one of the first to be founded in Panama. It was ravaged by two fires in the 18th century, which toppled the tower and the interiors. Nevertheless, the walls and arches were maintained, especially the flat arch built to support the wooden choir of the church.

The complex became relevant during the twentieth century because of the construction of the canal since the flat arch served as an example of the seismic stability enjoyed by the isthmus.

Arco Chat or Flat Arch in Casco Viejo Panama

#23 – Saint Dominic Complex (Conjunto de Santo Domingo)

The Santo Domingo church and convent were amongst the first buildings to be built in Casco Viejo. They were damaged by two fires that took place in the 18th century. However, the walls and low arch that supported the wooden choir remained standing. This arch, commonly referred to as “arco chato”, was commonly cited as proof of Panama’s seismic stability during canal negotiations.

Conjunto de Santo Domingo Casco Viejo Panama

Saint Dominic Complex in 1876

#24 – Colonial Religious Art Museum (Museo de Arte Religioso Colonial)

The current location of the Colonial Religious Art Museum used to be a chapel that was constructed after a fire that destroyed the original temple and convent.

Colonial Religious Art Museum Casco Viejo Panama

#25 – Charles V Plaza (Plazoleta Carlos V)

Charles V was Europe’s most powerful monarch during the 16th century. His empire encompassed a total area of approximately 4 million square kilometers (or 1.54 million square miles). It was known as “the empire where the sun never sets”.

In 1534 Charles V requested that the unification of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Panamanian Isthmus be evaluated, a feat that would be undertaken four centuries later with the construction of the Panama Canal.

Plazoleta Carlos V Casco Viejo Panama

*image credit Minube

#26 – National Institute of Culture (Instituto Nacional de Cultura)

The National Institute of Culture building used to house Panama’s Legislative and Judicial bodies. The Latin words for justice and law can be seen on its façade.

Instituto Nacional de Cultura Casco Viejo Panama

#27 – The Vaults (Las Bóvedas)

Las Bóvedas, or The Vaults, is the name commonly used to refer to the structures that form the walls that surround the Plaza de Francia, or France Plaza. The monumental complex consists of seven vaulted spaces that made up the city’s defensive system.

Built in the 18th century, The Vaults got its name from the system of arches or vaults that is supported on columns. A chemin de ronde, also called a wall-walk, was built upon The Vaults during the 19th century.

The space, due to the walls’ great thickness, was used as a barracks and prison. One of The Vaults most prominent tenants was the guerrilla Victoriano Lorenzo, who was shot on May 15, 1903 in front of the Chiriqui Plaza, which is the current France Plaza.

The area was declared a national monument by law No. 2 of January 8, 1920.

Las Bóvedas Casco Viejo Panama

#28 – France Plaza (Plaza de Francia)

The France Plaza area was originally used for military purposes. It was also the site of a prion until the beginning of the 20th century. Around the plaza, visitors can find:

  • National Institute of Culture (1935) – The National Institute of Culture building used to house Panama’s Legislative and Judicial bodies. The Latin words for justice and law can be seen on its façade.
  • Statue of Pablo Arosemena, the fifth President of Panama (1910 – 1912)
  • The Vaults (18th Century) – Used as a barracks and prison.
  • French Embassy (1915) – The French Embassy was constructed where a military building known as The Castle originally stood.

Plaza de Francia Casco Viejo Panama

#29 – Panama Canal Memorial (Monumento al Canal de Panamá)

The Panama Canal Memorial, built in 1921, honors France’s unrealized effort to construct a canal across the Panamanian Isthmus during the 19th century.

  • Five busts pay tribute to the participants that played a part in France’s construction efforts, including Panamanian engineer Pedro J. Sosa.
  • In the semicircular gallery, ten plaques tell the Panama Canal story (in Spanish).
  • Embossed plaque dedicated to Carlos J. Finlay, who discovered that yellow fever was transmitted through mosquito bites, an indispensable discovery to complete the Panama Canal.
  • 18-meter obelisk topped with a French rooster in bronze, which represents hope and faith.

Fun fact: The embossed plaque covers a tunnel opening, which could be opened until just recently.

One can enjoy beautiful views from the Esteban Huertas Promenade.

Monumento al Canal de Panamá Casco Viejo Panama

*image credit Trip Advisor

#30 – Esteban Huertas Promenade (Paseo Esteban Huertas)

The Esteban Huertas Promenade is located on top of the city wall that faced the sea. The promenade is dedicated to the Colombian general Esteban Huertas, who played an integral role in favor of Panama’s separation from Colombia in 1903.

  • The dome, which is currently a theatre, is part of the enclosure where Panama’s Legislature once met.
  • The islands of the Amador Causeway are a breakwater for the Panama Canal. In the past, they served as the city’s docking ports for large ships. Now, the islands Culebra, Perico and Flamenco are home to beautiful walkways, delicious restaurants and the Biomuseo.

Paseo Esteban Huertas Casco Viejo Panama

#31 – Soldier’s House (Casa del Soldado)

The Soldier’s House, or “La Casa de Soldado” in Spanish, constructed in 1910, was the National Museum’s original headquarters. It was refurbished in the 21st century, and is currently home to a cultural center.

This section of the Esteban Huertas Promenade, located on top of what once were Panama’s defensive walls, is now covered by an arbor of Bougainvillea plants, and is also known as Lover’s Lane.

Casa del Soldado de la Independencia Casco Viejo Panama

#32 – Ministry of Government (Ministerio de Gobierno)

Work began on the current building of the Ministry of Government, also called “Palacio de Gobierno, in 1905, where the contract for the neo-Renaissance structure was awarded to the company Duque y Arias. The supervisor of the work was the engineer Florencio Harmodio Arosemena (President of the Republic in 1928).

The first stone was placed on February 13, 1906. The building was completed in 1908, and inaugurated along with the new President of the Republic, José Domingo de Obaldía, on October 5, 1908.

Ministerio de Gobierno Casco Viejo Panama

*image credit La Prensa

Bonus:

Defensive Bulwarks

The Nuns’ Bulwark formerly occupied an area of the city, along Avenida Central. A bulwark is a fortified stronghold used as a platform to attach the enemy. Panama City was surrounded by a defensive wall reinforced by eight bulwarks, with their respective barracks and battery of guns.

Former Union Club

The former site of the Union Club, built in 1917, served as the headquarters for Panama’s social elite until 1969. Following the Union Club’s move to Punta Paitilla, the building housed a military club until 1989. While empty, the structure was used to host parties and as a film location for the movie “Quantum of Solace” from the popular James Bond series. It’s currently undergoing major renovations to reopen as a hotel.

Former Union Club Casco Viejo Panama

10 Best Restaurants in Casco Viejo, Panama (that are relevant in 2018)

Magnolia Inn Hotel and Hostel has been around for over a decade, bearing witness to the rise and fall of many a local restaurant in Casco Viejo. Here’s a list of our top 10 restaurants (that are relevant in 2018).

10 Best, Locally-Approved Restaurants in Casco Viejo, Panama

From Panamanian street food to health-conscious traditional cuisine and everything in between, we’ve got you covered! These restaurants and bars provide you with an array of different experiences ranging from amazing food to magnificence ambiance: including romantic, fun and energetic, as well as calm and relaxed. You can’t go wrong with any choice from this hand-picked list created by Casco Viejo locals… Now you just have to decide what sparks your interest!

Lo Que Hay

Lo Que Hay has become a fast favorite from Casco Viejo locals to high end chefs running the best restaurants in Panama! So why is the food at this pop-up restaurant in such high demand? The answer to that question lies in the chef! Lo Que Hay is run by one of Panama’s most sought-after chefs, Jose Carles, who currently heads an award-winning restaurant called Donde Jose, which serves a ten-course, Panamanian infused menu and requires reservations to be made months in advance. At Lo Que Hay, however, you can skip the reservations and enjoy some local comfort and street food from the famed chef, with his special flare.

Lo Que Hay roughly means “What There Is”. In practice, this means that they freshly cook whatever food they have available and once they are out, that’s it!

Address: Avenida A and 5th Street, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Hours: Wednesday to Saturday: 12-3pm & 6:30-10:00pm; Sunday: 11:00-4:30pm
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fondaloquehay/

 

Caffé Per Due

Are you craving good pizza? How about award winning pizza?! Look no further than Caffe Per Due! Winner of the prestigious People’s Choice Award in Pizza Rock, the largest pizza contest in Panama, Caffe Per Due won’t disappoint!

Caffe Per Due is known for their delicious and authentic Italian food, served right in the heart of Casco Viejo. Well-known for its award-winning Pizza Bianca, Caffe Per Due offers options you won’t soon forget, including appetizers, salads, authentic pastas, and scrumptious homemade desserts; not to mention tasty sangria! For those that are vegetarian or need to adhere to gluten-free diets, you need not worry, Caffe Per Due has a menu that accommodates you!

Meanwhile, the ambiance is enough to make you want to stay awhile in the outdoor seating patio in the back, or enjoy the crisp coolness of the air-conditioned inside. Either way, you can’t lose. So sit down, have a few glasses of your favorite wine with your meal and enjoy!

Address: Located on Avenida A y Calle 3a, Casco Antiguo, Panama City, Panama
Phone: 507.228.0547
Hours: Sunday: 9:30am-10:00pm; Tuesday-Saturday: 9:00am-10:00pm
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/caffeperduepty/

 

Pizza Bianca Caffe Per Due Casco Viejo Panama

Pizza Bianca – Handmade dough, brie cheese, grana padano cheese, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, semi-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, arugula, truffle oil

Super Gourmet

If you’re looking for a healthy and nutritious option for breakfast or lunch, look no further than Super Gourmet! This cool little eatery offers a wide variety of breakfast and lunch options, ranging from pancakes and eggs to sandwiches and salads; add in the fact that they go the extra mile with their organic chocolate, fresh orange juice, homemade hummus and impressive selection of beers and wine, and you know you’ve got something special!

Their food isn’t just focused on being health conscious, however, it’s focused on being delicious, as well! Super Gourmet serves amazing empanadas, a “Panama Jungle Chocolate” pie that is a hands-down winner, and don’t forget to try the arepas with ropa vieja (pulled beef with avocado and vegetables).

The quality of Super Gourmet’s food is not the only thing it has going for it. Super Gourmet has excellent service and prices. So when you visit, you know you’re getting the most value for your meal.

The central location of Super Gourmet (behind the Palacio Municipal), the fact that it’s an American-owned deli, and that it has free Wi-Fi have made it popular with the local expats.

Address: Avenida A between Calle 6 & 7, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Phone: 507.212.3487
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 8:00am – 5:00pm; Sunday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Website: http://www.supergourmetcascoviejo.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/supergpty/

 

Mahalo

Need to beat the heat, traffic, stress, or just need to kill some time? Why not do so in Mahalo’s hidden oasis! The seating in Mahalo’s outdoor patio is amazing, a retreat from the hectic hustle and bustle of Panama City.

Mahalo is nothing if not relaxed. Their purpose is to help you find your inner peace and if that means playing board games with your dog, Skip, while eating some of their avocado toast or thai coconut chicken curry, then so be it!
Mahalo has a refreshing assortment of vegan and vegetarian friendly meals, but that doesn’t mean that they skimp on the meat friendly options. Their fare ranges from yogurt bowls, to salads, avocado toast, curry, sandwiches, and wraps. You’re sure to find something to satiate your appetite on a hot and potentially humid day.

But food isn’t the only thing that Mahalo serves! Mahalo also offers yoga classes and private pilates sessions.

Address: Avenida A between Calle 4 & 5, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Phone: 507.399.3432
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9:30am-10:30pm
Website: http://www.mahalopanama.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mahalo_panama/

 

Aki Sake Bar & Japanese Kitchen

Aki is, by all measures, a Japanese restaurant. It offers Japanese, tapas style plates, with a variety of sake and sake cocktails. However, what makes Aki special is that it does this with a Panamanian twist! Their sushi rolls aren’t your conventional fare, there is distinct Panamanian influence to their menu which will have your tastebuds thanking you! For example, one of their offerings is a sushi roll with sweet plaintain, crab, tuna, and avocado.
But it’s not just the food that will keep you entertained! The ambiance of Aki is wild! There is writing all over the walls, which will keep you preoccupied, if need be. Furthermore, there is eclectic art on the walls that, if you absolutely love it, you can purchase.

In keeping with the amusement, Aki offers trivia night every Tuesday.
Aki has certainly found its niche by offering delicious Japanese food with a Panamanian twist, and it’s working!

Address: Calle 8 between Ave. B & Central, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Phone: 507.397.2381
Hours: Monday-Wednesday: 12:00pm-12:00am; Thursday-Sunday: 12:00pm-2:00am
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/akipanama/

 

Nazca 21

A “gastronomic pleasure”, Nazca 21 is an awesome little Peruvian restaurant that provides excellent food at an affordable price. It is a cozy restaurant that is notoriously never empty, so reservations are highly recommended.

Favorite dishes are theoctopus al carbon, the seafood jalea (a dish prepared with dried seafood from northern Peru), ceviche, and sea-bass Fujimori. Furthermore, the prices won’t break the bank despite the amazing food that you receive.

Address: Calle 8a and Catedral, across from Centro de Salud de San Felipe, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Phone: 507.393.7262
Hours: Sunday: 12:00pm – 9:00pm; Monday – Saturday: 12:00pm-11:00pm
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nazca21restaurant/

 

Tio Navaja

Tio Navaja is an amazing restaurant, but it also contains a delightful upstairs bar called Mula where you can conveniently go for after dinner drinks once the meal has finished! In fact, Mula bar is such a cut above the rest that it’s recommended by other bartenders in the city!

Known for their pork and rice and yucca dishes, Tio Navaja offers a unique twist on well-known Panamanian ingredients to ensure that your tastebuds don’t get bored. But if you’re suffering from a little bit of travel fatigue or just looking for a good burger, they have that, too! Their menu is eclectic, ensuring that you’re bound to find something you enjoy, no matter how adventurous your tastebuds are feeling.

And lest we forget their awesome brunches, complete with thoroughly enjoyable mimosas!

Address: Avenida Central, Between 2nd and 3rd Street East, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Phone: 507.395.1749
Hours: Monday – Friday: 11:00am-11:00pm; Saturday: 9:00am-11:00pm; Sunday: 9:00am-7:00pm
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tionavajapanama/

 

Lessep’s Bistro Cafe

Lessep’s is an adorable French bistro that stays true to the traditional French ‘bistro’ concept. According to its website, Lessep’s is imbued with a sense of Joie de Vivre (joy of living) in the heart of Casco Viejo. According to reviews, diners have experienced this in both the food and service.

Lessep’s only just opened in Summer of last year but has already started to cement itself into the Casco Viejo and Panama City scene for its authentic Parisian atmosphere and delicious French cuisine. You can expect to get such classic dishes as onion soup, foie gras, and the wonderfully cooked steak.

And not to worry, Lessep’s provides the perfect wine list to accompany any item you may choose from the menu.
Don’t feel like a full meal? Lessep’s would be worth visiting for the dessert alone. They are very rich and quite memorable, with special mention going to the profiteroles!

Address: Avenida A & Calle 4, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Phone: (507) 385-2547
Hours: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday: 12:00pm- 10:00pm; Friday and Saturday: 12:00pm-11:00pm
Website: https://www.lessepsbistrot.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lessepsbistro/

 

The Strangers Club

Talk about an interesting origin story! The Strangers Club is the love child of 6 entrepreneurial bartenders, from New York City’s Employees Only, who saved their money and opened The Strangers Club doors in June, 2017. Interestingly, The Strangers Club garners its name from the diversity in Panama City and “providing a platform for hospitality that’s unique to Panama.” It is also a nod to the heritage of Panama, borrowing the name from an old bar in Colon, Panama, known as Strangers Club, which operated from 1920 to 1970.

Stop in and enjoy the comfortable, darkened atmosphere and music one night while enjoying one of their top selling cocktails, the Angie. If you decide to order dinner then can’t go wrong, either, because the food is delicious!
Not a night person? That’s not a problem, there’s brunch every Sunday!

Address: Calle B Avenida Central, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Phone: 507.282.0064
Hours: Sunday: 12-4pm, 6pm-12:00am; Monday – Wednesday: 6pm-2am: Thursday – Saturday: 6pm-4am
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestrangersclubpanama/

 

Tomillo

Tomillo is a tapas-style restaurant that takes classic dishes and puts a modern twist on them which creates flavorful and unique options. Some popular items from Tomillo’s extensive menu include the Tuna Ceviche, Puerco Carnita Flatbread, and Pepperoni Gnocchi. For dessert, there is the famous “Kaboom”, which consists of a ball of chocolate with lemon mousse, vanilla and almond biscuits that the waiter will cause to explode at your table. It is a dining experience that you won’t soon forget!

Food isn’t the only alluring aspect of Tomillo. The restaurant is set within the hollowed-out courtyard of a centuries-old building in Casco Viejo, making it immediately stand out for its casual and romantic atmosphere.
Tomillo is an excellent place to come for the food and stay for the ambiance!

Address: Calle Victoriano Lorenzo, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Phone: 507.202.6873
Hours: Monday and Sunday: Closed; Tuesday-Saturday: 7:00pm-12:00am
Website: http://tomillopanama.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tomillopanama/

 

Panama has some of the most delicious and unique food that the world has to offer due to the cultural diversity that abounds in the city. Take advantage of this hotspot for great food and vibrant atmospheres by visiting some of the restaurants mentioned above for some truly memorable experiences!

Panama & China

Panama – China relations, also called Sino-Panaman relations, made headlines on June 12th 2017 when the Republic of Panama established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, and thereby severed ties with Taiwan.

Jump to the following sections:

Panama had maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan, also called the Republic of China, since 1911, following the Xinhai Revolution that overthrew China’s last imperial dynasty. However, beginning in 1909, Panama had maintained diplomatic relations with the Qing Dynasty.

Panama had maintained uninterrupted diplomatic relations longer than any other country with the Republic of China, whose sovereignty includes the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other smaller islands.

Read more about Panama’s relationship with the Republic of China (Taiwan) below or here.

Panama – China Establish Diplomatic Relations

On June 13th 2017 (June 12th 2017 Panama time), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado in Beijing, China to sign the joint statement.

The official communication released by Panama’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs can be found here.

The translated version is:

Joint Statement Between the Republic of Panama and the People’s Republic of China on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations

In light of the interests and desire of both nations, the Republic of Panama and the People’s Republic of China decide to grant mutual recognition and to establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level, effective upon the date this statement is signed.

The two Governments agree to develop friendly ties between the two countries on the basis of the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-aggression, non-intervention in one of the other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.

The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that there is only one China in the world, the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the only legitimate Government that represents all of China, and that Taiwan forms an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. Today, the Government of the Republic of Panama breaks its “diplomatic relations” with Taiwan, and commits itself to break all official relationships and contact with Taiwan. The Government of the People’s Republic of China expresses its appreciation for the aforementioned position of the Government of the Republic of Panama.

The Government of the Republic of Panama and the Government of the People’s Republic of China agree, in accordance with the stipulations of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and international practice, on the prompt and mutual sending of Ambassadors and to provide, according to reciprocity, all the necessary help for the establishment of the Embassy of the other Party in their respective capitals as well as facilitating the execution of their functions.

With the authorization of their respective Governments, the representatives of both Parties sign the statement in the city of Beijing, on the thirteenth (13) day of the month of June of 2017, in two copies in the Chinese and Spanish languages, both texts being equally authentic.

Juan Carlos Varela’s Message to Panama on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with China

Juan Carlos Varela‘s message to the nation on June 12th 2017, given from the Palacio de las Garzas prior to the actual signing of the Joint Statement, can be seen below or downloaded here.

 The translated version is:

Announcement to the Republic of Panama by the President Juan Carlos Varela on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Panama and the People’s Republic of China. June 12, 2017.

I am addressing the nation today to announce that we have made the decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

Since 2007, I have made my position public that the Republic of Panama should establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Today, as constitutional President of Panama, being consistent with this position, I ratify it because I am convinced that it is the right path for our country.

Therefore, the Vice President and Foreign Minister of the Republic, Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, is in Beijing.

A moment ago, the Foreign Ministers of Panama and China met to finalize negotiations and to sign the Memorandum of Understanding, establishing diplomatic relations between our countries. In about an hour, the joint statement will be signed by which this decision is made public to the world and both Foreign Ministers will address the Press.

Until the Panama Canal opened, the railroad transported the largest volume of cargo per unit of length of all railroads in the world. The existence of the railroad was a key factor in the selection of Panama for the construction of the Canal.

On June 26th 2016, the Chinese ship Cosco Shipping Panama made history by being the first to use the expanded Canal. Today, almost one year after the opening of this great work and the decision to establish relations with China, I see this choice made at random by the Panama Canal Authority as a pleasant coincidence and a point that brought both countries closer.

This step is also an acknowledgment to the Chinese – Panamanian community, which has played an important role in Panama’s economic and social development, participating in all economic, social and political activities of our country, some even reaching important positions in the Panamanian government.

The role of Chinese associations in our country has been of great importance for Panamanian society: they have provided us with a space for a friendly and ongoing exchange between our countries.

To this day, the Republic of Panama lacked diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, a State that alone represents 20% of the world’s population and constitutes the world’s second largest economy. This is a situation that a responsible leader could not continue to allow.

During several administrations, the governments of Panama and China have tried to come together to take this step, but for reasons that are not my responsibility to explain, the negotiations could not be finalized.

The People’s Republic of China has always played an important role in Panama’s economy. Currently, it is the Canal’s second most important user and the Colon Free Zone’s largest merchandise supplier.

Large Chinese multinationals from the logistics, energy, banking, telecommunications, construction and technology sectors have established themselves in Panama, taking advantage of our country for its world-class services and being a gateway to the Americas, which in turn translates into new jobs and training for Panamanians.

The role that the People’s Republic of China plays at a regional and global level is important. Both countries are committed to the connection of an increasingly integrated world, which also creates a whole new era of opportunities for the relationship that we begin today.

With this decision we join the 174 other nations that have recognized Resolution 2758 of 1971 of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Therefore, today, as President of the Republic of Panama, I am confident that the time has come for this relationship to strengthen: Panama and China are developing nations and we share the same views on the importance of globalization and the States’ shared responsibility to make the global development agenda, as indicated within the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, a reality.

Taiwan has been a great friend of Panama and we are very grateful for their friendship and for their cooperation on Panama’s development during our diplomatic relationship.

We will ensure that the process resulting from this decision is seamless and satisfactory. For this purpose, we have appointed a team within the Foreign Ministry to handle this in a constructive way.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between Panama and the People’s Republic of China has great potential for all. For this reason, I have instructed my Cabinet to ready their teams so that Panama can sign the necessary agreements in the short and medium term for tourism, commercial, immigration, agricultural, cultural, educational, maritime and for all other topics beneficial to our people.

We will lay the foundations to build a relationship based on trust, respect and the common good.

Today we have taken a historic step with transparency, based on mutual respect and the permanent search for our peoples’ welfare through international cooperation on the consolidation of social peace in our countries and in the world.

I am sure that this step will benefit our nations, present and future generations.

Looking always with my head held high, I can tell the Panamanian people that we have once again fulfilled our word in the pursuit of the best interests of the nation.

Panama and China Sign 19 Tourism and Trade Agreements

On November 19th 2017, Panama and the People’s Republic of China signed agreements related to trade, agriculture, tourism and the maritime sector.

Varela visited China to witness the signing of these agreements, and was hosted by Xi  Jinping, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, with whom he spoke about bilateral issues and the resumption of diplomatic relations.

Varela said that the agreements coincide with Xi Jinping’s closing message during the Congress of the Communist Party, where he affirmed that “politics is service and the search for the welfare of the people, who own the country’s wealth.”

The economic and commercial agreements formalized “a policy for the promotion of investments, the financing of development projects and infrastructure,” said the Secretary of State Communication.

In addition, “the terms and conditions” were established to facilitate and promote Panamanian exports to China.

Additionally, tourism “will be revitalized” with the inclusion of Panama as an approved and promoted tourist destination, especially given the relaxed visa requirements Chinese citizens.

Varela published the following Tweet on November 17th 2017, saying:

I want to thank President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China for hosting this historic state visit that strengthens the new diplomatic relationship between our nations. #PanamaChina

Flights from Beijing, China to Panama

Panama is soon to add yet another destination to its flight repertoire. As of March 2018, Air China will offer a direct flight between Beijing and Tocumen. The aircraft will be a Boeing 777-300ER (“ER” for Extended Range), considered the world’s largest commercial twin-engine plane, with a capacity of 380 people. The Beijing, China – Tocumen, Panama flight will have a duration of 17 hours and 27 minutes.

Boeing 777-300ER Flights from Beijing China to Tocumen Panama

Boeing 777-300ER in flight

Currently, the longest journey to and from Panama is with Turkish Airlines to Istanbul, Turkey, with a duration of 13 hours and 19 minutes.

During the week of December 18th, representatives from Air China inspected the Tocumen terminal, where the Boeing 777-300ER will land.

History of Panama – Taiwan Relations

The Consulate General of the Republic of China (Taiwan) was established in Panama at the beginning of the 20th century, attending to the isthmus’s Chinese immigrants, which began to arrive in the latter half of the 19th century.

On March 30, 1854, the first group of Chinese laborers arrived aboard the Clipper Sea Witch to work on the Panama Railroad. By the early 20th century, they were already established as a critical player in Panama’s economy, owning over 600 retail stores and playing a crucial role in providing the entire country with provisions.

Read more about Ethnic Chinese in Panama here. Don’t forget to check out the reference section!

In 1922, a diplomatic delegation was founded in Panama City, being elevated to the category of embassy in 1954. The Republic of Panama had established an embassy in the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1933.

The Republic of China (Taiwan) had a cultural presence in Panama, being one of the benefactors of the creation of the Chinese Panamanian Cultural Center – Sun Yat-sen Institute. The Chinese-Panamanian Friendship Park, a symbol of friendship between the two countries, was inaugurated in Panama City in September 1997.

Since January 1st 2001, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Panama had a Free Trade Agreement. In 2005, Taiwan exported to Panama approximately 26 million dollars worth of goods, whereas Panama exported to Taiwan approximately 20 million dollars worth of goods.

As can be seen from the following screenshot, the Republic of China (Taiwan) no longer maintains a presence in Panama.

Taiwan no longer maintains a presence in Panama

Rana Dorada in Casco Viejo – New & Improved!

After three years of restoration, the Rana Dorada of Casco Viejo has finally opened the doors of its new location.Image by Rana Dorada

Situated on Calle 9 Este with Calle Boquete, located just behind Magnolia Inn, the Rana Dorada features inside seating, upscale furnishing and decor, and an expanded menu, as well as valet parking.

The Rana is a perfect place to meet up with friends and have a drink (or two). Read more about their artisan beer here, which include Blanche, IPA, Pils, Pale Ale, Porter, Grand Cru, Coffee Porter and Coco Porter.

Rana Dorada Casco Viejo Restoration

Restoration Efforts. Image by Rana Dorada.

Rana Dorada Casco Viejo

Rana Dorada, Casco Viejo. Image by Rana Dorada.

Panama: The Perfect Choice for Your Next Holiday Vacation

Looking for a vacation destination in the months of December and January? Look no further: Let Panama be your vacation destination!

But why visit Panama when there are so many other amazing places to visit in the world? The answer is easy. Panama is a vibrant country, filled with a passion, spirit, and comfort that is almost palpable.Panama Canal Panama 2017

Although Panama is known mainly for the Panama Canal, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans (which is one of the seven wonders of the modern world) there is so much more to Panama waiting to be explored by the adventurous traveler! However, a visit to see such a wonder is worth the trip alone!

A nice alternative to cold and snowy winters, Panama is warm and tropical during the December and January months. When visiting during December and January, just make sure to pack light. The average temperature in December is 79°F (26°C) and in January the average temperature is 81°F (27°C).  Although, it would be prudent to bring an umbrella, seeing as how Panama is a tropical climate and you’re likely to get caught in a few rain showers (albeit warm ones!)Panama Highlands 2017

Panama is great for people who want to fill their trips with activities. For example, if you’re an avid hiker then visiting Panama during the dry season would be your best bet. The dry season lasts from mid-December until May. Enjoy the experience of hiking in gorgeous rainforests teaming with wildlife in places such as Boquete, El Valle or Cerro Punta. Due to the altitude, however, slightly warmer clothes are recommended.

Or, if you’re a bit more of an adrenaline junkie, December is also a good time to go whitewater rafting in the Chiriquí Province due to the fact that it will be the tail end of the off-season, when rivers are high.Panama-Carribean-2017

Perhaps you’re more of an ocean person? Once you get tired of reading on the beach, you can try your hand at scuba diving or snorkeling. Perhaps you’re keen for a bit of surfing? For the best results and most fun, it is advisable to participate in these activities in the dry season (between December and April) when visibility in the water isn’t interrupted by rain.

Specific Places to Visit in Panama:[1]

The eclectic nature of Panama enables travelers to have experiences that are truly once in a lifetime and provides numerous “can’t miss” opportunities to create unforgettable memPanama Canal Railroad 2017ories.  Here is a list of some amazing activities and trips that would be sure to pique any traveler’s interest:

  1. Panama Canal Railway Ride: The Panama Canal Railway is comprised of an old-fashioned locomotive and runs from Panama City, on the Pacific Ocean, to Colón, on the Atlantic Ocean. It is historically significant due to the fact that it is the original and world’s first trans-continental railway! During the approximately 90 minute ride, visitors are able to enjoy views of the Panama Canal, Gatun Lake, and surrounding tropical rainforest from numerous vantage points along the railway cars.
  1. Monkey Island: Monkey Island is located in Soberania National Park. Soberania is not just home to monkeys, however, it is also known for its plethora of various bird species. In fact, the Audubon Society’s annual bird count once spotted over 500 species in 24 hours! Soberania National Park is full of wildlife and is a wonderful place to watch for a menagerie of animals including monkeys, sloths, eagles, and plenty more. But let’s not forget what caught your eye. The monkeys! You will take a boat to Monkey Island – where you will (most likely) view a variety of different species of monkey. There are reviews of monkeys being extra comfortable cozying up to people,  beautiful landscapes, and even crocodile sightings!
  1. Embera Indian Village Tour: The Embera tribe is comprised of incredibly friendly people who love to show visitors their way of life. They will make you feel welcome in their village and introduce you to their traditional food, music, and dance. You can even hang out for a bit and go for a swim…under a waterfall! And no need to worry about souvenirs, you will also have the opportunity to buy handmade gifts from the townspeople. Reaching the Embera Village is an adventure in and of itself. This   involves traveling up the Chagres River in a canoe and then trekking through    the rainforest. The benefit of such a trek is that you will be up close and   personal with all of the gorgeous splendors that the rainforest of Panama has to offer.
  1. Portobelo: This unassuming little town has a pretty awesome origin story! It was first given the name “Puerto Bello” aka “Beautiful Port” by Christopher Columbus in 1502. As some things do over the course of time, the name Puerto Bello morphed into Portobelo. This fort has had quite the history with pirates! Rumor has it that Francis Drake was buried in a lead coffin near Portobelo Bay after dying of dysentery in 1596. The two most famous pirates to have captured Portobelo were privateer William Parker, who attacked and captured the city in 1601, and Captain Henry Morgan, who captured the fort in 1668. Unsurprisingly, the 18th-century fortifications one sees today were built by the Spanish to protect their gold from pirates. Along with Fort San Lorenzo, the fortifications have achieved UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
  1. Barro Colorado Island: Barro Colorado Island is a unique wonder that no one should miss out on if given the chance to see! The island is run by the Smithsonian Institute of Tropical Research and is a living tropical research laboratory! Now is your chance to see 381 bird species, 102 mammal species and 1,316 plant species, some of which you will not see elsewhere, in a protected habitat, by tour operators with knowledge that far surpasses anything you can imagine. Previously only research scientists were allowed on the island, but now tour operators can take tourists on day trips along its nature trails. Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity!

Casco ViejoCasco Viejo Panama City Panam

One particular jewel in Panama is Casco Viejo, which was founded in 1671, after the Governor at the time, Juan Perez de Guzman, ordered much of the original city to be burned to the ground upon hearing of the imminent arrival of the famous pirate Sir Henry Morgan, who was intent on pillaging and looting the city.

Casco Viejo is a traveler’s paradise.  Not only does it hold great cultural and historical significance, but it is also a thriving hot spot of ingenuity and rebirth in Panama City. One could consider it the heart of Panama. In fact, UNESCO officially recognized it as a World Heritage site in 1997 due to its historical value, significance, and tenacity. While there, one can witness an unusual mixture of Spanish, French, and early American architectural styles that one need not be an architectural buff to find captivating.

Magnolia Inn[2]

One can immerse themselves in the rich history of Panama by staying in one of the hotels in Casco Viejo. One hotel that is particularly impressive is the Magnolia Inn. The Magnolia Inn is a repurposed French Colonial mansion in the heart of Casco Viejo, its foundations dating back to the 18th century and owned by one Señora Rosa Icaza de Briceño, with the final structure being completed in the early 1900s. Feel free to let your imagination run wild with fantasies of what could have been. Panama Viejo, Casco Viejo’s predecessor, was left a raging inferno, compliments of Sir Henry Morgan, a pirate given free rein to pillage and plunder Spanish holdings due to a “letter of marque” from the King of England.

The history of the Magnolia Inn is not the only breathtaking characteristic about the hotel. Despite being located in the historical district, it has all of the modern amenities one could desire. But the real selling point of Magnolia Inn is the remarkable view. The Magnolia Inn is located on a street corner with a balcony that gives one an amazing view of art and architecture which comprise Casco Viejo. It’s truly a sight to see!

A famous saying with regards to Panama is, “The only thing Panamanians take seriously are their holidays.”

Luckily for those traveling to Panama during the month of January, several festivals make the experience worth it!

The Flower and Coffee Festival takes place in Boquete every year in mid-January. This festival is one of the most robust celebrations of flowers in the world!  It draws thousands of people to Boquete for 10 extravagant days of lush flower displays, tasty food stands, live music, amusement rides, and booths filled with handmade crafts. It would be wise to book hotel rooms in advance.

Located in Panama City, Jazz Festival takes place in late January, extending over one 3-day weekend. During this time, Panama City is alive with vibrant jazz performances by renowned international musicians. Tickets to see all of the performances cost a fee; but there are some events which are held outdoors that are open to the public. In order to receive more information about this event, please log on to www.panamajazzfestival.com.

For more information about specific events throughout Panama, please call the ATP tourism board at tel. 800-962-1526, or check out their website at www.visitpanama.com, for more information.

Conclusion:

Panama is a country which contains an adventure for everyone! You simply can’t go wrong with choosing to visit Panama for your next vacation during the December and January months; whether you want to relax on the beach and read a book, hike in the rainforest, go whitewater rafting, have the pleasure of meeting indigenous people and experiencing a culture different from your own, make friends with monkeys, or explore ruins once pillaged by pirates. To make your experience more memorable, you can even stay in one of the historical sites that give Panama its rich and flavorful culture people know and love the world over!

[1] http://panamainfo.com/en/listings-businesses-and-services/tours-&-tour-operators

[2] https://www.magnoliapanama.com/

Panama Black Weekend, September 2017

Panama’s Black Friday 2017, a commercial event organized by Panama’s Tourism Authority (ATP), will take place in September, called Panama Black Weekend 2017, as opposed to the traditional month of November.

Why?

Gustavo Him, head of Panama’s Tourism Authority (ATP), explained that, “The change of Panama’s Black Friday date to September is because September is a historically slow month for trade and tourism, during which purchase behavior needs to be stimulated via offers, in an effort to avoid saturating December, which is traditionally busy due to holiday shopping.”

The measure was agreed on by the stores that make up the 11 shopping centers affiliated with the Panamanian Association of Shopping Centers.