Church of San Jose in Casco Viejo

church of san jose golden altarThe Church of San Jose in Casco Viejo, or La Inglesia de San Jose, is one of the most prominent points of interest in the old city. It is home to the famous Golden Altar. The outside of the building will almost make you think that you are in the wrong place, as its exterior is not nearly as ornate as its Golden Altar inside.

The Golden Altar is actually made of carved wood that was overlaid with gold flake. The Altar de Oro was originally inside a church in Panama La Vieja. Legend has it that when the English pirate Henry Morgan attacked the city, the Jesuit priests in the Order of St. Augustine painted the Golden Altar black to hide the gold from the pirates. Morgan sacked and burned Panama La Vieja and the Order of St. Augustine moved the altar to the new church in Casco Viejo, its present day location. Inside the bell tower is where you’ll find the altar. Also, side altars, also made of hand carved wood and covered with gold flake, are located all about in the church.

Stained glass covers the windows and one in particular, Saint Rita of Cascia, who is the Patron Saint of Lost Causes, is often a glass that is photographed. Tourists are allowed to visit the church and snap photos of the altar, but please be respectful and wear appropriate clothing. If Mass is being celebrated during your visit, please refrain from disrupting mass. You may take photos, but not during the church service.

A short walk from Casco Viejo's Church of San Jose is Magnolia Inn, a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Plaza Bolivar

You’ll likely spend some time sightseeing in Panama City and walking around Plaza Bolivar, a lovely plaza located inside Casco Viejo. It is also called the Plaza de San Francisco, as it is home of one of the largest and most ornate churches in Casco Viejo, Iglesia San Francisco de Asis .

Plaza Bolivar is filled with several restaurants and the monument statue of Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan military leader and South American hero, who was instrumental in leading revolutions against the Spanish empire. It gets very little road traffic making it the perfect locale for cafes and eateries outfitted with large umbrellas on their patios for outside dining. The Iglesia San Francisco de Asis features one of the tallest structures in the plaza, with its towering bell tower.

Located at Avenida B between Calle 3 & Calle 4, the plaza is filled with 19th century architecture, old cathedrals and is one of the most beautiful areas within Casco Viejo, close to Hotel Magnolia.

Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo is a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Bridge of the Americas

bridge of the americas panamaThe Bridge of the Americas, or the Puente de las Americas, or as it was originally called, the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, is an enormous road bridge located in Panama City, which spans the entrance to the Panama Canal / Pacific Ocean.

This magnificent structure was completed in 1962 and was the only NON-SWINGING (oh my goodness just thinking of a swinging road bridge makes us anxious) that connects North and South America until 2004 when the Centennial Bridge was completed.

It is located at Balboa, just near Panama City, and was built by the United States at a cost of 20 million U.S. dollars. It is a key part of the Pan-American highway, and has played a large role in world trade as road traffic through the canal increased. It carried some 9,500 vehicles per day during its beginning and by 2004 that figure had expanded to 35,000 vehicles per day. At that point, planning officials realized there was a great need for another bridge, and Centennial Bridge was constructed to alleviate some of the bottlenecking that was occurring with traffic going over the Bridge of the Americas.

Much like other projects of the Panama Canal construction, the bridge has seen its fair share of protests and dramatic political discourse over the decades. It was to be named the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, after the original ferry that crossed the canal near where the bridge was constructed. The ferry itself, was named for Maurice H. Thatcher, a former member of the canal commission, who had called for legislation to create the ferry. Thatcher was able to cut the tape at the opening of the bridge, however, the name was very unpopular with the government officials in Panama, who preferred the name, “Bridge of the Americas”. The Panamanian officials won the debate and the name was debated by their National Assembly in 1962, just 10 days after the bridge opened. It remained legally named the Thatcher Ferry Bridge until Panamanian control took over in 1979. Postage stamps were even issued showing the engineering marvel with the name, “Thatcher Ferry Bridge”. What’s more peculiar, is Thatcher Ferry Bridge stamps have become even more rare and sought after by stamp collectors because of their known error on one sheet where the bridge is visibly missing – oops!

One can spot Casco Viejo from the Bridge of the Americas, especially on a clear, sunny day. Located within Casco is Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo, a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

National Theatre of Panama

hotels in panama city panamaEl Teatro Nacional or the National Theatre of Panama, inaugurated in 1908, sits on the site of a monastery that dates back to the 1700’s. The theater was designed by Italian architect Genaro Ruggieri, with a style of Italian operetta theater, and opened on October 1, 1908. At the turn of the 20th century, when it opened, it had a luxurious aura and was a destination for Latin American celebrities and governmental elite. It fell into disrepair for some years and at one point in its history was rented out as a movie house.

It saw 2 separate restoration projects, one of the 1970’s and one in the early 2000’s and in 2004 it reopened to visitors. The Neo Baroque architecture alone is worth stopping by for a visit, however you can now take in a show as you could in its heyday. The ceiling features frescoe paintings by Robert Lewis, a well known Panamanian artist.

It is located at Avenida B between Calle 3 & Calle 4, next to the church of San Francisco, and the Plaza Bolivar. It is a part of a cross-shaped building. The other part of the building is the National Palace. Call +507 262-3525 for more details on shows and visiting the National Theatre of Panama. There are multi level boxes available as seating options during shows. Call to find out about on-going performances.

The National Theatre is located walking distance from Magnolia Inn, a luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Frank Gehry’s Biomuseo

biomuseo panama citySitting on its location on the Causeway Islands, you can see the colorful, odd shaped building that is the Biomuseo from various points in the canal.

The Biodiversity Museum, Panama Bridge of Life, designed by celebrity architect, Frank Gehry (his first design for Latin America) is a must see. We have to ask though, “How could you miss it”? Gehry designed it to catch more than your eye.

The Biomuseo sits at the end of the Causeway, facing the Pacific, at the entrance of the Panama Canal. It enjoys panoramic views of the ocean, of the Bridge of the Americas and of cargo ships entering the canal. The construction required new techniques to be engaged, due to the odd, radical shapes and angles that were designed by Gehry for the building. Many of these techniques and types of building materials used were a first for the country of Panama, as reported by the structural engineer of the project, Antonio Amado Diaz. Each panel of the side is painted a different, bright color, paying tribute to the buildings tropical location.

The Biodiversity Museum opened in October of 2014 and is a popular tourist destination inside Panama. It features eight exhibitions which spotlight Panama’s rich biodiversity. The museum also features meeting rooms and rooms where small events can be hosted. Exhibitions tell us more about the origin of the Panamanian isthmus and how it changed and impacted the planet. Eight gallery spaces such as the Gallery of Biodiversity, Panamarama, Building the Bridge, Worlds Collide, The Human Path, Oceans Divided, The Living Web and Panama is the Museum are what these 8 galleries are aptly called. Each wows and respectfully pays tribute to an aspect of nature within the country.

Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo is a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include: 

La Catedral Metropolitana

hotels in panama city panamaLa Catedral Metropolitana or Catedral de Panamá, is one of the largest churches in Central America. Construction was thought to have begun in 1668. The Baroque architecture style is represented in this structure. It was completed in 1796 and in 2003 underwent a massive restoration project. Today it overlooks the Plaza Catedral (Plaza de la Independencia) and is one of the main areas in the historic district Casco Viejo.

There are 2 towers on either side of the main entrance’s wooden doors. The towers are magnificent structures, encrusted with mother of pearl from the Pearl Islands. The interior of the cathedral is vast and gorgeously appointed inside. Its adornment is muted contrasted with its ornate exterior towers. The alter is adorned with marble, however.

Make plans to stop by and tour the grounds, if you are in the area it’s definitely worth a visit. People may go inside the church and read the history. Inside the foyer is a wonderful exhibit area filled with historical items as well as the history of the church and evidence of the important role that Christianity has played in the colonization of Panama.

Located near La Catedral Metropolitana is Magnolia Inn, a luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Panama Canal Museum

The Panama Canal Museum, or in Spanish, Museo del Canal Interoceánico de Panamá, is a non-profit museum that is open to the public in Panama City, Panama. It showcases the history of the construction of the Panama Canal, a vital link in the world shipping trade, and the efforts that were made to construct the canal, including the first time canal construction was attempted (but then abandoned) by the French. It traces the history of the construction by the United States and the transfer of its control to the Panamanian government.

The building that houses it has historical significance in that it was constructed around 1874 and served as the original headquarters of both the French Canal Company and United States Isthmian Canal Commission contractors that were engaged in the construction of the canal. In 1912, the building served as the Main Post Office of the city of Panama.

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.

The Panama Canal Museum is located walking distance from Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo, a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Casa Góngora

A place of significant beauty in Casco Viejo / San Felipe / Casco Antiguo is the 17th century home of Paul Góngora Caceres, known as Casa Góngora. The house was originally constructed in 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.

It is located at Calle 4 & Avenida Central and is open Monday - Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm. It has widely been called one of the ONLY 100% authentic Spanish colonial architecture and building. The Olga Sinclair foundation runs the day to day operations. If you plan to visit, check out the café located in the downstairs area. It’s a wonderful little lunch setting if you have some time, and we hear that the paella is amazing on Thursdays!

Casa Góngora is just steps away from Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo, a luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Presidential Palace of Panama

Magnolia Inn, one of Casco Viejo's boutique hotels, is conveniently located near historical and other sightseeing attractions in Panama City, Panama. Magnolia Inn is minutes from the Palacio De Las Garzas. Plan to stop by and snap some photos of this magnificent palace. The Palacio De Las Garzas, 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.

cuidad panama hotelsServing 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. Foreign visitors are allowed to visit the grounds, and reservations are not required. Flip flops and other very casual dress are generally frowned upon. You can spend hours walking around the grounds and enjoying the views of the colonial architecture and very old streets.

In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of others attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include: