Spanish Colonial architecture, colorful plazas, museums and more fill this UNESCO World Heritage Site, which dates back to the 17th century.
Casco Viejo (the Old Quarter, also known as Casco Antiguo, San Felipe and El Casco) actually isn’t Panama City’s original “old city.” That title goes to Panama Viejo, a settlement northeast of present-day downtown Panama City founded in 1519. But pirate Henry Morgan destroyed that city in 1671, and survivors resettled farther south, on a small peninsula they could build walls around to protect. Filled with Spanish Colonial architecture, colorful plazas, museums, churches, and plenty of cafes, restaurants, hotels and shops, Casco Viejo is quintessential Panama. The neighborhood underwent a major transformation after being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, going from a crumbling no-man’s land to a popular tourist attraction. Snack on empanadas, enchiladas and raspao (flavored shaved ice) from street vendors while strolling the historic streets. At night, join locals in Plaza Bolivar and listen to traditional music while sipping cold beer, then head to one of the many restaurants for dinner—the neighborhood houses some of the best options in the city.
- See all the top sights in Casco Viejo on a guided tour led by the Office of Casco Viejo. The free tours leave from Plaza Catedral and take place Fridays and Saturdays at 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.
- The Panama Canal Museum is housed in the former headquarters of the French Panama Canal Company and U.S. Isthmian Canal Commission. Its detailed exhibits give context to the political and economic implications of the famous waterway. Signs are only in Spanish, but English-speaking guides and audio tours are available for a small fee.
- You can’t miss the Fish Market (Mercado de Mariscos). The smells and displays of fresh fish and seafood wafting from the building dominate the entrance to Casco Viejo and offer a great way to dive into the local culture. Try some ceviche from the “Ceviche Girls” or select a piece of fish and bring it upstairs to the restaurant to have it prepared for you on the spot.
If You Go
Linea 1 metro to Station May 5; Panama Viejo-Av Balboa-Mercado de Mariscos bus to Mercado de Mariscos
Recommended time to spend:
Three to four hours
Where to stay
The unbeatable downtown location of Radisson Decapolis Hotel Panama City boasts several excellent on-site dining options, a rooftop pool, a business center, a full-service aqua spa, and beauty salon. The downtown location provides easy access to shopping, a casino, and the historic Casco Viejo district.
Radisson Hotel Panama Canal provides guests with easy access to Panama’s beautiful beaches, amazing architecture and excellent shopping. The Bridge of the Americas, which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, is within sight from our pristine hotel location.