Panama City is the keystone of the Americas. Connecting North America to South, and the Pacific to the Atlantic, it has been named in the top 5 places in the world to retire; deservedly so, with its cornucopia of high rise buildings, beautiful coastline and surrounding rainforest. Modern and cosmopolitan, it is a hub of international trade, tourism and commerce, and its laid back attitude promises a warm welcome to everyone from all corners of the globe.
The city is probably best known for being situated right on the mouth of the Panama Canal, a waterway built in 1914 and a marvel of engineering in its time. Far from being obsolete, the canal has recently been widened to allow larger ships to pass through and remains an important resource for world maritime trade. The Miraflores Visitor Center is only a 20 minute drive from the city and you can watch the colossal ships pass through the locks. You can even stop for a bite to eat at the restaurant – request a balcony so you can watch the action!
Casco Viejo is a picturesque neighbourhood within the city. With ancient buildings, restaurants and bars, just strolling around is a great way to spend an afternoon, bring your camera! The area is being renovated all the time but has kept its colonial charm.
Panama City was the first European settlement along the Pacific, and some of the ruins from the original 16th century buildings can still be seen at Panamá Viejo. Nature lovers should not miss an opportunity to visit the Parque Natural Metropolitano, a 265 hectare forest where you can see monkeys, sloths, anteaters, iguanas and much, much more! Recently tourists have been permitted to go up the crane into the forest canopy for a unique view of the forest, but make sure you book ahead.
Be sure not to visit Panama without talking a walking tour of the city. There is nothing like the knowledge of a local to make you feel at home, especially if they are offering it for free!
Free Walking Tours
Panama Free Tours offer a 2 hour guided walking tour around Casco Viejo, perfect for meeting new people and hearing stories centred around the UNESCO World Heritage site. In high season, travellers are urged to book ahead to guarantee a place on the tour.
Panama City’s historic district also holds many gems for the night owls, to be discovered on this self-guided tour. 1 hour long, it begins at Relic Bar, visiting 4 other bars and clubs before ending at jazz club Las Bovedas. This tour’s route can be downloaded for use offline via the ‘GPSmyCity: Walks and Articles with Offline Maps’ app.
This self-guided tour encompasses 9 of the city’s most iconic examples of modern architecture. The 3 hour trek is well worth it, starting at the Trump Ocean Club and ending at the impressive BBVA tower. This tour’s route can also be downloaded for use offline via the ‘GPSmyCity: Walks and Articles with Offline Maps’ app.