If you're looking for a place to stay in Panama City, Casco Viejo is an excellent choice, as it's right at the heart of all the best restaurants, nightlife, and attractions.
I am an avid fan of Casco Viejo (also known as Casco Antiguo) in Panama City, and if you ever get the chance, I recommend you stay in this part of town. It's a refreshing contrast from the hustle and bustle of the city, and it's only a few minutes away from Panama City's Skyscrapers. Yet, it's as if you've been transported to a completely different world.
Casco Viejo is the place to be, as it has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past years. You'll find a mix of renovated Spanish colonial buildings that are now boutique hotels and hostels, rooftop bars, nightclubs, and eateries.
To help you out, here's a guide to all the things you can do, see, eat, drink, and party in Casco Viejo.
In Casco Viejo, accommodations are generally pricey, although there are options for all budgets. If you're looking for a hotel or hostel, I'd recommend the following places to stay in the old town.
Exploring Casco Viejo is a fantastic experience. Optimize your visit by getting help from knowledgeable locals. There are a variety of guides, museums, and unique places to visit that can help you make the most of your time here. Here are a few best activities to enjoy while visiting Casco Viejo in Panama City.
"Museo de la Mola" is a top choice museum among my favorites in Panama. Visiting this place is free of cost! The Museum is a great way to get educated about the Guna Culture and the significance behind their detailed tapestries. It is open from Tuesday to Friday from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 AM to 5 PM. The entrance is absolutely without charge.
The Panama Canal Museum in Casco Viejo is similar to the Museum at the Miraflores Lock. Make sure to ask for English headphones, as most of the information is provided in Spanish. The Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9 AM to 5 PM. You will find the Museum at the Plaza de Independencia, and the Entrance fee is $10.
Walk along Paseo Las Bovedas
When you stroll down this path, you'll discover goods from indigenous molas craftspeople, Panama Hats, painted feathers, wristbands, and other local souvenirs. The pathway is also ideal for a snapshot of the Panama City skyline.
When taking a stroll along the Paseo Las Bovedas, pause at the Cultural Institute of Spain to check out the temporal art display. Admission is without cost.
Diablo Rosso's art gallery has a new display every four weeks and exhibits pieces from domestic and foreign artists. The Gallery is open from 11:00 AM and 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM to 6:00 PM from Tuesdays to Saturdays. Access is free of charge, and the entrance is situated in front of Parque Santa Ana.
If you're looking for a unique experience, why not sample one of the world's priciest coffees? The Geisha variety grown in Panama is a popular choice and can be found at "Sisu" in Casco Viejo for the hefty price of $10. Be sure to enjoy it as is, without adding any milk or sugar, as it doesn't need any extra ingredients. It's unlikely to be an unforgettable experience, but at least you can say you've tried it! If you're feeling adventurous, you can order a "te de cascara," a special tea made from the coffee cherry.
In the past five years, the culinary landscape in Casco Viejo has gone through a dramatic change, making it a destination for food lovers. There are nearly 100 places to eat in the area, and here are some of my top picks to help you make the best selection.
Fonda Lo Que Hay: This eatery's Panamanian dishes are taken to a new level. They craft meals with local ingredients, switching up the offerings regularly to keep things novel.
Restaurante Santa Rita: This tapas-style restaurant in Casco Viejo is one of the best of its kind.
La Barbara: Behind a hair salon is a speakeasy sushi bar and restaurant.
Masa: The Santa Ana Plaza is home to Masa, a new pizza and pasta joint.
Cafe Coca Cola: The oldest cafe in Panama, Cafe Coca Cola opened its doors in 1906. Located at the intersection of Avenida Central and Calle 12 Este, the diner serves up local-style breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily between 7 AM and 11 PM.
Mahalo: Mahalo provides customers with fresh, natural food with many vegetarian options.
Cafe Unido: is an inviting, stylish cafe chain found in Panama. It began in 2014 in the Coco del Mar area of Panama City and has since spread to Casco Viejo, Costa del Este, Marbella, and Multiplaza. Customers can choose from six different types of locally-roasted coffee and a selection of breakfast, sandwiches, and salads.
Sisu: is a top-of-the-line cafe in Panama's Casco Viejo serving the renowned Geisha coffee.
Casa Sucre Coffeehouse is a comfortable hideaway in Casco Viejo, where one can savor the numerous varieties of coffee from Panama and get breakfast and lunch.
Nomé Chocolate: An extraordinary range of chocolate made locally featuring one-of-a-kind tropical flavors. It is situated at the intersection of Calle 11 and Avenida A.
The majority of the nightlife in Panama City has shifted to the Old Town (Casco Viejo), and it is here where one can find the city's modern rooftop bars and vibrant nightclubs. People in the area tend to dress up when they go out in the evening, so you should do the same (no short pants). Here are some of the most popular bars and discos in Casco Viejo.
Pedro Mandinga Rum Bar: This spot in Casco Viejo near Plaza Herrera is a great place to hang out and enjoy the ambiance of Panama. It is the country's first artisanal rum distillery and bar and is the ideal place to spend hours with old friends, savoring the delicious house specialty rum cocktails.
El Viejo Santana: This is a luxurious spot to party with the wealthy people of Panama City, where the music is a mixture of reggaeton and current pop.
Selina Rooftop: Selina is where the trendy individuals of Panama City enjoy their drinks and craft beer. The decor is of tropical chic style, with plenty of plants and brightly colored murals adorning the walls. They host various weekly events, from live salsa music to DJs and acoustic concerts. Additionally, one can stay at Selina to be at the epicenter of the action.
Tantalo's Rooftop is renowned for its unique atmosphere, created by stringed lighting, a talented DJ, a stunning skyline view, and a mix of locals and foreigners. On Tuesdays, they host Artes Martes, which features live art performances, while Wednesdays are Latin Night, Thursdays are Ladies Night, and Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are all about dancing to the latest DJ mixes.
Casa Casco is another popular spot, especially among the wealthy and fashionable crowd.
La Rana Dorada is an excellent choice for those more interested in craft beer since they offer a boat sampler that allows you to try all their house-brewed beers. From 12 PM to 6 PM, Monday to Saturday, you can get half off all craft beers during their happy hour.
Vista Corona is a great place to watch the sunset and toast with a free Coronita beer for all attendees when the sun sets.
La Tana: An energetic nightclub with an alternate motif each weekend.
Buena Vaina Social Club is the ideal place to relish reggaeton music in Panama.
Lazotea: A fashionable rooftop often organizing live music and special activities on the weekend.