Casco Viejo is not only the oldest district in Panama City, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site that needs to be preserved for all its rich splendor and history.
Located on the southwestern end of Panama City, The Casco provides views of the Panama Canal entrance on the Pacific Ocean side. This old district full of grand houses and abandoned buildings, has a very rustic appeal and is home to a vibrant community full of people from all walks of life. Founded in 1519, Casco Viejo now holds the title of being the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of South America. The district features excellent examples of Spanish Colonial architecture which dominated the 16th and 17th century. It is truly a historical gem worth seeing. Nowadays, Casco is still undergoing renovations and redevelopment. All of which are done following strict guidelines to preserve the district’s historical integrity.
When you explore Casco Viejo, you will find a neighborhood made dynamic because of the presence of many different cultures. Walk around the cobbled street of Casco Viejo and you will be charmed by its historical buildings, beautiful plazas, pretty gardens and friendly people. The district’s plazas are favorite social spots for both tourists and multicultural residents.
Some of the most prominent plazas include Plaza Bolivar, Plaza de Francia, and Plaza de Cathedral. These plazas are simply ideal hangout areas when it comes to soaking in the night and culture. At the entrance of the district sits the Fish Market, locally known as El Mercado del Mariscos. You will find a magnificent display of all the fresh seafood catch of the day. Weekends are especially busy in this market but it is a great place to see locals in action.
The district has a number of notable buildings but one prominent one that you should definitely visit is the Presidential Palace, also called Palacia de la Garzas or Heron’s Palace. The Santo Domingo church and convent ruins is another prominent tourist landmark in this colonial old quarter. The site’s major feature is its flat arch, which serves as an excellent example of masonry construction and design.
If you are a fan of museums, then the Panama Canal Museum makes a great stopover during your Casco Viejo tour. Set in a magnificently restored building that faces the Plaza de la Cathedral, the museum features impressive exhibits depicting the historical and political importance of the canal. Other prominent landmarks in Casco Viejo include Casa Museo Endara, History Museum of Panama and the Metropolitan Cathedral.
After exploring the city on foot, you will find it easy to locate a cafè or restaurant in the area to relax in or have a nice meal. In fact, the district is considered to be home to some of the best eateries in all of Panama City. And you will not only find South American dishes being served here as you can also enjoy various cuisine like sushi, tapas and Italian. If you prefer street food, there is no shortage of local snacks and vendors selling them. Accommodation is varied in the district. You can spend your nights in luxurious hotels or rental apartments tucked in old buildings or save more money by staying in basic yet clean hostels.