This article highlights the Casco Antiguo or Panama City’s Old Colonial Town.
Many times, I have shared with you the interesting history of Panama (a country that offers way more than the infamous Canal).
One of the notable historic moments of the country is related to a certain pirate named Henry Morgan (he was a fierce pirate even though we remember him for the rum brand). On one of his deadly attacks, Morgan started by seizing the fortified city of Portobelo (on the Caribbean side) and then captured the Fort San Lorenzo (a fort built to protect the mouth of the Chagres River). The pirates used the river to reach the original Panama City (Panama La Vieja). The city ended looted, sacked, and burned.
But that wasn’t the end of Panama City. The Spaniards settled in a peninsula completely isolated by the sea about a mile away from the original founding site. This time they built defensive walls to protect the city from future attacks.
Today, the second settlement of Panama City is known as “Casco Viejo”, “Casco Antiguo” or “San Felipe”. Others know it as the historic or colonial district of Panama. Well, it doesn’t matter how you call this place. What matters is that this is a must-visit destination if you visit the city.
The area exhibits a mix of architectural styles: Caribbean, Art Deco, Spanish Colonial, and even French influences. There are about 800 buildings presenting gorgeous and colorful facades. Since UNESCO declared the quarter a World Heritage Site in 2003, the private and public sectors have been working in restoration and conservation efforts.
Your own body provides the perfect medium to explore the area. Yes, I am referring to your legs. I didn’t find the Casco Antiguo too big. Therefore, an easy walking tour can help you to appreciate the details that make this place unique.
Start by visiting the Main Plaza. If you are arriving by taxi, request to be dropped at “Plaza Principal” (since there are many plazas in the area).
Start by taking a look at the Cathedral and at the Plaza (which is known as Plaza de la Independencia or Plaza de la Catedral, which means Independence Plaza or Cathedral Plaza).
There are many interesting buildings surrounding the main plaza, like the Palacio Municipal (Municipal Palace).
There are museums like the Panama Canal Museum and the Emerald Museum.
The Palacio Bolivar is in front of the Bolivar Plaza. As the name suggests, the plaza contains a monument to the “Liberator of Latin America”. A lot of cute buildings and cafes surround the area.
What I really like about Spanish colonial buildings? The balconies decorated with brightly colored flowers. It brings me back memories of my childhood (when I lived in Puerto Rico).
The Presidential Palace is located in this old part of town (like the Governor’s Residence in Puerto Rico). But this place is not known by the plain name “Presidential Palace”. No. The president’s residence is called the Heron’s Palace.
And you are not going to believe this but actual herons live in the palace (see why Panama and Latin America rocks!). You can see them walking around the front part of the building. I mean you can see them if security is not blocking the view because some foreign dignitary is in town.
There are many more buildings to check out.
There is also a waterfront walkway called Tunel del Amor (Tunnel of Love). It is beautifully covered with vines and flowers. From here, you can take in killer views of the modern Panama City skyline (and I mean killer views for sure).
Towards the end of the waterfront way, you are going to see the Plaza de Francia (French Plaza). The plaza contains monuments to French citizens who were prominent in the Canal construction (remember the Canal was started by the French). Take a look at the rooster, a symbol of France, at the top of the obelisk.
Close to this plaza, you can find Las Bovedas (The Vaults). These were part of the city’s fortifications. They have been used as
jails, offices, dormitories, etc. Nowadays, a restaurant occupies some of the vaults.
The Plaza Herrera was originally used for bullfighting. Today, it is full of cafes, restaurants, and art studios.
The Casco Antiguo has so many details that is difficult to decide where to look.
If you want more information visit the following site:
And of course my last photo today is going to feature the killer views of modern Panama City. Love, love the Casco Antiguo.
A note of caution: It is not my style to tell people how dangerous and unsafe a place is. Now, you are going to hear a lot of stories about incidents in the Casco Antiguo. Let me say it is perfectly safe to walk the streets during the day. However, keep your guard up and don’t get complacent. At night, make sure you know what you are doing and walk with the correct company (if you need to walk around).
Have you been to the Casco Antiguo or Panama?