DON'T MISS ANY SIGHTS WHILE IN CASCO VIEJO
When you come to visit and explore Casco Viejo make sure to not miss out on any sights. We put together the ultimate list of Sights to Visit such as El Arco Chato, Plaza Bolivar with its historic buildings and charming outdoor restaurants & Iglesia de San Jose and its Golden Altar which was hidden by Captain Henry Morgan below, where you can read about all of them in more detail
If you missed our page of Why To Visit the historic part of Panama City (Casco Viejo), please read more here. And at the bottom of the page you can find a map of Casco Viejo.
Free historical Casco Viejo Tours
The official Office of Casco Viejo "La Oficina del Casco Antiguo" (OAC) offers free guided tours through the historical part of Panama. Take one on Friday or Saturday, leaving Plaza Catedral at 10, 10:30 or 11 in the morning. For more information visit www.cascoantiguo.gob.pa.
Casco Viejo Tour Guides - English & Spanish speaking
Jovany Romero 6603-8567
Costs $35 for English, $25 for Spanish | 2-3 hrs (1-2 PAX) $5 for each additional Person
The Flat Arch/ El Arco Chato & Church of Santo Domingo/ Iglesia de Santo Domingo
The ruins of the church and convent of Santo Domingo is one of the most important monumental colonial Old Town of Panama. The flat arch is part of this church and is known to be a genuine construction of masonry. The Dominican friars began to build their church immediately after the founding of Casco Viejo. But the fire of 1756 burned all the woodwork and the church was not rebuilt - but the flat arch still stood.
The arch "survived" but even more impressive is the fact that this brink arch, spanning a space of 50 feet, 35 feet high at the crown and 25 feet at the spring is so flat that it is said to be an engineering "sport".
This architectural triumph has remained intact, resisting earthquakes and time with no support other than the terminal arches. This fact has puzzled practical architects from all over the world. This old arch also played an important part in building the canal, for the reason that it had remained standing all these years was convincing proof that Panama was outside of the earthquake area, and this fact was a deciding factor in the momentous question of building a lock type canal when the question was being debated as to the feasibility of a sea-level or lock type. Unfortunately, the flat arch collapsed on Friday night, November 7, 2003 but it is has been reconstructed. Currently the ruins of the old church of Santo Domingo are undergoing construction. They will provide a space for cultural and artistic presentations in the future.
The Panama Canal Museum/ Museo del Canal Interoceanico
In a beautifully restored building facing the Plaza de la Catedral is the Panama Canal Museum located. It presents excellent exhibits on the famous waterway, framed in their historical and political context.
Back in the day it was the headquarter of the French canal company. Afterwards the U.S. Isthmian Canal Commission had its offices in there and in 1912 it became the main Post Office. Since 1997 it is the Panama Canal Museum. Signs are in Spanish only but English-speaking guides and audio tours are available for a small fee. Note: Closed on Mondays!
address Plaza de la Catedral, between Calle 6 & Calle 5 -- opening hours 9:30AM - 5:30PM
History Museum of Panama/ Museo de Historia de Panama
Located on the second floor of the Municipal Palace building, the Museum of History presents documents, ceramics, furniture, clothing, weapons, paintings, sculptures and pieces of the colonial period, federal, provincial and republican.
address Plaza de la Cathedral
opening hours Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
price Adults & Tourists $1.00, Children $0.25, Retired $0.50, Student Groups $5.00
phone (507) 501-4128
Casa Museo Endara
The building was built between 1909 and 1910 and was the residence and studio of Carlos Endara, pioneering photographer in Panama. One of the most reliable restoration of the historic center. The museum was inaugurated in November 2008. It has a valuable selection of photographs and objects from Carlos Endara.
address Avenida A and Calle 12
The Fish Market (El Mercado del Mariscos)
The fish market is a white and light blue building with the Japanese and Panamanian flags on the top of the building. The Japanese government donated the new fish market installations. The market can't be missed as it is located at the very entrance of Casco Viejo, just off Avenida Balboa.
In what is one of the most impressive displays of local fish and seafood you'll find anything from fresh yellow fin tuna, shrimp & prawns the size of your hand, red snapper (pargo rojo), mahi mahi (dorado), octopus (pulpo) and much more! Warning: Don't get discouraged by the smell when you approach the market. It is worth it!
The best part is that you can select a fresh piece of fish downstairs and take it upstairs with you to the quaint restaurant where for $6 they will prepare it for you any way you like! Or you can simply order off the menu. But be prepared to wait in line, as this little secret is highly popular among the locals and on any give Sunday afternoon there could be a line all the way the stairs. However, if you find yourself having to wait, make sure you pick up a cup of fresh ceviche from the "Ceviche Girls" downstairs to munch on while you wait. This ceviche is known throughout Panama and at only $1 - $2 a cup, it is a must!
A very authentic culinary experience in Panama.
Plaza/ Parque Bolivar
Known originally as the Plaza de San Francisco in 1883 the city council devoted the plaza to the Liberator: In the center of the plaza is a monument to the Venezuelan general Simon Bolivar, also known as the "Liberator of Latin America," with decorative friezes marking events of his life and an Andean condor perched above him.
In 1826 (4 years before his death) Bolivar organized an independence meeting in a schoolroom opposite of the park urging the union of all Latin American countries. After struggling against the Spanish domination, he finally succeeded in liberating Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Bolivar is respected as a hero throughout Latin America.
This plaza goes back to the 1756 fire, which destroyed the houses that originally stood on this spot. In 1883 the empty lot was named Bolivar Plaza. A monument commemorating the one-hundredth anniversary of Bolivar Amphictyonic Congress was placed in the middle of the plaza in 1926 to coincide with the Pan American Congress of that year.
The Hotel Colombia, across the street from the park, was one of the country's best when it opened its doors in 1937. During the late 20th century the building was abandon but it was renovated in the '90s and converted to luxury apartments. The roof terrace has one of the few pools in Casco Viejo.
This plaza is one of the Casco Viejo's most pleasant spots, especially at night, when people gather at its various restaurants with outdoor seating.
Plaza de Francia
Originally Plaza de Francia was the main square of the city. This plaza is located at the very tip of the peninsula and in the center is an obelisk topped by a rooster, a symbol of the French nation. The 12 slabs of marble outline the history of the Panama Canal. All around are busts of Panamanian engineer Pero J. Sosa and French citizens (most of them were from France and French islands such as Guadeloupe or Martinique) who were prominent in the construction of the Canal. This impressive monument honors those 22,000 workers and engineers who died (due to Yellow Fever & Malaria) trying to build the canal.
Besides the Monument, on this plaza you will find French Embassy, Esteban Huertas Promenade, Anita Villalaz Theatre, The National Institute of Culture Building, and a beautiful view of the Panama City Bay, Bridge of the Americas (Puente de las Americas) and the Amador Causeway. You can also find nine restored dungeons on the plaza which were used by the Spanish.
This plaza originated in the wake of the 1781 fire. It was originally used for bull fights and first known as Piazza del Triunfo. Later, in 1887, being renamed for one of Panama's independence heroes: Panamanian general and statesman Tomas Herrera (1804-54) who declared himself an enemy of dictatorship and held senior positions in the Colombian government during the nineteenth century.
This plaza is up-and-coming with Bohemian bars and restaurants for some nice outdoor dinners and cocktails.
Plaza de la Independencia/ Plaza de la Catedral & The Cathedral Metropolitana
The Metropolitan Cathedral is located on Plaza de la Catedral also known as Plaza de la Independencia which is the heart of Casco Viejo with many events through out the year. It is an important landmark of Casco Antiguo. It has been used as a bullring. By 1890 it was transformed into a park with elements of the French influence. In November 1903 Panama declared its independence from Columbia on this Plaza. It was at that moment that the Republic of Panama was born, with much euphoria.
The cathedral reflects best the Spanish presence due to the buildings dimensions and age. The construction of this building lasted over 100 years.
The Palacio Municipal is also located on Plaza de La Independencia. The palace was the former town hall, but was demolished in 1910. A building with an important history: The proclamation of independence from Spain in 1821 and the separation from Columbia in 1903 happened there. Designed by Ruggieri this historic Neo-Renaissance style building with Greek columns and reliefs of mythological inspiration (Mercury and Vulcan) houses the Museum of Panamanian history.
Plaza de Santa Ana
In the mid-nineteenth century this plaza was used as a market. At the end of the century it was a symbol of economic boom and the cosmopolitan character of the city: there were elegant hotels, bazaars offering fine imported goods, and two of the first theaters in Panama located. During the twentieth century it was the scene of major protests and nationalist. Today it is the steet of the pedestrian mall of Avenida Central.
Note: Do not go there after sunset.
Iglesia de San Jose
This church is located right on Avenida A and famous for the distinctive baroque Altar de Oro (The Golden Altar), which was saved from Panama Viejo and transported into the "new" city. The altar was about the only thing of value salvaged after Henry Morgan sacked Panama Viejo. A priest painted the altar black to disguise it. Almost every weekend weddings are being held there.
address Avenida A and Calle 8
Iglesia de la Merced
This church was already built in 1680 after having been moved, stone by stone, from its previous site in Panama Viejo. The facade is still an excellent example of one of Casco Viejo's oldest buildings. The chapel was recently renovated. This church was the one that kept most of the birth & baptism records of Panama City. La Merced Church also houses a small museum.
address Avenida Central and Calle 9
The Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus
The ruins of the Convent and Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, is one of the most striking once in Casco Viejo. Back in 1667 it was the home of the Royal Pontifical University of San Javier. In 1781 the church was destroyed by a fire and further damaged by an earthquake in 1882. Panama's government restored the ruins of the convent in 1983 but it is again undergoing reconstruction.
address Avenida A and Calle 7
Ministry of Foreign Affairs/ Palacio Bolivar & Iglesia de San Francisco
It is the beautifully renovated colonial building across from Plaza Bolivar, next to the Iglesia de San Francisco. It houses a compass and an amazing the view - all the way to Panama Viejo.
The building was restored in 2000. The documents of the Amphictyonic Congress (organized by Simon Bolivar in 1826 to create a confederation between Columbia, Mexico and Central America) lent by the Brazilian government are on exhibit here.
You can also find an ATM inside of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs!
The old convent of San Francisco next door was abandoned after the fire of the eighteenth century. It was part of important historical events such as the celebration of the Amphictyonic Congress in 1826. This church is one of the original structures of Casco Viejo.
Presidential Palace/ Palacio de las Garzas
Palacio de las Garzas (Heron's Palace), the official name of the presidential palace, named for the numerous herons that inhabit the building. The original building was constructed in 1673.
address Avenida Alfaro, right off the water, facing the Bay of Panama City
The only example of domestic colonial architecture of the seventeenth century. Built around 1760, it is named after Paul Gongora Caceres, a prominent merchant. It was restored in 1998-99 with local labor and they managed to keep the ancient woodworking (doors, balconies, armor). The building retains its original layout and belongs to the Municipality of Panama. There are regular exhibitions of Panamanian artists.
address Calle 4 & Avenida Central
phone (507) 501-5836 (Schedule of exhibitions, concerts and conferences)
visiting hours MO-FR, 9 AM - 4 PM
Club de Clases y Tropas
This is an abandon ruin and General Noriega's favorite hangout. In 1989 it was almost completely destroyed during the invasion.
Both movies, James Bond Quantum Of Solace as well as The Tailor of Panama filmed scenes in this ruin. On the weekends you can find young locals skating here.
address Calle 1a, right at the ocean
Las Bovedas/ Paseo Esteban Huertas
The Paseo Esteban Huertas begins on one side of the former Union Club and ends at Plaza de Francia. It was laid out in 1744-46 on the Chiriqui bastion, a well-preserved part of the colonial city wall. It is a waterfront promenade jutting out into the Pacific. It provides a beautiful view on the Puente de las Americas, the Amador Causeway and all the ships which are lining up to enter the canal.
Las Bovedas is located on a part of the walled city built in the eighteenth century (part of Plaza de Francia). This building which consists of a row of vaulted spaces - hence the name bovedas which means vaults - is part of Panama City's colonial fortification. It was restored in 1983. The Vaults have been used as stores, offices, jail, dormitory and restaurants. Today you can find stores and a restaurant there.
INAC The National Institute of Culture Building/ Culture National Bureau & Anita Villalaz Theatre
The Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panama (INAC) was formerly the Supreme Court building (till 1996). You might have also seen it in a recent James Bond movie (Quantum of Solace).
You can find a small theater (Anita Villalaz Theatre) inside the building hosting various events through the year like theater performances, concerts and conferences. It has two levels (orchestra and gallery). The maximum capacity are 250 seats.
Check our Events Calendar for upcoming performances.
address Plaza de Francia
opening hours 8:30AM - 4:00PM
phone (507) 501-4000, 211-4020 or 262-3525
National Theater/ Teatro Nacional
The National Theater was built between 1905 and 1907 (opened in 1908) and its interior has been completely restored. Mostly red and golden decorations, an impressive ceiling - mural showing muses and people who are important for the country - painted by Roberto Lewis (one of Panama's finest painters) and an enormous crystal chandelier can be found inside. This performance center has an outstanding natural acoustics and provides an intimate performance environment and seating for about 800 guests. It presents a comprehensive program of music, dance and theater.
Check our Events Calendar for upcoming performances or call (507) 262-3525
address Avenida B, between Calle 2a Este & Calle 3a Este
phone (507) 262-3525
Map of Casco Viejo to find your way around