Panama City: a crossroads of cultures and history
Panama City, the vibrant capital of Panama, is a metropolis where history, modernity and a mosaic of cultures meet. Situated at the intersection of two oceans and two continents, this cosmopolitan city offers a unique experience, blending the old and the new, the traditional and the contemporary.
A journey through history
Founded in 1519 by the Spanish, Panama City is one of the oldest cities built by the Spanish on the American continent and the first on the Pacific coast. Quickly declared a Royal City under the reign of Charles V, “The Most Noble and Loyal Our Lady of the Assumption of Panama” – its original name – quickly became one of the most prosperous ports in the New World. Coveted by pirates and privateers for centuries, Panama City is a treasure trove, a testimony to the great history of Latin America.
Attractions and activities
This historic quarter, the heart of old Panama City, is an architectural marvel. Stroll through cobbled streets lined with colourful colonial buildings, discover picturesque squares and visit iconic sites such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, with its imposing façade, and the Presidential Palace, guarded by sculpted toucans. Art galleries, craft shops and charming cafés offer pleasant breaks between visits.
The Panama Canal
Visiting the Panama Canal is a must. At the Miraflores Locks Visitor Centre, watch ships navigate through the locks and learn how this engineering marvel transformed world trade. The on-site museum features interactive exhibits that tell the fascinating story of the canal, from its construction to its impact today.
The Amador Causeway
This long jetty, built from rocks quarried during the creation of the canal, is the perfect place for a bike ride or a walk. It offers panoramic views over the town and the canal, and is home to restaurants, shops and even an aquarium. The Causeway is also a starting point for excursions to the islands of Panama Bay, where you can enjoy quiet beaches and water sports.
Designed by Frank Gehry, this colourful, avant-garde museum focuses on Panama’s biodiversity and its role in the global ecosystem. Through its exhibits, the Biomuseo illustrates how the Isthmus of Panama emerged from the sea to connect two continents, changing the planet’s biodiversity. It’s an educational and visually impressive experience.
For an immersion in local culture, Panama City’s artisan markets are a must. The Mercado de Artesanías de Balboa, for example, is the ideal place to find unique souvenirs, colourful molas, wood carvings and other handicrafts. These markets are also an opportunity to meet local craftspeople and discover Panama’s artistic traditions.
Read our article: The Art of the Mola, When textiles tell the story of the Kunas
Modernity and urban dynamism
In contrast to its historic quarter, Panama City’s modern city centre is a spectacle of glittering skyscrapers, luxurious shopping centres and gourmet restaurants. The famous Panama Canal, a marvel of modern engineering, links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and is a must-see for visitors.
Gastronomy and Nightlife
Panama City’s cuisine is a blend of local and international flavours. Seafood is a must, with dishes such as Panamanian ceviche. The city also boasts a vibrant food scene, ranging from street restaurants to high-end establishments. Panama City’s nightlife is equally vibrant, with a multitude of bars, clubs and lounges reflecting the city’s cultural diversity.
Nature and adventure
Within easy reach of the city, visitors can venture into national parks such as Parque Nacional Soberanía, a paradise for hikers and birdwatchers. The Pacific beaches, just a short drive away, offer opportunities for surfing, diving and relaxing in the sun.
Panama City is a destination that fascinates with its unique blend of history, modernity and cultural diversity. Whether exploring its rich heritage, enjoying dynamic urban experiences, savouring its delicious cuisine or venturing out into the surrounding nature, Panama City promises an unforgettable experience for all travellers.
Photos: Visit Panama & Promtur
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