Looking for the best things to do in Panama City, may be one of your first questions when arriving in this Central American country.
Panama is much more than the city associated with the Panama Canal, money laundering and the famous Panama papers.
And although it is not your typical monumental city, you do have places to see in Panama City.
To also understand its older history, that of its foundation, and its more recent history, that of the Noriega dictatorship and how it impacted the country.
Well, on your trip to Panama, or if you make a stop in the city, know that there are places to see in Panama City.
Also enjoy the palate and its gastronomy.
Skyscraper in Punta Paitilla
Panama’s skyline doesn’t envy any other major city skyscrapers in the world.
Looking out over the Pacific, as ships wait to pass under the Bridge of the Americas, the skyscrapers seem to act as a beacon in the city.
Panama City Skyline from Punta Paitilla
And this skyline keeps growing.
You see dozens of cranes building more and more skyscrapers, both office and apartment.
The Panama Canal gives a lot of money to the country, and you see that in the capital.
Also the skyscraper areas are full of banks, and corporations.
We tried to find Mossack Fonseca’s office, but it seems that they have vanished from the face of Panama.
Another area of skyscrapers is the East Coast area, but I tell you one thing, perhaps the most interesting thing is not walking around in the skyscraper area.
It’s better to see them from the Casco Viejo or from the Cinta Costera, or the views from the highest floor of one of them.
In any case, the best thing about Panama City is not the skyscrapers, even if they are the most spectacular.
At least that’s my opinion.
The Cinta Costera is now a reclaimed area, a boardwalk where people walk, play sports, look at the Pacific.
Walk the just over three kilometers parallel to Balbao Avenue, from the skyscrapers, Punta Paitilla, to the Seafood Market and the Old Town.
Trees, a statue of Nuñez de Balboa, who gives his name to the parallel avenue, the country’s currency, and the most popular beer, in addition to sports and recreational areas make this place a very popular place for Panamanians.
It’s a very nice place, and I think it’s the best way to go to this two points, but there’s a lot more behind this place.
It’s a place with a lot of history, and unfortunately written in blood.
The Coastal Belt area today was an exclusion zone, that is, a single-use zone for Americans.
In 1958 a group of students carried out an action, called “Operation Flag Sowing”, which was nothing more or less than putting Panamanian flags where the American flags were.
A year later the same action was carried out again, but this time there was a violent repression by the United States army, leaving twenty-two students dead.
It was not until 1963 that the United States decided that the Panamanian flag, which had been prohibited until then, should be raised along with the American flag.
Now, that area of the Cinta Costera belongs to the Panamanians, after all, it should always have been theirs.
View of Casco Viejo from the Cinta Costera
I recommend you to do this walk, it is quiet, you can enjoy the view of the Pacific Ocean.
The quiet and pleasant atmosphere of the place.
And the further you go from Punta Paitilla, the more spectacular the skyline of Panama City looks.
The Seafood Market is the place where you have to go to eat.
A strong recommendation.
This market has been reformed, where the fish is still being unloaded, but it has also incorporated food stands
You can see the fishing boats, and pelicans lurking around to get some loot.
There are dozens of food stands, and the food is exquisite.
You can’t leave without trying the ceviche, especially the octopus, patacones rellenos de chupe de marisco.
The latter is no less than the patacones (fried plantains) with seafood cooked in a typical tomato sauce.
Or also male fish and female fish.
Delicious, accompanied by a Balboa or Pacific beer.
You can also pay a visit to the fish market.
The truth is, it all looked really great.
I have to say, we had two meals here, really delicious.
Without a doubt, this Seafood Market is a must see in Panama City.
Casco Viejo (Old Town)
Casco Viejo starts very close to the Seafood Market.
Soon you will see the signs that tell you where to go.
Casco Viejo is a place that right now is in a state of reconstruction, filling with charming hotels, homes where the colonial buildings have been rehabilitated.
If there’s one thing I liked about the Casco Viejo, it’s the number of places there, it reminded me a little of Camagüey, in Cuba.
Squares like Simón Bolívar or Plaza de Francia.
In the first one is the Church of San Francisco de Asís and the National Theatre.
And in the Plaza de Francia, you can see a little bit of the history of the construction of the Panama Canal.
From the decision of the place where it was to be built, as well as the different French engineers, the calamities that caused the yellow fever disease.
And even a reminder to the thousands of people who died during the construction, both Panamanians and foreigners.
Walk through its streets and alleys and enjoy the constant presence of the ocean and the colonial color.
Casco Viejo is a must see in Panama City to get an idea of how the city was centuries ago, beyond the skyscrapers.
The Old Panama is the first settlement of the village, whose first name was Our Lady of the Assumption of Panama.
But because of its unstrategic location, if it were to avoid attacks, it meant a siege by the English pirate Henry Morgan and almost fifteen hundred pirates.
The more than fifteen thousand inhabitants of the city in 1670 had to abandon that settlement and flee to what is now the Casco Viejo.
The pirates razed and plundered everything that was put in front of them.
Today, a tower and archaeological remains remain.
It is located between Coco del Mar and Costa del Este.
Furthermore, it can be seen from the Corredor Sur or the Avenida del Cincuentenario.
We saw it from the taxi on our way to the airport.
I wouldn’t know if it’s worth going there either, since there’s only that, nothing else.
You can go there by taxi, taxi prices are low, so for a few dollars you will see the origin of the first European colonial city in the Pacific Ocean.
From Cerro Ancon, the highest point of the city, crowned by a huge Panama flag, are the best views of the city.
The road to Cerro Ancon is a little more than three kilometers that start at the resort of Mi Pueblito.
Mi Pueblito is a town of houses that aim to show the culture and customs of the three Panamanian cultures; indigenous, peasant and Afro-Antillean.
There are areas of Panama City that are not very safe, so it is better to take a taxi to get there.
Not only in Panama City do you have places to see, but by not going too far, on a day trip you can reach more places, such as the Panama Canal and the Metropolitan Natural Park
This is a place we did not go to see, despite being the icon of the city, the most admired and proudest place of the Panamanians.
Every time some Panamanians asked us if we were going to go there, we said no.
I guess it has to be a spectacular place, even one of the places that engineering lovers would not stop visiting.
But we didn’t have much time, and we felt like getting to know more of Panama City.
In any case, it’s a visit that can take half a day.
Metropolitan Natural Park
Panama in general is quite jungle-like, and the surroundings of Panama City are like that too.
You can see it in the Metropolitan Natural Park.
It is the green lung of this city with quite intense traffic, especially on Balboa Avenue.
In this Metropolitan Natural Park you can see, besides a very diverse flora, fauna such as sloths, toucans, iguanas or marmoset monkeys.
In this Natural Park there are different routes and trails to do.
If you can’t wait to see nature in other places like Boquete or Bocas del Toro, the Metropolitan Natural Park is a very good option as a place to see in Panama City.
To get there, the best thing to do is go to the Albrook bus terminal, and from there take a taxi to the Parque Natural Metropolitano.
How Get around in Panama City
Get around in Panama City Renting a Car
If you want to take a road trip from Panama City to other cities, and have the freedom to visit the country at your own pace, a good idea is to rent a car. Here you can compare the available offers and rent a car at the best price.