Panama City Overview
Panama's capital city is a cultural meeting point, a treasure trove of historical sights and a jumping-off point for rainforest adventures (not to mention lazy days on the beach). You can take a step back in time among the evocative iron balconies and atmospheric streets of the Casco Viejo or enjoy the cosmopolitan Downtown of Panama City -- a thriving business hub that offers waterfront views and extremely cheap shopping opportunities. Not many cities in the Americas feature this kind of clash between the old and the new, fusing fascinating historical sights with all the contemporary amenities that visitors require. And there are plenty more attractions around the city that are well worth exploring. Visit the Panama Canal to see one of the world's greatest engineering achievements, walk out to the Amador Causeway for superb views of the city, find out about Panama's incredible natural riches at the BioMuseo or head to galleries like Diablo Rosso to see some of Central America's most dynamic talents. You might also think about getting out for an excursion. With nearby beauty spots like the Isla Contadora or the colonial town of Portobelo, there are plenty of options to consider.
Things to Do
Panama City offers a wide range of attractions and activities, blending art, food, scenery, nature, history and shopping into one unique package. Whether you are travelling with kids or as a couple, you'll find plenty of ways to fill your time. Sure, it's a cliché, but this is a city that truly has something for everyone.
See one of the greatest engineering achievements in the world
The Panama Canal is an engineering miracle, and the people of the city are rightly proud of hosting it. The Canal is mainly well above sea level and requires some remarkable equipment to allow ships to pass. Find out all about it at the excellent Miraflores Locks Visitor Centre.
A great destination for history fans
A walking tour around the Casco Viejo area is an absolute must. Dating back to 1673, it actually succeeded an earlier version of the city which was torched by pirates, but the authorities did a magnificent job with the rebuild. Don't miss Plaza Bolivar, which is a great place to dine or listen to street musicians.
A mouth-watering gourmet treat
You can also take Panama City food tours (which also tend to stick to Casco Viejo), allowing another key aspect of the modern city to unfold. Check out hip craft breweries, gourmet coffee roasteries, chocolate made from Panamanian cacao and the city's divine ceviche (a kind of raw fish salad).
Calendar of Events
Panama City is a cultural magnet for the Central American region and hosts plenty of superb events throughout the year. Here are some highlights.
The Panama Jazz Festival. Taking place in venues across the city in late January, the Panama Jazz Festival is easily the region's biggest jazz music event, regularly attracting Grammy-Award-winning musicians.
Carnival. Every year around Ash Wednesday, Panama City becomes a serious party venue, with endless street festivities, colourful outfits and the opportunity to be soaked by water cannons, which is a signature of the event.
International Film Festival Panama. March and April is the time to catch the latest Latin American film releases at IFFP. The films are great, but they are matched by the chance to watch them in the beautiful Teatro Balboa: a cinema palace created by the Canal Company in the 1950s.