Have your trip to Panama planned with a professional!
Are you ready to explore the charming and historic Casco Viejo neighborhood in Panama? As a travel blogger, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring the area extensively and I’ve put together this guide to help you make the most out of your trip. From its stunning colonial architecture to its vibrant nightlife and delicious food, Casco Viejo has something for everyone. So grab your walking shoes and let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Things to Know About Panama Before Traveling There
💰 Currency: The official currency in Panama is the Balboa. One Balboa holds the same value as one US dollar. Panama recognizes the US dollar as official currency. If you have USD or a US credit/debit card, you can easily use it here without the hassle of an international fee.
🇵🇦 Language: The native tongue here is Spanish, however, as a tourist you will find that being conversational or even limited in Spanish won’t hinder you from having an amazing time!
In the city, you’ll find that many locals are bilingual or can comprehend root words of the English language. In my experience everyone is super helpful and kind and willing to try and understand you even if a language barrier presents itself.
If all else fails, pull out your google translate app.
Depending on where you dine in Panama City and Casco Viejo you will find that some menus are not available in English, but upon asking you might be able to get one.
Again, I would refer to a translation app if you have no experience with the Spanish language at all.
🚗 Getting around: You won’t have to worry about transport in Panama, its similar to the options you have available in America. Along with public transport like a bus, in Panama you can use Uber, Cabify and Easy Taxi to get around!
There are 14 direct flights from the United States to Panama. Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, New York (La Guardia), Newark, Boston, and Washington, D.C.
☀️ When is the best time to visit: Between December and March is considered the dry season and a great time to visit the country’s cities and beaches, in my opinion.
🚑 Insurance: It is always a good idea to protect your investment in travel. Whether you get sick, lose your phone, anything could happen during your vacation and having travel insurance gives you the peace of mind you need to have a safe and successful trip. Get a quote
Discovering the Charms of Casco Viejo: A Guide to Panama's Historic District
Casco Viejo, also known as Casco Antiguo or San Felipe, is the historic district of Panama City, Panama. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its beautiful colonial architecture, vibrant nightlife, and lively atmosphere. Casco Viejo is a popular tourist destination and attracts visitors from all over the world who come to explore its narrow streets, historic buildings, and local markets. The district offers a variety of activities, from visiting museums and art galleries to trying out delicious Panamanian cuisine in its many restaurants and cafes.
Getting to Casco Viejo: Transportation Options for Travelers to Panama City's Historic District
There are several ways to get to Casco Viejo when you arrive in Panama. Here are some of the options:
- Private transfer: You can arrange for a private transfer from the airport to Casco Viejo through your hotel or a local transportation company. This is a convenient option if you have a lot of luggage or want to travel in comfort.
- Taxi: Taxis are readily available at the airport, and you can negotiate a fare to Casco Viejo with the driver. It’s best to confirm the price before getting into the taxi to avoid any misunderstandings.
- Uber or other ride-sharing apps: Uber and other ride-sharing apps are available in Panama and can be used to get to Casco Viejo. However, you’ll need to have access to a mobile data connection or Wi-Fi to use these services.
- Public transportation: If you’re on a budget, you can take public transportation to Casco Viejo. There are buses and a metro system that connect the airport to downtown Panama City, and from there, you can take a taxi or walk to Casco Viejo.
- Rental car: If you plan to explore more of Panama outside of Casco Viejo, you might want to consider renting a car at the airport. However, keep in mind that traffic in Panama City can be chaotic, and parking in Casco Viejo can be difficult to find.
Things to Do in Casco Viejo
Casco Viejo is one of the most charming and vibrant neighborhoods in Panama City, known for its colonial architecture, vibrant street art, and rich cultural history. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful stroll, cultural immersion, or nightlife, this neighborhood has something for everyone. Below, we’ll explore some of the best things to do in Casco Viejo, Panama, to help you make the most of your trip to this historic neighborhood.
Here’s a list of things to do in Casco Viejo:
- Visit the Panama Canal Museum: Learn about the history of the Panama Canal and its significance to the country’s economy.
- Explore the San Felipe Neri Church: This historic church is a beautiful example of colonial architecture and offers stunning views of the city.
- Walk along the waterfront promenade: Take a stroll along the Cinta Costera and enjoy the scenic views of the Pacific Ocean.
- Visit the Presidential Palace: This historic building is home to Panama’s president and offers guided tours to visitors.
- Check out the local art scene: Casco Viejo is home to several art galleries and studios featuring works by local artists.
- Enjoy the nightlife: Casco Viejo has a vibrant nightlife scene, with numerous bars and clubs offering live music and dancing.
- Try the local cuisine: Sample traditional Panamanian dishes such as ceviche, sancocho, and arroz con pollo at one of the area’s many restaurants.
- Visit the Plaza de la Independencia: This historic square is home to the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Antigua, a stunning example of Spanish colonial architecture.
- Take a walking tour: Join a guided walking tour to learn more about the history and culture of Casco Viejo.
- Relax in a rooftop bar: Enjoy a cocktail and stunning views of the city from one of Casco Viejo’s rooftop bars, such as Tantalo or CasaCasco.
Best Dining Options in Casco Viejo: A Food Lover's Guide
Casco Viejo is a gastronomical hub, and it offers a wide range of dining options that cater to all kinds of food lovers. From international cuisine to local Panamanian dishes, there is no shortage of options for anyone looking to have a great meal. The area is home to some of the best restaurants in Panama City, where you can indulge in a culinary adventure.
Casa Catedral is a MUST when you visit Casco Viejo! I celebrated my birthday here once and had an amazing time! It’s home to more than 400 years of history, with classic cars and stunning around surrounding you as you dine. Conventiently located, diagonally to the Museum of the Interoceanic Canal, in the heart of the Old Town of Panama.
Feeling for Italian? Look no further than Madre Cucina Italian. They offer authentic Italian dishes with fresh ingredients. You have to try their Rigatoni Trombette dei Morti and the Pizza al Tartufo.
Casa Blanca is a must in Casco Viejo, you’ll find them in middle of the historic center by Plaza Bolivar. Offering fusion cuisine with seafood, meats, and traditional Panamanian food.
You have to try their patacones a la Morgan, that comes with fried plantains for you to dip into a seafood dish with white sauce.
Tantalo is a hotel, restaurant, and rooftop bar all-in-one. Here you can enjoy Tantalo’s food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast for around under $15, and an average lunch or dinner for $20 to $25.
Blue Moon Taphouse is perfect for those looking for a mix of North American and Latin American cuisine. They have everything from beer, to burgers and wings. I love their black empanadas, that come with shrimp and a a side of pineapple chili pepper sauce.
Discover the Best Shopping Destinations in Casco Viejo
Casco Viejo is often compared to the “Soho of Latin America” due to its charming local shops, galleries, and boutiques. It’s a great place to support local businesses and shop for unique finds.
A walk through Casco and you’re bound to find tons of cute local shops and boutiques! Some of my faves are….
Galeria de Arte Indigena is a gallery and shop in Casco Viejo with an amazing selection of indigenous handicrafts from the Panamanian rainforest. They have everything from Embera baskets, to hammocks, Panama hats (imported from Ecuador), jewelry, and even embroidered cloth and shoes made with local Panama designs and fabrics.
Mitchelle Q. Joyería in Casco Viejo is an amazing designer known for modern yet organic one-of-a-kind jewelry! You can buy her hand made pieces locally. Many of her designs incorporate recycled elements.
Mamitas is a gem, founded by local designer offering Gisela Sanchez offering vintage clothing that you can purchase online too! You can find them at Calle 6, across from Diablo Rosso in Casco Viejo.
The Emerald Museum or Museo de la Esmeralda located at Plaza Catedral is great for jewelry. You can order online too.
Super Gourmet in Avenida A & Calle 6 in Casco Viejo is great for grabbing gourmet Food!
Where to stay in Casco Viejo
I highly recommend the American Trade Hotel! The staff is exceptional, rooms are divine, and the building’s history is awe-inspiring. The hotel team did a phenomenal job renovating the building and bringing luxury to old town.
is a boutique hotel and hostel located in the heart of Casco Viejo, the historic district of Panama City, Panama. Offering comfortable and spacious deluxe private rooms in their restored French colonial mansion.
The Central is the most luxurious hotel in the Casco Viejo, sitting in a handsome 19th-century neoclassical building overlooking Plaza de la Independencia. There’s a rooftop pool with gorgeous bay-and-ocean views, plush rooms and a destination restaurant serving Argentinean steaks. Roosevelt stayed here during the construction of the Panama Canal. The hotel has been renovated since, and won a design award for its 2017 refit. Decor is bright and modern in creams and dark woods. Suites come with French windows opening onto large balconies.
With exposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling balcony windows, polished wood floors and strong blocks of color offset by warm pool lighting, Las Clementinas is a modern, urban boutique housed in a balcony-fronted early-20th-century building. There’s a zippy bar serving great cocktails and comfort food, and a tranquil inner garden courtyard. But the best feature is the rooftop sun terrace, with wonderful views over the tumbledown terracotta of the Casco Viejo and the boat-filled bay to the modern Panama City skyline.
Final Thoughts on Casco Viejo
I hope this travel guide has given you some insight into the many wonders of Casco Viejo, Panama. From its rich history and architecture to its vibrant culture and dining scene, this neighborhood truly has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or simply seeking a beautiful place to relax and explore, Casco Viejo will not disappoint.