Casco Viejo – The Jewel of Panama City
Panama City is not the most beautiful place, though, hiding not too far away is the old city, Casco Viejo. With buildings constantly being restored the contrast between the old and the new as an amazing sight. The Spanish influences are around every corner making it the second most visited site in the country.
Getting to Casco Viejo from Panama City
It is quite easy to get to Casco Viejo from Panama City. A taxi will cost less than $5, and when this is split between a group of friends it is quite a cheap ride. Though, if you are looking for something a little more scenic, have a walk along the Cinta Costera. It lines part of Panama City looking out towards the Pacific Ocean and will take you all the way to Casco Viejo in less than an hour.
While in Panama City I stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel. It was quite pricey, but the view from our bedroom made it so worth it! From outside we hired a taxi for $5.00 who brought us right into the heart of Casco Viejo.
There are no costs to enter Casco Viejo and you will realize you have arrived by the presence of army and police personnel (Casco Viejo is considered one of the more dangerous parts of Panama. So don’t freak out about the red hats and guns on display). Though, if you are wanting to visit one of the museums there is a $1-$2 entrance fee.
Around Casco Viejo
The best thing to do around Casco Viejo is simply to walk around and explore the streets. It is such an amazing area and it will keep you busy all day. The architecture and history are amazing. Make sure to visit the many market stalls and take in the atmosphere. Also, make chit chat with the locals and grab yourself a bargain.
Once it’s getting a bit too hot grab some shaved ice from the vendors you will see roaming the city. They will top it with syrup and either powdered milk or condensed milk. It is the perfect way to cool down.
Do not miss visiting the flat arch or El Arco Chato. This is the historical building which seems to be on every post ever about Casco Viejo. Look in awe at the arch which has withstood many earthquakes and constantly astonishes engineers and architects by its resilience.
Another place not to be missed is La Plaza De Francia. It is a French memorial dedicated to the 22000 workers who lost their lives while building the Panama Canal. The majority died from yellow fever and malaria. It has the most amazing views over the ocean and towards Panama City.
After this, if you are with a group of people, head a further out of Casco Viejo and see how the locals live. It is interesting seeing the contrast of such a touristy and restored place. Especially against the worn and falling apart houses just 5 minutes away. Though, I do not recommend you do this alone. When I went my two friends and I were the only gringos in sight.
Do not bother visiting Casco Viejo on a Monday. Many places will be closed including the Church and the Museum.
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