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panama travel and tourism

Casco Antiguo

casco antiguo, the old quarter, panama city, panama

With its picturesque buildings, expansive balconies, churches, ruins, and museums, the historic community of Casco Antiguo has become one of Panama’s most popular tourist destinations. There’s a lot to see and do for such a small place.

Casco Antiguo is also home to numerous upscale bars & restaurants, boutiques, hotels, and souvenir shops, which ensures a steady flow of foot traffic. Street vendors, primarily of indigenous descent, congregate on street corners where they sell paintings, molas, etc.

metropolitan cathedral casco antiguo panama city panama
The Old Quarter

Once the commercial center for the Americas, Casco Antiguo has since lost its economic importance with the expansion of Panama City. However, the area has been experiencing a sort of renewal. Many government and old, Spanish-style architectural buildings have been restored and have beautifully maintained exteriors. The same is true of private residences and commercial buildings.

Casco is known for its beautiful balconies, so make sure you keep an eye out for them. Some of the doors are beautiful, as well. Even those that are old and decaying can be interesting. There is plenty to photograph, so make sure to bring a camera.

The streets are lined with red brick and laid out much like they are in any other city, in the form of a grid. They are a bit narrow, but you should find walking around fun and easy. I must admit that some of the streets do not look overly inviting, but don't let that scare you because the area is extremely safe. The district has a resident police department, and they do an admirable job of maintaining a proper order.

Among the many meaningful structures in Casco, you are most likely to see the following:

  • • Church of the Golden Altar
  • • Convent of Santo Domingo
  • • Ruins of Arco Chato
  • • Las Bóvedas (The Vaults)
  • • Church of San Francisco
  • • Metropolitan Cathedral

If you would like to see more pictures of Casco Antiguo, then we invite you to visit our photo gallery.

a balcony in casco antiguo, panama city, panama
a beautiful door in casco antiguo, panama city, panama
a beautiful door in casco antiguo, panama city, panama
one of the many beautiful balconies in casco antiguo, panama city, panama

Visitors to Casco Antiguo should visit the Panama Canal Museum, situated in front of Cathedral Park, for an in-depth, historical look at the Panama Canal. It contains a wealth of information about the Canal, and the presentation is first-rate. Surprisingly, the descriptive text is only in Spanish, though you can hire a bilingual guide for a very reasonable fee. However, you will need to coordinate that beforehand, which you can do via their website.

Shopping in Casco Antiguo

Most of the stores in Casco Antiguo sell the same products, which is not surprising given the limited number of suppliers. Those products include t-shirts, hats, indigenous crafts, bags, keychains, magnets, hammocks, coffee cups, drinking glasses, assorted clothing, etc. Most of the items are imported, with indigenous craft one of the few exceptions. Generally speaking, the larger the store, the greater the variety. As well, street vendors, primarily of indigenous descent, congregate on street corners to sell paintings, molas, etc.

Indigenous craft from Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Guatemala are common sightings and include hammocks, ponchos, shirts, table cloths, and fashion bags.

There are a few stores that specialize in certain items:

  • For indigenous craft, e.g., bowls, plates, Molas, etc., we recommend Galeria de Arte Indígena (#21). They have the largest selection of handmade crafts from Panama’s Embera and Guna Yala communities.
  • For Cuban cigars, visit La Casa del Habano (#20).

The map below shows the location of all the souvenir stores, in addition to the most frequently visited tourist sites.

Getting to Casco Antiguo

Google Map - Casco Antiguo Google Map - Cinta Costera (Balboa Ave.)

There are no public buses that service Casco Antiguo. If you wish to walk, you can follow the Cinta Costera until it reaches Plaza/Park Centenario; it's not too far from the fish market (Casa de Mariscos). The entrance to Casco is on the far end of the park, where you'll find a staircase. After reaching the top, it's just a matter of crossing the street.

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