Casco Viejo is known for being the historic center of Panama City, where you will be able to appreciate the intact architecture of the site where the city was moved in 1673. In 1997 was included in the list of considered World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. This site was revived and now is one of the most popular places in Panama. Doing a Tour at Casco Viejo is the best way to explore everything in a quick way. If you want to explore the City, the Canal, and Casco Viejo do not miss the opportunity to do a Panama City and Canal Tour. Next, I will explain what are the best things to do in Casco Viejo so that you have an idea and you make the most of your visit to Casco Viejo.
Visit the Colonial Churches
In the Casco Viejo are some of the oldest churches in the entire republic, since they were moved from the old city to this location in the year 1673. It is incredible how many churches have been built in such a small space. Among the most important churches in the Casco Viejo we can mention:
Church of La Merced: It was built in 1680 and still preserves the original facade from its construction.
Church of San José: It was built between 1671 and 1677 and has a golden altar. It is said that the altar was covered in black to save it from the pirates on that time.
Church of San Felipe de Neri: This church was rebuilt in the year 1688. It suffered a fire in 1737, and it was destroyed. It was rebuilt, and then in 1756, another fire occurred. After it was restored a second time, it became the tabernacle of the cathedral.
Convent of the Society of Jesus: This is said to have been the first university in Panama with the name of "La Real y Pontificia Universidad de San Javier" (The Royal and Pontifical University of Saint Javier) until 1767.
Church of San Francisco de Asís: It dates from the 17th century and was destroyed by fires in 1737 and 1756. It was restored in 2016.
Panama Metropolitan Cathedral: This is undoubtedly one of the most emblematic buildings of all Casco Viejo for its architectural structure. A similar one existed in Old Panama, but with the relocation of the city to Casco Viejo in 1673, the need arose to build a new cathedral and the construction lasted 108 years (1688 to 1796).
Visit the Four Main Historic Squares
Casco Viejo is divided by four main squares that were built in areas that were consumed by the different fires that hit the place over the time. In these squares, different historical moments occurred that built the path to what is today Panama. They were used to represent important people and events as a type of tribute.
Independence Square: It has that name because it was the place chosen by the Panamanians of the time when independence from Spain in 1821 and the separation of Panama from Colombia in 1903 took place.
Herrera Square: In 1887 they gave it the name and it was used to make bullfights, an activity inherited from the Spanish.
Bolívar Square: Celebrating the centenary of one of the most important congresses at that time, the name of the square is given by making a monument in honor of the Liberator of America, Simón Bolívar.
France Square: In 1922 it was built to be used to remember the failed attempt of the French in the construction of the Panama Canal. In the square, you can find different busts of people who worked on the Canal. If you want to know more about the Panama Canal do not miss the chance to do one of the Panama Canal Tours available.
Learn about the Culture and the History of Panama
In Casco Viejo, you can also find important museums and spectacular theatres from the colonial era, where you can learn and soak up in the history of the Republic of Panama. Places like this are the ones you can't miss when traveling to an unknown destination. Among the most important we can mention:
Panama History Museum: It was built in 1910 but was restored for its use in 1977. Here you can find important pieces from the colonial, departmental and republican periods.
Colonial Religious Art Museum: It was built in the 18th century and 300 years later it became the place to display different religious items.
Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum: Its construction ended in 1997 and it oversees, investigate, preserve and disseminate the different testimonies on the construction of the Panama Canal and how these have changed since the treaty that returned the canal to Panama.
National Theatre of Panama: It was conceived by an Italian architect with an Italian opera theatre style, it was inaugurated on October 1, 1908. In 2015 it was closed for restoration and in 2019 it was reopened. Here you can watch different cultural functions about Panama.
Taste the Local Gastronomy
In Casco Viejo, there is an infinity of restaurants, where you can find all kinds of cuisines. But for this experience in Panama to be complete, you need to try what Panamanian gastronomy can offer you and here I detail which are the restaurants that highlight Panamanian food like the star in their menu:
Donde José: Definitely this is the king of all Casco Viejo restaurants since it is a truly gastronomic experience in every way. It has a 10-course menu where you can taste delicacies with a Panamanian identity. I recommend you to make the reservations in advance as it is a highly valued restaurant.
Fonda Lo Que Hay: This restaurant seeks to represent the feeling and warmth of the fondas. Fondas are small restaurants that can be found throughout the republic and they took it to the next level. If you want to try Panamanian food in a relaxed and complete environment, this is the right place.
Taste the Best Crafted Beers in Panama
Craft beers are very popular worldwide and Panama is no exception. Panama is one of the Latin American countries where most liters of beer are consumed per capita and that means that there is a lot of supply of this fermented drinks. Inside Casco Viejo are some of the main craft breweries in the country and you cannot leave without trying one of the many types that exist.
Casa Bruja: Inaugurated in 2013, it is a craft beer factory that seeks to create new tasty options for you to be haunted.
La Rana Dorada: One of the most important craft beers in the country. You can find them in the supermarkets, but it doesn't compare to going to the factory and trying it directly there. Its logo is a golden frog since it is one of the most emblematic animals of Panama.
Discover the Nightlife
The atmosphere in Casco Viejo during the day is very different to that at night time. By day it is a historical place to learn about culture and history, but at night it becomes the most popular place in the entire country to spend a night full of fun. Once the churches and museums close, all the restaurants, bars and clubs open and light up the streets of Casco Viejo. The most popular thing to do is a Casco Night Tour and visit the most popular places in a row. If you like rumba and nightlife, it is a place that you must give a chance.
¿What is the Best Thing To Do in Casco Viejo?
In short, Casco Viejo is a place with many things to offer like beautiful streets to take pictures, museums and theaters for those who like historic places, and the best places to experience the great nightlife for those who like to party. If you do not have so much time to explore the Casco Viejo by yourself, you can take a tour in Casco Viejo and so you can go with a guide directly to the most important places. For me, nothing marks a trip better than trying its food and in Casco Viejo, you will find the best options.
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