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Overview

Panama's vibrant, cosmopolitan, steamy capital city is a world-class metropolis, both colonial and contemporary in setting and mood. The maritime city spreads along a broad bay at the southern entrance to the Canal, whose overriding presence is never far away. Casco Antiguo, the 17th-century historic quarter, is replete with pocket-size plazas, tiny museums, and ancient churches. The quarter is in the midst of rebirth as ancient mansions metamorphose into hip restaurants and trendy bars. Start your exploration in Plaza de Independencia, the main square, lorded over by the ancient cathedral. The modern city buzzes to the thrum of commerce; ...

Panama's vibrant, cosmopolitan, steamy capital city is a world-class metropolis, both colonial and contemporary in setting and mood. The maritime city spreads along a broad bay at the southern entrance to the Canal, whose overriding presence is never far away. Casco Antiguo, the 17th-century historic quarter, is replete with pocket-size plazas, tiny museums, and ancient churches. The quarter is in the midst of rebirth as ancient mansions metamorphose into hip restaurants and trendy bars. Start your exploration in Plaza de Independencia, the main square, lorded over by the ancient cathedral. The modern city buzzes to the thrum of commerce; its financial district is pinned by sparkling skyscrapers shadowing fine-dining restaurants, casinos, and ritzy nightclubs. Few visitors explore Ancón and Balboa, where for eight decades Zonians (U.S. residents of the Canal Zone) lived a pampered colonial lifestyle in a perfect little colonial world. On the outskirts, the ancient ruins of Panamá Viejo (the original city today a UNESCO World Heritage Site) demand exploration, while the Canal is best viewed from Miraflores and on a weekend half-day cruise through the locks.

Christopher Baker
About the Expert

Christopher P. Baker has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, California, and various Caribbean islands for Frommer's, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic, among others.

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Christopher Baker for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    November to April dry season