A 2 hours walk in Casco Viejo, Panama city

Coming from a cityhop tour, the SightSeeing bus Hop On Hop Off Panama, a map of the old town was given to us, including a proposed walking tour in Casco Antiguo, or Casco Viejo, the old town of Panama city, which is also one of the bus stops.

Casco Antiguo, Panama City old town

Coming from a cityhop tour, the SightSeeing bus Hop On Hop Off Panama, a map of the old town was given to us, including a proposed  walking tour   in Casco Antiguo, or Casco Viejo, the old town of Panama city, which is also one of the bus stops.

I decided to follow this tour, which is announced at about 90 minutes, and the next bus was 2 hours later.

At the end, it was taking nearly these 2 hours, in which I've included an extra short stop to buy a juice.

Panama: Find local activities

If you plan on shopping, these 2 hours won't be enough, they are just what is needed to walk along the route, take a few pictures, and stop to read the touristic signs explaining the history of the area.

However, this is one of the best things to do in panama city, and 2 hours is a minimum for a day visit, and far more are needed to explore all the things to do in Casco Viejo Panama at night.

Casco Viejo Panama nightlife

Iglesia Nuestra Senora de La Merced

The first stop is a church, the church of our virgin of Mercy.

This restored church has a 1680 baroque facade, and is a great start in the old town, as it show perfectly the beauty and ingenuity of these old time architects.

Virgin of Mercy on Wikipedia
Iglesia de la Merced (Ciudad de Panamá) on Wikipedia

Plaza Herrera and Iglesia de San Jose o Altar de Oro

The next stop leads us through Plaza Herrera, a square dedicated to Tomás de Herrera, with its statue.

Herrera, or his full name Tomás José Ramón del Carmen de Herrera y Pérez Dávila, was the head of an early state of Panama in 19th century, before it really became independent in the early 20th century.

The square is surrounded by magnificent colonial style buildings, and is a pleasure to admire.

Going forward, there is the Gold altar in the San Jose church to see. As its name indicates, it is a gold altar in a church - nothing very exciting.

I have a look at it from the outside, but it doesn't appeal me.

On the porch of the church, a begging lady asks me for money, and I give her a quarter dollar (about 0.22€), and keep walking.

Plaza Herrera - Casco Viejo, Panama
Altar de Oro - Iglesia San Jose

Next to this gold altar, is a building that interest me more - the Morgan tavern, or Taberna De Morgan, a bar and restaurant that I hope to visit in the coming days, because a pub crawl organized by Belgium expatriate girls happen there.

I intended to join last Saturday, but it was cancelled last minute, due to lack of participants. However, for $25 (about 22€), including 4 bars, 1 club, 5 drinks, entries in each of them, and drinks, I can't wait to join the next session this coming weekend and finally experience the locally famous Casco Viejo panama nightlife.

The bar seems appealing from the outside, with a fake Captain Morgan pirate on the balcony, looking at us passing in the street.

Henry Morgan is famous for Captain Morgan Jamaican rum, but is also a pirate born in Wales that attacked what is now Panama.

Captain Morgan rum
La Taberna de Morgan
Henry Morgan on Wikipedia
Panama bar crawl

Catedral Metropolitana

The main building of the Casco Antiguo, the cathedral, is the next stop. I've been already in the old town once earlier, with my local writer friend Ariel met in a previous adventure, but haven't seen the cathedral yet.

Genticks Science Fiction book

The cathedral construction took more than a 100 years, starting in 1688 and finishing in 1796.

Well, from the outside, it is pretty similar to the previous church of the mercy virgin...

However, it is a beautiful building, but I am more interested by its surroundings, more beautiful colonial style buildings.

I start thinking that I am actually in the kind of place that inspired one of my all time favourite video game, Monkey Islands, a point and click game about pirates in the Caribbean. It is a very nice feeling!

This cathedral square has a great atmosphere, which really makes you feel like you are somewhere else.

There are no visible actual shops or restaurants, unlike other streets around. I enjoy walking around the street, and try to get a good picture with one of the surrounding streets heading towards the ocean, without success from the square, as the small streets are full of cars or pedestrians.

Antiguo Convento de Santo Domingo o Arco Chato

Well, high time to keep going, or I won't finish the tour on time!

Next point of interest, the ruins of the antique convent of Saint Domingo or Arco Chato. I wonder why all these churches have two names, this or that. Why not choose one?

However, the ruins of this church are beautiful. Too bad they are not open to public. Why not, by the way?

This kind of ruins would surely not be kept shut in Europe... it is so beautiful and feels totally unique.

Anyway, not much to know about these pretty old stones. There is a kind of museum next to it with paid entrance to see some religious relics, which I do not want to visit.

Plaza de Francia and Las Bóvedas

Passing next to Finca Del Mar, a restaurant in which we had great cocktails with my friend Ariel the week before, I wonder if I should stop for a drink... but no, it is time to explore more!

Finca Del Mar, one of the best restaurants in Casco Viejo Panama

Reaching the main area of the old town of Panama, the French square (hey, I'm French in case you did not know yet - check my biography)!

It used to be the main square of the old town, and now hosts the French embassy, along with a beautiful monument dedicated to the first attempt to build a Panama canal, which was led by France.

It is located at the tip of the old town on the ocean, and offers a beautiful scenic view on Panama city and the ocean from the top of its battlements.

This area is locally known as Las Bóvedas, the vaults, because it used to be a prison.

Having already read plenty about it the day before in the Panama canal museum, I however enjoyed going around the square and reading more about the history of this first attempt, all written in Spanish.

To sum up, it failed for one main reason: the yellow fever decimated canal workers, at it wasn't known yet how it spread (spoiler: via mosquitoes, which multiply in staging water for example).

That is mostly how the next attempt by USA will be successful, by getting rid of this menace. Too bad for France...

Plaza Francia - Casco Viejo, Panama

Going up on the battlements, I stop to admire the view and take plenty of pictures.

This touristic picturesque area is amazing, with the old town on one side, on the other side the ocean, the highway built on the ocean just to avoid modifying the old town, the skyline behind it on one side, and on the other side CauseWay Panama, the artificial road and islands built with the rock excavated for the canal, and used to stop the waves from bothering the boats entering the canal.

Plenty of street sellers are offering all kind of touristic stuff, from Panama hats to car identification plates.

The way going down the road is topped by liana and some small trees, turning it in a beautiful path.

I'll learn later that this romantic way is actually called lovers lane, and is king of the dating area of the city.

Too bad nobody wanted to join me, would have been great ;)

Teatro Nacional and Plaza Bolivar

The next step is the national theatre, which I can't really see because of some street constructions.

However, I appreciate the beautiful view on the Pacific ocean. I haven't seen it for 10 years, when I was in Mexico for my first trip alone ever.

It is situated right next to a more interesting place, the Plaza Bolivar.

Simon Bolivar is the military man that liberated Venezuela (its birth country), Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama from the Spanish Empire.

The square features a beautiful monument dedicated to these independences, and is surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings. Yes, again them, they are everywhere )))

Right next to this square is the Presidential palace, which we cannot see, as the road is closed and soldiers are blocking the road.

That concludes my Panama old town visit... I have 30 minutes left until the next and last cityhop bus that will take me home.

Going up the hill to take pictures, I notice the Capital Bistro Panama, which has what seems to be one of the best rooftop bars around. I'd like to stop for a drink, but unfortunately it is closed.

So I decide to get a juice in a nearby shop, and go to the one last thing to visit around, the fish market.

Mercado del Marisco

Crossing some city highways without crossroads, I manage to reach the nearby fish market.

At first, it is impossible to miss the place where all the fishermen are coming to bring fresh fish for the market.

As it is around 1pm, and I had a huge buffet breakfast at 10am, I am not hungry yet, and the sellers trying to push me to seat down for a lunch are kind of making me lose my patience.

Instead of taking more picture of the market and checking the prices (around 10$US for a meal), I decide to walk back to the bus stop with some side streets.

And, what a surprise, I end up in a street which holds the entrance to the local Chinatown.

However, despite a nice Chinese style gate, and some Chinese dragons painted on the side, nothing seems Chinese at all behind it.

Therefore, I went back to the bus stop and wait for it, thus concluding this nice 2h walk in Panama Casco Viejo, with Multicentro Mall Panama as next stop.

Coronado Panama hotels
Turistik Hop On Hop Off Panama
Compare prices Radisson Panama canal

Frequently Asked Questions

What historical and cultural highlights can visitors expect to see during a 2-hour walk in Casco Viejo, Panama City?
During a 2-hour walk in Casco Viejo, visitors can explore historical landmarks like the Metropolitan Cathedral, Plaza de Francia, and the Presidential Palace. The area's rich history, vibrant colonial architecture, and lively street scenes provide a deep insight into Panama City's past and present.

Michel Pinson
About the author - Michel Pinson
Michel Pinson is a Travel enthusiast and Content Creator. Merging passion for education and exploration, he iscommitted to sharing knowledge and inspiring others through captivating educational content. Bringing the world closer together by empowering individuals with global expertise and a sense of wanderlust.

Comments (1)

 2020-07-27 -  Framboise
Waou ! Amazing way of life. So lucky to travel all around the US. There are so many beautiful places to see ... Thanks for sharing your experience with such a beautiful energy. It might be hard sometimes in some kind of situations, I couldn't do it. When we listen to you it looks like so easy, just like a dream come true. I admire you. Wish you all the best. Take care.

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