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Walking in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama.

A Panama City Beginner’s Guide

When you think of Panama City you probably think of the obvious things; The Panama Canal, Panama hats, Panamanian molas and handicrafts. There is so much more to this vibrant city and emerging nomad hub. Our recent trip to Panama City from Costa Rica proved to be a short but sweet trip. It allowed us to just scratch the surface of what Panama City life is all about.

Aerial photos of the Panama City skyline.

Short and Sweet

Once you start travelling full time, spending usually a minimum of a month in any given city, a 3-day trip feels really REALLY short. Our last trip to Thailand was 33 days and even that felt quick. As you can imagine 3 days felt like a flash.

We both felt like we had very little time to truly experience Panama. We were just able to skim over the highlights and not really immerse ourselves. Still, it's a start! Here's what we got up to.

Where We Stayed

We stayed in an Airbnb in the Calidonia area of Panama City in a modern condo building. This area runs along the waterfront between the new and old part of the city. It was half-way between a lot of the things we wanted to see, which was perfect.

Ubers were cheap and we were able to grab a ride to Casco Viejo (Old Town) or up to Obarrio for a few dollars US. There was a metro, but we were travelling with our parents so we opted for Ubers to make things quicker and easier.

Walking in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama.

What We Did

Given it was an ultra short trip, we had a pretty short list of things we wanted to see. The Panama Canal, Old Town, and the waterfront topped our list. We originally had planned on going to a couple of museums but opted to save those for another visit and explore the city and get a feel for it.

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal topped our list of places we wanted to see. After some research, we learned that making a reservation at the restaurant at the Miraflores Locks was our best bet.

Trip Advisor forums recommended booking a table on the terrace at the restaurant in order to enjoy a nice meal and watch the ships go by. Boy were they right. Our reserved table meant we had a front row seat to the locks and were able to watch the sun go down, eat, and watch the massive ships pass by.

Some people online had said that if you book at the restaurant you can look through the museum as well. They framed it as a kind of working around for paying admission to the museum, which was $20USD. Note, this is NOT the case. When we wandered into the museum, we were quickly, and quite rudely, asked to make our way to the restaurant.

To top it all off, the food was amazing as well and even accommodated my dietary needs.

To check out the Atlantic & Pacific Co. Restaurant click here.

Watching ships go through the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal, Panama City.
Watching ships go through the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal, Panama City.
Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal, Panama City.

Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo was by far my favourite part of town. The old buildings, churches, squares, cafe, and people made it the most perfect spot to stroll with nowhere in particular to go.

It's not a large geographical area, so I recommend slowing down and soaking it in. If you power walk block after block, you might find yourself having covered a lot of ground in a short time. Slow down. Walk. Stop for coffee. Trying and move at the pace of the quiet, sunny streets.

One thing to note is that many of the shops are open a little later (like 11 am and on) on Sundays. We arrived in Old Town on a Sunday at around 9 am and found the streets almost deserted. If you're a blogger looking to spend some time taking photos this is perfect.

The temperature was cooler and we had the streets to ourselves for a good 1-2 hours before more tourists started milling around. Even by that point, it wasn't unbearable busy.

Old and new building neck to one another on the streets of Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Restored building in Casco Viejo.
Walking along the edge of Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Beautoful stucco building in Casco Viejo, Panama City
Beautoful stucco building in Casco Viejo, Panama City
Beautoful stucco building in Casco Viejo, Panama City

The Waterfront

In addition to the Canal and Old Town, we spent time just exploring the neighbourhood we stayed in. We were perfectly situated facing the ocean and made time to cross over the pedestrian bridge outside our condo and walk along the waterfront.

The path along the ocean was gorgeous and filled with cyclists, runners, and groups doing yoga and cross fit outside on the grass and in covered gazebos that lined the path. It's home to the large Panama sign, which of course, we posed in front of like typical tourists.

It was nice to have this well-used piece of green space, especially in such a dense city. It was clearly well loved based on the number of locals and tourists we saw using the space during our stroll.

Panama City, Panama Waterfront.
Panama City, Panama Waterfront.
Panama City, Panama Waterfront.

More to Come!

We had some good, and not so good, experiences with food in Panama. Even though there were some misses, we definitely had some amazing eats. I am going to dedicate an entire post just to dining in Panama City. Subscribe below so you don't miss it!

Have you been to Panama before? Let me know in the comments what I should see on my next visit!

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