One of the most cosmopolitan cities in Central America, Panama's chic capital is a mosaic of colour and culture with a thriving commercial and financial sector. Formerly dismissed as a centre of drug trade, Panama City has rebuilt its reputation as a fantastic holiday destination with a sense of style drawn from five centuries of history.
Panama Cityscape © Christian Cordova
The city's modern skyline is constantly expanding, adding new skyscrapers to tower over the centuries-old Baroque and Spanish Colonial buildings that populate its older quarter, known as Casco Viejo. The district was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, and its mix of architectural styles make a great introduction to the diverse cultural influences of Panama City.
There are many beautiful buildings in Panama City, including the cathedral on Plaza de la Catedral, the presidential palace (called Palacio de las Garzas in honour of the herons that nest there), and the Church of San Jose. Interesting museums like the Interoceanic Canal Museum, the Mi Pueblitos cultural museum, and the Museum of Religious Colonial Art, give visitors insight into the city's fascinating history, while scenic parks are great for enjoying the perennially beautiful weather.
Panama City has a diverse population with a number of American and Asian expat residents, which contributes to a lively nightlife, especially around Calle Uruguay. There are also plenty of good restaurants in Panama City, ranging from Spanish tapas and Italian pastas to local specialties like ceviche (fresh fish marinated in lemon or lime juice) and sancocho (vegetable stew). There are a number of cafes along Via Argentina, and the fish market near the Casco Viejo is the best place to try fresh seafood.