Panama City, Panama

Panama City is a delightful blend of the historic – it was founded in 1519 by the Spanish – and the modern – its skyline has 50 new skyscrapers. And of course it is the Pacific gateway to the Panama Canal.

Share this
View MAP

1 Ship Passing through Panama Canal near Panama City, Panama

Construction of the Panama Canal began with the French in 1881 and was completed by the U.S. in 1914. This engineering marvel stretches 48 miles across the Isthmus of Panama, allowing ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans without circling Cape Horn. This tanker is one of over 800,000 ships that have made the six to eight hour journey through the Canal de Panamá. In the background is the longest concrete cable-stayed bridge in the Americas. The Second Crossing stretches 3,450 feet with twin towers soaring 614 feet.

Puente Centenario Autopista Panamá-La Chorrera, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

2 Miraflores Locks along the Panama Canal near Panama City, Panama

The Panama Canal consists of three locks. Miraflores is the furthest west near the Port of Balboa. It connects to a 1.1 mile artificial lake by the same name. The water levels are controlled with seven foot thick gates. In the background is a ship waiting to be lowered 54 feet in two stages so it can continue its journey to the Pacific Ocean. Until 2016, ships could only travel through the canal one-direction at a time. The completion of the Panama Canal expansion project doubled the capacity.

Esclusas Miraflores Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

3 Miraflores Visitor Center at Panama Canal near Panama City, Panama

Perhaps the largest tourist attraction in Panama is the canal. The best place to experience it is at the Miraflores Visitor Center. Inside you will find exhibits tracing its history and impact on maritime trade. There is also a 3D movie. The most exciting part is outside on the three-level observation deck. You can also watch vessels moving through the locks and canal while eating at the museum’s restaurant.

Esclusas Miraflores Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

4 Dominican Convent in Panamá Viejo, Panama City, Panama

This couple at the Panamá Viejo ruins is reading about the stone wall formerly part of a Dominican Convent established in 1566. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is where Panamá was founded in 1519 by Spanish conquistador Pedrarías Dávila. The city had about 10,000 residents when it was attacked in 1671 by pirate Henry Morgan. His 1,400 men sacked and burned the buildings and killed a large percent of the population.

Panamá Viejo Vía Cincuentenario, Panama City, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

5 La Concepción Convent in Panamá Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Soon after a group of nuns from the order of Our Lady of Conception arrived in 1598, they proceeded to build a church and convent. Both were destroyed during a 1621 earthquake. The sisters replaced them with a huge complex consuming two blocks. This church was built in 1640 but reduced to ruins 31 years later during a raid of buccaneers.

Convento de Las Monjas de la Concepción Av. Cincuentenario, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

6 Cathedral Side Wall in Panamá Viejo, Panama City, Panama

This is a wall of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Panamá Viejo. The cathedral was constructed in the early 17th century by a stonemason named Cristóbal de Armiñán. It was designed in the shape of a crucifix. However, not much of Our Lady of Asunción survives today. Visible is the brick reinforcement used to preserve this historic remnant. The crumbled facade stands next to the bell tower facing Plaza Mayor.

Panamá Viejo Vía Cincuentenario, Panama City, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

7 Cathedral Tower in Panamá Viejo, Panama City, Panama

The centerpiece of the 57 acre Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo is the 131 foot Torre de la Catedral. Built on the site of an earlier 16th century church, this stone bell tower dates back to 1626. It hints at the former grandeur of European’s oldest settlement along the Pacific coast of the Americas. Climbing the 115 steps to the top of the belfry rewards you with a panoramic view of the ruins below. They are in sharp contrast to the modern high-rises in the distant skyline.

Panamá Viejo Vía Cincuentenario, Panama City, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

8 Cityscape of Urban Center in Panama City, Panama

The modern buildings along the waterfront – stretching from Bella Vista to the Punta Pacifica neighborhoods – are very impressive. Most of the city’s 400 plus high-rises are condos for its nearly 900,000 residents. There are currently about 50 skyscrapers above 500 feet. The majority have been built since 2000 and more are planned. The bridge in the foreground is part of the Cinta Costera. This Coastal Beltway, which was built in 2009, loops around the Old Quarter. The historic architecture in Casco Antiguo (where this photo was taken) is in sharp contrast to the towers of glass across Bahía de Panamá.

Av. Eloy Alfaro & Calle 4a Este, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

9 Hotel Colombia in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Travelers accustomed to large luxury hotels will be disappointed in Casco Viejo; they don’t exist. Instead you will find a handful of boutiques in historic properties that have been (or still are) being lovingly restored. An example is the Hotel Colombia. It offered premiere accommodations when it opened in 1937. Now it features apartments for rent as short as one day and a swimming pool on the terrace. Casa Colombia anchors one side of the Plaza Bolívar across from the Church of San Francisco. Surrounding the square are quint places to eat.

Calle 4 Este con Avenida B, Panama City, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

10 Simón Bolívar Monument in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

This bronze monument with a condor flying majestically over soldiers carrying flags is a tribute to Simón Bolívar. Known as The Liberator, this Venezuelan military leader organized the Pan-American Congress in 1826 near this statue. The goal was to unify Latin America’s independence from Spain. The Plaza Bolívar was dedicated to his achievements in 1883. A museum where the Amphictyonic Congress was conducted is located a few steps away.

Calle 4 Este con Avenida B, Panama City, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

11 San Francisco de Asis Church in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

The Iglesia de San Francisco is a Roman Catholic church built by the Franciscans in 1678. It and an adjoining convent are dedicated to the founder of their order: Saint Francis of Assisi. This church suffered extensive fire damage in 1737 and 1756. It has been restored three times since the mid-18th century, the latest in 1998. This beautiful bell tower is a prominent landmark in Casco Viejo. It is also easily admired while sailing in the Bahía de Panamá.

Av. B & Calle 3a Este, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

12 National Theatre in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

The colorful façade of the Teatro Nacional de Panamá is an inviting welcome to its exquisite interior with frescos of Panama’s history. The design by Genaro Ruggieri is reminiscent of a European opera house. It has been remodeled several times since opening in 1908. The National Theatre in Casco Antiguo hosts plays, concerts and ballet performances.

Av. B & Calle 3a Este, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

13 Palacio Nacional in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

This building is the National Palace of Government and Justice. It is considerably younger than most of the architecture in Casco Viejo. Several date back to the late 17th century. The governmental headquarters of Palacio Nacional was part of the Conception monastery when it was built in 1908.

Calle 2a Este & Av Central, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

14 National Institute of Culture in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

There is an art gallery on the first floor of the National Institute of Culture located at the Plaza de Francia. However, its primary function is to house the INAC. Since 1974, this institution has managed Panama’s museums. If this former supreme court building looks familiar, then you are a fan of James Bond movies. It was featured in the 2008 release of Quantum of Solace starring Daniel Craig as 007.

Calle 5a & Calle 2a Oeste Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

15 French Obelisk in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Soon after the French launched the construction of the Panama Canal in 1881, its workers started dying from malaria and yellow fever. Within eight years, over 20,000 Frenchmen had perished. This obelisk is a monument to them. It is located in Plaza de Francia at the base of a Spanish defensive wall that once protected Casco Viejo from invasion.

Calle 5a & Calle 2a Oeste Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

16 Iglesia Santo Domingo in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Two years after the destruction of Panamá Viejo in 1671, Antonio Fernández de Cordoba selected a peninsula extending into the bay as the new town called Panamá Nuevo or Site Ancon. The governor felt this was the best place to wall in and defend. Within five years, the church and convent of Santo Domingo was completed. Since it was destroyed by fires in 1756 and 1781, its brick shell has stood empty in the center of Casco Viejo. Iglesia Santo Domingo is most famous for the unsupported flat arch inside called Arco Chato.

Av. A & Calle 3a Oeste, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

17 La Compañia in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

The Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús was a church and convent when it was built in the second half of the 17th century. After the Spanish banished the Jesuits, La Compañia became the city’s first university. It was heavily damaged by a fire in 1781 and completely destroyed one hundred years later in an earthquake.

Av. A & Calle 7a Oeste, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

18 Golden Altar of San José Church in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Very little survived the plundering of Henry Morgan and his band of pirates in 1671. The one beautiful exception is the Altar de Oro. This hand-carved, wooden altarpiece was covered with black paint by monks in order to conceal its value. After the town of Panama Viejo was left in ruins, the Jesuits built the Church of San José in 1675 and graced its nave with this gilded masterpiece. This historic Golden Altar is a must see while exploring Casco Viejo.

Av. A & Calle 8a Oeste, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

19 American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Casco Viejo is called the Old Quarter not only because of its 17th century origins but also because much of it is decayed. That is changing quickly. Investors with money and vision are breathing new life into its once exquisite architecture. This five-story building was a luxury apartment and department store when it opened in 1917. Nearly one hundred years later, it had deteriorated into a canvas for graffiti. After an extensive renovation by the Ace Hotel Group, it reopened on Plaza Herrera as the 50 room American Trade Hotel.

Calle José D. de la Obaldía & Calle 9a Oeste, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

20 Tomás de Herrera Equestrian Statue in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

In November of 1840, present day Panama declared its independence from Columbia. General Tomás de Herrera, who is portrayed in this equestrian monument, was elected as the first president of the Free State of the Isthmus. The separation was short lived. The two countries reunited on December 31, 1841. 14 years later, the general was killed during a battle in Bogotá.

Calle José D. de la Obaldía & Calle 9a Oeste, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

21 Bald Woman with Blue Lips Mural in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Since street art was decriminalized in Bogotá in 2011, it has become a haven for talented graffiti artists resulting in over 5,000 murals. Among those living in Colombia’s capital city is Camila Maria Bernal Toro. She is known by her signature “Remedios.” She created this delightful painting in an alley of Casco Viejo. It shows a bald woman with blue lips wearing a bright orange blouse and holding a globe. It seems perfectly accented by the real plastic chair and broom in the foreground.

Calle 9a Este & Av. B, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

22 Palacio de las Garzas in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

The Palacio de las Garzas was built in 1673 shortly after the original part of Panama City was destroyed by pirates. Now this neighborhood – Casco Antiguo – is considered to be the old, historic district. Heron’s Palace has served several purposes over three hundred plus years. This stunning, white colonial compound is now the residence for the Presidencia de la República. Manuel Amador Guerrero became the first president when Panama gained independence from Columbia in 1904.

Av. Eloy Alfaro & Calle 6a Este, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

23 Iglesia del Carmen in Panama City, Panama

This gorgeous example of Gothic architecture is Iglesia del Carmen. The Catholic church’s ornate features include twin bell towers, pinnacles topped with finials, a rose window and a clock in the pediment. At the summit is a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the patroness of the Carmelites who built the church in 1953.

Av Manuel Espinosa Batista & Avenida Federico Boyd, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

24 Soho Mall Tower in Panama City, Panama

Borrowing the name of a district in Manhattan, the Solo Mall is a very ambitious Panama City development. The construction cost for Soho Panama was estimated at over $30 million when it opened in 2016. The twin towers combine 120 luxury retailers and restaurants, the Ritz Carlton Hotel, a casino plus commercial office space.

Calle 54 Este & Calle 50, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

25 Revolution Tower in Panama City, Panama

The Revolution Tower twists 360 degrees as the glass skyscraper reaches 797 feet at the summit. Called the Corkscrew by the locals, this office building was designed by Pinzón Lozano and finished in 2011. Now called the F&F Tower, it has become an iconic standout in Panama City’s skyline. That is a major accomplishment in a city filled with modern high-rises.

Calle 50 & Calle 56 Este, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

26 Pilares de la Patria in Panama City, Panama

These four sculptures by Ricaurte Martínez shows people of diverse backgrounds – black, white, Indian and peasant – working together to raise Panama’s flag. The Pillars of the Nation is a tribute to the contributions all Panamanians made towards building and shaping the country. The Pilares de la Patria monument was sponsored by BLADEX Bank and erected in 2003 along the Amador Causeway near the Biomuseo.

Edificio 136, Calzada de Amador, Amador Causeway 136, Panama City, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

27 Colorful Façade of Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama

This colorful even playful design by famous architect Frank Gehry houses Biomuseo. The museum is dedicated to the natural history and biodiversity of the Isthmus of Panama, the shortest geographical point between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Since opening in 2014, it proudly offers fascinating and educational exhibits within its 43,000 square feet. The Biodiversity Museum is located along Amador Causeway near the mouth of the Panama Canal.

Biomuseo Edificio 136, Calzada de Amador, Amador Causeway 136, Panama City, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

28 Bridge of the Americas in Panama City, Panama

Ever wonder where the dividing line is between Central and South America? This is it: the Bridge of the Americas. This steel arch bridge is 5,425 feet long and has a clearance of 201 feet above the Panama Canal. The United States commissioned it while controlling the Canal Zone. This critical link of the Pan-American Highway was completed in 1962 by John Beasly & Company.

Bridge of the Americas & Carr. Panamericana, Panama City, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

29 Dr. Arnulfo Arias Monument in Panama City, Panama

The figure on the left displaying the victory sign represents Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid. He was founder of the Panameñista Party and a three-time president of Panama during the 1940s. Each term ended prematurely by a military coup. The ensemble also displays classes of citizens who followed the popular political leader. In large letters, the arched monument nearby states his name and the words on his gravestone, “Servidor de la Nación Panameña.” This means Servant of the Nation. His wife, Mireya Moscoso, was 44 years younger when they married. She was the country’s first female president from 1999 through 2004.

Monumento al Dr. Arnulfo Arias, Av Arnulfo Arias Madrid & Ave. Amador, Panamá, Panama
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions
TOP