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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > Panama > Panama City

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Shopping in Panama City

Americana is all the rage in Panama, which manifests itself in a number of air-conditioned shopping malls scattered throughout the city. Unlike other Latin American capitals, traditional outdoor markets are hard to come by in Panama City, though you should have no problem finding brand-name luxury goods from the USA and Europe at discounted prices.

Key areas

There’s food, toys and a crazy, bustling atmosphere at the Plaza Cinco de Mayo, which can be found by following Avenida Central, itself a six-block extravaganza of cheap shopping.

Dig for souvenirs and crafts in the slightly Disney-esque Mi Pueblito (My Little Village), a mock-Panamanian village that is closer to an outdoor shopping mall.

Via Estronga, in the financial district, is the place for electronics; designer stores are in Marbella; and a mix of everything, low and high end, is to be found on Via Espana.

Markets

A relatively low-key shopping spot is the Mercado Nacional de Artesanías (The National Artesan Market), adjacent to the ruins of Panamá Viejo. Prices are lower here than most places and you can get some great deals if you're good at haggling. What's more, many of the handicrafts on sale are of the highest quality.

Shopping centres

The biggest shopping centre is the Albrook Mall, on Albrook, which is around 15 minutes from the city by taxi or a little longer (and far cheaper) on a city bus. It’s situated by the Central Bus Terminal and is the locals' favourite thanks to its relatively cheap chain shops and a big food court. In the city centre, there's Multiplaza Mall, along Vía Israel, which features exclusive designer shops such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Victoria's Secret as well as a large cinema.

For a real Panamanian shopping experience, look no further that El Machetazo on Central Avenue, a megastore that's been a local institution since 1966. There's a wide range of products on offer, from sports items and homeware to fruit and vegetables.

Opening hours

Shopping hours are generally Monday to Saturday 0930-2000, though it's normal for proprietors to take a one- to two-hour lunch break.

Souvenirs

Artisans can be found in Casco Viejo selling their wares, particularly in Plaza Catedral. The traditional mola tapestries, produced by the indigenous Kuna, are a must-have souvenir and can be found in various shops in the old quarter. Another essential keepsake is the tagua nut – an indigenous art form whereby the so-called vegetable ivory (which comes from a species of forest palm) is sculpted with animal forms and other designs. These can be found in abundance in the old town.

Tax information

The rate of value-added tax on most goods and purchases is a relatively low 7%.

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Featured Hotels

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Toscana Inn Hotel

A modestly-sized boutique hotel in Downtown Panama City, Toscana Inn comes equipped with air conditioning and Wi-Fi in every room. Café Los Girasoles restaurant serves up Panamanian cuisine for dinner and a complimentary buffet-breakfast spread in the morning.

The Westin Playa Bonita Panama

A luxury, beachfront hotel with six restaurants, a full-service spa, business centre, kids club and three infinity pools, each kitted out with a swim-up bar. Located approximately 20 minutes outside of the city centre, flanked by rainforest, the resort has 611 luxury rooms and suites, many offer views of the Pacific.

El Machico Hostel

Situated in Panama City's Marbella district, this lively hostel fosters a laid back atmosphere with courtyard swimming pool, open air cinema nights, pool games and a small bar.

Hotel DeVille

This is one of Panama City’s top-end boutique hotels, located in one of the city's most romantic spots. Each of the 33 rooms are individually (and impeccably) decorated. The difference here is in the details right down to the antique furniture that graces each handsome room. Beautiful and classy, with rooms and suites available at rather high prices but you won’t be sorry.

Hotel Riande Continental

Centred on a palm tree-fringed swimming pool, this sophisticated Panama City hotel is an excellent choice if you're searching for low-key luxury. Spacious rooms offer modern furnishings and sweeping views of the Panama City skyline. All rooms have a mini-bar and cable TV, and there is a surcharge for the Wi-Fi which is available all over the hotel.

Las Clementinas

Las Clementinas is another Casco Viejo charmer, in a fully-revamped colonial building in the most beautiful part of town. They have gone for understated elegance and style here, and have definitely succeeded. Furnishings are either original antiques or perfect replicas. Las Clementinas also has a bar and cafe with great food.