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

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Things to see in Panama City

Attractions

Biomuseo

This Frank Gehry-led project has been under construction for years now, but with one hold up or another, it still hasn't had its grand opening. There has, however, been a soft opening and it's now possible to visit on weekends. The museum focuses on the incredible biodiversity found within Panama's ecosystems, and is housed in a unique building designed by the much acclaimed architect himself. This is Gehry's only building in Latin America and there are various galleries within that celebrate Panama as the essential bridge between the Americas, as well as its astonishing wildlife. There's also the biopark, bringing together highlights from Panama's diverse natural world. But the star is the building itself, a mind-boggling clutter of colourful pavilions and amorphous shapes designed to blend in with Panama's tropical environment. It's Gehry's finest work since the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Address: , Edificio 136, Calzada de Amador, Panama City,
Telephone: + 507 830 6700.
Opening times:

Fri 0900-1600, Sat-Sun 0900-1700.

Website: http://www.biomuseopanama.org
Admission Fees:

No.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Panama Canal

This modern engineering marvel is famous the world over, though nothing can prepare you for the awesome sight of watching hulking vessels traverse any of the canal's three sets of locks. The economic lifeline of the country, it is of enormous historical importance, too. Having been built by the US more than a century ago, it provides a crucial link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and controversially remained under American control until 1999. Since the handover, the canal has brought more income than ever before to Panama and been the powerhouse behind its rapid development in recent years. Most visitors choose to visit the Miraflores Locks, which are located next the visitors' centre, an open-air restaurant, a museum and a viewing platform.

Address: , Miraflores, Canalside, Panama City,
Telephone: +507 276 8325.
Opening times:

Mon-Sun 0900-1630.

Website: http://visitcanaldepanama.com
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Panamá Viejo (Old Panama)

Founded in 1519 by the Spanish, Panamá was the first European city on the Pacific coastline of the Americas. Although it was plundered and burnt to the ground by Captain Henry Morgan in 1617, the ruins of this once great city make for wonderful independent exploration. You can meander amid the ruins and climb up the Torre de la Catedral which still stands over what remains of the city. The visitors’ museum is modern, air-conditioned and very informative (though some grasp of Spanish is helpful).

Address: , Avenida Cincuentenario, Panama City,
Telephone: + 507 226 8915.
Opening times:

Tues-Sun 0830-1630.

Website: http://www.panamaviejo.org
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: Yes

Museo Antropológico Reina Torres de Araúz

Founded by Panama's most famous and accomplished anthropologist, this museum aims to educate visitors about the country's pre-Colombian populations. Exhibits focus on the anthropology and archaeology of each of Panama's regions, and are highlighted by rare artefacts from around the country. The exhibition includes pre-Columbian gold and jewellery, thousands of ceramics and stone figures. There is also a reconstruction of a tomb excavation with skeletal remains. It’s a good museum to check out if you plan on visiting the Parque Natural Metropolitano.

Address: , Avenida Juan Pablo II, Panama City,
Telephone: + 507 501 4731.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0900-1600.

Website: http://www.inac.gob.pa/museos/72-museo-m-a-r-t-a
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Parque Natural Metropolitano (Metropolitan Natural Park)

Perched on the northern edge of the city, this natural retreat for urban dwellers is an expansive stretch of primary and secondary rainforest. The park is home to an enormous diversity of wildlife including rare tití monkeys, sloths, deer and more than 200 species of tropical birds. You can head up to the mirador at 150m (492ft) above sea level and get a good view over the city and a look at the canal. There are guided tours of the park available, though it’s easy enough to follow the paths yourself. Visitors to Panama City shouldn’t miss this glorious jungle-like expanse a stone’s throw from the metropolis.

Address: , Avenida Juan Pablo II, Panama City,
Telephone: + 507 232 5552.
Opening times:

Daily 0600-1630.

Website: http://www.parquemetropolitano.org
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Isla Taboga (Taboga Island)

Known as the Island of Flowers, this offshore gem lies just 20km (12 miles) from Panama City, though beachcombers and sun worshippers will find themselves in a different world. Grab a boat from the causeway, look for pods of whales en route and prepare yourself for a day of lounging about on sun-kissed sands. It’s a lovely break from the urban craziness of Panama City, helped by the fact that it’s a pedestrian island. It has been inhabited by many (conquistadors and pirates, artists and soldiers) and was the birthplace of famed Spanish colonist, Santa Rosa de Lima.

Address: , Isla Taboga, Panama City,
Telephone:
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website: http://www.taboga.panamanow.com
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Casco Viejo (Old Compound)

Following the destruction of Panamá, the Spanish moved their city a few kilometres east to a more fortified location. Much of this colonial city remains standing and thanks to rapidly increasing urban renewal, is becoming the centre of a reinvigorated arts, dining and nightlife scene. This is a great area of town to stay in as well with a range of hotels from the very cheap to the very plush. See the city being brought back to life, a bit at a time, preferably from the plethora of bars, cafes and restaurants situated here.

Address: Casco Viejo, Avenida Central, San Felipe, Panama City,
Telephone:
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website:
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes

Teatro National

Panama’s National Theatre has had several facelifts over the last 100 years, but it has always retained its original beauty and elegance. It was commissioned in 1904 and has been the pride of the city ever since. The relatively small opera house, with a capacity of less than 1,000, lies in the heart of the Casco Viejo and is one of its undisputed jewels. The glamorous balconies and beautiful frescoes on the ceiling are suggestive of Italian influence. It's the number one spot in the city to see ballets, opera and classical performances.

Address: Casco Viejo, Calle 3 Catedral and Avenida B, Panama City,
Telephone: + 507 501 4107.
Opening times: Website: http://www.teatrodepanama.com
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Cerro Ancon (Ancon Hill)

An oasis of green and wildlife in the heart of the city, this 200m (650ft) hill is ideal for a climb and an overview of the Panamanian capital. Under US jurisdiction as part of the Panama Canal Zone until the turn of the century, it never underwent the urbanisation seen in the rest of the city, and remains a natural treasure amidst the urban jungle. Sloths, coati, armadillos and deer are all known to live here, so keep your eyes peeled. It’s about an hour and a half’s walk from Avenida Central in the Casco Viejo, and provides wonderful views of the city and bay. Be sure to take good shoes.

Address: Cerro Ancon, Quarry Heights, Panama City,
Telephone: +507 264 7110.
Opening times:

Mon-Sun 0600-1800.

Website:
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Museo del Canal Interoceánico

Commonly known as the Panama Canal Museum, this is a great place to stop by before visiting the canal itself. Housed in the original headquarters of the French canal expedition, it's easy to get a sense of the trials and tribulations that were overcome in order to complete this engineering marvel. The information provided is only in Spanish, so if you want to understand what is going on you will need to book a guide the day before. People with great interest in the history of the canal will find this place fascinating; for everyone else, the Miraflores Locks Museum will suffice.

Address: , Avenida Central, Plaza de la Independencia, San Felipe, Panama City,
Telephone: + 507 211 1649.
Opening times:

Tue-Sun 0900-1700.

Website: http://www.museodelcanal.com
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Tourist Offices

Visit Panama

Address: , BISCA Financial Center 29th Floor, Avenida Balboa y Aquilino de la Guardia, Panama City,
Telephone: +507 526 7000.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0830-1530.

Website: http://www.visitpanama.com

The official tourism body for the Republic of Panama is Visit Panama. Their central office is in the BISCA Financial Center on 29th floor. There's also an information point at Tocumen airport, which is open daily from 0700-2300.

A digital image at https://illuminoto.com

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Featured Hotels

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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.

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.