The Top 10 Things To Do In Casco Viejo29th July 2014
Casco Viejo is famous in Panama City for its rustic beauty and unique charm. Swaddled amongst the old Spanish colonial buildings and magnificent, if occasionally somewhat charmingly dilapidated, architecture are many amazing sights, sounds, and people. If you are looking to see what makes Panama such a mixing pot of cultures and experiences, Casco Viejo is definitely the first place to go to get a genuine understanding of what makes the country tick. So leave your bag in your hotel in Panama City Panama and let’s take a look at our personal favourite things to do in the list below
1) Check out the fish market
El Mercado del Marisco is the amazing fish market situated at the entrance to Casco Viejo. It has the freshest fish, a fantastic restaurant with extraordinarily low prices (and a delicious fish soup!), as well as all the enjoyable hustle and bustle you would expect from a thriving market place. Go there and try some ceviche from the market side huts; absolutely delicious fish, pickled in citrus and served with onion and crackers!
2) Plaza Bolivar
Plaza Bolivar is one of the most beautiful spots in the city at night and devoted to a hugely important figure in Central American history. Situated centrally in the plaza is a monument to the Venezuelan general Simon Bolivar, known popularly as "the Liberator of Latin America," with placards marking events of his life and a full sized condor perched above him.
3) Plaza de Francia
The city’s original main square, this Plaza de Francia is adorned with a magnificent rooster-topped obelisk, symbolic of the French nation. Twelve blocks of marble detail the history of the Panama Canal. All around are busts of Panamanian engineers and Frenchmen who were prominent during the construction of the Canal. The impressive monument is dedicated to those 22,000 workers who died, mainly from exposure to yellow fever & malaria, attempting to create the canal.
4) Get some street food
As you wander through the beautiful plazas of Casco and relax in the beautiful calming atmosphere of the place, complete the experience by getting some authentic street food. There are loads of vendors around the main and back streets who will sell delicious treats from small carts. Empanadas, carnes and a particularly Panamanian treat called raspao make appearances (raspao is flavoured ice, shaved straight from a huge block of ice right there for a handful of cents!).
5) La Iglesia de San Jose
This magnificent Iglesia de San José is based on Avenida A and houses the distinctively baroque Altar de Oro (The Golden Altar). The altar was rescued from the burning wreckage of Panama Viejo and moved to the newer city, one of the few items of value saved after Henry Morgan pillaged Panama Viejo. Visitors can thank one perceptive priest, who painted the altar black to disguise it.
6) The Panama Canal Museum
In a beautifully restored building opposite the Plaza de la Catedral is the Panama Canal Museum. Packed with information-heavy exhibits on the famous waterway, the Museum places all the information within the political and historical context of building the Canal. If you want to learn more about why Panama is such an intriguing blend of cultures, this is a great place to start finding out.
7) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
A beautifully renovated colonial era throwback sat across from Plaza Bolivar, next to the Iglesia de San Francisco. It is home to a unique compass and takes in a breathtaking view, from the sea to the mountains all the way to Panama Viejo.
8) The Presidential Palace
Casco Viejo is home to the Presidential Palace, known locally as the Palacio de la Garzas or Heron's Palace, named for the herons which reside in the courtyard of the Moorish themed palace. This is a very beautiful building and it is possible to arrange tours on certain days. The President of Panama also lives here sporadically, so you may also get treated to a display by large numbers of security personnel and palace guards!
9) El Teatro Nacional
El Teatro Nacional is a fabulous building, holding some of Panama’s finest cultural and historical events. It was opened in 1908 and its interior has been totally restored. A truly impressive ceiling with a magnificent mural showing muses and people important to Panamanian history. There is also a gigantic crystal chandelier, as well as a performance center that provides top class natural acoustics and seating for roughly 800 guests. It stages everything from dance, theatre to music.
10) Club de Clases y Tropas
A former hangout of infamous dictator General Noriega, this is now a distinctive and handsome ruin. Almost completely destroyed by the invasion in 1989, it now mostly plays home to local skaters and film crews. It has been used in films as diverse as The Tailor of Panama and Quantum of Solace.
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