Panama City has reinvented itself more than once. After the original city was destroyed by a Welsh pirate it was rebuilt a few miles away in the San Felipe district also known as Casco Viejo, Casco Antiguo or the Old Part.
Casco Viejo is like a village or small town within the city. The architecture is a mix of Spanish and French colonial. Many of its narrow streets are paved with cobblestone.
It is undergoing a major revitalization with ramshackle buildings next door to those that have been carefully restored. The faded grandeur of buildings still inhabited but not yet refurbished is often compared to Havana and parts of New Orleans.
UNESCO declared Casco Viejo a World Heritage Site in 1997. Following gentrification trendy restaurants and bars have opened making it a fashionable destination for a night out. It’s a great place to wander and stumble across several squares, including Independence Plaza, the epicenter.
Plaza Bolivar is a good place to sit under the shade of an umbrella and order a cold drink. There are also several museums and a promenade along the ocean that offers beautiful views of the city’s skyscrapers.
For a memorable dining experience in Casco Viejo check out what Anne of Pret a Voyager wrote following her recent trip to Panama City.