Casco Viejo, also known as Casco Antiguo, is the most popular tourist spot besides the Panama Canal, in Panama City and for good reason. In English it would be called Old Town, or Old Quarter.
Known for its beautiful, old architecture, Casco is one of Central America’s World Heritage Sites for its historical importance. It’s where the Spanish crown relocated the city to after the city’s old location in Panama Viejo was attacked by pirates, and contains beautiful colonial architecture from the sixteenth century.
It is quaint, picturesque, a great place to stroll around and enjoy the pretty architecture, go to the Panama Canal Museum, have lunch at a rooftop restaurant, and take a great selfie with a view of the modern city skyline. In certain spots, you’ll get to see the contrast between the old colonial buildings and the new, modern architecture of Panama City.
If there isn’t a traffic congestion of course, Casco it is just a short ride away from the city center on the Cinta Costera. For getting to Casco Viejo, it is recommended that you take an Uber, as usually there aren’t any parking spots in Casco regardless of what time of the day you go.
For foreigners, Casco Viejo is a great place to visit, but to give you a glimpse about the role that Casco plays for local culture, Casco is the place where the various government offices are located; it is frequented by young upper-class Panamanians for a night out drinking (that is, in the nice area of Casco) and for middle-class Panamanians, it is the occasional spot to go for evening dinner or business lunch.
So, Here Are The Best 10 Things To Do In Casco Viejo, Panama:
1. Panama Canal Museum
The Panama Canal Museum or Interoceanic Canal Museum is a must-go while visiting Casco Viejo. It is a great place to learn the history surrounding the Panama Canal.
At this museum, you’ll learn everything that was involved in the building of the Canal, who the workers were, where they came from, how there was racism and segregation created by Americans, and more. There are historical artifacts from the era on display as well as a section that includes the Panama Canal expansion in recent years.
2. Casa Casco
Love sunsets on picturesque rooftops? Casco is one of those quaint places where you can go to have an evening meal and a see sunset on a rooftop. A great spot to do this is the 3-stories high Casa Casco restaurant located in the Plaza Herrera.
The rooftop at Casa Casco overlooks the whole Plaza Herrera, the Cerro Ancón (the hill with a Panamanian flag on top of it) and the other adjacent buildings in the area. The menu has several options.
Overall, make sure to get a great rooftop sunset selfie by going during the evening.
The Tantalo hotel and restaurant offers great sunset selfie on a rooftop same as Casa Casco, but with an amazing additional view of the Panama City skyline, which makes for great nighttime photos of the city.
4. Panama History Museum
The Panama History Museum is another must-go while visiting Casco. Here you have the chance to learn all of the history of the Republic of Panama, not just of the Canal. It is great to become a more cultured traveler.
It is conveniently located right next to the Panama Canal Museum so you’ll have no trouble spotting it.
5. La Michoacana
La Michoacana is Panama’s best popsicle place, and the locals speak well about their popsicles. While walking through the quaint streets of Casco make sure to stop by La Michoacana and have one of their signature popsicles, all of which contain various fruits inside of them. On the hot sunny days of Panama, they’re a great thing to have.
6. Plaza de Francia
On your stroll through Casco, definitely make sure to check out Plaza de Francia. The Plaza de Francia is a monument commemorating the French who attempted to build the Canal, but unfortunately passed away due to diseases and were not able to complete it.
Here you can go to Restaurante de las Bovedas, which is an interesting place to go while in Casco. It is a restaurant inside a prison (its exact translations into English would be “restaurant of the vaults.” The vaults that the name refers to are the prison cells were prisoners used to be incarcerated.
7. Paseo de las Bovedas
The Paseo de Las Bovedas is located right next to Plaza de Francia, and it is a highly instagrammable spot with views of the Panama City skyline in the background.
Inside the Paseo de las Bovedas, you can find artisans and local vendors who sell Panamanian souvenirs and hand-made items. These can be great to check out.
8. Cinta Costera 3
Going to Cinta Costera 3 is one of the best things to do while visiting Casco Viejo.
In Casco’s quaint streets there are multiple spots for picturesque selfies, but how about a photo that captures the beauty of whole Casco skyline? Fortunately there is such a spot for that, right at Cinta Costera 3, a short walk from Casco.
Cinta Costera 3 is just right outside of Casco, and it will give you an amazing selfie with the picture skyline of the Old Town behind you.
You can get there with no hassle with Google Maps and walking a bit.
9. Have A Raspao
In Casco, you have the chance to have a delicious raspao, a typical Panamanian frozen treat, which you won’t want to miss. It’s kind of a Panamanian frozen treat which is great for a hot day. It consists solely of frozen ice, different fruit flavorings and condensed milk.
Raspao vendors are located anywhere inside Casco so you won’t have trouble finding them.
10. Have Ceviche at The Fish Market
The Mercado De Mariscos (or Fish Market in English) is the best place in Panama to buy all kinds of seafood, which is really fresh and tasty. In here, you’ll want to have a ceviche de corvina, conchuela(the best one), concha negra or camaron. They’re all fresh and delicious.
It’s located near Casco just right next to Cinta Costera 3.
Is Casco Viejo Safe?
Yes, you’ll feel safe without no problem as the presidential palace and some other government offices are located here and there are cops literally constantly patrolling the area.
There are however, some adjacent areas to Casco that are dangerous and you shouldn’t go into, and they’re considered a no-go zone. The area of Santa Ana and Avenida B are some of them. Think of this as a safe part of Manhattan being in a close proximity to a dangerous area of the Bronx. All of the tourist attractions are located inside the safe zone of Casco, so you wouldn’t have a reason anyway to venture into the dangerous area.
Overall, going to Casco Viejo is one of the best things to do in Panama City. Its quaint cobblestone streets, beautiful colonial architecture, museums, great rooftop sunsets, and history just make it a must-visit in Panama City.