Casco Viejo, Panama City: Gorgeous Old Town under Heavy Rehabilitation

Casco Viejo (or Old Town in Spanish) is just that…the old Spanish colonial section of Panama City.  It was completed and settled in the later 1600s after the pirate Captain Morgan attacked and the first settlement Panama Viejo was burned to the ground.  Panama Viejo had been the city center since 1519…now it is mostly in ruins.Casco Viejo is an incredibly beautiful, very walkable area, it is under an INTENSE bout of construction and rejuvenation (like most of Panama City) and it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.  You know you are going to see some very good stuff.There are churches, museums, some finished houses/apartment buildings and so many empty shells…

Warning:  I am uploading tons of pictures because well…I took a ton.  And the internet speed in Panama is absolutely a delight.  I feel like I am being introduced to YouTube for the first time.

Pictures around Simon Bolivar Plaza (Panama was a part of Colombia until 1831 after all).

The statue of Jesus on the church almost seems to tell us to “rock on”.

Construction all around the square…

You’ve got to love that parks in Panama City have free Wi-Fi.
There is a large museum with all the information that you need to know about the Panama Canal.  VERY interesting history of the French attempting to build it in the 1880s, losing 20,000 men to malaria and yellow fever and giving up.  And then the American “occupation” (as the museum words it) and now the Panamanians.
 This gorgeous lighthouse lamp/lense stands in the lobby.
Across the plaza is another old church under its own occupation:  pigeon and cats.
One of the areas MANY construction workers taking a time out…
And yet another church with a beautiful golden altar.

People sell crafts in the park.  This Kuna lady was gathering up her work.  The Kuna are a indigenous group in Panama that live mainly on the San Blas Island off the Caribbean coast.  They dress incredibly colorfully and apparently do not like to have their pictures taken.

Her work…all hand sewn.

Another vendor sold these beautiful ones.  Prices seemed to range from $15 to $25 USD depending on the complexity.  They would be gorgeous as pillow coverings or framed.  Right?

I would guess that about half of the buildings in the area are empty crumbling shells.   Many are for sale if you are looking for a project.

This one, with a gorgeous view of the skyline to one side and the boats exiting the canal on the other, sits empty right on the water.  I’m guessing it is a Four Season Hotel in 5 years.

This skyline!

Various other buildings in need of some TLC…
 But many have been lovingly rehabilitated (it often requires a whole metal outside skeleton to keep the walls from crumbling) and the results are gorgeous.
Very New Orleans…

Even the graffiti looked artsy on this side of town…

I can’t wait to come back in a few years to see what Casco Viejo is like.  Though I’m not sure I can wait that love… so far I absolutely LOVE Panama City…

  • I am enjoying your Panama posts immensely! We love Panama too and I am looking forward to visiting it again!

  • Me

    Thanks CatDance. But that is the end of Panama…for now! I’m thinking Guatemala or Nicaragua next. Or getting a job!