Welcome to one of Panama’s most emblematic colonial gems, Casco Viejo, a place that has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. This historic quarter is brimming with history, culture and life, offering an unparalleled experience for locals and visitors alike.
In this colonial settlement, churches and cathedrals play an iconic role. We will begin our tour at the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Merced, this church is distinguished by its beautiful stone walls and wooden columns. It also houses the Museo de la Merced, where you can explore religious and historical documents of Panama. A curious fact is that this church, the only one that survived the fires of Panama Viejo, was meticulously moved stone by stone to Casco Viejo, although unfortunately it lost part of its original foundations, which were used to build the fortified city walls of Casco Viejo.
Another iconic place is the Plaza Catedral, located in the heart of Casco Viejo. Here you will find a variety of restaurants, hotels and the famous Catedral Basílica Santa María La Antigua, Panama’s most renowned church. Its imposing stone facade with two towers on either side of the main entrance makes it a site of great importance, so much so that it is the church of choice for state funerals.
Plaza Catedral also houses two museums of great relevance. The first is the Museum of the History of Panama, which narrates the history of the country from colonial times to the present day. The second is the Museum of the Interoceanic Canal of Panama, with exhibition halls that tell the history of the interoceanic route from its beginnings to the present, including temporary exhibitions.
Another must-see museum in Casco Viejo is the Museo de la Mola, where traditional textile art created by the Guna indigenous group is on display. For a more detailed overview of this experience, we invite you to read our blog post “Living in Casco Viejo”.
You can’t miss other famous squares, such as Plaza Bolivar, dedicated to the libertador Simon Bolivar, and Plaza Herrera, in honor of General Tomas Herrera. These plazas are known for their excellent restaurants, and not surprisingly, Casco Viejo has become an epicenter of the culinary arts that you should explore.
Finally, we recommend a walking tour of Casco Viejo to appreciate its colonial architecture and immerse yourself in its vibrant atmosphere. Don’t forget to dress comfortably and wear a cap or hat, as the weather in Panama is usually warm and sunny. Casco Viejo is a must-see tourist destination for anyone visiting Panama. With its rich history, culture and life, it offers something special for everyone in this colonial jewel.