The Best Travel Guide to Panama City, Central America
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The Panama Canal

If you do nothing else in Panama, go see the Canal, you won’t be sorry. Just 30 minutes from downtown, the Visitor’s Center at the Miraflores locks has a museum, gift shop, restaurant and observation deck where you can watch the behemoth ships pass through the locks. It truly is a modern marvel. In contrast to the more historically and socially focused Museo del Canal Interoceanico, the Miraflores Visitor's Center concentrates on the science, technology and environment behind the functioning of the Canal. The center is worth an afternoon of exploration.
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Casco Antiguo

Charming narrow streets, colorful buildings mirroring the multicultural Panamanian history, exciting cultural attractions and an array of hotels, cafes, bars, nightclubs, restaurants and art galleries are luring people from all over to this little corner of the world. In 1673, after the sacking of Panama Viejo by Welsh privateer Henry Morgan, what is now the Casco Antiguo became the setting for Panama’s second capital city. The new city was surrounded by a wall to protect it from further pillaging. An eclectic blend of French, Spanish and American architecture developed as the country evolved.
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Panama La Vieja

UNESCO World Heritage Site Panama La Vieja, commonly known as Panama Viejo, is the site of the original Panama City founded in 1519 by Pedro Arias de Dávila. This was the first Spanish settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas. Located on the far eastern side of the current city, these ruins are all that remains of the original city which was burned down by Welsh Buccaneer Henry Morgan in 1671. Since much of the original city was made of wood, the ruins are not that extensive, although they are well-maintained and make for an interesting visit. The visitor center at Panama La Vieja has a collection of the archaeological finds and information about the history of the site.
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The Biomuseo

8 permanent exhibitions tell a story of the epic emergence of the isthmus and the consequent transformation of the planet that occurred a mere three million years ago. It’s designed to lead visitors on a journey of discovery that will transform their understanding of biodiversity. The museum’s layout loops through eight distinctive pavilions with interactive exhibits created by Bruce Mau Design that progressively deliver both the solid science of Panama’s story and “the magnitude of life”. The visitor’s adventure includes colored glass murals; a Panamarama with head-to-toe giant screens that immerse you in a profusion of tropical life; towering geological cross-sections of the isthmus in tectonic upheaval; runs of life sized animal sculptures celebrating the biotic interchange over the narrow land bridge of the Americas; multi-storied aquaria that vividly portray the separation of the world’s two greatest oceans and finally, the pavilion with the punch line: Panama is the museum. The building itself is an architectural icon designed by Frank Gehry.
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The Fish Market

Here beds of ice are covered with lobsters, king crab, soft shell crab, octopus, shrimp, tuna fish, sea bass, red snapper, clams, calamari, sardines, scallops and so much more and everything at excellent prices. This is a fun spot to visit not only in a food sense but also as a cultural experience. Try the different ceviche (fish or seafood cooked in lime juice) preparations from the strip of vendors outside in the parking lot. Most of the ceviche vendors offer a sitting area and refreshments including beer which is the perfect beverage to go with ceviche.
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Panama Rainforest Discovery Center

With almost 1000 species of birds, Panama is the perfect spot for bird-watching enthusiasts. The canopy stretches in all directions as far as the eye can see from 100 feet above the jungle floor at the top of the Rainforest Discovery Center’s observation tower in Soberania National Park, just 30 minutes outside of Panama City. This treetop world is usually but not exclusively reserved for biologists with scientific equipment and a considerable degree of courage. Visitors are welcome to take part in a unique eco-tourism and educational experience at the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. Situated on 50 acres within the national park at the entrance to the Pipeline Road, the Rainforest Discovery Center offers nature lovers an extensive network of guided trails within a lush tropical jungle.
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Inter-Oceanic Canal Muesum

If you are going to visit only one museum in Panama, this is the one. With 10 permanent exhibitions that trace the construction of the Panama Canal and its impact on Panamanian history and society, the museum deserves at least a couple of hours in order to appreciate and absorb the wealth of information available. Museum highlights include the 1977 Carter-Torrijos treaty by which the US turned over control of the Canal Zone areas to Panama; several multimedia and interactive exhibits that can keep even the most hyper of museum-goers busy; and dioramas of everyday life throughout the history of the Canal. Guided tours are available in both Spanish and English to help navigate the abundant information.
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MUSEO ANTROPOLOGICO REINA TORRES DE ARAÚZ

Its collection of 15,000 pre-Columbian ceramic, sandstone and ethnographic pieces is by far the largest grouping of anthropocentric historical artifacts in Panama City. The museum tour begins in the hall dedicated to Torres de Arauz and moves to the Hall of Gold which houses an interesting collection of Huacas, the small ceremonial pre-Columbian treasures found in indigenous graves. Also featured are objects from the Barriles tribe, Panama’s earliest residents who inhabited the isthmus until 700 B.C. The museum also has exhibits of household items and farm tools demonstrating modern Panamanian life and culture.
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Visit an Indigenous Tribe

Discover the fascinating timeless lifestyle of the Embera indigenous tribe, an ethnic minority that survived the arrival of the conquistadors and continues to exist today. Embark on a journey by canoe along the Chagres river and through the lush tropical rainforest and learn about their culture, everyday life and traditions. The Embera are famous for their basketry and woodwork among other handicrafts. This is one of the top recommended tours while visiting Panama City.
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Ancon Hill

The best panoramic view of Panama City can be seen from the top of Ancon Hill which is 654 feet above sea level. Ancon Hill is a great hike along a paved road where you can see an abundance of birds and wildlife on your way up. You can also reach the top by car and take fabulous photos of the Panama Canal, the modern city and the Casco Antiguo. The Panamanian flag sits at the top as a symbol of sovereignty since previous to 1977 Ancon Hill was under US jurisdiction and Panamanians did not have access to it. At the bottom of the hill, there is a site called “Mi Pueblito”, my little town, a small colorful museum-like installation depicting the culture, traditions and architecture of Panama and its hispanic, indigenous and Afro-Antillean heritage.
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Amador Causeway

The causeway is a long stretch of land uniting terra firma with four small islands which was created from earth removed during the construction of the canal. The causeway is now developing into a great spot to spend the day or night, with a lively scene of street cafes, restaurants and bars. There are excellent views of the city skyline and the Casco Viejo. A firm favorite with families, the causeway’s wide sidewalks are great for walking, jogging and cycling. The Smithsonian Research Institute is also on the Causeway and is well worth a visit.
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Shopping

Panama is home to the largest malls in Central America and shoppers will not be disappointed with everything available. The smartest mall, MultiPlaza Pacifica located in Punta Pacifica is home to many chic designer stores as well as facilities such as banks, making this a convenient one-stop shopping location. MultiCentro mall on Avenida Balboa is also a high-end shopping destination. The largest of all is Albrook Mall located next to the main transport terminal, just across from the domestic airport. Albrook is home to some of the least expensive shops in Panama as well as the main chain and high end stores thereby offering intensive retail therapy at very reasonable prices. All malls have movie theaters and food courts. Aside from the malls, a good selection of stores can be found on Via España close to the banking district and, for a true bargain, Avenida Central in Calidonia provides quite an intense shopping experience particularly for household goods and appliances.
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