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Captivated by Casco Viejo // Exploring Panama City’s Colonial Center

My first trip to Casco Viejo wasn’t exactly what you’d call successful. My family and I spent perhaps half an hour there, mostly at various souvenir stands. Then, we headed back to our hotel, overwhelmed by heat and hunger. From what I saw of the neighbourhood, though, I knew that I wanted to see more. So when my boyfriend and I returned to Panama City at the end of our trip, it was the first destination on our list.

We arrived in the centre of it all at the Plaza de la Independencia. The main centrepiece of the plaza – the cathedral – was unfortunately under construction. However, the beautifully white washed gazebo still set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

From there, we turned off onto a random street and followed wherever our intuition told us we should go next. We soon stumbled upon another small plaza with a fountain as its main feature. Then, we found our way to the Plaza de Francia. My favourite parts of the plaza were the monument with a rooster on top of it and a snow cone vender with the biggest block of ice I’ve ever seen. All of this, of course, was overlooked by none other than the French Embassy.

The cutest darn embassy I’ve ever seen.

After stopping to enjoy the Panamanian snow cones that we had come to love during our time in the country (they use malted milk and honey to sweeten them which somehow make them SO MUCH better), we headed off in search of the Panama Canal Museum, hoping to escape the mid-afternoon heat.

Unfortunately, although we did manage to find the Panama Canal Museum, we found it with a ‘closed’ sign on the front door. As we learned later, a vast majority – if not all – of the museums in Panama City are closed on Mondays. Of course, this just so happened to be the one day that we had to explore the city. Fortunately, there was still plenty of Casco Viejo to explore. After a minute in the shade to try to recover from our heat exhaustion, we set off through the streets once more.

The thing that captured me about Casco Viejo the most was all of the colors. I am a huge sucker for pastels, and there was no lack of some of my favourite shades on the windows and doors of various buildings . Set against the pure white of the walls, the hues were all the more breathtaking.

In addition to the colors I really loved the juxtaposition of the new and the old that could be found in the neighborhood. While the vast majority of the architecture is, of course, colonial, the neighborhood is quite the popular romp for the rich and frivolous of Panama City – meaning that development is never far away. Not to worry, though. There are also a few hidden, almost ancient gems lying just around the corner.

We stumbled upon one of these such gems on our way out, and took a moment to marvel in the splendour of it all.

According to a sign, this arch was the main justification for building the Panama Canal where they did. The fact that the arch was still standing was used as evidence that the area was a stable one. Funnily enough, the arch collapsed just a few years afterwards, and was later rebuilt.

With that grand finale, it was time to head back to our hostel for the evening. Looking back at where we went, I know that we barely scratched the surface of Casco Viejo. Still, my hopes were completely exceeded by this beautiful little section of Panama City. I’m very hopeful that I’ll be able to go back one day soon and explore even more of it.

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Captivated by Casco Viejo // Exploring Panama City’s Colonial Center


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