Panama City is a relatively new city in terms of building and construction. There are cranes all over the city as new buildings go up. Constant upgrading and road repair are probably a hassle for those that work and live in the city. But it did little to diminish the overall beauty of the city for us. The city’s growth is all very new with most of the skyscrapers built in the early 2000s. And there are what seems to be miles of steel and glass skyscrapers, including the Trump Tower. Anyone interested in skyscraper info? Check out this fun website.
We only took one afternoon to tour and headed out to Casco Viejo. Casco Viejo, which I think is translated Old Town, is a 10 minute taxi ride from the Hard Rock. On a side note, Guy likes to ask locals what they pay for taxis. The average fare for locals is $5-$7. Both going out and coming back the first quote was $10. But armed with the aforementioned knowledge, we were able to keep our fares down to $7 or $8. Not a huge big deal, but it’s a bit frustrating to get taken advantage of just because we’re not Panamanian.
In the late 1600s Panama’s capitol city, which used to be called Panama Viejo, was attacked by the pirate, Henry Morgan (you got it, the Captain himself) and destroyed. The city was then moved to where Casco Viejo now stands. Over time as the city grew up and out from this area, many of the more wealthier people moved away into the newer areas of the city. Casco Viejo became very rundown and impoverished.
Then in 1997 UNESCO designated Casco Viejo as a World Heritage Site. This meant that the UNESCO committee decided it was an important cultural and historical area (if you are interested, more info can be found here.) Because of this, the area has gone through a ton of renovation. There are still some areas waiting to be upgraded, but the areas that are done are quite beautifully. In keeping with the UNESCO World Heritage Site mission, there are strict standards that builder’s must follow to preserve Historical Authencity.
We’ve read safety warnings about where to go and where to avoid in Casco Viejo, but overall, never felt unsafe. There were a couple questionable looking blocks so we simply went another direction. We spent about 3 hours wandering through the streets before catching a taxi back to the hotel. As we never got hungry we didn’t eat at any restaurants in the area. Which was a bummer as there are supposed to be several really good ones. One, Manolo Caracol, is only open for dinner and serves an excellent 12 course meal. Hopefully next time we’re in the city we can check this out.