When most tourists are planning a visit to Panama City, they’re often facing the question of whether to stay downtown or in Casco Viejo. There’s no doubt that the two, while only a mile of bayfront divides them, are vast worlds apart.
From the air, downtown Panama City is visually impressive. Tall towers seem to be a sign that the city has developed and matured and gotten rich. But if you were to really dissect this skyline, it’s hard to find something clear and interesting that Panama is expressing about itself. The Sydney Opera house, for example, is a great artistic symbol of, what is now, a world-class performing arts city. Panama has nothing quite so iconic. Unless you consider the new Trump Tower which represents…um…we’re not quite sure.
Casco Viejo, on the other hand, is a neighborhood that communicates, beyond the beauty of just its architecture, a sense of self. A sense of Panama’s past, present and future. Casco Viejo tells the story of the city and the country: not only in the heirlooms that are its bricks and mortar, but also in the preservation of humanity that it breathes on a daily basis. Casco Viejo doesn’t have any trophy buildings quite like downtown, but in the big scheme of things, that’s ironically what makes the bigger draw.