Panama City
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Things to do in Panama City

Things to do in  Panama City

Welcome to Panama City

Often compared to Miami, Panama City is Central America's most glamorous, cosmopolitan capital, blessed with year-round sunshine and refreshing coastal breezes. The country's most famous attraction, the Panama Canal, is just outside of town. This 48-mile (77-kilometer) feat of engineering can be viewed from the banks, but for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, book a full or partial canal cruise through the Miraflores Locks. Be sure to reserve ahead—private canal tours often fill up months in advance. Shimmering skyscrapers and luxury hotels dominate the downtown area, but a history tour reveals the city's colorful past as a Spanish treasure port and buccaneer hideaway. UNESCO-listed Casco Viejo (Old Town) holds 17th-century colonial landmarks such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Palacio de las Garzas, the Church of St Francis of Assisi, and the National Theatre. Sample some fresh, local ceviche and a microbrew, perhaps topped off with Panamanian coffee and a taste of raw chocolate. Head to Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador) for fantastic harbor and skyline views, as well as high-end shopping. Check out Biomuseo, Frank Gehry's first building in Latin America, and stick around Amador if you like the nightlife—it's home to the city's trendiest clubs. Take a break in the lush, urban gardens of Parque Natural Metropolitano, or escape on a day trip to Soberania National Park to see Monkey Island. Active nature lovers can kayak down the Chagres River, or soak up the sunshine on a boat trip to Taboga Island or Gatun Lake.

Top 15 attractions in Panama City

Panama Canal

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The first ships sailed through the Panama Canal in 1914, shaving nearly 9,000 miles off what was otherwise a very long sailing trip around South America. The engineering marvel transformed global trade, and today, 100 years after it was first installed, the canal has once again been expanded with new locks and widened existing ones, modernizing Panama Canal transit by allowing larger ships to pass from Panama City on the Pacific Ocean side to Colon on the Atlantic Ocean side.More

Casco Viejo

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Panama City's oldest and hippest neighborhood comprises a Tejas-tiled cluster of pastel colonial buildings at the tip of a heavily fortified peninsula. These ramparts successfully protected the first Spanish settlement on the Pacific Coast; today they make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with plazas, churches, and narrow streets.More

Monkey Island

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Panama’s Monkey Island on Lake Gatun is home to four monkey species—mantled howler, white-faced capuchin, Geoffroy’s tamarin, and lemurine owl monkeys)—as well as crocodiles, toucans, sloths, iguanas, and numerous exotic birds. Riverboat tours to the island offer visitors the chance to observe the monkeys and other wildlife.More

Miraflores Locks

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The world-famous Panama Canal is a must-see for visitors to Panama City, but to fully appreciate it, head to the Miraflores Locks. The engineering marvel in action is a mesmerizing scene, with some 700 tons (635 tonnes) of machinery, reinforced against the mighty Pacific, and cargo-laden ships squeezing through with just inches to spare.More

Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador)

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The palm-lined Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador) follows Panama Bay and then heads onto the Bridge of the Americas, which runs parallel to the entrance to the Panama Canal and leads to three small coastal islands. The 3.7-mile (6-kilometer) road includes popular paths for runners and cyclists and passes a number of sights.More

Bridge of the Americas (Puente de las Americas)

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The Bridge of the Americas (Puente de lasAmericas)****spans the Panama Canal, which is perhaps the most important public works project in history. Made of steel and reinforced concrete, the bridge is 5,425 feet long, and at high tide, the clearance is 201 feet, under which ships crossing the canal must pass.Twenty million U.S. dollars went into building the four-lane bridge, which replaced smaller ones and greatly increased road travel and capacity over the canal. It was inaugurated on Oct. 12, 1962, and allows the passage of cars, bikes and pedestrians.The Bridge of the Americas was originally called the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, named after the ferry that used to operate on the canal before the span was built. Panama aptly renamed the bridge, since it not only connects the capital with the rest of Panama, but also unites Central and South America.The bridge is not just useful, it’s beautiful. Seen from different angles, whether on a sunny or cloudy day, at sunset or when it is brightly lit at night, the Bridge of the Americas is a piece of world history worth the effort to see.More

Gatún Lake (Lago Gatún)

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The tree-lined shores, tiny islets, and blue-green waters of Gatún Lake (Lago Gatún) cover what was once the fertile Chagres River Valley. When it was created in 1913, Gatún Lake was the largest man-made lake, buttressed by the biggest dam, in the world. Today, it forms an integral part of the famous Panama Canal.More

Soberanía National Park

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On the east side of the Panama Canal, Soberanía National Park—one of the most accessible of the country’s protected parks—is a paradise for hikers, fishers, and bird-watchers. Some 1,300 plant species, 55 amphibian species, and hundreds of mammals, birds, and reptiles call the park home.More

Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon)

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Visible from nearly anywhere in Panama City, Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon) stands proudly above everything else in an otherwise flat region, with its immense flag flying high. At 199 meters above sea level, it’s the highest point within the city, and from the top you can see all the main points of interest. It’s possible to see not only the modern part of Panama City, but also the Panama Canal, the Amador Causeway, the Bridge of the Americas and Old City.In the middle of this bustling city, Ancon Hill serves as a little natural paradise. The forest has plenty of animals—sloths, armadillos, toucan and deer—and a slow walk up the hill provides the chance to see many of them. Once at the top, spend time watching the ships pass through the canal. It’s a pleasant walk from Mi Pueblito, and serious bikers take the challenge of riding up the hill. Go early to beat the heat, and don’t forget your camera!There’s also history wrapped up here. The name Ancon was used for the first boat that officially crossed the Panama Canal in 1914, and although it was under the jurisdiction of the United States during part of the 20th century, Panama took control in 1977.More

Plaza de Francia

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When visiting Panama’s Old City (Casco Antiguo), check out the Plaza de Francia on the far southeast side. This public square stands as a testimony to the people who worked on—and gave their lives for—the Panama Canal.Built in 1921 by Leonardo Villanueva Meyer, the square's main attraction is a 60-foot (18-meter) obelisk.The monument outlines the history of the canal and honors those 22,000 workers and engineers who died, mainly due to disease, while building it. The statues surrounding it show prominent people who participated in the construction at the time of the French involvement, and the Gallic rooster sitting on top of the obelisk is one of the national emblems of France.Besides the monument, near this plaza you will find the France Embassy and the Esteban Huertas Promenade. There’s also an impressive view of the Panama City bay, the Bridge of the Americas and the Amador Causeway.The plaza is also near the former Supreme Court building, which now serves as the National Institute of Culture and is home to the Anita Villalaz Theater, where theater performances, concerts and conferences take place throughout the year. In fact, you might recognize the building from some scenes in the James Bond movieQuantum of Solace.On one side of the plaza, vaults known as Las Bóvedas, which were originally part of the fortified wall around the Old City, are the source of legends and urban myths. Stop in at any of the stores in the area and listen to the shopkeepers tell you about the experiences prisoners once had in these dark recesses. In recent decades, the vaults have been restored and are now home to galleries, shops and a French restaurant.More

Presidential Palace (Palacio de las Garzas)

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“Garzas” is Spanish for herons, and you’ll see the birds roaming freely in the Andalucian-style courtyard of the Presidential Palace (Palacio de las Garzas) in Panama City. The African herons were a gift celebrating the completion of palace renovations in 1922. The President of Panama lives in the upper floors of the building.More

Biomuseo

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In a country with so much biodiversity, it’s not surprising to see a museum dedicated to the natural marvels found here. The 4,000-square-meter Biomuseo was designed by Frank Gehry, the same architect who designed the beautiful Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. This site takes visitors on a journey through time to when the Isthmus of Panama was formed, joined two continents and divided oceans.There are seven permanent exhibitions that focus on art and science education here. When the isthmus was formed, there was an interchange of species between North and South America, an effect depicted in a series of 72 sculptures of those species. Audiovisual presentations also show the natural wonders of Panama’s ecosystems.Another exhibition consisting of 16 columns tells the story of the cultural diversity in Panama. Two aquariums examine how the Pacific and the Caribbean changed when they were separated by the isthmus, and another display explores the relationship between Panama’s biodiversity and the rest of the world.An outdoor Biopark serves as a living extension of the museum, with a selection of endemic plants that contribute to an understanding of Panama's biodiversity and makes for a pleasant place to take a walk.More

Panamá Viejo (Old Panama Ruins)

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Spanish conquistadors laid claim to the land now known as Panamá Viejo (Old Panama Ruins) on August 15, 1519, making it the oldest permanent European settlement on the Pacific. A stark juxtaposition to modern Panama City across the bay, the ruins of Old Panama include a cathedral and several stone buildings and walls.More

Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum (Museo del Canal Interoceánico)

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This popular museum and top Panama City attraction is located inside a stunning, well-restored colonial building that once housed the French and U.S. companies charged with building the canal. Visitors interested in learning more about the famous waterway can wander the halls of this beautiful four-story white and green structure where displays showcase information about the political, social and historical impact of the iconic Panama Canal. Although signage is in Spanish only, English-speaking guest can opt for audio tours for a small additional fee.More

Contadora Island (Isla Contadora)

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Gorgeous Contadora Island (Isla Contadora), close to the capital, was once the seat of the Spanish pearl industry in the surrounding archipelago. Today, the Counting House Island, as it’s called, is home to elegant mansions, upscale shopping and dining options, and a wealth of outdoor adventure opportunities both in the water and on land.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 3 Days in Panama City

How to Spend 3 Days in Panama City

How to Spend 2 Days in Panama City

How to Spend 2 Days in Panama City

How to Spend 1 Day in Panama City

How to Spend 1 Day in Panama City

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Recent reviews from experiences in Panama City

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Great tour
Courtney_J, Nov 2022
Private tour around Panamá City and the Panamá Canal
We got to see so many great cultural aspects of Panama City
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A wonderful day of wildlife
Sarekha_D, Nov 2022
5 Hr Combo-Panama Canal boat ride+Monkey Isles+Rainforest walk & Local Breakfast
We were lucky to see so much wildlife!
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Excellent way to see Panama City
sheilajdunk, Oct 2022
The Panama Canal Visitors Center and City Tour
Excellent tour and a really great way to see all the important sights in Panama City.
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Fantastic Tour!
German_G, Aug 2022
Private Tour of the Historic Center of Panama and Canal
During our tour, Dennis was on top of things: checking the best times to visit the Canal, providing great recommendations for food and shopping.
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Fascinating View of the Panama Canal
Sara_W, Jul 2022
Panama Canal Partial Tour - Southbound Direction
Excellent narration onboard in Spanish and English giving you history, real-time perspectives of the boats around you as well as animals onshore.
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A Must Take Bike Tour
Tanya_G, Jul 2022
Old Town & Historical district bike tour
We made about 6 stops and we were able to see a great deal during the bike tour.
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Perfect morning
David_S, Jun 2022
5 Hr Combo-Panama Canal boat ride+Monkey Isles+Rainforest walk & Local Breakfast
It was our first day in Panama City and this was a perfect way to see a ton.
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Excellent experience
Michael_T, Jun 2022
Panama City Bike Tour
This was a great tour to see all around Panama City.
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Absolutely amazing...
Garret_D, Nov 2022
Combo: Monkey Island and Sloth Sanctuary
Next stop was to see the adorable sloths at the sanctuary.
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Awesome guide and tour
Sue_M, Nov 2022
Panama Canal Miraflores Locks and City Tour
The locks were the highlight (although living in Seattle we’ve seen locks operate numerous times) but to see oil tankers go through was very cool.
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A fun day in the Panamanian Junge
Jeffrey_W, Nov 2022
Gamboa Rainforest Combo Pack From Panama City
I appreciate our driver Miguel and his ability to get us to see everything in a compacted amount of time, not to mention his ability to navigate the sometimes crazy traffic of Panama City!
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Great overview of the city and seeing Panama Canal in action!!!
JONGOH_L, Sep 2022
Panama Canal Miraflores Locks and City Tour
Most importantly, our tour guide made sure to adjust the schedule so that we will be able to see a ship passing through the canal for the full experience of visiting the canal.
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Absolutely fantastic for all ages.
Lise_W, Aug 2022
Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour
We got to visit the Agua Clara Visitor Center to see the new expansion locks working up close.
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A Long Day But Well Worth It!
Chris_B, Aug 2022
Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour
If you're into history and nature and staying in Panama City, on the Pacific coast, this is a great way to see the other side of the isthmus and a cool Spanish fort now under restoration.
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Made our entire trip!
Andrew_B, Jul 2022
Embera Indigenous Village
We thought it was a fantastic adventure and the waterfall was well worth the 20 minute journey from the boat.
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Tour with the Mayor
Adrian_M, Jun 2022
Private tour around Panamá City and the Panamá Canal
Swift entry and exist at each site, a skill to avoid traffic along the way and getting us to the things we wanted to see as well some hidden gems along the way.
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The natural beauty of Panama and its people
Lee_C, Jun 2022
Tour at the Chagres Rainforest and Embera Indigenous Village
After mounting one final boulder, we were greeted by the sight of the waterfall and the pool below it.
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Excellent boat trip and guide with lots of monkeys!
Russell_H, Jun 2022
Monkey Island Tour from Panama City
She spoke excellent English, gave us a brief overview of Panama, the canal and the monkeys that we would be seeing.
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Awesome panama city bike tour.
Vincent_O, Jun 2022
Panama City Bike Tour
We biked all through different parts of panama and were able to visit a lot of monumental and historic sites.
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Layover tour
Jeff_h, May 2022
Layover (Stopover) City tour and Panama Canal Visit
Great way to see Panama City and the canal.
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People Also Ask

What is Panama City known for?

Panama City, the largest financial and banking hub in Central America, is best known for the Panama Canal shipping channel. The thriving city offers a high-rise studded city skyline and colonial-era architecture in Casco Viejo, popular for its artful ruins, churches, restaurants, plazas, museums and shopping.

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What should I not miss in Panama City?

Don't miss the colonial-era architecture of Panama City's Casco Viejo. Visit the colorful Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo, focused on Panama's natural history, and walk up Ancon Hill for views of the entire city. Head to the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal to observe the ships in action.

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How can I spend a day in Panama City?

One day in Panama City lets you visit natural, cultural, and culinary attractions. Begin with an early trip up Ancon Hill for the views, then check out the natural exhibits at Biomuseo. Spend the afternoon and evening in Casco Viejo, wandering the cobbled streets and dining at top restaurants.

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What is there to do in downtown Panama City?

You'll find some of the city’s best restaurants and shops in downtown Panama City, which is the area northeast of Casco Viejo. Wander amidst the city's modern high-rise office and apartment buildings and try fare from the restaurants dotting El Cangrejo and the Financial District (Area Bancária).

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What is the nightlife like in Panama City?

Panama City’s nightlife scene is vibrant, whether you’re looking for Latin dance clubs, late-night restaurants and cocktail bars, or somewhere with a city view. Most nightlife is concentrated in the downtown business district and Casco Viejo, and each provides a different atmosphere. Many places stay open until 2am or 3am.

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Is Panama safe for tourists?

Yes. Panama is generally a safe tourist destination. Violent crime against foreigners is not common, but it does occur occasionally. Petty crime and theft is more common, so take normal safety precautions. The least safe areas are in the east, near the Colombia border, due to gang-related and political violence.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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