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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

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

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

Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador)

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

Miraflores Locks

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

Gatún Lake (Lago Gatún)

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

Bridge of the Americas (Puente de las Americas)

Spanning the Panama Canal that links two oceans, the Bridge of the Americas (Puente de las Américas) is a proud symbol of Panamanian history. Its prime location on the Pacific Ocean outlet of the 51-mile (82-kilometer) Panama Canal also makes the bridge a key point of interest on many tours of Panama City, the canal, and Miraflores Locks.More

Monkey Island

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

Soberanía National Park

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

Plaza de Francia

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)

“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


This world-class museum celebrates Panamanian biodiversity and natural history with engaging exhibits that blend science and art. Since its 2014 opening, the multicolor, Frank Gehry-designed building has also become an important symbol of Panama City. The museum’s exterior features a lush botanical garden of native plants.More

Panamá Viejo (Old Panama Ruins)

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

Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon)

Panoramic views from Panama City’s highest point make Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancón) a must-see stop for many visitors who come to watch passing ship traffic in the Panama Canal far below. There’s more than vistas to this urban park: it’s also home to sloths, anteaters, and monkeys and makes a great escape from the capital's buzzing activity.More

Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum (Museo del Canal Interoceánico)

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

Mi Pueblito

Panama is a melting pot of diverse cultures, including those of Spanish, African and indigenous roots. Traveling around the country to see how these different societies live is fascinating, but it can be a challenge to fit them all into one trip. Close to Panama City is Mi Pueblito, however, a little tourist town that has them all in just one place.The town has life-size representations of villages found throughout the country, including a typical Spanish-style colonial town, complete with a public square with a Catholic church and mayor’s office. There’s also a school, a barber shop and houses with traditional kitchens and furnishings.One area shows the lifestyle of Africans who came to Panama to work on the canal, with a typical Protestant church, wood houses and representations of well-known buildings that form part of Panamanian history. Visitors can also get a glimpse into the culture of an indigenous village, with the huts, tools and instruments the country’s indigenous people use. Members of this group sell their beautiful handmade crafts in Mi Pueblito, and there are also restaurants and cultural events that are hosted here on the weekends.More
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Top activities in Panama City

Panama Canal Partial Tour - Southbound Direction
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Day Tour in San Blas Islands All Included Visiting 4 Islands
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Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour
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5hr Combo-Panama Canal Boat Ride w/Monkey Safari &Rainforest Walk
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Panama Canal Partial Tour - Northbound direction
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Zipline Adventure In The Rainforest
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Combo: Sloth Sanctuary and Gatun Lake Trip
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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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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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