The most cosmopolitan megalopolis of Central America, Panama City is a capital of contrasts. With an ultramodern skyline that erects itself between the jungle and the sea, colonial architecture and UNESCO Heritage Sites, it is not just the financial hub of Latin America, but also a melting pot of cultures. Here is an insider’s guide on what to do if you’ve only got 24 hours to spend in Panama City.
Start the day by having breakfast in Panama City’s most visited neighbourhood: Casco Viejo. Walk along the tiny cobblestone streets among colourful renovated Spanish colonial buildings and stop for a breakfast at Dodó, one of the city’s best coffeehouses. Wander around the tiny shops, art galleries, and restaurants and visit the cathedral, one of Panama’s most impressive buildings.
As you leave the concrete jungle behind you, you will progressively immerse yourself in the lush vegetation near the City of Knowledge and all the way to the Miraflores Locks. The Visitor Center is a unique place to observe ships as they pass through the locks and transit from one ocean to the other through the canal. After experiencing this ultimate engineering marvel, continue your visit to the exhibition hall and watch the 3D movie that traces the history of the canal.
It’s time for lunch. If you want to eat like a local, the neighbourhood of El Cangrejo is the best place to go. An old residential area with small parks, restaurants, and cafés, it is the home of El Trapiche, one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Choose the lunch menu, which includes the daily dish (it could be fried chicken, stewed beef, or caramelized pork), a portion of rice, a soup, coffee, and a dessert, all for under $10. The restaurant is only a few blocks away from the famous statue of Einstein’s head, created by sculptor Carlos Arboleda.
Time-travel to the future and head toward one of Panama’s most exclusive shopping centres. In the ultramodern district of Punta Pacifica you will find the Multiplaza Mall, which encapsulates some of the world’s top brands, ranging from Zara to Hugo Boss to Cartier. A stone’s throw away is Super Mini Diablo Rosso, a concept store/art gallery that sells unique fashion, art, and homeware design items.
It’s time for a break, so head towards the Amador Islands. You will be amazed as you cross the thin strip of land that crosses the ocean and connects the city to these spectacular islands. The Amador Causeway, which was recently renovated, is a truly exclusive location in Panama City. With its breathtaking view over both the city skyline and the sea, it is by far the most quiet and relaxing spot in town. Have an ice-cream at Dolce Idea Gelateria and rent a bike to cycle around.
Located in Amador, the Biomuseo is Panama City’s most renowned museum. Designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry, it is made up of eight galleries that focus on the origins of the Panamanian isthmus and its impact on the planet’s biodiversity. When you are done, take a walk outside in the Garden of Biodiversity, enjoy the peace, and listen to the singing of the birds.
After a day full of new impressions, it’s time to relax, so nothing better than enjoying a happy hour in Casco Viejo. Sit at the terrace of La Rana Dorada and try out their selection of home-brewed beers. When it comes to eating, whether you are looking for Spanish tapas (Santa Rita), a fine-dining experience (Ochoymedio), or a Japanese fusion restaurant (Nacionsushi), the little neighbourhood has got you covered. Have one last drink on the rooftop of Tantalo, one of the city’s famous hotels, and enjoy the view from above as your day in Panama City comes to an end.