As you get to know the history of Panama, you will discover that this tiny Central American country has been exposed to countless different influences over the centuries. Its cultural legacy is best reflected in the traditional crafts that form the real treasure of Panama. Whether you are looking for golden jewellery, indigenous masks, hammocks, or for the famous Panama hats, the shops and markets of the capital have got you covered. Here are the 10 best places to buy souvenirs in Panama City.
1. Victor’s Panama Hats in Casco Viejo
When in Rome do as the Romans do… and when in Panama buy a Panama hat! It may be a cliché, but clichés are there for a reason and Panama hats simply look great. Besides, Panamanians wear them too, so you won’t look like a tourist when you’ve got one on (unless you combine it with flip flops and sunburn). Victor’s Panama Hats in Casco Viejo sells Panama hats of the highest quality for $20 and up. Fun fact: Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador.
Reprosa is a high-end workshop and store whose mission is to preserve and promote the historic and cultural traditions of Panama, as well as its ecologic beauty and its ethnic legacy. An expert in the reproduction of precolombine indigenous crafts and Spanish colonial coins, Reprosa has been granted unique permission to reproduce the Gold Collection of the Anthropologic Museum of Panama by The National Institute of Culture (INAC). Reposa also collaborates with indigenous tribes from Panama and with artisans from rural areas to produce objects such as baskets, wood engravings, masks woven in the Darien, the famous fabrics from Guna Yala, pottery, clothes and accessories. Find out more at one of the three locations, in Obarrio, Casco Viejo, and at the Multiplaza Mall.
3. Super Mini Diablo Rosso
Super Mini Diablo Rosso is a concept store that showcases Panamanian talent through a collection of unique designer objects. Located inside the Sortis Hotel, the sister store of the Diablo Rosso art gallery features unique items, such as clothes, shoes, jewellery, artworks and artisan crafts that bring together modern and traditional influences.
4. Mercado 5 de Mayo
As you explore Panama City, you will for sure spot some Guna Yala people, wearing their traditional attire. With flashy colours and mixed patterns, the natives of San Blas stand out for their unusual style almost reminiscent of pop-art compositions. Their clothes, entirely hand-made, are a mix of of square pieces of fabric with embroideries inspired by body painting (the traditional molas), and also covered in birds, butterflies or leaves. Molas can be framed, turned into pillow cases or dining mats. The best selection of Guna Yala textiles and crafts can be found at the outdoor market on Avenida 5 de Mayo.
Merkao is an online shop that serves as a platform for artisans, whose core value is that of preserving traditional crafts. By establishing long-lasting relations between producers and clients, the shop creates a good environment which ensures that the production of crafts remains profitable. The online bazaar features jewellery, home decoration (including furniture), accessories such as wallets and bags, as well as beauty products and specialty foods.
6. Mercado Nacional de Artesanias
The National Handicraft Market (Mercado Nacional de Artesanías) is located next to Panama Viejo, great for buying traditional souvenirs. Besides Panama hats, local sellers also present typical Panamanian artefacts that are both pre-Columbian and pre-Hispanic. Some of them are copies of the masks and jewellery that were made by the indigenous people who lived in Panama before the Spanish conquest. Others are woven Embera bowls or masks.
7. I Love Panama
I love Panama is a brand that produces and sells products such as flip-flops, key rings, sweaters, caps, and other souvenir items, with the brand logo stamped all over. The brand was born out of love and pride for the country and all the designs and prints are created by Panamanian artists that have supported this first collection. I love Panama souvenirs can be found at a number of locations at shops or malls all over the country. If you are looking for a souvenir, you can’t go wrong with these.
8. Mi Pueblito
Mi Pueblito is a crafts market located on Ancon Hill, the city mountain that works as the lungs of Panama City. The market sells replicas of items typically produced in the Panamanian interior, among Caribbean communities and in indigenous villages. The markets is like a mini village, with little plazas, churches, fountains, and colourful folklore shows. It is open daily from 9 to 5.
9. Galeria Vida
Galeria Vida is a unique shop in Casco Viejo which sells a mix of Latin American handcrafts, from Panama but also from Mexico and Guatemala. The owner Laurie works personally with indigenous communities as they produce high-quality products that help support their villages and also preserve the culture that lays behind the crafts. She also uses molas in unique pieces.
Calle 4, between Avenida Central and Agenda B, Panama City, Panama
10. Mercado de Artesanías de Panamá
The Mercado de Artesanías de Balboa was created in 1998 by the Municipality of Panama in response to a group of artisans who needed a place to sell their products. Located in Calle Arnulfo Arias Madrid in the city district of Balboa, there is a restaurants area, 42 cubicles for the stands, parking, access for disabled, and 24 hour security. The market features a great variety of artisanal crafts coming from all over the country, including molas, stuffed dolls, hats, jewellery, paper masks that are used during Panama’s Corpus Christi Festival and that can be hung to the walls, woven handmade dolls made out of natural fibres and dyes by the Embera indigenous people.
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