Cobbled streets lined with Spanish colonial townhouses, hulking bell-towered churches, views over palm trees to Pacific Ocean sunsets: Casco Viejo, the old colonial quarter of Panama City, Panama, has bags of character and a wealth of boutique places to stay. Here are the best – bookable on Culture Trip.
Aimed at travelers on a budget, the Selina hostel chain offers flashpacker comfort with modern co-worker fittings in cities around the world. The Panama branch sits on a hill overlooking the Casco Viejo, with Pacific views from some dorms and doubles. These are adorned with cool stencil art and decked out in distressed woods. Shared spaces include co-worker lounges, a pool, yoga deck and movie room, and there are organized activities on offer, from walks to ceviche making classes. There are a number of restaurants in the surrounding area.
Set in a stately, balcony-fronted, neoclassical building overlooking leafy Plaza Herrera, a block from the ocean, this grand dame offers rooms in a white palette offset with dark woods, balconies overlooking the square and bathrooms in cream metro-tile and marble. The bar serves great margaritas and there’s an on-site jazz club.
Choose the Magnolia for the views from the upper-floor rooms – you’ll see either a romantic tumble of terracotta and bell towers, or the ocean and the glass spires of downtown Panama City. Rooms and public areas are guesthouse-cozy, with simple wood-laminate flooring, rattan-weave art and wooden-shuttered wardrobes. There are dorms, too, ranging from slightly pricier four-bed rooms with ensuites to a 12-bed ballroom, which has no air-conditioning.
The Central is the most luxurious hotel in the Casco Viejo, sitting in a handsome 19th-century neoclassical building overlooking Plaza de la Independencia. There’s a rooftop pool with gorgeous bay-and-ocean views, plush rooms and a destination restaurant serving Argentinean steaks. Roosevelt stayed here during the construction of the Panama Canal. The hotel has been renovated since, and won a design award for its 2017 refit. Decor is bright and modern in creams and dark woods. Suites come with French windows opening onto large balconies.
Tantalo is a hipster boutique that suits a young, party crowd. With bright, individually themed rooms decorated with customized stencil art and modernist paintings, and furnished with bucket chairs and renovated industrial bric-a-brac, it’s in a great location just a block from the beach, and stays include breakfast. The real standout feature here is the rooftop bar, with views over the ocean and the Panama City skyline that will have you longing to linger. Watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand, or stay for the DJ-driven, dance-music nights.
With heavy 19th-century raw-stone walls, drapes over the bedheads and Edwardian furnishings, Casa Sucre feels like a hacienda. Yet the hotel is in the heart of the Casco Viejo, two minutes from the beach, with busy restaurants and bars on the doorstep. Book the apartments overlooking the tranquil inner courtyard – a modest upgrade from the standards, but more spacious, opening onto large balconies and free of street noise. The included breakfast is huge and varied.
With exposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling balcony windows, polished wood floors and strong blocks of color offset by warm pool lighting, Las Clementinas is a modern, urban boutique housed in a balcony-fronted early-20th-century building. There’s a zippy bar serving great cocktails and comfort food, and a tranquil inner garden courtyard. But the best feature is the rooftop sun terrace, with wonderful views over the tumbledown terracotta of the Casco Viejo and the boat-filled bay to the modern Panama City skyline.
This is a rewrite of an article originally by Brittany Schering.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Explore the rest of the country by booking one of the best resorts in Panama, or opt for a hotel designed for every traveler, available now with Culture Trip. Plan your trip with our two-week itinerary – you’ll be busy, that’s for sure.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
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