Top things to do in Panama City - Bus 142
DESTINATIONS Panama Travel Itinerary

Top things to do in Panama City

In the beginning of 2016 me and my boyfriend started calling Panama City home. And a curious thing happens when you move away from your family and friends, specially if you move to a touristic destination: it takes you a long time to start visiting the famous attractions that are literally just around the corner.

While traveling for fun we usually stay just a couple of days in each city and try to see everything in this short period of time. But when you move into a new place, everything has a different rhythm. I think that happens mainly because there’s just so many boring things to do regarding the new routine that we just leave the fun part for “later” – this magical and mysterious period of time that will be here quite soon, just wait.. If you’ve ever moved abroad you know there’s endless things to do: visit apartments, buy new sheets, visa paperwork, open a bank account, get internet running, chose a cellphone company, schedule air conditioner maintenance, start Spanish classes, measure your whole home before buying furniture, not finding furniture you like, having to buy it nonetheless… endless stuff.

Only after a few months living in Panama City we had to time to organize things up, seat back in our brand-new-so-hard-to-find couch and say: OK, now is time to explore this new home town.

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I very often see European and American tourists strolling down the streets of Panama City, but the destination is not that popular between Brazilians. Lots of people actually just stop by in a long connection flight once Tocumen (PTY) airport is Copa Airlines’ headquarter. The city also connects North and South America and it’s known as “Americas hub”.

You’ll need your passport to enter the country but no visa is required. Keep in mind the official currency is American dollars and the Summer lasts the whole year long – no need to pack your boots or jackets. Also, remember they don’t use addresses in Panama, so you’ll guide (and be guided) based on reference locations.

If you have more time around the country, I strongly suggest that you visit San Blas or Bocas del Toro, two little pieces of paradise on this Earth, also known as Caribbean. But if you only have a few days/hours in the city, here’s what you should visit:

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is the most visited attraction in the whole country. It’s also considered one of the Modern Wonders of the World by American Society of Civil Engineers, meaning it’s an amazing construction – and it really is, how cool is to connect both Atlantic and Pacific oceans?

I didn’t know what to expect to find here, but visiting the Panama Canal is really worth it. The touristic structure is super nice and I had a great time learning more about the economic value of the canal to the world. Start your visit with the movie at the 1st floor and then proceed to the observation deck. There are around 40 ships passing the canal everyday, and you totally should see one of them coming through. The best hours to see that are from 9:00-10:00 am and 2:30-4:00 pm.

Bus 142 | Centro de Miraflores, no Canal do Panamá
Bus 142 | Canal do Panamá

Your AliExpress package could be in one of these containers

Bus 142 | Canal do Panamá

Look how huge this thing is!

Hours: from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Price: U$15 visitors / U$3 residents

Panama Viejo

Panamá Viejo – or “La Vieja” – are the ruins from the first city built by the Spanish at the American Pacific coast, a strategic location for maritime trade routes. In the year of 1671 the pirate Henry Morgan – with the endorsement from Jamaica’s governor – invaded the city, later abandoned. Curious fact: with this invasion, Henry broke a peace deal between Spain and England, so he was arrested, but in 1673 he returned to Jamaica as sir vice governor. Crazy, right?

And just to reinforce the obvious: the city was attacked by pirates. In the Caribbean. If you know what I mean.

Bus142_CidadedoPanama_piratas

You will enjoy your time at Panama Viejo if you’re into History. Don’t forget to board their visitors train which takes you from the entrance to the ruins: it’s handy in Panama’s hot weather and also has some cool informations. Also, remember to go up the tower to check a beautiful view of the new and the old Panama City. During the visit, use comfortable shoes, wear sunscreen and take bug spray and water with you.

Bus 142 | Panamá Viejo ou "La Vieja"

Bus 142 | Panamá Viejo ou "La Vieja"

Bus 142 | Panamá Viejo ou "La Vieja"

Bus 142 | Panamá Viejo ou "La Vieja"

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Price: U$11 visitors / U$8 residents

Casco Viejo

Many Spanish colonies have their own Casco Viejo, or old neighborhood. Casco Viejo in Panama City (which is actually called San Felipe) is the place where the activities were moved to after Henry Morgan’s invasion. It is the coolest neighborhood in the city and also the place that made me fall in love with Panama: narrow streets, pubs and restaurants, historic buildings, squares, art galleries, museums, a great city view and the best place to walk around in the whole city.

The place is a World Heritage by UNESCO since 1997. You’ll find many attractions here, like: Plaza de Francia, Catedral Metropolitana, La Iglesia de la Merced, Museu do Canal, Plaza Herrera, Mercado de Mariscos. But the best part about Casco is to walk around aimlessly, just enjoying its little corners and admiring the contrasts: on one side of the street you can see barefoot children playing in front of their houses and, on the other side, a cool boutique hotel – which by the way is one of my favorite corners here: Café Unido, inside American Trade Hotel.

In case you have more time at the city, you should know that’s also on Casco Viejo that you’ll find the coolest Spanish school around Panama: Casco Antiguo Spanish School. If you mention you saw this on the blog you get a free demo class 🙂

Bus 142 | Casco Viejo, Cidade do Panamá

Bus 142 | Casco Viejo, Cidade do Panamá

Bus 142 | Casco Viejo, Cidade do Panamá

Cinta Costera

Cinta Costera is an urban park/boardwalk in the middle of the city. People usually go there to run, bike ridingand skating. Besides there activities, there you’ll find sport courts, ping pong tables, playground – and even climbing wall! – for kids and the famous “Panama” sign. The best part is the gorgeous Panama City view you get from there: from the modern skyscrapers in Punta Paitilla to the old churches and building in Casco Viejo.

Bus 142 | Cinta Costera, Cidade do Panamá

Bus 142 | Cinta Costera, Cidade do Panamá

Balboa Avenue

Alongside Cinta Costera is the most important avenue in Panama City: Avenida Balboa. If you’re lucky to visit the city on a Sunday morning, do like the locals and enjoy some time at Avenida Balboa, open to pedestrians until noon. Tip: the best photos are taken up from one of the red footbridges.

Bus 142 | Avenida Balboa, Cidade do Panamá

Ancón Hill

This regions was under American jurisdiction until 1977, when it was returned to Panama. The Panamanian flag is up there ever since and it can be seen from almost every corner in Panama City, once it’s its highest point with 199 meters. From up there, you get the most amazing view, making this little trip totally worth it. The climb is easy to moderate, but be prepared for hot and humid weather. The secret here is to come early morning for birdwatching and meeting some other animals along the way. When I went up there I spotted a family of toucans and a sloth! 🙂

Bus 142 | Cerro Ancon, Cidade do Panamá

Bus 142 | Cerro Ancon, Cidade do Panamá

You can see the port and Panama Canal from up there

Biomuseu

The experience at Biomuseu starts from the outside: the building made with colorful plates is the only work from architect Frank Gehry in Latin America. Inside the museum you’ll learn more about animal and vegetal species in Panama and how this little strip of land that connected North and South America changed the Earth completely.
Bus 142 | Biomuseu, Cidade do Panamá

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Price: U$22 visitors / U$12 residents

Multiplaza

One of the first impressions I had when I arrived in Panama was the strong US influence in the country – grocery stores and malls and filled with American brands and products. Therefore you may find that Panama City is a good shopping option if that’s what you’re looking for. But once I’ve never traveled with specific shopping purposes I can’t really say if prices are as good as the ones you find in Miami outlets. The thing is: there are good options here and if you’re already thinking about coming to Panama, shopping can be one of the (many) activities.

There are a few malls around the city and my favorite one is Multiplaza, in San Francisco. Besides many different stores and restaurants, it’s a beautiful shopping mall with free wifi.

Now you already know what to do on your next trip to Panama City. Que lo disfrutes! (or: Enjoy it!) 🙂

Bus142_Line

More about Panama here:

First impressions on Panama
Panama Caribbean: Visiting Isla Chichime in San Blas

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Taís
    Thursday September 15th, 2016 at 08:17 AM

    Mariiii que post mais legal <3
    Tô tentando montar um novo roteiro de viagem pra América do Sul e talvez incluir algo da América Central e ir subindo.. e fiquei pensando muito no Panamá. Esse seu post deu bem uma clareada nas ideias e ver o que dá pra fazer pela Cidade do Panamá. Já tinha visto um post em outro blog sobre essa parte antiga da cidade e adorei… o canal também deve ser algo muito interessante de visitar.
    E é bem assim mesmo, quando a gente muda pro lugar demora um tempo pra conhecer as coisas, eu aqui 3 anos ainda tem um tanto de coisa que ainda não fui conhecer.. haha paciência, uma hora a gente vai 😀 😀

    Beijos!

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Thursday September 15th, 2016 at 02:49 PM

      Obrigada, Ta <3 Tem muita coisa pra fazer pelo Panamá, mas antes de vir pra cá eu também achei um pouco difícil encontrar a informação certinho. Se decidir vir pra cá mesmo me avisa 🙂
      Beijos!

  • Reply
    TALITA DOS SANTOS CARVALHO
    Thursday September 15th, 2016 at 05:04 PM

    Muito legal seu post,a mo blogs de viagens.
    Abraço

    Acho que é a primeira vez que passo por aqui rs

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Friday September 16th, 2016 at 01:01 AM

      Obrigada pelo carinho, Ta! Volta sempre <3

  • Reply
    Vy
    Thursday September 15th, 2016 at 09:01 PM

    Nossa, que legal, não sabia que tinha tanta coisa pra fazer ai! Pra mim é tipo um “treinamento”, já que é a minha área (o turismo) 😉

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Friday September 16th, 2016 at 01:12 AM

      Tem muuuita coisa, Vy! Mas quase não se fala dessas atrações, né? As pessoas costumam saber que aqui tem o Canal e o Caribe… mas tem um mundo de coisa legal fora essas atrações clássicas 🙂

  • Reply
    Adrilaine Cezimbra
    Sunday September 18th, 2016 at 06:23 PM

    Mari à cada post teu fico com mais vontade de conhecer o mundo. Preciso, tipo PRECISO muito viajar, viajar mais, e viajar mais e mais. Socorro!
    Achei demais o seu roteiro para Panama, daqui a pouco vai faltar espaço no “favoritos” pra eu guardar tantos posts;

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Tuesday October 4th, 2016 at 11:20 AM

      A viagem sempre começa na nossa cabeça, né? hahaha
      O Panamá é incrível, tem muita coisa linda! Super recomendo, especialmente pra quem ama o calor 🙂

  • Reply
    Luciana Salles
    Monday September 19th, 2016 at 09:13 AM

    Parabéns pelo post Mari! E mais ainda pelo blog! Estou encantada com sua história hahaha. Conheci através do SOTMB ! Beijinhos :****

    http://www.retratosediarios.com/blog

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Tuesday October 4th, 2016 at 11:24 AM

      Obrigada pelo carinho, Lu! <3

  • Reply
    Aline Amorim
    Monday September 19th, 2016 at 12:18 PM

    É mesmo interessante como os moradores de cidades turísticas não visitam muito os pontos turísticos.
    Não conhecia essa cidade. Gostei de saber sobre os lugares.
    Panamá Viejo parece ser muito interessante. Beijos

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Tuesday October 4th, 2016 at 11:26 AM

      É verdade, né? E não só as cidades de turismo clássico. Quando eu morava em SP também não curtia tanto assim a cidade. Acho que é um hábito que a gente precisa criar!
      Panama Viejo é lindo, mas eu sou suspeita porque adoro uma ruína! hahaha

  • Reply
    Ane
    Monday September 19th, 2016 at 09:23 PM

    Dicas de lugares novos são sempre bem-vindos né. Achei super legal a maneira como você elaborou o post. Confesso que nunca parei para pensar em visitar o Panamá, mas depois de ler este post fiquei curiosa sobre.

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Tuesday October 4th, 2016 at 11:27 AM

      Ane, vou ser sincera: eu nunca tinha considerado o Panamá também! Mas o universo colocou a gente aqui e foi uma surpresa muito boa 🙂 A cidade é linda e o país, apesar de pequeno, tem MUITA coisa diferente pra fazer. Estamos explorando ainda 🙂

  • Reply
    Natascha
    Monday September 19th, 2016 at 10:30 PM

    Oi Mari! Adorei seu post, acho que foram ótimas dicas e assim que eu passar pelo Panamá vou escolher algum desses lugarzinhos pra visitar! Queria te pedir pra fazer um post sobre como é morar no Panamá, minha mãe é apaixonada por aí e ela queria muito se mudar! Mas nunca vejo muita gente falando sobre o país, vc foi a primeira! Como é a qualidade de vida, os empregos e tals! Desculpe pedir tanto, mas acho que vc escreve muito bem!!! Bjoo
    http://www.taviajandomenina.com.br

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Tuesday October 4th, 2016 at 11:29 AM

      Na, obrigada pelo carinho! Estou com umas ideias sobre o Panamá, sim! Vou escrever e te aviso 🙂
      Mas se precisar de alguma informação, só me chamar! 🙂 Beijos

  • Reply
    Carol Pestana
    Monday September 26th, 2016 at 04:47 PM

    Nossa adorei esse post, mudou totalmente minha visão do Panamá!
    SEMPRE vi apenas como o free shop mais barato do mundo hahaha
    vou incluir com certeza na minha listinha caribeana!
    amei!

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Tuesday October 4th, 2016 at 11:31 AM

      Pois é, menina! Tem alguns lugares que são marcados só por algumas atrações, e a gente nem imagina que tem muito mais a oferecer. O Caribe panamenho é lindo demais! É bem rústico, mas impressionante de maravilhoso. Vem sim e me avisa pra gente ir comer um patacon 🙂
      Beijos!

  • Reply
    Lila Martins
    Monday September 26th, 2016 at 05:46 PM

    Muito bom conhecer um pouquinho de outros lugares! parece ser um lugar muito interessante de visitar! =D

    • Reply
      Mari Guedes
      Tuesday October 4th, 2016 at 11:32 AM

      É muito legal sim, Lila! O Panamá foi minha primeira experiência “de verdade” na América Latina, e é muito interessante ver como um país tão “perto” do Brasil pode ser tão diferente!

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