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Panama City Unmasked


by Agna Trinidad



Welcome to Panama City, a destination that holds a myriad of surprises and adventures waiting to be discovered. This bustling metropolis, located at the crossroads of Central and South America, is a true gem in the heart of Panama. From its modern skyline to its rich history and culture, Panama City offers a unique blend of tradition and innovation.


As you set foot in Panama City, you’ll be greeted by a vibrant atmosphere and a warmth that is characteristic of its people. The city is a melting pot of different cultures and influences, creating a diverse tapestry that is reflected in its gastronomy, architecture, and way of life.


Whether you are a history buff, nature lover, or adventure seeker, there is something for everyone in Panama City. From exploring the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to uncovering the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal, this city is filled with countless opportunities for exploration.


But Panama City is not just about its landmarks and attractions; it’s about immersing yourself in the local culture, discovering hidden gems, and unmasking the true essence of this vibrant city. In this photo essay, we will take you on a journey through the streets of Panama City, unmasking its beauty, uncovering its secrets, and capturing the essence of this captivating destination.


So, get ready to embark on an adventure unlike any other. Grab your camera, put on your explorers’ hat, and join us as we unveil the wonders of Panama City.


Exploring the Historic Center

When it comes to immersing yourself in the rich history and culture of Panama City, there is no better place to start than the historic center, also known as Casco Viejo. This charming neighborhood is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the epitome of colonial architecture and old-world charm.


As you wander through the cobblestone streets of Casco Viejo, you’ll be transported back in time. Colorful buildings adorned with ornate balconies and wrought-iron details line the streets, creating a picturesque setting. Take a leisurely stroll along Avenida Central, the main street of Casco Viejo, and discover the stunning Plaza de Francia, dedicated to the French builders of the Panama Canal.


One of the highlights of exploring the historic center is visiting the iconic Panama Canal Museum. This fascinating museum provides an in-depth look at the history and significance of the Panama Canal, showcasing its construction and impact on global trade. Be prepared to be in awe as you witness the engineering marvel that shaped the destiny of Panama.


As you continue your exploration, make sure to visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, a beautiful historic cathedral that stands as a symbol of Panama’s religious heritage. Step inside and admire its grandeur, adorned with beautiful stained glass windows and intricately designed altars.


No visit to the historic center would be complete without indulging in the local cuisine. Casco Viejo is home to a myriad of restaurants and cafes, offering a delightful array of traditional Panamanian dishes and international cuisines. Treat your taste buds to ceviche, a refreshing seafood dish, or try the mouthwatering sancocho, a traditional Panamanian chicken soup.


As the sun sets, Casco Viejo transforms into a vibrant hub of nightlife. From trendy rooftop bars to cozy wine bars and live music venues, there is no shortage of options for a night out on the town. Grab a cocktail and immerse yourself in the rhythmic beats of salsa music as you dance the night away.


Exploring the historic center of Panama City is an experience that will transport you to a bygone era. Uncover the stories etched in the walls of colonial buildings, savor the flavors of traditional cuisine, and embrace the vibrant energy that permeates this historic neighborhood.


Unveiling the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is undoubtedly one of the most awe-inspiring engineering marvels in the world and a must-see attraction when visiting Panama City. Connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the canal has been a crucial trade route and a symbol of human ingenuity for over a century.


As you stand at the Miraflores Locks, the most famous section of the canal, you’ll witness an incredible feat of engineering in action. Marvel at the massive ships as they gracefully pass through the locks, lifted or lowered to navigate the height difference between the two oceans. The interactive visitor center offers a wealth of information about the history, construction, and significance of the Panama Canal.


If you’re looking for a more immersive experience, consider taking a boat tour along the canal. Cruise through the shimmering waters, marveling at the impressive locks and the lush tropical surroundings. From the deck of the boat, you’ll gain a unique perspective on the engineering prowess required to create this man-made wonder.


For those seeking a deeper understanding of the canal’s history and its impact on global trade, a visit to the Canal Museum is a must. The museum provides an insightful journey through time, showcasing artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that tell the captivating story of the canal’s construction and its significance in shaping Panama’s destiny.


For an even more unforgettable experience, consider visiting the canal during the transit of a large cargo ship. Witness the precise maneuvers as the vessel navigates through the locks, and feel the power and magnitude of this colossal undertaking. It’s an extraordinary sight that will leave you in awe of human achievement.


As you explore the canal, you will also have the opportunity to see the immense biodiversity that surrounds it. The Panama Canal Zone is home to lush rainforests teeming with exotic wildlife. Take a guided nature hike or boat tour to encounter colorful birds, monkeys, sloths, and other fascinating creatures that call this ecological treasure their home.


The Panama Canal is a testament to human innovation and determination. A visit to this engineering masterpiece will not only leave you with a sense of awe but also a deep appreciation for the incredible efforts that went into building this iconic international waterway.


Discovering Local Cuisine

A visit to Panama City is not only an opportunity to explore its landmarks and attractions but also a chance to indulge in the vibrant and diverse local cuisine. Influenced by a fusion of cultures, including Spanish, African, Indigenous, and Caribbean, Panamanian cuisine is a delightful blend of flavors and ingredients.


Start your culinary adventure by trying the national dish of Panama, sancocho. This hearty chicken soup is made with a variety of root vegetables, fresh herbs, and tender chunks of chicken. It’s comfort in a bowl, perfect for warming your soul and satisfying your taste buds.


Another must-try dish is ceviche, a refreshing seafood delicacy. Fresh fish or shrimp is marinated in lime juice, mixed with onions, cilantro, and a hint of spice. The result is a burst of tangy and refreshing flavors that will transport you to the coastal vibes of Panama.


For a taste of local street food, head to the Mercado de Mariscos, Panama City’s bustling seafood market. Here, you can savor delicious fried fish, seafood empanadas, and ceviche served straight from the ocean to your plate. Enjoy your meal with a side of patacones, crispy fried plantains, or yuca fries for an authentic local experience.


Let’s not forget about the traditional Panamanian breakfast called “desayuno típico.” This hearty morning meal includes scrambled eggs, fried cheese, plantains, crispy bacon, and tortillas, all served with a side of fresh tropical fruit. It’s a delicious way to start your day and fuel your adventures in Panama City.


No culinary journey in Panama City would be complete without sampling the local street food staple, the “empanada.” These savory pastries are filled with an array of ingredients such as ground beef, cheese, chicken, or vegetables, and then deep-fried to golden perfection. Grab a few empanadas from a street vendor and experience the flavors that Panama has to offer.


As you explore Panama City, make sure to check out the trendy neighborhoods like El Cangrejo and Casco Viejo, home to a plethora of international restaurants offering cuisines from around the world. From fusion cuisine to gourmet dining, you’ll be spoiled for choice.


For dessert, don’t miss the chance to try the traditional tres leches cake. This sponge cake is soaked in a mixture of three different types of milk, resulting in a moist and decadent treat that will satisfy your sweet tooth.


Exploring the local cuisine is an integral part of any trip to Panama City. From street food delights to gourmet experiences, the flavors and spices of Panamanian cuisine will take your taste buds on a memorable adventure.


Capturing the Beauty of Casco Viejo

Nestled within the heart of Panama City, Casco Viejo, also known as the Old Quarter, is a neighborhood that exudes charm and captures the essence of Panama’s rich history. With its colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, and vibrant atmosphere, Casco Viejo is a photographer’s paradise.


As you wander through the narrow streets of Casco Viejo, you’ll be captivated by its architectural beauty. The neighborhood is a tapestry of different architectural styles, ranging from Spanish colonial to neoclassical and French-inspired designs. The facades boast vibrant colors, ornate balconies, and beautifully restored details, making every corner a perfect backdrop for your photographs.


One of the most iconic landmarks in Casco Viejo is the Church of San Jose, with its picturesque golden altar and intricately designed facade. Step inside and marvel at the stunning architecture and religious artifacts that reflect Panama’s Catholic heritage. Capture the play of light through the stained glass windows and the ambiance of reverence that fills the space.


For panoramic views of Casco Viejo and the modern skyline of Panama City, head to the rooftop bars and terraces that dot the neighborhood. Enjoy a refreshing drink as you soak in the breathtaking vistas and snap photographs that showcase the contrast between the historic and the contemporary.


Casco Viejo is not only visually captivating but also home to a vibrant street life that is worth capturing. Street performers, artisans, and locals going about their daily routines add life and movement to the neighborhood. Don’t be afraid to interact with them and capture candid shots that tell the stories of the people who call Casco Viejo home.


The Plaza de la Independencia, also known as Plaza Bolivar, is another spot that photographers should not miss. This picturesque square is lined with historic buildings and is a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. Capture the vibrant energy of the square and the beautiful architecture that surrounds it.


As you explore Casco Viejo, remember to venture off the beaten path and discover the hidden gems that lie within the neighborhood’s nooks and crannies. Explore the quaint alleyways, seek out the charming courtyards, and stumble upon secret gardens. These hidden corners are often the ones that hold the most photographic potential.


Whether you’re a professional photographer or simply enjoy capturing memories with your camera, Casco Viejo offers endless opportunities to document the beauty of Panama’s past. Soak up the charm, let your creativity flow, and take home images that will forever transport you back to the vibrant streets of this historic neighborhood.


Immersing in Indigenous Culture

While Panama City is known for its modernity and urban appeal, it is also a gateway to experiencing the rich and vibrant indigenous cultures that thrive in the country. To truly understand the depth and diversity of Panama’s heritage, immersing yourself in indigenous culture is a must.


One of the best ways to delve into indigenous culture is by visiting local communities. Take a trip to the Emberá village, located in the lush rainforests near the city. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to interact with the Emberá people, learn about their traditions, and witness their unique way of life. Participate in a traditional dance or try your hand at crafting a traditional handmade Emberá basket.


Another fascinating indigenous group in Panama is the Guna people, known for their colorful and intricately woven fabrics known as “molas.” Head to the Guna Yala region, home to the Guna people, and immerse yourself in their culture. Explore their traditional villages, learn about their customs, and witness the artistry behind mola-making. Admire the vibrant colors and intricate designs, and even purchase a mola as a unique and meaningful souvenir.


If you’re interested in indigenous art, pay a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Indigenous Art, located in Panama City. This museum showcases the work of indigenous artists from different regions of Panama, offering an insight into their artistic expressions and cultural themes. From intricately designed pottery to vibrant paintings and sculptures, the museum is a celebration of indigenous creativity.


To gain a deeper understanding of indigenous history and customs, join a guided tour that focuses on indigenous heritage. Knowledgeable guides will provide insights into the origins, traditions, and beliefs of indigenous groups, helping you appreciate the cultural richness that defines Panama’s identity.


Immersing yourself in indigenous culture also means experiencing authentic indigenous cuisine. Indulge in traditional dishes such as “sancocho de gallina,” a hearty chicken soup, or “tapado,” a delectable seafood and coconut stew. These dishes showcase the flavors and culinary traditions passed down through generations, giving you a taste of indigenous gastronomy.


Lastly, don’t forget to support indigenous artisans by purchasing their handmade crafts and products. From woven baskets and intricate beadwork to traditional clothing and jewelry, these authentic pieces reflect the artistry and craftsmanship of indigenous communities.


By immersing yourself in indigenous culture, you will gain a profound appreciation for the wisdom, traditions, and resilience of Panama’s indigenous communities. Embrace the opportunity to connect with these diverse and unique cultures, and let the experience leave a lasting impression on your journey through Panama City.


Unearthing Hidden Beaches

When you think of Panama City, the first thing that may come to mind is its stunning skyline and modern attractions. However, just a short distance from the bustling city center, you’ll find hidden gems in the form of pristine beaches that are waiting to be discovered.


Escape the crowds and head to the tranquil shores of Contadora Island. Located in the Pearl Islands archipelago, Contadora offers secluded beaches with crystal-clear waters and soft white sands. Spend your days relaxing on the beach, snorkeling in the vibrant coral reefs, or embarking on a boat tour to explore the nearby islands.


Bocas del Toro is another beach lover’s paradise. Situated on Panama’s Caribbean coast, the archipelago boasts a collection of stunning beaches. From Red Frog Beach with its unique red frogs hiding in the rainforest to Starfish Beach where you can marvel at the abundant starfish in the shallow waters, each beach has its own charm and allure.


An undiscovered gem is the San Blas Islands, home to the Kuna Yala indigenous people. The archipelago comprises over 300 islands, many of which have pristine beaches untouched by mass tourism. Relax on the powdery white sand, swim in the turquoise waters, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this hidden paradise.


For those seeking a beach experience closer to the city, head to Taboga Island, known as the “Island of Flowers.” Just a short ferry ride away from Panama City, Taboga offers picturesque beaches and a laid-back atmosphere. Stroll along the waterfront, take a dip in the inviting waters, and enjoy a beachside seafood feast at one of the local restaurants.


Exploring the hidden beaches of Panama City is not only a chance to unwind and soak up the sun but also an opportunity to connect with nature. Take a moment to appreciate the pristine beauty of these untouched coastal areas and relish in the serenity they provide.


While Panama City offers an array of attractions, the allure of its hidden beaches invites you to escape the urban hustle and bustle and bask in the tranquility of nature’s coastal wonders. So grab your sunscreen, pack your beach essentials, and embark on a journey to unearthing the hidden beaches that lie just beyond the city’s limits.


Unmasking the Vibrant Nightlife

When the sun goes down, Panama City comes alive with a vibrant and exciting nightlife scene that caters to a variety of tastes and preferences. From trendy rooftop bars to pulsating nightclubs, the city offers something for everyone to enjoy after dark.


Start your evening by exploring the lively district of Calle Uruguay, known for its row of bars and restaurants. This bustling street is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, offering a wide range of drinking and dining experiences. Choose from cozy pubs, upscale wine bars, or lively sports bars and savor a refreshing cocktail or locally brewed beer.


If you’re looking for a more sophisticated and elegant atmosphere, head to the upscale neighborhood of Obarrio. Here, you’ll find swanky lounges and chic rooftop bars with breathtaking views of the city skyline. Sip on handcrafted cocktails and mingle with the fashionable crowd as you embrace the glamorous side of Panama City nightlife.


For those who love to dance the night away, Panama City’s nightclubs are the place to be. From electronic music to Latin beats, the city offers a diverse range of clubs catering to different musical genres. Put on your dancing shoes, hit the dance floor, and let the rhythm move you as you revel in the energy and excitement of Panama City’s vibrant nightlife scene.


Casco Viejo, the historic center of the city, is not only a daytime attraction but also a thriving hub for nightlife. The cobbled streets come alive with music, laughter, and the clinking of glasses as locals and tourists gather in the charming bars and clubs that line the neighborhood. Experience the bohemian atmosphere, listen to live music, and immerse yourself in the cultural vibrancy of Casco Viejo after dark.


If you’re looking to experience a traditional Panamanian fiesta, head to a “fonda.” These pop-up parties, typically held during festivals or holidays, showcase local music, dance, and good cheer. Join in the festivities, try traditional dances like the “tamborito,” and immerse yourself in the rich cultural traditions of Panama.


As with any night out, it’s important to embrace responsible drinking and keep personal safety in mind. Panama City is generally safe, but it’s always wise to be aware of your surroundings and travel in groups when exploring the nightlife scene.


As the night unfolds, Panama City reveals its vibrant and dynamic nightlife, offering a plethora of options to suit every taste. From trendy bars to pulsating nightclubs, the city invites you to put on your dancing shoes, embrace the energy, and uncover the secrets of its after-dark allure.



Panama City is a destination that captivates with its rich history, vibrant culture, hidden gems, and diverse attractions. Whether you’re exploring the historic center, marveling at the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal, indulging in local cuisine, capturing the beauty of Casco Viejo, immersing in indigenous culture, unearthing hidden beaches, or experiencing the vibrant nightlife, this city has something for everyone.


From the moment you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the warm hospitality of its people and the palpable energy that fills the air. Panama City’s modern skyline seamlessly blends with its colonial architecture, offering a unique juxtaposition of old and new.


As you delve into the history and culture of Panama City, you’ll discover the stories etched in its cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and iconic landmarks. The Panama Canal stands as a testament to human ingenuity, while the historic center and Casco Viejo transport you back in time, showcasing the architectural charm of bygone eras.


Immersing yourself in the local cuisine will tantalize your taste buds, as you savor traditional dishes and explore the flavors of Panama’s culinary heritage. From street food delights to fine dining experiences, the gastronomic scene reflects the fusion of cultures that make Panama City a true melting pot.


But it’s not just about the history and cuisine; Panama City also offers opportunities to connect with indigenous communities, explore hidden beaches, and experience a vibrant and exciting nightlife. The diversity and array of experiences ensure that there is never a dull moment in this bustling metropolis.


As your journey through Panama City comes to an end, you’ll be left with memories of breathtaking landscapes, heartfelt encounters, and a deeper appreciation for the vibrant culture that thrives within its borders.


So, whether you’re an adventure seeker, history enthusiast, or simply looking for a vibrant and diverse destination, Panama City invites you to embark on an unforgettable journey filled with discovery, excitement, and unforgettable experiences. Plan your visit, embrace the spirit of adventure, and let Panama City unveil its treasures for you.