This is the place to stay while in Panama City. Here you will find.
Museo del Canal de Panama: Located across from the Catedral, this is a museum dedicated to the history and impact of the Panama Canal. It is well-worth the visit, but get the English audio guide as all the signage is in Spanish. You can check out art exhibitions on the second floor. I just missed a Paul Gauguin exhibition.
Churches: During Holy Week or Semana Santa three churches were open and worth visiting. Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Merced is the first. Second, Iglesia de San Jose is a small church with a beautiful gold altar. It was disappointing that Catedral Metropolitana, the large cathedral, was closed for renovation. Check it out when you visit; hopefully it will be open.
Mercado de Mariscos: In Casco Viejo, overlooking the new city, is the fish market with many vendors and small food stands selling ceviches and other items. I felt it was well-worth walking through and exploring.
Teatro Nacional: Inaugurated in 1908 and totally renovated and reopened in 2004, this is a neo-baroque theater offering events throughout the year. If you can, check out a performance and the ceiling frescoes by Robert Lewis, a well-known Panamanian artist. It is in Casco Viejo, a block from Plaza Bolivar.
Casco Viejo Hotels:
Tantalo: Hip boutique hotel with a lively restaurant, bar, roof bar overlooking the city and large rooms, each decorated by a different local artist. The staff could not have been more accommodating in helping with restaurant suggestions and reservations and arranging taxis and drivers. Bring your earplugs as sometimes street noise or noise from the bar might be an issue. I asked for a quiet room and liked Room #1 on the second floor. Loved the bedding also!!! A good breakfast was included in my room rate! Corner of Ave. B and Calle 8.
Other great hotels in Casco Viejo include Las Clementinas, which was a former 1930’s apartment building. The apartments have been transformed into six large suites. I didn’t stay there but people I met thought the rooms were excellent. Calle 11 y Avenida B.
I enjoyed meeting the owners of Casa Sucre Coffee House, Alyce and Rich Sherman, who are from Kansas City. They also own the highly recommended Casa Sucre Boutique Hotel which is a five room bed and breakfast also with three apartments. The rooms were not available for viewing but I would check this out as well.
Las Clementinas: Las Clementinas is a small boutique Hotel in Casca Viejo with private gardens and an attractive restaurant. I had dinner in the dining room on my first night in town and loved my sea bass ceviche and a sea bass entrée with mango sauce, basmati rice, coconut, cashews and eggplant. What a lovely experience! Calle 11 y Avenida B.
Ego Y Narciso: Located in Casco Viejo, this is a sleek contemporary tapas restaurant with outdoor seating in Plaza Bolivar across the street. It has a good selection of ceviches, salads, seafood and other entrees and tapas. The arugula salad with figs and Camembert cheese and a tasty tuna steak on a bed of tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini were really excellent. It is on Plaza Bolivar y Calle 3.
Diablicos: A colorful cafe and restaurant featuring Panamanian specialties. On certain nights they feature a show. The menu was quite extensive and I enjoyed the patacones, which were plantains stuffed with seafood, and the coconut flan. The guacho, or fish stew, was just okay. I would recommend ordering something else.
Casa Sucre Coffee House: Across from the Tantalo is Casa Sucre. This is an eclectic space with good coffee drinks. I enjoyed meeting the owners, Alyce and Rich Sherman, who are from Kansas City. Make sure to stop in while exploring Casco Viejo! They own Casa Sucre Boutique Hotel which is a five room bed and breakfast also with three apartments. The rooms were not available for viewing but I would check this out as well.
Rene Cafe: At the suggestion of the owners at Casa Sucre, I tried Rene Cafe for a really fun lunch. It is a small restaurant with an exposed kitchen to the right of the entrance. You have a fixed price lunch for around $8.50 which included a nice green salad, Spanish tortilla or omlette, a choice of fish, chicken or pork with a large bowl of rice, plus a great crepe for dessert. I thought the service was excellent and loved the atmosphere and the food. Calle Oedri J. Sossa across from the Catedral.
Granclement Gourmet Ice Creams and Sorbets: Don’t miss this spot for great ice cream and sorbet. Though I tried the homemade rum raisin, the coconut was the best in my opinion!! I had to go back twice!!
Vieja Havana: Old world atmosphere for great mojitos and Cuban music. It is at Avenida B and Calle 5.
Other suggestions from locals include Grapes Restaurant and Bar on Calle 8 and Mostaza Restaurant & Bar located at Avenida A and Calle 3.
Karavan Gallery: Great selection of paintings, folk art and Panamanian Kuna Indian molas already made into pillows. I thought it was one of the best stores I found in Casco Viejo and bought five pillows and three small paintings!
Papiro y Yo Handmade Products: Since 2009, this attractive store sells paper, fiber and can tabs made into jewelry, accessories, art, gifts and stationery items. It is located at Condominio Callejon del Chicheme, Local #1 Calle 4 in Casco Viejo.
Galerias de Arte Indigena at Calle 1, No. 844: Here I found the best selection in town of the incredible Hösig Di Younaan Rainforest baskets. I had seen several in US galleries that were very expensive, here you can find all sizes and all prices. They are truly exquisite so leave room on your credit card. The store also had a large selection of molas and masks to choose from.