Seasoned travellers going to Panama City often compares it to Miami in the United States. Such a moniker came to be due to the number of steel and glass towers dominating the city's skyline which is in many ways similar to the North American city. There are more than meets the eye, however, in this capital of Panama, one of the thriving capitals in Central America. Although the urban environment offers a range of fun activities, a trip to the countryside can bring memorable adventures.
Panama City started out as a settlement 8km away from the present site. It was built by Spanish conquistadores as a port of entry between Panama and Peru. This made the city become a pathway for gold and other resources looted from the Incas and other native tribes in South America and the surrounding area. Pirates led by Henry Morgan, however, sacked the city and burned it in 1671. This did not turn out to be the end of Panama City, which was rebuilt in a nearby peninsula in 1673. The city gradually developed with the construction of the Panama Railroad in the 1850s and the establishment of the canal in 1914. The canal was appropriated by the United States in 1989 with the control of the port going back to Panama in 1999. Its return has boosted the capital until it became the richest city in the region.
What to see & do
Many beautiful sights await tourists once they get to Panama City. One of the landmarks to visit is the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, which features the best works of Panamanian artists. Some exhibitions of national or international artists are opened occasionally, making it exciting to visit this institution once in a while. For a glimpse of the city's history, a visit to the Museo de Arte Religioso Colonial is a nice follow-up. The collections feature various religious artefacts dating back to 16th century. Tourists entering the site will see a long arch used to determine whether Panama will be a stable site for the canal.
There are also the canal murals to see, which were painted by William Ingen. It depicts with its four scenes how the canal was constructed from the digging of the Gaillard Cut to the construction of the Milaflores Locks. From there, it will be easier to visualise the Panama Canal as it was before. A trip to the harbour where it is located makes an impressive sight, especially for those curious to see one of the most important ports in the Americas.
Those going to the ruins of the Panama Viejo Ruins will find sights not to miss. The Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, one of the best-preserved locales, has two side chapels with a bell tower at the back. The old facade of the building was gone except for the walls that remained standing. A view of the old city's former residences can also be found at the ruins of the Casa Alarcón. The church dates back to the 1640s, making it an important link to Panama's past. Its significance was widely recognised by the UNESCO World Heritage Site Foundation when they honoured the ruins in 1997.
How to get around within Panama City
Travelling in Panama City is manageable, as the local bus network is reliable. One can ride in the local buses or the 'diablos rojos', as the locals call them. There are also various taxi operators available, making it convenient to reach various areas in the city quickly.
Although the roads are passable especially those in the city, tourists might find the Panamanian traffic a challenge especially on rush hours. To avoid this, enquire about suitable times to drive around.
How to get there
Travellers going to Panama City will most likely land on Tocumen International Airport. Airlines serving here include passenger and cargo planes such as: Air Canada, Air France, Air Panama, Air Transat, American Airlines, Aruba Airlines, Avior Airlines, Avianca, Cayman Airways, Condor, Conviasa, Copa Airlines, Copa Airlines Colombia, Delta Air Lines, Iberia, KLM, Spirit Airlines, Sunwing Airlines, TAP Portugal, United Airlines, and Venezolana.