From Sloths to Nightlife: Explore Panama City’s Wild Side Without Getting Lost in the Canal
If you’re planning a trip to Panama City, you might think the Panama Canal is the only thing worth seeing. But this vibrant and exciting city has so much more to offer!
From exploring historic neighborhoods to hiking in national parks, sampling delicious cuisine, to experiencing the nightlife, there are plenty of things to see and do that don’t involve a boat. In this list, we’ve rounded up the top 20 things to see and do in Panama City, including some lesser-known gems that will make your trip unforgettable.
So get ready to explore Panama City’s wild side and discover all this fantastic destination has to offer!
Here are some of the top things to see and do in Panama City:
- Visit the Panama Canal: One of the most iconic and impressive engineering feats in the world, the Panama Canal is a must-see attraction. You can take a guided tour, watch ships pass through the locks, or even take a boat trip through the canal.
- Explore Casco Viejo: The historic center of Panama City, Casco Viejo is a UNESCO World Heritage site with charming colonial architecture, lively cafes and restaurants, and a rich cultural heritage.
- Visit the Biomuseo: Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry; the Biomuseo is an interactive museum that explores the natural history of Panama and the importance of biodiversity.
- Wander through the Panama Viejo ruins: The ruins of the original Panama City, founded in 1519, are a fascinating historic site that offers a glimpse into the city’s colonial past.
- Take a stroll on the Amador Causeway: This picturesque causeway connects three islands and offers stunning views of the city skyline and the ocean.
- Explore the Metropolitan Natural Park: Located just outside the city center, this 265-hectare park is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including howler monkeys, sloths, and toucans.
- Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art: This museum showcases contemporary art from Panama and other Latin American countries.
- Take a boat tour to Taboga Island: This picturesque island is known for its beaches, hiking trails, and charming colonial architecture.
- Enjoy the nightlife in the Zona Rosa: The Zona Rosa is a trendy neighborhood with a vibrant nightlife scene, including bars, clubs, and restaurants.
- Shop at the Albrook Mall: This is the largest mall in Panama and offers various shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.
- Visit the Panama Viejo Archaeological Site: This site showcases the remains of the first Spanish settlement in the Americas.
- Take a city tour: Many guided tours are available that will take you to some of the city’s most iconic and exciting places.
- Visit the Panama Canal Museum: This museum offers an in-depth look at the history and construction of the Panama Canal.
- Explore the Fish Market: This market is a great place to experience local culture and cuisine, including fresh seafood dishes.
- Visit the National Theater: This elegant theater was built in the early 1900s and is home to various performances, including opera, ballet, and theater.
- Visit the Artisan Market: This market is a great place to buy handmade crafts and souvenirs, including traditional Panamanian textiles, pottery, and jewelry.
- Take a day trip to El Valle de Anton: This charming town is in the crater of an extinct volcano known for its natural hot springs, waterfalls, and hiking trails.
- Go bird watching in Soberania National Park: This park is home to more than 500 species of birds, including toucans, parrots, and eagles.
- Visit the Frank Gehry-designed Hotel El Panama Convention Center & Casino: This iconic building is an excellent example of modern architecture and design.
- Take a food tour: Panama City is known for its delicious and diverse cuisine, and many food tours are available that will take you to some of the city’s best restaurants and food markets.
Did you know?
Panama City is one of the few places in the world where you can see both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans simultaneously? This is possible from the top of Cerro Ancón, a hill in the city’s heart.
On a clear day, you can see the city skyline, the Panama Canal, and both oceans from this viewpoint. It’s a unique and breathtaking experience that many visitors to Panama City don’t know about!
A little history:
Panama City has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to the early 16th century. In 1519, Spanish explorer Pedro Arias Dávila founded the city on Panama’s Pacific coast, making it the first Spanish settlement on the American mainland.
For the next several centuries, Panama City served as an essential hub for Spanish trade and commerce, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans through the Panama Canal.
Panama City has been plagued by disasters such as fires, pirate attacks, and earthquakes throughout its history. In 1671, the pirate Henry Morgan destroyed the city, and many of its inhabitants were killed or enslaved. The town was rebuilt in a new location called Casco Viejo, or the Old City.
In the 19th century, Panama City played a pivotal role in the California Gold Rush, as thousands of prospectors traveled through the city to California. The city also played a significant role in constructing the Panama Canal, which began in the early 20th century and was completed in 1914.
After gaining independence from Colombia in 1903, Panama City became the capital of the new Republic of Panama.