what to see in panama city

Casco Viejo, the hippest neighborhood in Panama City. (Photo: Getty Images)

Panama City

Have an Extra Day to Spare? Plan a Long Weekend in Panama City, Panama

Make the most of a three-day stay in Central America’s most cosmopolitan city. Running from morning until night, our itineraries include curated, insider recommendations covering the best things to see and do, where to shop, and where to experience the highlights of Panama’s culinary scene.

Day 1

Stroll along the waterfront Cinta Costera Park to enjoy miles of pathways, mingle with joggers, and admire the city skyline and the sea.

Take a taxi to the Amador Causeway and visit the Biomuseo. Designed by Frank Gehry, this museum houses sophisticated displays which show how the Isthmus of Panama created a land bridge which altered migration routes, evolution, and the climate.

what to see in panama city
The Biomuseo, designed by Frank Gehry. (Photo: Getty Images)

Walk to the end of the scenic Amador Causeway for lunch at Beirut, where traditional Lebanese dishes and great views of the city are the specialties of the house.

Return back toward the Biomuseo, stopping at the Smithsonian Institution’s Punta Culebra Tropical Research Institute to see sharks, turtles, and fish. A short trail takes you through an area where iguanas, sloths, and armadillos can be spotted.

Take a taxi to the Panama Viejo archaeological site, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. Maps, artifacts, and dioramas cover city history from the founding of Panama City by the Spanish in 1519 to its sacking by Henry Morgan. An earthquake leveled most of the original settlement, but you can tour a few of the remaining buildings.

what to see in panama city
The Panama Viejo archaeological site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. (Photo: Getty Images)

For dinner, check out the only restaurant in Panama that’s on the 2018 list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. At Maito, expect chic presentation, surprising combinations, and ingredients you’ve probably never eaten before in dishes like palm fruit in corn sauce and blood sausage made with red rice from the Darien jungle.

Grab a seasonal craft cocktail like the Fosforito, made with mezcal, tawny port, melon cordial with spicy agave, and lime juice, at Amano.

Day 2

Casco Viejo, the hippest neighborhood in Panama City, deserves a day of shopping, eating, and sight-seeing. Start at the remains of the Santo Domingo Church and don’t miss the oddly flat, 50 foot, brick arch built by Dominican friars.

For modern designer jewelry often incorporating recycled elements, pop into Mitchell Q. Joyeria.

Browse or buy at the Diablo Rosso art gallery, which highlights the work of local artists and has sold pieces at the Tate Modern and the Guggenheim Museum.

Panama’s first craft brewpub now has multiple outlets around Panama City, but the original Casco Viejo location of La Rana Dorada continues to shine. Six craft brews are offered along with well-executed bar food. If the plantain pizza is on the menu, order it.

In preparation for your Panama Canal adventure tomorrow, visit the Canal Museum of Panama in Casco Viejo, where exhibits cover the history of the canal, not just the engineering.

The Metropolitan Cathedral was completed in the late 1700s after a century of construction using a mix of architectural styles. It anchors Plaza de la Independencia in Casco Viejo and this is where modern Panama was born when the nascent country declared its independence from Colombia in 1903.

Celebrate the crafts of the Panamanian Caribbean coast at Karavan Gallery, which offers textiles with traditional Kuna molas, hats woven by the Sofre people, masks made by the Embera people, and more.

Make a reservation at Donde José (it only has 16 seats) to enjoy the inventive tasting menu from Chef José Olmedo Carles. Dishes might include sea snails and cashews in a squash and clam broth as the chef celebrates the biodiversity of Panama.

After dinner, head to The Strangers Club for artful cocktails created by six skilled bartender/owners.

Day 3

Travel the Panama Canal on a half transit or full transit tour with Panama Marine Adventures. Partial transits pass through the Miraflores lock, the San Miguel lock and the Culebra Cut. Full transits travel from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean through all six locks on the original Panama Canal—plus the Culebra Cut and Gatún Lake. All transits include breakfast and lunch, a guide to explain canal history and engineering, and the process of moving vessels through the locks.

panama city what to see
The Panama Canal is a bucket-list item on your visit. (Foto: Getty Images)

For dinner, enjoy what the first winner of Top Chef Panama, Chef Hernán Correa, is doing at his Riesen Restaurante, where he uses 100% local ingredients to create 7-course tasting menus featuring dishes like homemade organic chicken ravioli in a sancocho broth.

For drinks, head to Alquimia, the bar above Laboratorio Madrigal restaurant, where classics like the Sazerac and the French 75 are crafted along with originals like the Forgive Me—made with pisco, St. Germaine, lemon, ginger, and apple.