Being the historical city of Panama, Casco Viejo offers many cultural attractions from cute cafes to charming plazas. Erika and I decided to spend a Sunday afternoon in Casco and had a great experience. With this, we created a guide which we hope will allow you to have well spent Sunday.
1. Brunch at ‘Las Clementinas’
Las Clementinas, a cozy Bistro, offers a wide range of international and Panamanian foods, and happens to be an awesome place to have an absolutely mouth watering brunch. Apart from indoor seating, the café also has outdoor seating in a charming patio. Nevertheless, Erika and I sat inside as it was quite warm being 12:00 in the afternoon. Erika decided to have a burger as she was really hungry. I, on the other hand, ordered a Nutella waffle, and despite the fact that I had already eaten breakfast, did NOT regret it. After finishing our meal, we both felt like we had to be carried out of the place (that’s how full we were), so make sure to arrive with an empty stomach!
2. Check out a Handful of Casco’s many churches
When strolling around in Casco, it’s almost impossible not to pass by a church. The one we passed by was called ‘La Iglesia de la Merced’, which was constructed during the 1680’s and, fun fact, still retains its original façade since the construction.
3. Stroll past the American Trade Hotel
The American Trade Hotel is one of Casco’s many beautiful historical buildings with a great architecture, inspired by a mix of New Orleans and Old Havana style. Personally, one of my favorite routes is through an alley that goes past the American trade hotel and opens up to reveal Plaza Herrera. This is a good shortcut, make sure to take it!
4. Take a Breather at Plaza Herrera
When you arrive at Plaza Herrera you will not be surprised to find a statue of a man gloriously sitting on a horse. Like many plazas, Plaza Herrera has its own characteristic statue; in this case in tribute to Tomas Herrera, the first Head of State of Panama. I would say take a break; relax and sit on one of the wooden benches available.
5. Marvel at the paintings by Rolo de Sedas
One cannot possibly pass by Casco Viejo without having seen the well renowned paintings by Rolo de Sedas. Rolando de Sedas is a Panamanian visual artist who conveys his view on the essence of females and nature through his artworks. In the artworks above, Rolo de Sedas displays the upper part of the typical Panamanian folklore dress, the ‘Pollera’. Funnily enough, I did not realize this until just this Sunday when Erika pointed it out to me. Don’t forget to capture a snapshot of these colorful works!
6. Visit the ruins
This is one out of about three of the ruins available in Casco Viejo and was once a church. Known as the Church of Santo Domingo, it burned down in 1756 and was never rebuilt since then. Interestingly, an arch inside the ruin, which remained intact until 2007, proved that Panama is outside the earthquake zone, giving developers key information during the construction of the Panama Canal. Apart from its interesting history, I find that these ruins contribute to Casco’s character and charm.
7. Buy an authentic Panama hat
Although manufactured in Ecuador, authentic Panama hats are a must have when in Panama, and Casco Viejo happens to be one of the most convenient places to get them. ‘Bellezas de Panama’ is just one out of various stores in Casco Viejo that sells authentic Panama hats.
8. Watch a Local Game of baseball at the beach
Yes, Casco Viejo also has beaches. The locals like to spend their Sunday afternoons with an exciting game of baseball. The exciting cheers of the audience shows how passionate many Panamanians are about this game. If you happen to be a baseball fanatic yourself then take the time to stop by and join the audience in anticipation; who knows, you might even be able to join one of the teams! Erika and I aren’t experts when it comes to baseball, but we were still curious and found it quite entertaining to watch the game for a few minutes.
9. Shop at ‘Las Bovedas’
Did one of your friends or relatives abroad ask you to bring them a souvenir from Panama? If yes, then Las Bovedas is the place to be. Las Bovedas literally translates to ‘the dungeons’ as it was originally part of a fortification wall around Casco Viejo. This corridor offers many typical Native Indian handcrafted souvenirs sold by the ‘Guna’ tribe. Apart from this, other local Panamanians also sell their own handmade and self designed jewelry. These artisans put a lot of passion into making their crafts and are at Las Bovedas everyday, so don’t hesitate to stop by! Erika and I both decided to buy a bracelet. I was surprised to find that mine is made of pearls coming from the ‘Islas Perlas’ islands here in Panama.
10. Observe the statues at Plaza de Francia
All the way at the end of the long corridor of Las Bovedas there will be a huge stairway leading to the impressive ‘Plaza de Francia’, dedicated to France’s role in the construction of the Panama Canal. If interested, take the time to learn some more about each statue by reading the descriptions. If exhausted from reading too many resolutions during Panamun, then take photos with the statues or have a group picture!
11. Be astonished by the intricate architecture of Palacio Bolivar
There are way too many buildings with beautiful, intricate designs in Casco. One of them is Palacio Bolivar. We find that this building has been very well restored. Although you can’t enter the building, it can still be enjoyed from the outside.
12. Hydrate with a bubble tea
After walking around for quite a while, we were thirsty. Erika happened to know a cute juice and tea café known as SweeTea Day. They are best known for their bubble teas, a Taiwanese, cold tea-based drink. The teas they offered were black tea or green tea, which was then infused with a fruit flavor of your choice and finalized with a bubble pop flavor of your choice. I decided to have a green tea infused with passion fruit flavor and lychee bubble pops. It was so good! I’m definitely coming back. Erika really enjoyed hers as well, she has a green tea infused with strawberry flavor and passion fruit bubble pops. In our opinion, bubble teas are a great way to end a memorable Sunday afternoon at Casco Viejo.