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14 things to do Casco Viejo / Casco Antiguo, Panama City

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A welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the ‘new’ Panama, Casco Viejo (also known as Casco Antiguo) in Panama City oozes colonial charm, with its colourful alleys and historic square.

Whilst quaint and quietly cultured by day, Casco Viejo comes alive at night with an array of rooftop bars and clubs – there are so many things to do in Casco Viejo, Panama City.

From cathedrals to cocktails (and a little bit of James Bond), everything you need from food and drink to arts and culture can be found in small but sublime Casco Antiguo (well, part from maybe a parking space)

Here is our guide to the best things to do in Casco Antiguo / Casco Viejo in Panama City, Central America:

A guide to Casco Viejo in Panama City blog post travel guide

Things to do in Casco Viejo, Panama City

1. Wander the old town streets

Our number one thing to do in Casco Antiguo / Casco Viejo is to simply wander the San Felipe streets, soaking up the atmosphere and multi-coloured murals.

Casco Viejo is quite compact so you really don’t need a map – just admire all the architecture (colonial), cafe-hop your way around the old streets and yearn longingly at the beautiful balconies that most apartments seem to have.

A guide to Casco Viejo in Panama City blog post travel guide
A guide to Casco Viejo in Panama City blog post travel guide

Here in Casco Viejo, you can also see the home (well, from afar) of Panama’s president, whose Palace of the Herons residence can be found overlooking the ocean.

Casco Antiguo dates back to the 1670s, after explorer Henry Morgan set ablaze the original Panama City and everyone relocated – the ruins of the original settlement – Panama Viejo – can still be visited to this day and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A guide to Casco Viejo in Panama City blog post travel guide
A guide to Casco Viejo in Panama City blog post travel guide
A guide to Casco Viejo in Panama City blog post travel guide
A guide to Casco Viejo in Panama City blog post travel guide
casco viejo panama city market crafts

2. Explore Iconic Independence Square

Very much the focal point of the old town, Independence Square is a wonderful place to watch the world go by or buy food and drink from one of the numerous Casco Viejo street cart sellers.

In Independence Square, there are numerous benches, a bandstand and shady trees – it is nice spot to escape the searing sun of Panama City.

A guide to Casco Viejo in Panama City blog post travel guide

The area is quite musical too with street performers or the radio echoing from apartments or bars overlooking the area; there are also various bars around Independence Square if the heat gets too much.

Be aware that some of the locals will come up and talk to you with the express interest of offering their services as a tour guide – we had one particularly persistent chap who started off as friendly but was reluctant to take ‘no’ for an answer.

Address: Independence Square, Casco Viejo, XF28+X4M, C. 6a Este, Panamá, Panama

3. Casco Viejo Metropolitan Cathedral

If you visit just one church whilst in Panama City, make sure it is the Metropolitan Cathedral, once of the most beautiful and most interesting things to do in Casco Viejo.

Easy to spot from Independence Square by its looming twin towers, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santa Maria in Casco Viejo is famed for its spectacular centrepiece marble altar and stained glass windows.

Metropolitan Cathedral

After over a century of construction (builders, eh!), this Roman Catholic Casco Antiguo cathedral was finally consecrated in 1796 – for the best views, admire the building from the Plaza de la Catedral.

Address: Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria the Ancient, 7-53, Av. B, Panama City, Panama

4. Culture Calling – Casco Antiguo Museums

Close to the cathedral, you can also visit a couple of Casco Antiguo museums – the Panama Canal Museum (we opted to see the real thing instead) and the Museo de La Historia de Panama.

Of the two, we visited the Museo de La Historia de Panama and found it a tad dated (it was founded in the 1970s and has had seemingly very few updates since). Although quite small in scale, the staff were very friendly and it only cost a few dollars to get in (free admission for local people).

Museo de La Historia de Panama

We liked Museo de La Historia de Panama as it provided a comprehensive overview of the social history of Panama City and its origins and had quite a few exhibits and local artefacts in the display cases. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30am to 5.30pm.

The newest museum to open in Casco Viejo is the Museo de la Mola (MUMO) – this free museum depicts almost 200 molas (textile panels made of various materials) all made by Guna women indigenous to Panama.

Museo de La Historia de Panama, XF28+R2F, Av. Central España, Panamá, Panama
Panama Canal Museum, Plaza de la Independencia, C. 5a Este, Panamá, Panama
Museo de la Mola (MUMO), C. José D. de la Obaldía, Panamá, Panama

5. Central Hotel Panama, Panama’s first ever hotel

The Central Hotel Panama can also be found across from the Metropolitan Cathedral and is Panama City’s first ever luxury hotel.

The colonial style architecture is characteristic of many of the hotels in the area but the Central Hotel Panama still retains the top spot (although that may soon change with the 2023 opening of the 5* Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo).

The Central Hotel Panama welcomed its first guests in 1874  – whilst renovated several times over the years, it still retains its original exterior facade (in line with the conditions of being a UNESCO World Heritage site).

Based on the recommendation of our local friends who live in Casco Antiguo, we visited Central Hotel Panama for their lunch-time set menu deal – three courses and a soft drink for a set price, meaning you can enjoy all the trappings of wealth on a backpacker budget (sort of).

Check rates and availability for Central Hotel Panama >

Address: Central Hotel Panamá Casco Viejo, Plaza de la Independencia, C. 5a Este, Panamá, Panama

Casco Viejo / Casco Antiguo Rooftop Bars

You can only do so much history and walking in one day right? After a long day ticking off your ‘things to do in Casco Viejo’ list,  reward yourself in one of the many Casco Antiguo rooftop bars in time for sunset.

Better still, many of the Casco Viejo rooftop bars have happy hours (the two best words in the English language – fact!).

We visited quite a few during our time in Panama City and our favourites included:

6. Storx’s Skylounge (temporarily closed in 2023)

One of our favourite rooftop bars in the old town, Storx’s skylounge has amazing views of downtown Panama City and the Amador Causeway – this is a sublime sunset spot (and their cocktails are strong as!).

Address: Storx’s Skylounge, XF37+FFC, C. 9a Este, Casco Viejo, Panamá

Storx’s Skylounge panama city casco viejo
Storx’s Skylounge
Storx’s Skylounge panama city casco viejo
Storx Sky Lounge

7. Tantalo

There are lots of rooftop bars to choose from in Casco Antiguo from but one of the most popular is Tantalo where beers and cocktails are half price daily during the week during selected hours.

Tantalo Bar panama city
Tantalo Bar

Tantalo has wonderful views of the city skyline – make sure you arrive early to get a seat overlooking the sea to enjoy the sunset and watch the birds (including vultures!) circle in the sky.

Address: Tántalo Hotel / Kitchen / Roofbar, XF37+7M5, Calle 8 Este con, Av. B, Casco Viejo, Panamá

Tantalo Bar panama city
Cocktails and local beer at Tantalo Bar

8. LAZOTEA Restaurant and Rooftop

Whilst Lazotea may be one of the more compact bars in Panama City, it certainly makes up for it by having a swimming pool in the middle of the bar – just try not to go for any unintended swims after a few too many shots or Cuba Libras. One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor etc.

Address: LAZOTEA Restaurant & Rooftop, Rooftop Av Eloy Alfaro y, C. 11 Este, Casco Antiguo, Panama

LAZOTEA rooftop bar panama city
LAZOTEA rooftop bar
LAZOTEA rooftop bar panama city
LAZOTEA rooftop bar

9. Selina Casco Viejo Panama City

A hostel rooftop bar with good DJs, a tacoria and another Casco Viejo rooftop pool – Selina Hostel can get very busy at night. Given its central location in Casco Antiguo, this is one of the most affordable and best places to stay in the old town.

Rooftop bar at Selina Casco Antiguo panama city
Rooftop bar at Selina Casco Antiguo

More recently and post COVID, Selina has adapted its model to be a co-working space too meaning this is the ideal place to stay for digital nomads or those who can ‘work from home’ without being monitored. Imagine working on the Selina terrace with sea views and prime Panama City vistas.

Check out prices and availability for Selina Casco Antiguo >

Address: Selina Casco Viejo Panama City, Av. B, Panamá, Panama

Rooftop bar at Selina Casco Antiguo panama city taco
Taco shack at Selina Casco Antiguo

10. Casco Viejo Fish Market / Mercado de Mariscos

Across the road from Casco Viejo but included on the official Casco Viejo website (so good enough for us), stopping at the fish market for a cold beer / juice and a cup of ceviche with crackers is a Panama City rite of passage.

Fish Market / Mercado de Mariscos ceviche and beer, Panama City

Whilst the Mercado De Marisco Cinta Costera itself is more aimed at trade, the hustle of Mercado de Mariscos can be a little overwhelming at first, as competition amongst stalls is fierce.

As you first approach, vendors from each stall run towards you clutching their menus (which are more ‘battered’ than the fish), trying to get you to eat at their particular stall.

They can be hard to shake off at times so be confident and firm in your convictions – if in doubt, try to see where the locals go.

Address: Mercado De Marisco Cinta Costera, Ciclovía Cinta Costera, Panamá, Panama

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11. France Square / Plaza de Francia

The most southern point of Casco Viejo and with a good vantage point of the Cinta Costera, France Square is a popular meeting point for locals (or a midday snooze).

France Square is Casco Viejo’s original town square and contains several large tablets with French inscriptions detailing how France assisted with the building of the Panama Canal and a remembrance to all the workers who died during construction.

Address: France Square / Plaza de Francia,C. 2a Oeste 85-81, Panamá, Panama

France Square / Plaza de Francia Panama City

12. Paseo Esteban Huertas, the old town’s best viewpoint

Just up the steps from France Square, you’ll discover possibly our favourite free thing to do in Casco Viejo – the old town wall and walk known as Paseo Esteban Huertas. the views of the Pacific Ocean and Panama City are unparalleled.

Better still, the Paseo Esteban Huertas is bedecked with beautiful bright pink / red flowers (‘bougainvillaea’) meaning it is one of the most colourful places in Panama City.

Here, there are dozens of souvenir stalls with colourful linen, cheap as fridge magnets and other tourist tat (some nice stuff, some not so nice) – the prices along Paseo Esteban Huertas were some of the cheapest in the whole of Casco Viejo.

13. Follow in the footsteps of James Bond

A lot of people (including James Bond fans) don’t realise that many key scenes of the Daniel Craig James Bond movie Quantum of Solace were filmed in Casco Viejo. This is because it was doubling for other locations like Bolivia and Haiti, not Panama City itself.

The National Institute of Culture in Casco Viejo doubled as Andean Grand Hotel where Bond stays plus the big party scene was shot at the former ruins of the Old Club Union. Other Quantum of Solace scenes were also filmed in the docks of Panama’s Colon port.

14. Casco Viejo Restaurants, Panama City

You will be spoiled for choice with a huge range of cafes and restaurants in the Casco Antiguo old town. Here are just a few of the most popular and highly rated places to eat.


Quirky restaurant that offers classic Panamanian dishes and serves excellent breakfasts.

tantalo restaurant panama city casco viejo

Esa Flaca Rica

Fast food joint serving some of Panama’s best burgers. Very popular so expect a long queue.

Donde José

This number one rated restaurant in Panama City is run by one of Panama’s most sought-after and award winning chefs, Jose Carles. It offers a creative 10 dish tasting menu and advance booking is highly recommended.

Lo Que Hay

Also run by Jose Carles, this more informal restaurant serves classic Panamanian dishes including empanadas, shrimp with plantains, pork with yucca and Concolón (classic Panamanian toasted rice) with pork and beans.

Tio Navaja

Popular restaurant with a menu that offers a bit of everything – burgers, ceviches, salads, seafood and their flagship dish – orange chicken.

Casco Viejo hotels and hostels, Panama City

There are only a handful of accommodation options in Casco Viejo but there is something to suit all budgets. Here are some highly rated options:


Selina Casco Antiguo
Modern hostel with private rooms, free Wifi, cinema, on-site bar, rooftop terrace and pool and comfortable common areas. Check out prices and availability for Selina Casco Antiguo

Selina Casco Antiguo hostel rooftop pool panama city
Selina Casco Antiguo hostel rooftop pool

Mid range

Tantalo Hotel
Boutique hotel with 24-hour reception, free Wi-Fi, tapas restaurant and rooftop bar. Check out prices and availability for Tantalo Hotel

Treat yourself

American Trade Hotel
Luxury hotel located in the historic centre of Panama City with an outdoor pool, gym, restaurant and a jazz bar. Some rooms have a balcony overlooking the street. Check out prices and availability for American Trade Hotel

View more hotels in Casco Viejo >

American Trade Hotel, Casco Viejo in Panama City
American Trade Hotel

So go to Casco Viejo! We want to go back again soon – is there any where we’ve missed? Did our blog help you? Let us know in the comments below.

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