Walking Tour of Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Another way to access the Panama Canal is part of a visit to Panama City which is located at the western (southern) terminus of the canal, where it meets the Pacific Ocean. Major tourist attractions in the city include Old Panama, basically the ruins of the 1519 AD city, about 4 miles (7 kilometers) from the current city, and Casco Viejo, the historic, Colonial center of the city of today. Casco Viejo, with its narrow, cobblestone streets and magnificent Colonial buildings, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Specific attractions within the city center include the Salon Bolivar, the President’s Palace, San Jose Cathedral, and French Park, built to commemorate the French involvement in the country’s history.
My walk begins at Plaza de la Independencia, the center of the Old City and location where, on November 3, 1903, independence from Colombia was declared.
From here, walk north on Calle 6a Este, and then turn right on Avenida Alfano. The Palacio de las Garzas, the country’s presidential palace, is on your right, overlooking Panama Bay.
Continue east on Avenida Alfano, and then turn right onto Calle 3a Este, past Bolivar Park. Turn left on Av B to find the National Theater, on your right at the point where the road veers south. The sumptuous interior has been totally restored and is certainly worth a look.
Now, continue to the end of this road and turn left onto Av Central. The ruins of Club de Clases y Tropas are on your left. The infamous General Manuel Noriega spent much time here before it was destroyed in 1989.
At Paseo las Bovedas turn left and walk atop the sea wall, which provides great views of the bay and the many ships positioning themselves to enter the Panama Canal, to the west.
The esplanade leads to the Plaza de Francia, dedicated to the thousands of workers who perished during the French attempt to construct the canal. There is also a monument to Carlos Finlay, the doctor who discovered that mosquitoes transmit yellow fever.
Now walk along the paseo at the western side of the plaza, which leads back toward Casco Viejo. Turn left onto Av A to find the Museo de Arte Religioso Colonial, at the intersection with Calle 3a Este.
After your visit, continue west on Av A to reach Iglesia de San Jose, location of the famous Golden Altar, miraculously saved during Captain Henry Morgan’s sacking and destruction of the city in 1671.
Continue west and then turn right on Calle 9a Oueste, past Parque Herrera to Iglesia de la Merced, on your left at Av Central.
From here, turn right onto Av Central to return to Plaza de la Independencia, where the walking tour began.