Casco Viejo is the oldest city on the Pacific Coast of the Americas, and lies at the foot of the Panama Canal on one side and Panama City on the other. Nowadays, Casco Viejo is acknowledged as the city's most recognizable suburb, located in the district of San Felipe. While this historic community has lost it's economic importance with the expansion of Panama City, Casco Viejo continues to appear in songs, poems, videos, television commercials, and other elements of the city's daily life. Moreover, the area now serves as one of the country's most popular tourist attractions, frequented by tourist guides and photographers alike.
The architecture is a combination of ruins from the days of Spanish Explorers and Pirates, and French Colonial from the first attempt made on the Panama Canal by the French.
To walk through Casco Viejo is definitely to walk through history. Buildings sitting side by side can be over three hundred years apart in age. Balconies are filled with flowers such as geraniums and bougainvillea wrapped around sculpted wrought iron crafted in another century, The streets are brick, and no matter which way they run, they run to the sea, because Casco Viejo is surrounded by sea.
Historical parks litter the whole of Casco Viejo with such figures as heroic Generals on horseback, as the one dedicated to Liberador Simon Bólivar, which has his statue situated in the center of the park. Royal palms stand over the plazas like tall sentinels. The Church of San Francisco (La Iglesia de San Francisco), National Theater (El Teatro Nacional), Hotel Colonial, and Bólivar College (Colegio Bolivar) all illustrate details that call the attention of those visiting the historic area.
The Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitan) is without a doubt the most meaningful structure, and best reflects the Spanish presence due to the buildings dimensions and age; the construction of this building lasted more than 108 years. In front of the cathedral is a large park (plaza), in which the community reunited on November 3, 1903 in order to declare it's separation from Columbia. It was at that moment that the Republic of Panama was born, with much euphoria. Surrounding the plaza is the Municipal Palace (Palacio Municipal) with it's neoclassical characteristics, which was occupied by the French when they began construction of the Panama Canal; the canal was later completed by the United States. The building is being completely remodeled to house a museum that will more adequately depict the construction, function, importance, and future of the canal.
Casco Viejo, perhaps a commercial point in the past, is now a major tourist destination for those visiting Panama. Terrific photographic opportunities exist, particularly for those interested in architectural structures. Located just minutes from downtown Panama City, this historic community is just minutes in a taxi.