A Beginner’s Guide to Casco: Panama City’s most popular destination

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Chances are, if you’re planning on relocating to, or retiring in Panama, you’ve heard of Casco Viejo (also known as Casco Antiguo). In fact, even if you’ve just planned a visit to Panama, we’re sure you have Casco at the top of your list as far as places to see, or stay. Casco is truly a gem of urban Panama, in all senses. It is the center of tourism, nightlife, culinary scene, art, architecture, and even houses the presidential offices. With so much to do and see, you really can’t go wrong in Casco. Here are some of our tips to help make visiting, or moving to Casco easier, and to ensure you get the most out of your time there.

Don’t buy, rent, or use a car. People will tell you “you need a car in Panama”, and depending on where in the country they live (or visit), they may be right. However, Casco Viejo is not one of these places. Casco is the most walkable part of the city, with beautiful cobblestone streets, and tons of great shops and architecture to check out that you may miss if you are in a vehicle. Also, due to the density of the layout of the neighborhood, those who do drive in Casco will often experience severe traffic, and a very limited amount of parking.

Shop local. Panama City has so many shopping options, you can spend days going around the city checking out malls, street stores, and outdoor shopping plazas. Casco, however, is unmatched when it comes to local, artisan shopping and boutiques. The locals rely on small business shopping in Casco, and you’ll find authentic, well priced items that run the gamut as far as diversity and creativity. Shopping local (in Casco) will endear you to the neighborhood, whether you’re a tourist, or an expat.

Check out local art. Casco is an artist’s heaven, with lots of street art, public art market space, galleries, and gorgeous colonial architecture. You can find updated art exhibit listings online, or check out more permanent installations in the form of wall murals, and historical building facades. You can also buy art, with gallery sales, plus a large number of stands offering artisan crafts along “Las Bovedas” walkway towards the ocean facing edge of the neighborhood.

Eat/Drink/Play! When it comes to dining, drinks, and nightlife, nothing in Panama is more fun (or diverse) than Casco Viejo. Check out all of the great cafes and, craft cocktail bars, and restaurants throughout the neighborhood, and finish your nights at any of the area’s popular nightclubs. There are options for every budget, and most tastes, so make sure you get a good sampling of everything, as not to miss out on finding your specific vibe.

Go on an Esperanza Social Venture Club tour. This is one of the best ways to see Casco, while supporting a fantastic local cause at the same time. The Esperanza Social Venture Club is an award-winning organization that enlists former gang members to give tours of the neighborhood. It not only creates vital local jobs, the club also provides valuable education for both locals, and visitors, and allows guests to get an unprecedented look at Casco, and the real Panama City. It’s safe, affordable, and a once in a lifetime experience. Don’t miss this one!

About Manoj Chatlani

Manoj Chatlani is a Senior Partner at POLS Attorneys, a full-service law firm in Panama City, Panama. Specializing in offshore services, including asset protection, estate planning, offshore banking, and offshore corporations, as well as Panama immigration and real estate transactions, POLS Attorneys offers clients a streamlined solution to all their Panama legal needs. Manoj is a Panamanian lawyer and holds a law degree from USMA and earned a Masters in Communication Law and Panama Tax law.

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