This post is also available in: Spanish
Panama City’s old quarter is an attraction to rival the Canal itself. Old, stone, three and four story buildings surround historic squares and impressive ruins. The best way to experience the area is to grab a map and stroll the streets. Here, The Visitor offers a few popular sites not to be missed.
The Presidential Palace (9)
The executive office building has also been known as the Palacio de las Garzas (Palace of the Herons) ever since 1922 when President Bellisario Porras made the birds a fixture here. They can be seen strutting around the fountain in the foyer from the front courtyard.
The Church of the Golden Altar (17)
Legend has it that when the Welsh pirate Morgan was burning and looting the original settlement, a resourceful priest of the Iglesia of San Jose had the huge altar painted in black tar to conceal its value.
Plaza de la Independencia (25)
The Plaza de la Independencia is where the founding fathers, whose busts surround the square, declared their intention to separate from Columbia in 1903. Overlooking the Plaza is the impressive Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (16). Off to one side is the Museo del Canal Interoceánico (13), which is a good source of information about the history of the Panama Canal.
French Plaza (27)
The location of the French Embassy, the plaza boats a tall obelisk that stands in memory of the French canal effort. The vaults, or bóvedas, of the massive wall give the area its nickname. They were used as barracks and even prison cells.
Plaza Bolívar (29)
Named after the South American leader Simón Bolívar, Plaza Bolívar features the Teatro Nacional (6) at one corner. Across from the National Theater lies the Bolívar Palace.
Plaza Herrera (24)
Dedicated to General Tomás Herrera, the park was originally cleared in 1781 when part of the old city was destroyed by a fire. The plaza was then used for bull fights until it was dedicated in 1887.
Flat Arch (4)
The Flat Arch, which has no keystone, stands among the ruins of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo on Avenida A.