Many mistake the Casco Viejo port neighborhood for Panama City's first Spanish settlement. It is actually Panama Viejo, which lies a few minutes northeast of the city center. From the highway the area looks like the ruins of an ancient Roman city. It was founded by Conquistador Pedrarías Dávila in 1519, making it one of the oldest European settlements in the Americas. It was burnt down by pirate Henry Morgan in 1671 and then abandoned, with the capital moving to its present-day location. Sometimes called Panamá la Vieja, the city was where much of the gold raided from the Andes was unloaded before it was hauled across the isthmus on mules to depart on Spain-bound ships. Much of the stone of the city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was dismantled for use in building the modern city. You can still admire the newly restored Plaza Mayor and adjoining bell tower of Panama's original cathedral, as well as collections of walls from various convents and palaces. The visitor center displays indigenous pottery that predates the city, artifacts from colonial times, and a model of what the city would have looked like before it was destroyed. Save a few minutes before leaving to browse the small but good handicraft market beside the visitor center. You'll need a half day here at least.
Panama City› Attraction
Vía Cincuentenario, beside la Estatua Morelos
Our Rating Hours Daily 9am–5pm Phone 226-8915 Prices Admission $6 for the Plaza Mayor and visitor center; $4 for the tower and ruins Web site Panama Viejo
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.