Casco Viejo: Cool, Colorful, and Colonial

The modern city of Panama was founded in the late 1600s, and constructed on a peninsula protected by the sea and by defensive walls – some of which can still be seen in the neighborhood of Casco Viejo today.

Now a World Heritage Site, Casco Viejo is a marvelous mix of old and new, with old ruins, colorful colonial architecture, and modern tourist ventures.

Casco Viejo should have been a must-see. But based on everything I’d read online, I was a bit apprehensive to check out the neighborhood, even though it is Panama City‘s beloved and best known historic district.


Blog posts warned of a dangerous atmosphere and guidebooks told of robberies. Everything I read cautioned against the surrounding neighborhood, and to be especially careful getting in and out of Casco Viejo.

I decided to chance it anyway (I am a serious sucker for colonial architecture and historic districts in general, and the waterfront location only adds to its appeal).

I was definitely tense on the taxi drive in, I kept my eyes peeled for suspicious characters, sketchy streets, and shady alleys.

Instead, I found a welcoming, police-patrolled, and extremely safe-feeling in Casco Viejo.

Casco Viejo Panama City

I rarely wander around with my camera out around my neck, but Casco Viejo felt so secure that I took advantage of the safe vibe and went snap happy.

And good thing, because there’s a LOT to photograph!

Casco Viejo Panama City Skyline Casco Viejo Panama City Skyline

From capturing Panama City skylines

Casco Viejo Panama City Casco Viejo Panama City Casco Viejo Panama City Casco Viejo Panama City

To sometimes old, sometimes new, but always bright and beautiful buildings

Casco Viejo Panama City Casco Viejo Panama City Casco Viejo Panama City Casco Viejo Panama City

And even older ruins

While Casco Viejo is without a doubt picturesque, and surprisingly safe (regardless of what you’ll read), a visit does come with a certain price tag, especially if you’re planning on dining.

Like, literally. It’s pretty damn expensive!

I had a decent lunch and a simple bottle of water at one of the most recommended restaurants, Veggie Moon, at the not-too-decent price of $50. A simple bottled water will cost you $8 (WTF?) and the meals average around $25. Yikes.

Casco Viejo Panama City Veggie Moon Vegetarian Restaurant Casco Viejo Panama City Veggie Moon Vegetarian Restaurant

The restaurant was beautiful, and looks more like a chic furniture store than a Central American restaurant. The food was good, but not THAT good, and I honestly wouldn’t do it again. It wasn’t worth the price tag.

If you’re on a strict budget, it might be best to eat before, and arrive to Casco Viejo with a full belly ready for exploring.

But don’t let the steep prices or even the rumors of danger keep you away from Casco Viejo – it’s definitely worth a wander!

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Casco Viejo Panama


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

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