Dip into history in Casco Viejo, the city’s beautiful colonial quarter, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. A short walk away from Balboa Avenue, Casco Viejo’s colorful buildings have been newly restored and its picturesque cobblestone streets buzz with creative energy, the coolest bars in town and an after-hours avant-garde art scene.
By day, explore the Panama Canal Museum or the avant-garde art scene at Diablo Rosso, a gallery and cafe that sells retro-inspired clothes and accessories. Then, as the sun sets, enjoy pre-dinner cocktails on the rooftop at Lazotea for spectacular views across the city or at the more tropical-chic Barlovento, which overlooks a colonial square below and hosts great parties. Or head to Di Vino Enoteca, beloved by urbane expats and artists, to pair a bottle of red with great Iberian ham, while you sit back and enjoy the design, food and art books or watch the silent black-and-white movie projections.
Hidden on a side-street across from a ruined church, Manolo Caracol serves up a 10-course $30 prix fixe menu sourced from its own farms. Walk off dinner along the promenade and take a seat for some truly inspiring Panamanian hipster people-watching.
Then you’ll be ready for Casa Casco, a.k.a. party central, which offers five floors of dining and partying. The party starts one floor up and will keep taking you up as the night wears on: the fourth floor has the best dancefloor in Casco and from the rooftop bar you’ll take in the whole city: from the historic quarter to the Canal, Mount Ancón and the Bridge of the Americas. And, best of all, if you worked up an appetite dancing, you can order up straight from the three fantastic in-house restaurants downstairs: Mano de Tigre, which serves up highly original dishes made with “wild” ingredients, Marula’s Afro-Caribbean gourmet cuisine or Nacion Sushi.
This article was adapted from our Ultimate Guide To Living And Investing On Balboa Avenue.