A couple days in Panama City is a must for any traveler! In order to make the most out of your visit, here are 6 FREE THINGS to do in Panama City!
Climb Ancon Hill
The highest point in the city provides an excellent 360-degree view of Panama City, which is easily reachable by taxi or public transport from Cinco de Mayo station. Get there in the morning when the weather is a bit cooler and wildlife is more active. My previous blog post on hiking in Panama City has complete details about Ancon Hill.
Explore Casco Viejo
This historical area of Panama City was originally settled in 1673 and still has some original ruins and classic buildings on display today. It’s worth spending an hour of your time there in the morning to avoid the crowds and tour groups. The best way to reach there is taking the metro to Cinco de Mayo station and walk 15-20 minutes down Avenida Central, which turns into a nice pedestrian road filled with multiple shops and fruit stands.
Walk Along Cinta Costera
It’s a great spot to gaze at the Panama City skyline in the evening. There will be plenty of people walking, biking, skateboarding here. During the day, a lot of people want to get their picture taken in front of the PANAMA sign. This new landmark is gaining massive popularity worldwide especially on Instagram ever since its installation in May 2016. Get there Sunday morning when Avenida Balboa is shut down for bicycles, skateboards, and pedestrians. You might be able to rent a bike for free if you arrive before 8:00 a.m. Otherwise, it will cost $4-5 depending on where you are later in the morning.
People Watch At Mercado de Mariscos & Mercado de Artesanias
There is also something interesting going on at Mercado de Mariscos. Fresh fillets of fish flashing in the sunlight, a local butcher deboning a fish for a chef and waiters waving around the menu of their restaurant. Arrive around lunchtime when the fishermen are back ashore and preparing fish for selling at the market.
Check out Mercado de Artesanias across the street from Cinco de Mayo station if you want an authentic market experience with cheaper prices and local goods. I was told by a local vendor there are plans to move it next to Mercado de Mariscos later in Spring, 2017. The reason for this is there are plans to construct a larger market area in the current location which will be completed in the next two years.
Examine the Panama Viejo Ruins
They’re just a quick bus ride away from the center of town and have quite the interesting history. Panama Viejo was the first European settlement on the Pacific side of the America. The area was founded back in 1519 and quickly became a popular point to export gold and silver from Peru back to Spain and throughout Europe. As a result, Panama Viejo grew to a population of 10,000 by the end of 1670. However the following year, it was sacked by pirate Henry Morgan (yes the guy on the Captain Morgan Rum Bottle). The city was resettled in 1673 to what is present day Casco Viejo. Due to its historical significance, Panama Viejo was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Feel free to check out more information here on the history of Panama Viejo.
Hotel Rooftop Sunset Views
Trump Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel the best spots for an epic sunset pic of Panama City. Hard Rock Hotel rooftop is the easier one to access (just one elevator straight to the 62nd floor). Trump Hotel probably has the best view of the city but you need a take a couple elevators to reach the 66th floor (you might have to ask the front desk for assistance).