Panama City is both gateway to the natural wonders of Panama, and cosmopolitan and vibrant 'city-of-the-world'. A melting pot of cultures and flavours, it is often referred to as the 'Miami of Central America' and some of the best places to stay in Panama City would not be out of place there either. It's a steamy, tropical capital of international finance. Its skyscrapers grow at an impressive rate but the old dance halls, a la old Cuba, are as salsa-steamy and South American as can be.
Both a highly important trade route, and a fascinating tourist attraction, you can't go to Panama City and not see the canal. You'll find plenty of detail about the canal scattered all over Panama City, but the best way to experience it is to go for a cruise on it. Hang out on the Amador Causeway watching the ships, then board your own and cruise up to the Miraflores Lock, where you'll be raised 54 metres before continuing along the canal. On a good day you'll see container ships measuring 32metres by 294metres sliding into the locks, which are 33.5metres by 304metres.
Casco Viejo has the colonial and old government buildings, and many of Panama City's most beautiful churches and museums - including the Canal Museum. It's been washed over by the sea for decades, becoming elegantly dilapidated, and it has something of the old Havana about it. Casco Viejo also has many of the city's best restaurants, bars and cafes on some spectacular open plazas. And an excellent range of entertainment on offer, ranging from opera, to musicals, to fashion events and avant garde theatre. Many of the best places to stay in Panama City can also be found here.
At the tip of Casco Viejo is the Plaza de Francia, which is dedicated to remembering the contribution that France made in the construction of the canal. The statues and tablets here commemorate the 22,000 workers who died during the canal's construction.
Casco Viejo is one of the best places to stay in Panama City if you're looking for historic surrounds and plenty to entertain you! It's a gorgeous looking part of town, but there are accommodation options to suit every budget, from hostels to colonial grand dame hotels.
Panamá la Vieja is where you'll find the ruins of old Panama City. This first city was sacked and burned by English pirate Henry Morgan in 1671, to the extent that it was easier to build a whole new city a few kilometres away. The ruins have been pretty much left and a national park has grown up around them. Unfortunately Panamá la Vieja is bordered by some of the less safe areas, so this is probably not one of the best places to stay in Panama City. But you should definitely visit!
Ancón is the name of the hill, and the town, or suburb, built up around it to house canal workers. It was originally where they kept a look out for pirates! While the canal was being built this region was under U.S. control, and they built numerous army bases and administration buildings here. Today you can still get a feel for the distinctly North American architectural style of the area. Nowadays Ancón also houses the main airport - Ancón has always been about transport and travel!
In Ancón you'll also find the perennially popular Panama Canal Authority headquarters, and its wonderful murals. These are mounted in the building's rotunda, and tell the story of the canal's construction.
It's also where you'll find the Amador Causeway, which joins three small islands, and is one of the city's more popular tourist destinations, what with the marinas and associated places to eat and have fun.
Ancón is also home to the Parque Natural Metropolitano, the 265-hectare forest-within-the-city-limits. This is a wonderful place to escape to, with excellent walking trails and plenty to see.
These highlights combine to make Ancón one of the best places to stay in Panama City if you want to be near the canal, but also somewhere less built up.
This is the financial district and Panama City's skyscraper central, it's also where you'll find the high end boutiques, so this is the ideal location if you're here to shop. And eat or party: El Cangrejo and Calle Uruguay are filled with restaurants and bars, so these are two of the best places to stay in Panama City if you're here for the nightlife.
If you're strolling round the Area Bancária you may be impressed by a building which has the look of being make of Jenga blocks: this is F&F Tower, one of Panama City's tallest buildings.
Panama City (Obarrio)
In the heart of the ultra-modern and prestigious commercial sector of Panama City. Floor to ceiling windows offer unrivalled views of the cityscape. Rooms are pristine and smart, suitable for leisure and business stays alike, and the roof top pool is the icing on the cake. A sleek, cool, city stay.
Panama City (San Felipe)
Eat drink and be merry at this well-equipped hotel with fantastic tapas restaurant and an impressive rooftop bar. Party on.