Panama’s historic “old city”, known as Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo by some, is going through an incredible renaissance these days. It’s the #1 most visited area of the country tourism wise, it’s home to many of Panama’s best restuarants and bars, it has walkable small beaches, plazas, parks, and is where the seat of government resides in the nation. It’s grown, once again, into the cultural and entertainment center of Panama City. But it wasn’t always this way. Casco Viejo has gone through many layers of change over the past few decades. In fact, it’s gone through this time and time again over the past few centuries. Right now, the neighborhood is in full-on boom mode, and more importantly, a cultural renaissance.
What makes Casco so appealing?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing that makes Casco so appealing as a neighborhood to visit, live in, or play in, and that’s a good thing. Diversity is one of the neighborhood’s biggest strengths, and this means that there tends to be something different that attracts people there, depending on tastes. For many, Casco is appealing because of its restaurants and nightlife. Of Panama’s top 10 ranked restaurants, 7 are in Casco. The same goes for bars, clubs, and cafes (even pastry shops!). The quality of food, drinks, and service is practically unmatched in Panama city, or Panama as a whole. This is a big plus for tourists and locals who demand high quality, and are willing to pay for it.
Another big appeal for people to live in or visit Casco is its architecture. Casco is the historic heart of the country, and still reflects its hundreds of years of history through gorgeous colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. Many of the buildings have been recently renovated, and thanks to UNESCO World Heritage Site protections, must keep their colonial look and facade. The same goes for churches and public squares, which attract many visitors (both local and tourists) to take pictures, marvel at the Spanish colonial style, and take pictures.
A renaissance many years in the making
While it may seem like it to the casual observer, Casco’s urban renaissance didn’t happen overnight, or by chance. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. After a few decades of urban flight and decay, the government of Panama decided to invest into the revitalizaion of the neighborhood in the past 6-7 years or so. This included more police presence, refurbished roads and sidewalks, and cleaning and rebuilding public plazas and parks. On top of what the government has been doing, private investment has surged in the area, especially in the real estate market. With demand so high, and the easy access to services and fun excursions, real estate in Casco is an easy sell. Tourists want to stay there, locals spend money there, and at times it seems like everyone would like to live there.
Major investments in both residential and commercial properties has had big benefits on the attraction and influence of the area. Casco represents both old and new Panama, and is a very cosmopolitan zone in an otherwise business-first city. As the area continues to grow, we’re excited to see this trend continue, and spark a wider urban renaissance all over Panama City and its surroundings.