To walk Casco Viejo’s streets is to journey through history.
Casco’s beginnings traces back to the ashes of its predecessor, Panama La Vieja, the original Spanish settlement on the isthmus which, in 1671, was besieged and burned down when it was raided by Henry Morgan.
Two years later, the survivors began reconstructing the new Panama City, in some cases stone by stone, taking materials from the ruins of the old town to build anew.
The city’s new location was an advantageous spot for fortifications, some of which, like the seawall, still stand today in spite of several devastating fires that took place over the ensuing years.
The narrow cobblestone streets, plazas, and centuries-old buildings that remained are what give this town an Old World impression, with architecture that features a mix of late Spanish-colonial, neo-Renaissance, and Art Nouveau influences.
Add to this the imprint stemming from the unique history of the French canal efforts, before the project was taken over by the United States, and it’s easy to understand why, in 1997, the neighborhood was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Rich and poor, nationals and expats, and tourists and locals are Casco’s modern-day inhabitants. Now the focus of intense, upscale development, more growth is in store for the ever-evolving neighborhood as Casco’s long and storied history enters its next exciting stage.