Obarrio is one of Panama City’s most prestigious central neighborhoods, set between El Cangrejo and San Francisco. A blend of the commercial and residential, it is home to many swanky boutiques, shops and office buildings, as well as luxurious homes and condominiums. Many of Panama’s most high-end real estate projects are being erected in this neighborhood, and designer names are plentiful along Samuel Lewis Avenue. Names like Lalique, Ferrari, Ralph Lauren and Rolls Royce head the the gleaming store fronts.
Obarrio is also part of the city’s prestigious banking district with more than 100 international banks operating within Panama, attracting a elite suite of residents and business tenants.
Flanking Panama City’s gleaming high-rises and cosmopolitan allure lies the Old Town, or Casco Viejo, which thrived in the 17th century in the heyday of Spanish colonialism in Panama. It sits on the waterfront of the Bay of Panama, and the arc of the city can be seen rising in the distance. Much of the exquisite architecture has fallen to ruins, but restorations are under way breathing new life into the charming and colourful old district. Newly-restored buildings stand shoulder to shoulder to centuries-old ruins, giving the area a surreal and very appealing atmosphere.
Some of Panama City’s chicest cafés and restaurants are within the Casco Viejo, as is the presidential palace, the National Theater, several churches and cathedrals, and small plazas and parks adorned with statues of Panama’s heroes. Many of the renovations are being converted to stylish lofts and studios, art galleries and shops, making this one of Panama City’s most attractive neighborhoods and a popular tourist attraction.
Its latest starring role is as the setting for the newest Bond film, a Quantum of Solace. Panama attracted international attention last year as the film shot on location within the captivating quarters.
The Panamanian government is offering special incentives for the restoration of historical monuments and buildings with the Casco Viejo, including:
10-year income tax exemption on the sale or rental income of properties
30-year real estate tax exemption
total exemption on the 2% transfer tax of real estate on the first sale of properties valued above $50,000
preferential interest rates on loans
total import tax exemption for equipment and materials related to construction and restoration that are not available in Panama
I`m looking for a place with a good atmosphere, but more importantly, good food.
One of my favorite restaurants in Panama City is without a doubt Beirut, a Lebanese restaurant near the Marriott at Calle 52. The baba ganoush has a properly smoky flavor, it’s nicely air-conditioned, there is Middle Eastern music and belly-dancing, and hookah pipes to finish your meal in a leisurely way. It’s well-priced and delicious, and the owner is always nearby, giving the place an intimate feel.
I’m looking for a fine-dining experience, but don’t want Italian or French while I’m here. Is there such a thing as Panamanian cuisine?
Answer: Most definitely. While you’re in Panama City, dine at the Barandas Restaurant, a gourmet restaurant within the Bristol Hotel near the Business District of Panama City. Barandas is by far the city’s best dining experience in terms of elegance and ambiance. Barandas uses all native ingredients to create an exquisite, authentic Panamanian dining experience. While you’re waiting for your table, get a drink at the Bristol’s bar—it’s a nice full-service bar with great music. Barandas’ award-winning menu includes innovative dishes like green plantain wantons in sweet mango sauce, corbina (seabass) drizzled in a mouth-watering tamarind sauce, and more novelty dishes like crocodile chicharrones (breaded, fried, and traditionally made with pork). The restaurant is open daily for from 6:30am to 11pm. For reservations call 507.264.0000
If you’ve only got 3 days then you don’t want to waste your time traveling to and fro. Panama City is worth spending a day, to see the Casco Viejo and the Canal; then get out of the city to the Pearl Islands (Las Perlas Archipelago), which are a 20 minute flight from Panama City, and about as far removed from urban life as you can imagine. Contadora Island is the most developed of the Pearl Islands, with lots of B&Bs and little boutique hotels, exquisite beaches, great restaurants. Both in Panama City and Contadora you have all kinds of budget options for your stay. If you are more of the all-inclusive resort type, then you can also fly into Panama City and spend a couple of nights at a beach resort just outside the city – the Decameron, on Playa Panamá, is a popular choice. They offer flight + stay packages that are reasonably affordable.