Panama: gastro-guiri-hipster guide of the Historic District
The looks in the Panamanian capital are divided into two objectives. The first, that of the pompous and arbitrary skyscrapers that dominate the financial district. The second, the Historic District, where colonial beauty lives. Both drink from the inexhaustible economic source of the Panama Canal but use it differently. The goal is to modernize, but in the Historic District they have hit the key. This is a mini guide for your enjoyment.
Panama City sits in a bay bounded by two small ledges. In the first rest the moles of aluminum that mark the financial territory and that resemble other new rich people like Dubai or Singapore. A whole maze of hotels, banks and casinos that grows by leaps and bounds, at a speed that Panamanians are often unable to assimilate. On the contrary, in the Historic Center life is more Caribbean, more leisurely and more authentic. In this redoubt of authenticity not only stands an endless number of monuments and mansions that have made it a World Heritage Site. They also bubble up ideas, visions and reinterpretations of buildings much more modern than the views in its neighbor opposite. Again the same dialectic. Again the same choice between the lush platinum blonde and the charismatic brunette. Obviously, the second one wins.
In the Historic District, the sun shines better, with a more intense color, but without reaching to beet. It may be the fault they have streets like San Felipe or Avenida A. Many of the addresses in this area and throughout the city have American names (the fifth, the eighth etc.) as shabby reminiscence of the almost 100 years in which the United States occupied the country to control its canal. These streets are a whole flaunt of color and large mansions that are interspersed with chipped facades but with soul. The new old Panama may be somewhat hipster, yes, but for good.
The Historic District, skyscraper lookout © Corbis
The day dawns in the Canal House, the only category hotel that stands in the Historic District. Getting up there means having the same taste as Daniel Craig when he demanded to stay there during the filming of Quantum of Solace and also have the purchasing power to be able to 'rent' one of the only three rooms that this hotel has. The low cost alternative is the hostel Luna's Castle which, far from luxury, offers the ambience of its balconies and a chic backpacking atmosphere (I mean, full of sympathetic yankees).
Between the two pole socks will always be Clementines, which offers the comfort formula in a colonial building but with affordable prices and a Panamanian brunch to which the most foodies Panamanians travel. The best alternatives to this copious breakfast are the tropical option of Red Baron or the most wicked and indie: the Super Gourmet. One of those places where you can't spend more than five minutes without The Ulysses of Joyce or the newspaper of the day well deployed to make you interesting as the canons send.
Las Clementinas, the colonial brunch © Las Clementinas
The ride inevitably leads to the most monumental highlights of the area. Independence Square it becomes the nerve center of everything, with its impolute cathedral, its undervalued Interoceanic Canal Museum (do not miss your exhibitions) and the craft market which is organized in 5 minutes on its slabs. As an appetizer for this walk there will always be the scraping, a soda made with ice and in which you can mix all kinds of syrup and sweet mejunje that you can think of (and that has the peddler). In the surrounding streets, shops are discovered in which the myth of the Panama hat collapses, which really comes from Ecuador but that the Americans popularized under this name.
The sea always present © Javier Zori del Amo
The search for the sea and the views over the financial zone lead to the Vault walk. Before going up to discover the metallic and impressive skyline and the Frank Gehry Biodiversity Museum on the other, it is worth fluttering in the Plaza de Francia. In what once were the weapons rooms of the former defensive fortress today they host a little art with the Visual Arts Gallery 'Juan Manuel Cedeño' and a little good atmosphere with the bar the Vaults.
The bars that cram the area all have a very halo Chico and Rita, decadent but lovely. The one that best captures the Caribbean essence is Old Havana, where you can even take the game on your dark wood tables. The chic alternative is the Divine Enoteca where you can see the good acceptance of Spanish wines here.
Old Havana © Javier Zori del Amo
Wines, architecture ... of course, the inheritance left by the first colonizing people is quite palpable and positive. But there is more. Here you eat with the same passion and parsimony as in the Peninsula, but sublimating local products. It is true that one of the most fashionable places in the Panamanian capital is the Tinto de Verano, a Spanish restaurant, but aside from this, the rest are positive surprises. Like the spectacular lobster of Mustard Bar, the refined atmosphere of Capital Bistro Panama or the croaker of White House. Oh, and for dessert there are no alternatives: religious pilgrimage until Granclement for an artisan ice cream lord.
Refined and essential © Casa Blanca
Spanish flavor © Tinto de Verano
As much as you compare, undress and make up the financial district, there is an irrefutable truth: its night view is spectacular. But better if it's done from the Tantalum terrace, without a doubt the most surprising hotel-restaurant-disco in the Historic District. From the beginning it draws attention with its squeaky but organic decoration, in a histrionic challenge to minimalism. But above all conquer with your terrace, from where you can admire the old roofs of the neighboring apples and the luminous silhouettes of the glazed moles of the financial district. Here you could spend a lifetime. But if terraceo's thirst and alternate rewards, we will always have other bars like Mojitos without mojitos (seriously, really, don't ask for a mojito) or the golden frog, by far the best brewery in the area.
* You may also be interested ...
- 24 hours in Panama being an Emberá Indian
- All articles by Javier Zori del Amo
The fashionable terrace of the capital © Tántalo