Casco viejo is the old hart of the city. Part by part is being restored, but just a street further you still see the poverty of the normal Panameño living in the not yet restored buildings. When the governement also wants to renovate those, they will lose their homes...
Iglesia San José
Iglesia San José is a bit funny, in part because the exterior looks like one of the austere Protestant churches that is characteristic of the South-West of France, but then the inside obviously benefitted from a hefty dose of counter-Reformation gilding. The church is located in one of the areas of the Casco Antiguo that has yet to be spruced up, and it is obvious that the neighbourhood is in need of rehabilitation. Still, the church is well-maintained, and the altar and its pretty gold settings are great to see. The church is a bit plain on the exterior, but the use of bright pastels helps to lessen the dour impression that many Protestant churches of the same style often give.
Seafood Straight from the Market
Panama has both oceans hugging its coasts, so you must have seafood! This restaurant is located on top of this fish market with some kind of tie to Japan. I think every cab driver knows where it is, just tell them the panama and japanese seafood market. To access the restaurant, you must enter from the back. There is a concrete outdoor stairwell, follow it and be prepared to read the extensive menu.
I heard that during lunch hour, the place can get quite packed with locals. So, if you are starving and can't wait around much, don't come here at peak hour! I had the whole fried fish with salad and rice for $3.50!! It was delicious!
Italian, Panamanian and Seafood
Restaurante Pizzaria Romanaccio is attached to the Hotel Biendorm. They heavily promote each other.
The room is bright with white tiles and green tables. Looks like an Italian bistro inside. They have a four-stool bar that serves the local beers, plus MGD, Heinneken and a couple of others. They also serve Seco Herrerano, Ron Abuelo, Old Parr Scotch and Johnny Walker Red and Black lables. I didnt see a blender, so doubt they could do frou-frou drinks. Only meal I ate here was breakfast, they have typical Panamanian breakfasts. I had the higado (liver) which is a very typical Panamanian breakfast. The liver tasted fine but was a little overcooked, it was a golden color, not grey as I am used to. It was only served with sauted onion, no bell peppers and came with toasted michas, which are like hot dog rolls, that were cut in quarters and buttered and grilled. It was a satisfying breakfast, but at $3, about double what I am used to paying and getting more for my money. In Chitre, Meson Rex serves the same type meal for the same price, but one gets the meat cooked in a salsa and sauted peppers and hojaldres (fry bread) with the meal. I felt kinda short-changed with this meal.
The Restaurant serves pizza for $4-16 depending on size and toppings. They looked OK when I sat at the bar and had a few beers and observed the few other patrons in the restaurant who ordered pizza.
They have some seafood cocktails and ceviche, that were about double the price I've seen on the Azuero.
The also serve burgers, club sandwiches and pasta dishes.
I don't know that I'd eat there again, the food was OK but not great, the portions seemed a bit stingy and judging from the lack of clientelle, they probably are over-price for the area.
There is another Restaurante Pizzaria Romanaccio on Via Brasil near Via Espana, that seemed to be cheaper than this place.
The service was fine, but then it should have been, as I was only bar patron and customer in the place a breakfast.
Panama Canal & Miraflores Locks
There are several areas along the Panama Canal that allow one to see the engineering marvel. The closest location is the Miraflores locks, located only a few miles north of the city. The locks have a viewing deck where one can watch the ships enter the locks, and then proceed through them. The locks are impressive and it is interesting to see them in action. There are overviews of the process in English, but I think the last one was at 3pm and I missed it.
Buses from the central bus station drop you off at the gates of the Miraflores Lock complex. A 10 min. walk to the canal is required from the bus stop. The buses at the station at clearly marked, but as they serve a major local and tourist route, they may fill up fast, requiring one to stand.