After the city of Panama Viejo was destroyed by Henry Morgan and his band of pirates in 1671, the survivors (under the direct orders of the King of Spain) moved to a rocky peninsula on the Bahía de Panama to start all over again. By 1673, the new city was completed and it included a massive wall that made it much easier to protect against future invaders. As the city prospered, its population began to overflow the walls that once protected them and spread east into what is now modern-day Panama City.
But as Panama City continued to expand in the latter half of the 20th century, this area now known as Casco Viejo, continued had become reduced to just a small historic quarter with a once glorious past. With a loss of influence and prestige, it gradually fell into disrepair and began to disappear into history. But in 1997, Casco Viejo was declared a World Heritage Site and since then, a massive urban development project has painstakingly restored a portion of the approximately 800 buildings back into their former glory. Currently, the restoration project is still underway supported by both the government and private corporations.
Today, the district is known by several names: San Felipe, Casco Antiguo, and of course, Casco Viejo. It is the most picturesque and historically interesting part of Panama City. Everywhere you turn, the historic buildings display a combination of architectural styles that range from French and Spanish Colonial to Art Deco and Caribbea. With its charming plazas, beautiful churches, and excellent museums, this former walled city has easily become on the of the top tourist attractions in the city, second only to the Panama Canal.
The Museums in Casco Viejo
|Photo by Mel Ortega
Museo del Canal Interoceánico - Located on the southeastern side of the Plaza de la Independencia is the Panama Canal Museum, established in 1997. For those who want to learn more about the Panama Canal, the exhibits in this museum include a wide array of photographs, videos, and documents (such as the original canal treaties) that cover the triumphs and tragedies of the canal from the first attempt by the French to the successful completion by the United States. All of the displays are in Spanish but English-speaking guides as well as audio tours are also available for a small additional fee. The building itself dates from 1874 and it has served many roles ranging from office space for the original French and U.S. Canal Companies to the main post office in 1912. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information can be found at their website: www.museodelcanal.com.
|Photo by Casco Viejo Tourism
|Photo by Saphira