Visit Old Panama

Panama City was founded on August 15, 1519 by Pedro Arias Dávila, known as Pedrarias, making it the first Spanish city on the shores of the South Sea (known today as the Pacific Ocean) and the oldest city on mainland that yet exists today. 

It replaced the former cites of Santa María la Antigua del Darién and Acla and became the capital of Castilla del Oro.

On September 15, 1521, a royal decree conferred the municipality with the title of City and Carlos I of Spain granted it a Coat of Arms.

Ships set sail from Panama City in search of wealth in South America, specifically for the exploration and conquest of Peru. Gold and riches from all over the Pacific coast of the Americas arrived here to be shipped to Spain.

In 1671 the English pirate Henry Morgan led an attack on the city to plunder its stored riches. As a security measure to protect both population and property, the Captain General of the Mainland, Don Juan Pérez de Guzmán, ordered the evacuation of the city and torching of the gunpowder deposits, causing the city to go up in flames and be completely destroyed.

The ruins of the ancient city remain today, including the cathedral tower, and the Collective Historic Monument of Panama La Vieja has become a tourist attraction and been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Panama City was rebuilt in 1673 at a new site 2 kilometers west-southwest of the original city at the foot of Cerro Ancón, now known as the city's Old Town district.

At the area's Visitor Center you can relive the city's history, from pre-Columbian archaelogical discoveries to a scale model of what Panama City looked like before pirate Morgan's attack.


Tower of the Cathedral

What to bring

  • Camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Hat or cap


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