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Casco Viejo, walking Panama’s old town

The old quarter dates back to 16th century when it was found as a base for expeditions to Inka Empire’s lands in search of gold. You will see many architectural styles: French, Antilles…some of them are being renovated. Two floor houses with colourful doors and wooden windows have balconies on second floor with fer-forge bars and pink bougainvilleas hang down the street. They make the old quarter so picturesque and give the perspective so that you stop every corner and admire it as an artwork inside a frame.

Some places you’ll see along the way: probably the most historical ones are the ruins of the Jesuit temple and convent. A school was built on its grounds on the 18th century, which eight years later became the first university in the isthmus of Panama. It functioned until 1767, when the Jesuits were expelled from all Spanish lands. The church was built after 1749, and it was most likely never completed. The building burned in 1781, and an earthquake in 1882 affected it even more.

Casa Góngora is the best preserved colonial house of the Old Quarter from the 18th century. It is named for Pablo Góngora, a pearl merchant that inhabited it.

There is not a lack of plazas and churches in the old quarter. Iglesia San José, an Augustinian temple with a rectangular shape to be first to be built in Panama’s old quarter. In Plaza Simon Bolivar you will see The temple and convent of Saint Francis of Assisi, Panama’s first constitution was approved here. The best preserved church is the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Merced; the Mercedarian Church is the only church of the old quarter that conserves its original wooden roof and columns that date from colonial days. It has a baroque façade

In Plaza de la Independencia, the Independence Square (also called Plaza de la Catedral) you can visit the Interoceanic Museum, a building from the 19th century originally was a hotel; later it housed the main offices of the French and American isthmian canal efforts. From 1910 it became headquarters of several Panamanian public offices, until it was refurbished as a museum in 1997. It has an exhibition on the history of the Panama Canal. Plaza Herrera; where the American Trade Hotel is, used to be the place for celebrations and bullfights. At the sea side close to the view point and the promenade lined with souvenir sellers is the Plaza de la Francia, the French Consulate and the Theatre are located here.

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