The Old City of Panama Viejo Stay And Play

The Old City of Panama Viejo

Stay And Play

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – these masks are made by the Kuna ladies

The Old City of Panama

Staying in the old city of Panama has its challenges.  For starters it is old – no kidding you might say.  But this means it is midst a HUGE renovation era. Every other property seems to be getting a facelift or an internal gutting.  The lack of insulation and soundproofing seems to mean that the noise carries down the alleyways.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – One of the hostels in the old part of the city


I’ve never been so pleased to leave our VERY noisy hotel/hostel and my son says he has never stayed in a noisier place. We had a family room but it seemed to us like a little jail cell. It is very clean but has no windows at all which means no natural light. On the top of the door were open louvers which meant the sound came in right from the main reception area.

The incessant chatting in the reception where everyone seemed to congregate meant it was like they were inside our room, and there was no blocking the noise because we could not climb up to shut the louvers. But this is something that comes with older buildings.

The owner is lovely and recommends us to his other hostel. So we wander 2 blocks around up past Villa Agostina which is draped with great artwork. The whole area is being restored and is an eclectic mix of quaint and crumby.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – we move to a newly renovated Villa

We head to the nearby square. This picture is taken from the balcony of our new room and we love the outlook which means yes, we have a window. In fact, we have French doors!

But at first, we are requested to return in 2 hours when our accommodation is ready.

This hostel has a real mix and for the first time, I see older people traveling the world alone and staying here.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – exploring the old quarter with Explorason

Let’s Go Shopping

So we wander around the streets and find a cute store. Their masks are incredible and we especially love the monkey masks.  We have only just agreed to cut down on our spending. But the Kuna who make these artworks sell them based on the number of hours they placed on them: $1 an hour. So when a mask is $45, that means it took 45 hours to make them! Not much of an income though. So needless to say, I now regret not buying these masks. In fact, in later years I still really regret not buying this mask.  But we would have to send them back to Australia and have them fumigated and possibly risk their safe arrival.

You can see the Kuna ladies in the background of this picture. They seem to always have slim legs, a unique style of dress, and a happy smile.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – one of the masks made by the Kuna ladies (you can see them behind Explorason)

New City Beyond

We take a walk along the old city wall and it is hot because it has an open expanse of brickwork paving with no shade.  In the distance, you can see the new city.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – standing in the old quarter you can see the new city behind us

Market Stalls

It’s time to then head to market stalls in the old city of Panama square. It is a really pretty area. Since we are visiting on a weekday, it is super quiet.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – this is a beautiful area with street markets

Hammock Heaven

Explorason’s birthday is in March, and he desperately wants a hammock. So after multiple visits to many stores, he finally selects a double hammock tight here at the market. We will pop this away for next month.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – Explorason chooses a colorful hammock for his upcoming birthday

Musical Instruments

He then adds a musical clay pipe to his birthday collection.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – feather art and musical instruments are for sale.


We wander around trying to get an iced chocolate. Now, this area is modernized and the prices are very western, so don’t expect prices like in the country areas of Panama. This area is being redesigned for the tourist.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – enjoying a chocolate shake


We do love the old buildings. There is a mannequin leg hanging off the balcony! Many of the buildings are now meticulously restored. You can wander along here just for the architecture alone.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – beautiful old buildings (why do the windows have UP arrows?)

Lanes and alleys in the old city of Panama

We also wander back through lanes and alleys. some are gorgeous, and some are in terrible disrepair, but all are on the mend. We pray and hope our room is ready.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – this entire old city is being restored as you can see by the road

Lovely return verandah

My son delights in the return veranda balcony we have there.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – our room has French doors and a return verandah

You can see him up on our balcony. This hostel – Pan-American is way better. We get a large private room and ensuite. The water is hot – yeah – the first real hot shower we have had in weeks. It is clean and includes breakfast for $39 a night. Let’s see how quiet it will be tonight.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – Explorason out on our balcony

Old Panama City is in transition

Panama is an amazing area with great weather pattern. We watch the kids play soccer next door and love the floral design on the ground.  There is a lot of detail going into the restoration of the old city.


©Exploramum and Explorason – these masks are made by the Kuna ladies – Old City of Panama

The modern lounge area is really nice. We meet a heap of lovely travelers here. We all exchange cards and emails so we can hook up for travel tips.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – the modern guest lounge


Later as night comes and our windows open to this atrium. There are two atriums, both with tables at the base and decorate walls. Guests decide to party at the base area so it echoes upward and is getting noisy.  After the lack of sleep last night this is not what we need tonight.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – the frog atrium of our accommodation

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – looking down from our room to the butterfly atrium below


Earlier that evening we had a nice time on the rooftop lounge area – though I do confess it made me nervous as a mother. It also made me wonder if it was safe when people drink up here.  We can see the Panama Canal new area that is being made in the distance.

Panama view

©Exploramum and Explorason – the Panama Canal is off in the distance

Rooftop Bar

The opposite roof area has a nice bar. But this is closed in February as Panama Carnival is on. I’m right about my fears.  I’m told that party people drink and do crazy things so there are no drinks up on the rooftops tonight. It has a great outlook all the way to the new city but they fear people will fall off the rooftops!

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – the rooftop lounge

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – Explorason enjoys the relaxation area

Sunset over the old city of Panama

We end up taking our dinner up here – fish and chips n the rooftop – all to ourselves! Alas, even though the bar is closed, we discover that a few people bring their own drinks, and there is a table of complete drunks so we leave fairly promptly after consuming our food.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – sunset on the roof


Inside our room, we hear the trucks still going crazy in the street outside as they
fix the roads.  The party people run around slamming doors, and then the drunks decide to stand outside our door screaming.  The old city of Panama is so lovely, but it is a noisy place.

No Sleep

So much for peace and quiet that by 2:00 a.m. my son is crying himself silly as the noise in this place is terrible.  I take him into my bed and give him a cuddle but I don’t get much sleep.

Next morning we meet a lady who is like us and she has had no sleep and can’t believe the noise. She has changed her plane ticket and is leaving early as she is so sleep deprived. The old city of Panama is just not a quiet place!

Time To Leave

Sometimes when things don’t go right, there is no point persevering and it is best to change your plans.  That’s how several guests felt this morning, just like us.  We decided to check out a day early and head back to the mission base in the hills where we have left our bags.

Packing our bags and popping into a security room means we can head out for one last time in old Panama City. We love the alfresco area of town and the gorgeous feel.

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – European-style coffee lounges are set up in the old town square

Old City of Panama

©Exploramum and Explorason – there is an exotic feel to parts of the old city

Time For A Bus out of the old city of Panama

We have to take the local buses back. Seeing I have only taken it back one time I am really nervous. I am tired, and I have to handle all the bags on public transport. This is one of the times traveling is not fun as I am so worn out from lack of sleep.

We do manage to find the right bus but it is around a 45-minute wait. Inside, it is decorated with fur and the music blasts which is kind of cool. This is all the driver gets to see through the front window under the layers of writing, and trinkets.

Panama bus interior

©Exploramum and Explorason – inside the bus – it feels like a disco

Speeding Bus Driver

It is another 45 minutes journey through the jungle area. We barely get to stop the bus in time. We have our bags taken off and I pay.

I get my son to hold the front door open while I grab all the bags out of the back. I am so scared the bus will leave before we have everything off. Only on my signal, can Explorason release his hold on the door of the bus, and off it shoots into the distance again.

Share a Taxi

We grab a taxi and throw the bags in the back after striking a deal. Next thing there are more people getting in.

We are going the wrong way! He tells us this is OK in Spanish and I kinda figure it will all work out. I am too tired to care.

Back at the Mission Base

We get back to the base – finally! We discover we have arrived on a great day. They have had no gas or water for days, BUT the water truck has just given them a small top up. I madly make a dash for the shower and take an army-style one-minute wash.

I am so happy to be back. It kind of feels like home. My son knows people and it is safe so he can wander around and I can relax.

When I stayed here last time, I thought it was noisy. Now I think it is so quiet compared to where we have been in Old Panama City. I fall asleep easily as an overtired single Mum and I am so very grateful to be here!

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