As you walk along the wide roads paved with red bricks, you will come upon beautiful courtyards, renovated old buildings with ornately elegant balconies brimming over with ornamental plants, and obelisks and marble plaques laid out to commemorate the effort of the French in building the Panama Canal. Your gaze will then shift to the nearby grand buildings made in Spanish and French architectural styles. Each building, each brick has a tale to tell.
Architectural marvels like the Municipal Palace stand tall to revive the memories of a time when the French had made it their home during the initial construction of the Panama Canal. With the canal and a rail link finding a prominent place in the world map a couple of centuries ago, Casco Viejo had established its place in history as also a commercial hub for the Americas. The Municipal Palace will soon make way for a grand museum that will narrate the story of the Canal, its existence, and future.
The Metropolitan Cathedral, which was built over a century, has a swelling influence of Spanish extravaganza in its architecture. The other historical buildings that vie for your attention include the Church of San Francisco, Promenade of Vaults, Presidential Palace, Plaza Santa Ana, National Theater, and Arco Chato to mention a few. You will notice that many of the vintage structures are being restored to add luster without them losing their identity.
Arco Chato gets its name from a nearly flat arch. The only surviving evidence of the magnificent Iglesia de Santo Domingo church, Arco Chato has an interesting history. The 17-th century church was destroyed twice and fire accidents and was not restored after the second incident. The arch had been constructed without a keystone; therefore, historians and architects alike are surprised that the arch stands steadfast against nature’s fury.
Amid the ruins and restorations, Casco Viejo is an exhibition of the not-so-common Panamanian sights and sounds that will enthrall the seekers of a city life from a bygone era with an old world charm.