Panama City is fantastic. It seems to be the perfect mix of Latin American playfulness and more modern development. Good public transport, trees and parks everywhere, and an abundance of choice when it comes to food, shopping and bars – I can’t think of much I would change about this place.
I’ve been staying in the old town – Casco Antigua – which is so beautiful I just want to wander around staring all day. It’s a world heritage site, with clean pavings, cool artwork and stunning white churches in amongst the older rubble.
You can walk or cycle along the waterfront (I did both), taking in the view of the city on your left, with skyscrapers in the most interesting formations and colours. They have strange public art everywhere (example: a statue of frogs, with smoke coming out of the bottom) and fashionable locals.
There’s a fish market not far from here, where you can try the traditional cerviche, or some fresh fried fish. Some streets bustle with noise and crazily-painted chicken buses, a row of barber shops under a bridge – and then others showcase major brands from around the world and trendy rooftop bars. It’s international and you see and hear people from all over Latin America here, with many signs in English.
The city is gearing up for elections at the moment, so there is a lot of hubbub in town, and scaffolding being elected for some kind of public gathering. People wear T-shirts and hats featuring their preferred candidate, and there are posters all over the city.
More than anywhere else I’ve been, this feels like home. It is exciting and comfortable at the same time, always with something interesting going on. While the Americanised bits might put other travellers off, as a States lover these only serve to enhance the city.