When a girlfriend of mine suggested going out-of-town for a long weekend in December, I was all for it. Escape the cold? Explore a new city? Let’s do it! I quickly found inexpensive tickets and decided for a long weekend in Panama City, Panama. Although Panama had never been somewhere I had thought much about going, the more I read about, the more I discovered that it is an up-and-coming Central American travel destination. So, we packed our bags and were off! We had a great adventure, which I would recommend to anyone. Panama is close to the U.S., inexpensive, warm, and has plenty of fun things to do. Here are some helpful tips if you are thinking about going:

Long Weekend in Panama City
Long Weekend in Panama City: American Trade Hotel

Where to Stay: Panama City is divided into two parts, the old town, call Casco Viejo, and the new town. While the new town is shiny and sleek, full of casinos and skyscrapers, the old town is where you really want to be, especially with just a long weekend in Panama City. The small streets are lined with shops, restaurants and bars, and there are interesting nooks and crannies to explore.

Long Weekend in Panama City
American Trade Hotel

The American Trade Hotel: This stunning hotel is located right in the center of Casco Viejo. It has huge, stunning rooms, a sprawling restaurant, a bar, a coffee bar, gym, and friendly staff to help you with all of your needs.

What to do:
Casco Viejo Walking Tour: The old town is an easily walkable area, where you can peruse art stores, churches, coffee shops, and the occasional ruin. It is truly an up-and-coming district with a growing art scene and a thriving fine dining culture. Be sure to check out the Galeria de Arte Indigena to see and purchase indigenous art.

Long Weekend in Panama City
Long Weekend in Panama City: Panama Canal

Panama Canal: This is a must-see during a long weekend in Panama City. The canal museum is especially interesting, with a detail history of the building and expansion of the canal and the canal’s significance in international trade. There is a short film you can view, as well as a gift shop and coffee shop.

Long Weekend in Panama City: Biodiversity Museum
Biodiversity Museum

Biodiversity Museum: Famed architect Frank Gehry was married to a Panamanian, and as result the first building he designed in Latin America was in Panama. The museum is stunning, and hosts incredibly interesting information about the unique biodiversity of Panama. For example, in one hectare of land in Panama nearly 300 species of trees can be found, compared to North America where there are only 25.

Long Weekend in Panama City: Biodiversity Museum
Long Weekend in Panama City: Biodiversity Museum

Where to Eat and Drink: Well, as the dining traveler you know we take the dining options very seriously in every city we go! Panama actually has a wonderful, diverse cuisine highlight by fresh fruits, queso, yucca, corn, rice, and coconut. Casco Viejo also has a plethora of fun places for cocktails. Honestly, no matter where you go in the old town, you can’t go wrong.

Long Weekend in Panama City: Cafe Unido
Cafe Unido
Long Weekend in Panama City: Cafe Unido
Long Weekend in Panama City: Cafe Unido

American Trade Hotel’s Café Unido: Stop by for a hot latte and croissant, or yogurt and granola before you head out for a day of sightseeing!

Long Weekend in Panama City: Cafe Unido
Long Weekend in Panama City: Cafe Unido

American Trade Hotel’s The Dining Room: This bright, airy restaurant in the lobby of the American Trade Hotel has a fantastic jazz brunch which is the perfect way to kick off your weekend. Mimosas, maiz pancakes with fruit compote, eggs benedict, and empanadas are just a few of the treats on the menu.

Long Weekend in Panama City: Cafe Unido
Beirut: As we all know, I like to sample different cuisines in the countries I visit. After visiting the Panama Canal or the Biodiversity museum, this is a great place to stop for a delicious meal. Try one of the combination plates, which comes piled high with pita bread, hummus, fried croquettes, rice, salad, fried onions, eggplant, and lebneh.

Long Weekend in Panama City: Beirut Restaurant
Long Weekend in Panama City: Beirut Restaurant

Veggie Moon: This restaurant is not actually vegetarian but does have a number of vegetarian options. The cozy interior is perfect for enjoying dishes like creamy risotto, rice with a coconut curry, tomato and mozzarella salad, and pasta.
Capital Bistro: Located on the waterfront in Casco Viejo, this restaurant is teeny tiny but has stunning views of the water and the skyscrapers over in the new town. The food is also pretty good, with fresh salads and lots of wine.

Bread at Maito

Maito: Listed on San Pellegrino’s 50 best Latin American Restaurants, Maito really did live up to its name. The minimalist, modern restaurant is not in Casco Viejo, but in a small neighborhood in the new town. Service is impeccable, the wine list features the best of Latin American wines. I had a fantastic “chow mein” with noodles, veggies, and a ginger, sesame, soy sauce infused sauce. For dessert, we had a churro ice cream sandwich with caramel popcorn. If you have a long weekend in Panama City, this is a must dine!

Long Weekend in Panama City: Dessert at Maito
Dessert at Maito

Jeronimo: No vacation is complete with drinks. This spot is a speakeasy/art gallery, where you can order innovative cocktails and then wander around the art shop.

Long Weekend in Panama City: Lazotea Rooftop
Long Weekend in Panama City: Lazotea

Lazotea: This fabulous rooftop bar is located inside Hotel Casa Panama. Take the elevator up to the roof, where you can take in stunning views of the water. Enjoy a pre or post dinner snack and cocktail.

The Verdict: A weekend in Panama City is a fantastic getaway for friends or a couple. The combination of biodiversity, culture, food and wine make for a great getaway.

  • Brianna @ The Casual Travelist

    I’ve been wanting to visit Panama for a while now. Looks like there are some fantastic places to eat.

  • Hra

    What a great guide!! i love your photos as always!! They make me wanna go in Panama!! Thanks for sharing with us 🙂

  • Kelly

    I’ve never been to Panama City, but now I want to go. And nice to know you can see a lot in a long weekend. Beirut restaurant looks amazing!

  • Arvin- Kohli

    I am always looking for travel Ideas on long weekend, I didn’t give Panama a thought till I came across your awesome travel blog. always wanted to see the Panama Canal. I;ll be in the old part of town as per your recommendations. Your photos are amazing.