This post provided by Jennifer Anderson – check out her bio here!
Now that you’ve read all about the sites, culture & experiences you can expect in Panama City, I’ve rounded up my favorite places to stay, eat, and shop!
Where to stay?
There are only two answers, in my opinion. You can stay in the city at the Bristol Panama or in the old town (Casco), at either American Trade Hotel or Las Clementinas.
This 125-room upscale property in the heart of the city features dramatic views, charming colonial decor, and artwork by the finest artisans in Panama. Not to mention, every room has luxurious Frette linens and Hungarian down-filled pillows to rest your head after you enjoy the Molton Brown bath amenities. The property is complete with a full service, state-of-the-art sanctuary spa, (including hair and nail salon, six treatment rooms, an extensive a la carte menu of spa treatments and massages), 24-hour modern fitness center, outdoor pool, concierge services, business center and meeting facilities, event space, fine gourmet dining, full service bar and lounge, room service, and an executive floor. The luxury traveler could not ask for more.
The Bristol Panama is for the discerning traveler that is accustomed to the finest modern amenities available. A comparable property would be the Four Seasons Mexico City, which happens to be a personal favorite of mine. The hotel has a boutique feel but does not sacrifice a bit of luxury. I was truly blown away by their hospitality.
Since the Bristol Panama is a partner property of ours through Virtuoso, I was able to take advantage of the same perks and amenities I can get guests who book this property through me! It pays to travel like a Virtuoso guest – we were able to check in at 9 AM, our room was upgraded (even though we were charged the lowest rate!), we were provided with a lavish, complimentary breakfast in the dining room daily, complimentary wifi, and, to top it off, $100 food and beverage credit to use during our stay (which we splurged on amazing room service on our last night!). I learned firsthand the advantages of working with a Virtuoso agent and am now proud to be one!
Standing at the biological and commercial crossroads of the Americas, the American Trade Hotel sits in the historic old quarter, a meeting place for influencers, creatives and cultures from around the world. The property is steeped in local traditions and overflowing with the country’s heritage, but it is thoroughly outfitted with contemporary conveniences. At only 50 rooms, the boutique property feels more like home than a hotel – you’ll enjoy all of their amenities, like the rooftop pool, library, and jazz club. Meeting space is available and, of course, there’s a dining room!
The American Trade Hotel is for the traveler that appreciates restoration and values authenticity and originality. The hotel has a vibrant atmosphere and new-meets-old world decor. Commune Design team created a fictional backstory- that of a family-owned hotel that has been in business for centuries. Entering the lobby, you can feel the history and the charm. The hotel would be ideal for a group of friends, a festive occasion, or simply a getaway.
Las Clementinas is a fully restored six-room (apartment style) boutique hotel in the Casco. This is a sister property to American Trade Hotel and Canal House, all developed by Conservatorio, SA. With its adjoining old fashioned cafe and bar and quaint outdoor patio and rooftop, the property is as charming as it can be as it feels like a small-scale version of the American Trade Hotel in terms of design and overall vibe. The property does not have an elevator, so may appeal to the younger set. Intimate and private, the hotel sits away from the plaza and would be ideal for a rendezvous or secret retreat.
Where to eat?
Now for the Food! Panamanian cuisine is a mix of Native American, African and Spanish ingredients. Expect plenty of fresh vegetables, herbs and tropical fruits due to Panama’s geographic location and subsequent pleasant year-round temperatures. Other common ingredients include rice, maize, yuca, plantains, meats and lots of seafood (Panama actually means abundance of fish). The food is amazing, so flavorful and unique. Pure bliss for vegetarians and meat/seafood lovers alike.
Located in a restored home with an upscale Latin American/Caribbean vibe.
Fluctuating menu, absolutely incredible food. A must for ambiance, best meal of the trip.
Risotto with tomatoes and local cheese, grilled vegetables, one of my all time favorites
Sea bass with lemon and butter sauce, grilled miso scallops, perfectly prepared
Innovative take on local ingredients located in a hip, fully restored hotel atmosphere
(The Lobby Cafe and Bar serves refreshments all day and Danilo’s Jazz Bar serves tapas)
Seared tuna with hearts of palm ceviche, cashew emulsion, excellent
Mixed grain salad of millet, quinoa, coconut, lemon, herbs, beets, light lunch, clean flavors
Super fresh shakes, juices and smoothies, your choice of local fruits and wifi!
Fresh mango and yogurt shake, tangy and sweet, so delicious
Passion fruit and pineapple smoothie, also delicious, great snack
Landmark Casco deli/grocer selling local products as well as world wide delicacies
Caribbean Chocolate Company organic chocolate bar with coconut, unreal!!
Wide variety of fun, creative tapas. Dine downstairs or rooftop, well-known nightlife scene.
The empanadas were especially good!
Adorably chic French artisan style ice cream and sorbet shop
Lavender, mint chip, hazelnut, Madagascar vanilla, all fantastic
Part cafe, art gallery, funky little shop. An eclectic mix of cuisine with east Indian inspiration.
Fresh grilled tuna, cucumber, wasabi mayo stuffed pita with homemade potato salad, yum!
Quinoa salad with cherry tomatoes, feta, zucchini, olive oil and lemon, awesome
Where I’ll eat next time:
Las Clementinas, lasclementinas.com (check out the menu on their website)
They were closed temporarily for renovation. Their menu and atmosphere looks incredible. Known for their brunch, their burgers and their charm.
The Fish Market Food Truck in Casco Viejo, Facebook or thepanamadigest.com
Think fish gyros, gazpacho, Thai green fish curry, Vietnamese sandwiches all served from a food truck in the ruins of a colonial building with picnic tables and umbrellas.
Where to Shop:
The shopping is excellent in Panama City! From giant luxury malls, markets with Panama hats in all price ranges, Kuna textiles and local goods, small boutiques selling handcrafted specialty items to souvenir shops and upscale art galleries – there is any kind of shopping you can hope for. You will fall in love with the beautifully handmade treasures of Panama and the local artisans who create them. I highly recommend:
French designer Helene Breebaart came to Panama over 40 years ago as a Christian Dior representative and decided to stay. She sells exquisite custom made designs from gorgeous fabrics and clothing produced by local Kuna seamstresses right out of her charming home on Casa Abel Bravo. She is a delightfully warm and stylish woman who welcomed us in, allowed me to try on as many dresses as I liked, including ones from her very own closet and right off her back, literally. She knows exactly how to fit women. As I type, I am awaiting my custom made shift dress with molas palm leaf design to be delivered. I’m so excited!
Lively, fun and colorful handwoven goods (bags, hats, baskets, mats) and jewelry made from recycled materials such as magazine pages and flip tops and natural fibers. Over 80% is the artisan handiwork of families in the Panamanian countryside. Zaira, the owner, is a wonderful lady with a generous heart and a beautiful shop. She was most helpful during my visit.
Art gallery with two locations, in the city and in the Casco. You will find a lovely gallery that combines contemporary Latin American art and Panama Canal memorabilia. You will also find THE best, most authentic Panama hats from Equador (yes, Panama hats are from Equador) made by EJF & Co.
Native art, Wounaan and Embera baskets, Latin American handicraft, alpaca collection from Peru, fine Panama hats and silver from Equador, Mexican art, jewelry. I bought a collection of fun woven bracelets made by Colombian Indians from the nice owner, Obdulio.
The best local artisans in one little shop, including Kuna-made textiles, high-end handicrafts, bright and colorful woven goods. The owner supports products being made by indigenous groups and started the foundation, Fundacion Mua Mua.
Interested in planning your own trip to Panama City? Contact our expert, Jennifer Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org / 404-270-0775