A Gay Friendly, Art Friendly Casco Viejo in Panama

Panama, Casco Viejo – Casco Antiguo, San Felipe

A new client recently asked me “Is Casco Viejo gay friendly?”  For a moment I had to think about the question. You see, growing up as a ballet dancer I never even gave a thought to it.  Half of the male dancers were gay, although probably we didn’t have any lesbians back then. We used to base from the National Theatre at Casco Viejo, and although we only stayed there for a couple of years it was simply delightful.   

I was a teenager back then, so I didn’t really noticed why Casco Antiguo was so enjoyable. I could point out to my background as my family lived here and obviously felt a connection but it wasn’t only that. It is the fact that everyone can be whatever they want to be here and no one thinks about it twice. It is so densely diverse (both architecturally and socially) that adding another color to this already bright palette is the natural thing to do, it makes it more interesting and cheerful; so you are never out of tone. You are part of the tone.

Somehow, Casco Viejo as a city feels so good in its own skin that it just embraces the entire rainbow of options. Bars like La Casona or Baños Publicos have become the classic hang out spot for artists of all sorts and even those who (like me) can’t paint a rainbow but still have a bohemian, adventurous soul.  

If you are wondering about how nightlife is here, check out my reviews and explore!

What to do? Restaurants, bars, theatres

Ego & Narciso: One beside the other at Plaza Bolivar. Wonderful Peruvian tapas at Ego and very good italian food at Narciso. You can order from both, no problem! the owner is thinking on opening a third one in the same plaza… so coming soon!  262-2045

CasaBlanca: casual dinning at Plaza Bolivar. 212-0040

Indigo: oriental mediterranean fusion cuisine. Located between 2nd and 3rd street and Central Avenue, between the Tourism Police and Manolo Caracol, at the back of the National Theatre. Morocan ambiance and great tapas. Their back patio opens to the Arco Chato, a great spot for private dinners. Ph. 228-1822  indigo@indigopanama.com

Platea & Scena: Scena is a nice formal restaurant above Platea which is our favorite jazz bar. They also have live music most nights, ranging from salsa to rock. Located on Calle 1era, in front of the old Club Union.  228-4011

Casuale: great mix of Argentinian food in two ambiances: formal and lounge. Location: Calle 1era… at the side of Arco Properties!   228-1017

Caffe Per Due: Manuela and Marco run our favorite neighborhood spot for pizza.  She is from Mantova, where I have to say I got the best food ever in Italy. They are located at A Avenue and First Street, at PH Paseo Las Bovedas. 6512-9311 / 6496-4878/ caffeperdue@gmail.com


Buzios: Brazilian inspired, meditarrenean food. Relaxed ambiance, outside seating, ocean view. Location: Calle 1era, at the side of the French Embassy. 228-9045

Grandclement: the best icecreams in Panama. French owned & run, wonderful new flavours! Location: Central Avenue and 4th street. 228-0737

Manolo Caracol and Caracol Verde: Two restaurants, one beside the other. Spanish tapas and salads. Location: Avenida Central and 3rd street. 228-0109

Mostaza: italian food with a cozy feeling. You will feel at home, either sitting outside or inside. Location: 3rd street and Avenida A. 228-3341

Super Gourmet: great gourmet sandwiches and food to grab & run. Location: Avenida A and 6th street.

La Casona de Brujas: our favorite bohemian bar. Location: Plaza Herrera.

Baños Públicos: at the corner of Plaza Herrera, if you are lucky, they open on Fridays and Saturdays. Heavy Metal, local bands. Please remember to pay for the beer; they don’t tend to charge people.

Café René: Tapas restaurant, informal. Location: Plaza Catedral, at the side of the church. 262-3487

Caffe per Due: Very nice pizzas, thin crust. Email: caffeperdue@gmail.com or 6512-9311/ 6496-4878

Las Bóvedas Restaurant: because it’s set up at two of the vaults of Plaza Francia, its interesting to see the interior. Sometimes they have live music. Location: Plaza Francia. 228-8058

Cedro´s: Local food. All about patacones, arroz con pollo and ropa vieja! Location; Central Avenue, at a side of Hotel Central. 262-1275

The National Theatre: to check out what´s going on: 262-3525

Where to Stay? Hotels, hostels and short term rentals

Canal House Panama: A beautifully restored colonial mansion at the heart of San Felipe. Ideal to rent the entire house, it has 3 suites, most of them with inner offices, all of them with internet. Fully staffed 24/7. Check it out at: www.canalhousepanama.com  Phone: 228-2907/ 8683.

Café de Asis (Plaza Bolivar): Nostalgic apartment with great views to Plaza Bolivar. Rent it through Arco Properties, per night, per week, per month. Email: igrenald@arcoproperties.com / Patrizia@arcoproperties.com

Los Cuatro Tulipanes: Management Company, based in Casco Antiguo. They’ve got very nice apartments for rent: www.loscuatrotulipanes.com

Hospedaje Casco Viejo: Very well located, low budget, perfect for backpackers. http://www.hospedajecascoviejo.com/hotel.html or  cascoviejo@centrodereservas.net or call (507) 269-6166

Luna´s Castle: Also for backpackers. This is the most recent acquisition of the guys who own Mondo Taitu and Heike hostel in Bocas del Toro. They are expanding to Casco and the place is beautiful. Give them a call at: 262-1540. http://wakansadhana.blogspot.com/2007/07/blog-post.htm

Gifts = both Cute and Interesting:

Galería Vida: in Calle 4ta, behind Casa Gongora, next to Entre Pulgas. High end indigenous crafts from latinamerica and Panama. Laurie has more than 30 years of experience working with communities, she has really good quality stuff. Not open on Sundays.

Karavan Art Gallery: great afroantillian art from Portobelo. Located at 3rd street, at a side of Arco Chato.Featuring art from the art shop of photographer and artist Sandra Eleta. Ask for Rosina.

Entre Pulgas: small art gallery with curiosities hand made. From rustic glass to jewelry. They are located at 4th street and Central Avenue, behind the Hotel Central, near Casa Gongora.

Reprosa:  if you are into traditional, Pre Columbian and Panamanian Jewelry. Located: Art Deco building, groundfloor, Calle 1era.

Artesanías Daisy: our favorite local seamstress. Guayaberas and children´s clothing made out of molas and other indigenous patterns. Located at Calle 1era.

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