You wouldn´t be able to tell from the outside, but Casco Antiguo – Panama´s Colonial City – is full of hidden gardens, small urban oasis that reveal themselves to the visitor, a tradition that has been alive for almost 300 years.
Back in 1673 when Casco Antiguo (also called Casco Viejo, also known as San Felipe for one of its main neighborhoods – see virtual tour here) was first built by the Spanish, homes kept an European design: balconies, tall ceilings and interior gardens. After nurturing from different influences according to each economic wave (the French Canal, the American Canal, the Gold Rush, each one bringing a new architectural style) the city fell into decay in the 70´s. In 1998 it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and therefore the restoration began.
Today, fully restored buildings keep not only the patios that where originally there by the Spanish designs but also the apartments have now private roof terraces or even lateral and inside patios within the apartments themselves.
These have become small urban oasis where social live is happening: the community enjoys getting together, or even the intimacy of family life is enriched by them. A simple principle well known to the Spanish 300 years ago. Build a plaza with trees and people will come. Children will play, a community will gather, an important connection will be gained.
All of these being the true elements of a good lifestyle. Somehow having these old, basic principles come to life has brought a new dimension to today´s modern living. And this reveals what Casco Viejo is all about: not a museum style colonial city, but a real one, with real people injecting their energy and values to it.