Panamá Casco Viejo, Panamá Casco Antiguo – Life in Panama´s Historic District: San Felipe and Santa Ana
Every great city has an interesting public market. In Europe there are legendary ones like Madrid, or those closer to my heart like Biarritz. In LatinAmerica, markets are always colorful, happy and full of traditional delights: Mexico, Peru and so many others.
In Panama, land of oceans, rivers and biodiversity, we already have a very good Fish Market. Pre covid you could go to the kiosks outside to enjoy wonderful ceviches with beer after a nice stroll from Casco and Cinta Costera. Outside seating, so hopefully we´ll be able to go back pretty soon.
But the truth is that we were missing our traditional fruit and vegetable market: San Felipe Neri, which has been under construction for a couple of years. Finally it opened doors this month, so I´m hereby sharing my first visit with tips and all! the best prices for vegetables in the city, no doubt.
So, here are some tips that will make your visit easier:
Parking: important! even though the market opens at 5 a.m. the parking opens at 9 a.m. You can park at B Avenue (see photo below) and just walk to the front door like I did.
Covid and higiene protocol: do need to wear masks and closed shoes! no sandals. If you do go with sandals, there is a lady outside that sells those small plastic shoe covers for $0.50.
Who and when: during covid, Panama has intalled shopping days for women and men. Maybe by the time you read this it won´t be current, but right now, women can shop Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and men Tuesdays and Thursdays. Weekends are closed.
Sections: you have 3 main sections: fruits/veggies, meats and fonda style food, featuring traditional food. Everything is super clean and pleasant. Outdoors wasn´t open yet, but hopefully “coming soon”.
Tip: take your own shopping bags and make sure to have “sencillo” (coins and small bills) so there are no issues with change. They don´t take credit cards. There is an atm machine inside though.
I´d like to do a price comparison with supermarkets. Next time! also, please note that the market is just getting started, so only the basic vegetables and supplies are in. If you´d like specialties, then I would recommend to go to gourmet stores. Now, if you are into tamales and bollos, there is this one stand that has all the types of banana leaves you can wrap stuff in. So go have fun!