About the Casco
Casco Antiguo (also referred to as Casco Viejo or San Felipe) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is quickly being revitalized and now hosts some of the city’s best restaurants and Latin Jazz clubs. The neighborhood is where Panama City was relocated in 1673 after the original Pacific settlement (Panama Viejo) was sacked by the pirate Henry Morgan. It remained the center of Panamanian life for nearly 300 years, until the 1930s, when, like many old quarters in Latin America, Casco Antiguo declined as families of means moved to the suburbs. And now, like many old quarters around the world, Casco Antiguo is regaining its rightful place as the cultural and entertainment heart of the city that grew up around it.
The 100-acre peninsula’s legacy of Spanish, French and American colonial, neoclassical and art nouveau architecture is unique. Certain styles, particularly the narrow 16th through 18th century houses with internal courtyards, are specific to the region. So, while people often refer to Casco Antiguo as a “colonial city”, the current city-scape is more dominated by French and early American architecture, which UNESCO points out in it’s justification of World Heritage status, “lends it a special quality that other colonial cities in Latin America lack (with the exception of New Orleans, where the quality of architecture is markedly inferior).” UNESCO drew a connection between this eclectic collection of architectural styles and Panama’s historic role as a world crossroads, with each style representing a boom in inter-oceanic trade through the Isthmus. This collection of architecture and the people who inhabit it are clear reflections of Panama’s fascinating cultural makeup and an important part of our common heritage.