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Casco Viejo

Panama City's historic quarter is known as the Casco Viejo (pronounced CAS-coh Bee-EH-hoh; also called the Casco Antiguo, which translates as "old shell"). It's spread over a small point in the city's southeast corner, where timeless streets and plazas are complemented by views of a modern skyline and the Bahía de Panamá. The Casco Viejo's narrow brick streets, wrought-iron balconies, and intricate cornices evoke visions of Panama's glorious history as a major trade center. A stroll here offers opportunities to admire a beautiful mix of Spanish colonial, neoclassical, and art nouveau architecture. And though many of its buildings are in a lamentable state of neglect, and some of the neighborhood is poor, it is nevertheless a lively and colorful place, where soccer balls bounce off the walls of 300-year-old churches and radios blare Latin music, even as trendy restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels welcome an increasingly stylish clientele. Movie fans may spot a few places used as settings for the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace—Panama stood in for both Bolivia and Haiti in the movie, with the shell-like remnants of the Club Unión used for a party scene, and the National Institute of Culture serving as a fictional hotel in Bolivia (Daniel Craig actually stayed in the Casco Antiguo during shooting).

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