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).
When there was every reason in the world to stay away and see the ruins, one woman traveled to Greece to get to work.More