Visiting Panama City, Panama, and not taking in all of its cultural aspects would be a tragedy of colossal proportions. One could spend an entire vacation visiting the vast array of cultural locations and activities in the city. But which ones are the best that Panama City has to offer? Since there are seemingly too many to list, here are some of the most visited among the countless options available to you.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is the sole museum of contemporary art in Panama, and is said to exhibit the best that the Panamanian art world has to offer. This spacious art building is located at the foot of Ancon Hill, and features not only national art works but also creations from all over Latin America. Current exhibits include ceramics, oil paintings, and charcoal ink drawings from Panamanian artists Mark Lee. You can also see works by acclaimed artists from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, and Argentina. Going to a museum may not be your first thought when thinking of Panama, but after visiting The Museum of Contemporary art, your view will forever be changed.
If you would really like to immerse yourself in Panama's culture and traditions, you definitely shouldn't miss the Panama City Folkloric Nightshow and Dinner. This full production show displays traditional Panama acoustic music, complete with dancers wearing traditional hand-made cotton dresses called “Pollera.” Visitors will both learn and be amazed as beautiful music and dance are performed to native Indian instruments made from plant parts, shells, and various animals. In addition to the show, you will also be treated to some of Panama's local favorite dishes such as Yuca Frita, which is fried yuca root, or Tortilla Change, a thick tortilla made out of fresh corn. The Panama City Folkloric Nightshow and Dinner will give you a crash course in traditional Panamanian culture in one mere visit.
For those who would rather dance themselves than watch a performance, try the popular dance studio Salsa Panama. You can learn how to dance the beautiful Latin dance of salsa in personal or group classes, both taught by trained experts. With prices starting at $15 dollars per class, you'll quickly fit inside the ubiquitous Panamanian dance scene. If you'd rather just lounge around, the dance facility is also equipped with a full live band and a bar. For a unique and memorable experience, and possibly your only chance to receive authentic salsa lessons from a trained Panamanian local, a visit to Salsa Panama is an absolute must.
The Panama Carnival is arguably the mother of all Panamanian parties and activities. Held every year at the start of spring, this festival is one of the biggest in the world. Thousands of people convene from all over the globe to partake in the ancient tradition of costumes, dancing, and local cuisine. Panama City is among the top spots in the country to experience the four-day festival. Via Espana, which is the main avenue in Panama City, is where the most of the parades and festivals take place in the city.
Many of the hotels in Panama City will also host side events and parties themed around the festival. “Fat Tuesday” is known to be the festival’s biggest day, and it’s when the parade swells the biggest in terms of attendance and excitement. Partying continues until the early hours of the morning as both locals and visitors happily share the music-filled streets. Although most people think of Rio de Janeiro or Spain for carnival, the Panama Carnival equals all of them in both magnitude and uninhibited play.