Memorial in Panama City

Panama City Tocumen Airport (PTY)

Panama City is a study in contrasts. This city of over a million residents is the gateway between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. It straddles North and South America. It's where the Old World collided with the New — and its shiny modern high rise buildings tower over historic ruins.

Where History Was Made

Panama City's heritage goes all the way back to 1519, so there's plenty for history buffs to enjoy here. Start at Panamá Viejo ("Old Panama"), the ruins of one of the oldest European settlements in North America. Pizarro launched his conquest of the Incas from here, but in 1671, the notorious English privateer Henry Morgan sacked the town. Lucky for visitors, its ruins have been frozen in time ever since. You also won't want to miss Casco Viejo ("Old Helmet"). Strolling down its romantic, narrow streets will treat you to block after block of Spanish architecture, beautiful churches and quaint shops. You can really feel the history of colonial Spain here, and it's easy to see why Panamá Viejo and Casco Viejo were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

No trip to Panama would be complete without seeing the Canal. Completed in 1914, it remains one of the world's engineering marvels. A good place to experience it is at the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center, featuring a museum, restaurant and of course excellent views of the massive ships that pass through. If you'd like to see more, take a ride on the Panama Canal Railway offering splendid vistas of water and rainforest alike.

The cuisine in Panama City doesn't disappoint. It's a delightful mix of Caribbean, Spanish, Central American, Mediterranean — and of course, opulent amounts of fresh seafood.