Many tourists only see the two historic districts and the modern parts of town, but what about the REAL Panama City? Take the metro to Plaza 5 de Mayo and take a walk down Avenida Central for an authentic look at life in Panama City.
At Plaza 5 de Mayo, you’ll see the old railway station and the beginning of Avenida Central, which contains several blocks of shops and street booths where Panamanians buy everyday goods, electronics, food, and clothing.
Take a walk down the pedestrianized street to Parque Santa Ana for an authentic look at everyday life in Panama City. Avenida Central continues into the more touristy historic district of Casco Viejo.
Also near Plaza 5 de Mayo is the Museo Afroantillano. This small but informative museum chronicles the history of Panama’s West Indian community, mostly about their contribution to the construction of the Panama Canal. Admission is US$1. It’s open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30am to 3:40pm.
Many people are told to stay away from this area for safety reasons, but I visited a few times and never felt threatened. Don’t go at night, don’t flash expensive cameras or jewelry, stay on Avenida Central, and don’t wander off onto any side streets.