A good place to start exploring the small peninsula that is occupied by Casco Viejo is at the very end. Plaza de Francia is a small plaza full of trees and a monument to the more than 20,000 French workers who died during the original French Panama Canal project attempt in the late 1800s. There is also a plaque honoring Carlos Finlay, the Cuban doctor who discovered how mosquitoes transmit yellow fever. This allowed the US builders of the Panama Canal to reduce cases and deaths due to the disease.
Buildings on Plaza de Francia
Also on Plaza de Francia are the French Embassy, Las Bóvedas (a former dungeon used by the Spanish), and Instituto Nacional de Cultura (the museum authority for Panama and the former Palacio de Justicia).
Walk up the stairs next to the monument to Paseo de Las Bóvedas. This walkway provides great views of the modern city, the plaza, and the Pacific Ocean, where many ships await their transit of the Panama Canal.
Several vendors sell souvenirs such as Panama hats, fridge magnets, license plates, and artwork along Paseo de Las Bóvedas. Part of the walkway is under a flower covered arch.
A small historical marker along the walkway notes the site where on 3 November 1903, Captain Raul Chevalier fired a cannon at a Colombian battleship which then returned fire. The Colombian ship was then pursued by US Navy gunboats forcing it to retreat, thus securing Panamanian independence from Colombia.
Plaza Carlos V
A small but pleasant park just a few blocks from Plaza de Francia is Plaza Carlos V.