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Doug Wallace

Contributing writer

Editor and publisher of TravelRight.Today, Doug Wallace is a habitué of hip hotels worldwide. Current clients include the London Telegraph, Fairmont Magazine, Trivago.ca and Today’s Bride.

Panama City’s very first hotel was built in 1874 and reopened in 2016 after a major renovation restored its 135 rooms to their former glory. Developers stuck close to the original French-influenced designs of the Central Hotel Panamá, preserving the hotel’s façade, vaulted ceilings, grand staircase, gabled rooftops and all.

Photo courtesy of Central Hotel Panamá

Street cred: It’s all about location

The hotel sits on the east side of Plaza de la Independencia, opposite the Cathedral, in the very center of the cobblestoned Old City or Casco Viejo. This is where much of the city’s nightlife is situated and where most of the tourists anchor their stay, so the mix of locals and visitors is both intriguing and welcome. This part of town is also one of the safest. The Central is walking distance from some of the best restaurants in town, as well as the Panama Canal Museum and the Panama Art Society.

Who hangs here: Is this hotel for you?

Everyone here is well-heeled and has a jacket or two in their suitcase. Expect special-occasion celebrants, families enjoying together time and a business crowd that is in tune with the good value the hotel offers.

Photo courtesy of Central Hotel Panamá

The straight goods: What’s in the room?

The décor of the hotel’s 135 rooms is elegant in its simplicity, naturally favoring a colonial-style, with white walls adorned with simple art, oatmeal rug, crisp white linens and white padded headboard, all contrasted with dark wood flooring and wooden chairs. White double doors open up to mini balconies with metal railings. The modern bathroom is so shiny you may need sunglasses.

Bragging rights: What else has it got?

The Central Hotel Panamá is recognized by UNESCO for its architectural significance within the Casco Antiguo, a designated World Heritage Site in Panama City.

Photo courtesy of Central Hotel Panamá

Good eats: Cocktails and cuisine

Guests tuck into a nice tapas lunch at El Atico Bar, which spills out onto the sidewalk patio out front. For dinner, the elegant 9 Reinas—an offshoot of one of Barcelona’s best Argentinian restaurants—will set you up with a nice, juicy steak. The rooftop Bar Lounge has one of the best views in the city.

A few of our favorite things: What stood out?

The little swimming pool on the roof is quite darling and perfect for late-afternoon daydreaming, overlooking the neighborhood’s ceramic-shingled roofs and out to the Panama City skyline. Very romantic.

Parting shot: If we could change one thing

Some of the touristy shops along the nearby side streets blast the radio non-stop all day. Bring earplugs if you are a napper!

Standard rooms from USD$145. Breakfast included.

Doug was a guest of the hotel during his stay. The hotel had no editorial input for this review.

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