Ciudad Historica Panamá La Vieja

Historical Memory-503 years of the Foundation of Panama La Vieja

“We proudly commemorate 503 years of the founding of Panama La Vieja, a historic city that laid the foundations for a free and sovereign nation, of good, noble and hard-working people,” said the President of the Republic of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo through his twitter account today.


Panama Viejo. Image Source: Nito Cortizo, Twitter.


On August 15, 1519, Pedro Arias De Ávila founded the city of Panama known today as, Panama La Vieja. Panama City was officially granted the title by King Carlos I of Spain in 1521. The site was part of the transit route for shipments of gold and riches until its destruction in 1671 at the hands of the English pirate, Henry Morgan, who sought to seize the riches in this area.


Image Source: Sitio Arqueologico Panama Viejo.


Panama Viejo was an area originally occupied by an aboriginal community. Archaeological evidence of pre-Columbian cultures has been found on this site.


Image Source: Sitio Arqueológico Panama Viejo.


Historical data indicates that the expeditions that conquered the Inca Empire of Peru in 1532 departed from this site. Panama Viejo was a stopover for one of the most important trade routes in the American continent, which led to the fairs of Nombre de Dios and Portobelo. Along the route traveled the largest part of the gold and silver extracted from the mines that the Spanish exploited in America.


Image Source: Sitio Arqueológico Panama Viejo.


By 1541 the city had about 4,000 inhabitants; including Spanish, indigenous and African slaves. In 1607, the city had several streets, a main square and two other squares. In 1671, the city was destroyed at the hands of the English pirate Henry Morgan, who sought to seize the riches in this area.


Image Source: Sitio Arqueológico Panama Viejo.


Later, the city was rebuilt in 1673 in what is now known as the Casco Antiguo.

Archeological Site

The Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo was declared a Historic Monumental Site by Law 91 of December 1976, modified by Law 16 of May 22, 2007. The site extends along 28 hectares and is home to archeological findings from 1912 to 2020.


Image Source: Sitio Arqueológico Panama Viejo.


In its existing structures, the emblematic tower, the cathedral, the royal houses, the slaughterhouse bridge, convent complexes, the convent of Monjas de la Concepción, the West house, the Royal house, the Cabildo, the Puente del Rey and the streets of the city stand out.

Panama Viejo is a characteristic example of early colonial urbanism, and was laid out according to orders from the Crown to Pedrarias. The layout of the city is characterized by a grid oriented according to the cardinal points and with its main focus in the main square.

The well-preserved ruins provide a picture of its historical and urban form. After 1570, religious architecture was the dominant monumental element in the city.  Old Panama had two hermitages, seven convents, and a cathedral. The city was relatively dense in its core. Houses were located in lots with narrow, deep frontages. Of military architecture, the Fortín de la Natividad stands out, a small fort located at the western entrance of the site.


Image source: Sitio Arqueológico Panama Viejo.



The Museo de la Plaza Mayor Samuel Lewis García de Paredes was inaugurated on August 10, 2017. Through its exhibition Old Panama: Where the City Began, the museum narrates the evolution of the site over 1500 years, from the fishing village and farmers of the Cueva language, until its foundation, growth and destruction in 1671, and subsequent abandonment. The exhibition has more than 350 pieces, most of which were found at the Site and cover the pre-Hispanic and Hispanic periods of Panamanian history.


Image Source: Sitio Arqueológico Panama Viejo.


The museum details the evolution of the city, from its colonial society to the transformation of the city, until its attack and destruction by the pirate Henry Morgan.

The site is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30am to 5:30pm. The box office is open until 4:30 p.m.

The Patronato Panamá Viejo declared the last Sunday of each month as an open day, during which visitors will be able to enter and tour the site for free.


Astrid Chang | Correspondent for Panamá

Astrid Chang has a degree in Journalism with an Emphasis in Audiovisual Production. Since 2018, she has been a journalist at La Estrella de Panamá. Her work in the newspaper was initially as an intern, where she developed in the area of sports, nationals, social networks and the web. Later, she was hired to lead the themes for World Youth Day and to be a presenter for the segment “Flash Economy.” She later became part of the Café Estrella team, a new content proposal by ‘La Decana’. In this booklet she has written articles on the environment, technology, health, sports, society, music, culture, sexuality, art, fashion and tourism. Likewise, she has organized and directed projects with visual artists for the International Book Fair of Panama. She too, was sent special to cover the Lima 2019 Juegos Parapanamericanos, and currently she is the coordinator of sports issues in the newspaper. She has training in journalistic leadership.