Clarion Victoria Hotel and Suites Panama
Calle D, El Cangrejo
Panama City, 0
Phone: (507) 395 9000
Fax: (507) 395 9001
The spectacular, neogothic towers of Carmen Church seem miraculously constructed of lace amongst the glass-and-steel, traffic-laden downtown of Panama City. Sharply pointed towers flank each side of the impressive façade, entirely painted in white and cream colors. The interior is a harmony of pointed Gothic arches with stained glass windows shining in the walls to either side of the pews, leading up to the altar. A total of 18 large windows depict scenes from the bible, while 18 smaller windows below at eye-level show different types of flowers. Astonishing mosaics of a holy host behind the altars bloom with beautiful colors, and some of the tiles even sparkle with iridescence. Built in 1947, Nuestra Señora del Carmen is truly a spectacular place to have faith.
Encompassing 24 rooms and two theaters, this convention center caters to an international crowd of conventioneers. Check their website for a list of upcoming events.
The massive Bus Terminal, serving both city and long-distance buses, is a confusing place at first, and most buses pass through here so frequently that visitors are often whisked off to their next destination before they begin to know the place. Stroll through the Terminal, though, to check out the bank, shops, showers, storage room, and food court that serve as an infrastructure to a staggering amount of movement and activity. The Terminal is practically a shopping mall itself, although the modern Albrook Mall is just across the street. City buses known as Diablos Rojos pass between these two huge buildings, while long-distance buses depart from the ground-floor parking lots on the other side and arrive upstairs.
The path that wraps up around the Cerro Ancón from the direction of the Plaza Cinco de Mayo passes the quiet Catedral de San Lucas, an Episcopal church which, in addition to the usual services, offers a bilingual service on the first Sunday every month. The congregation enjoys the natural beauty that surrounds this easily accessible location; the drive that passes in front of the church slips from the asphalt and noise that runs just past the Cerro Ancón to a sudden oasis of quiet that envelops the Catedral de San Lucas. The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo is just steps away, making this a neighborhood of both religious and artistic culture.
The highly visible presence of the Tourist Police in Casco Viejo is largely responsible for the safety and the resulting establishment of this neighborhood as a tourist destination. Uniformed officers are a constant landmark at certain corners and sometimes calmly occupy several consecutive corners at once. Then-President Mireya Moscoso created the department in 2004 to encourage renovation and development of this historical area despite the dangerous neighborhoods just north of it. The office of this police force is just across the street from the Ministerio de Gobierno y Justicia, housed in the back portion of the Teatro Nacional. A few free magazines and maps are available in the office to assist confused visitors, as well as plenty of personnel to help out in the case of an actual problem.
The baroque façade of the rectangular Iglesia de la Merced squarely faces everyone who walks down Avenida Central from the north. It seems relatively small, but these stones have a long and impressive history. After Henry Morgan sacked Panamá Viejo, the settlers rebuilding the city transferred the entire façade and erected it here, fronting a new church in 1680. The interior was destroyed by fire and had to be entirely rebuilt again centuries later, and this early 20th-century remodeling added the tiled floors and wooden altars inside the church today. An ornate red and gold altar at the very front of the church gloriously depicts Christ to the faithful.
Panama City is undeniably rich in religious architecture; colonial churches seem to cluster like coconuts in some parts of town. A less conventional spiritual tradition is responsible for the astounding temple located 11 kilometers northeast of the city center, and it is hosted inside an equally alternative edifice. The Baha'i Temple, intended to serve all of Latin America, was built for a welcoming faith that claims "the earth is one country and all humanity its citizens", and simultaneously welcomes cooling fresh breezes through the open structure under its great futuristic white dome. This dome is easily the most striking feature of the Temple, built in 1967 and dedicated in 1972. The holy writings of the Baha'i faith are read in both English and Spanish at 10a on Sunday mornings; the Transisthmian Highway runs directly past.