Maristella Gonzalez

Although founded in 1519, Panama only gained real independence when the US returned the Panama Canal and its surroundings in 1999. Like a recently emancipated teenager, the city is still grappling with its new identity and growing into itself. So far, this city is no straight talker: it’s a Latin American country with a strong influence from the US; an urban metropolis in the middle of the jungle; and a striking mix of modern and colonial features. More shimmering skyscrapers seem to pierce the sky each week, rising above charming Casco Viejo, a snapshot from the past. One thing is for sure though – this city is on the up.

One person who is very much aware of Panama’s change is blogger Maristella González. She is part of the younger generation that is returning home after time abroad to shape the future of this cosmopolitan city. After studying in New York, Panama native Maristella started her blog A Constellation as an outlet for all things design orientated (including fashion, food or design). She’s been featured globally in magazines like Vogue Mexico and Glamour USA, mentored by Man Repeller and recently nominated for breakthrough fashion blogger of the year on Bloglovin’.

Keen to show us the best of her hometown, here Maristella gives us her stylish guide to Panama.

TO STAY

American Trade Hotel

I think some people just come to Panama for the American Trade Hotel, because it really is that beautiful. Housed in a restored historic landmark building, the hotel is a project by Atelier Ace – of Ace Hotels – and Panama City based real estate company Conservatorio.

Las Clementinas

Another Casco Viejo jewel, restored to its old glory. This small boutique hotel still maintains its original structure, so each room is essentially an apartment. The restaurant is decorated with a wallpaper featuring antique portraits and historic clippings designed by local graphic designer Laura Arias of Kiosco Creativo.

TO EAT

Maito

This is the signature restaurant ran by the infamous Panama chef Mario Castrellón. Mario started a culinary revolution in our country, rescuing Panamanian cuisine and recontextualizing it into a gourmet restaurant setting. My personal favourites include the Cochinita Pibil and the Carimañolas de Pulpo, while the most popular entree – with good reason – is the Calamares Rellenos de Risotto Negro.

  • (+507) 6060-0668
  • Go to Website
  • Final de la calle 50
    4to Local a Mano izquierda

Makoto

A modern Japanese restaurant with exceptional sushi, this is chef Makoto Okuwa’s first venture into Latin America after the success of his eponymous restaurant in Miami.

  • (+507) 314 7325
  • Go to Website
  • Avenida Samuel Lewis con calle 59
    Obarrio
    Edificio Kenex Plaza Piso 11

Intimo

Another restaurant taking part in the Panamanian culinary revolution. Carlos Javier (or ‘Chombolín’) Alba’s restaurant is, as it’s name suggests, a small and intimate space where dinner is as much an experience as it is a meal. The cocktails are also amazing.

Casa Escondida

Translated as ‘hidden house’ this recently opened restaurant is nestled into the San Francisco neighbourhood of Panama. Chef Alfonso De La Espriella’s concept is comfort food in a laid-back setting which will make anyone feel right at home. The menu changes regularly, but everything is delicious and uncomplicated.

Vereda Afroantillana

Panama has a strong African-Antillean influence on both its culture and cuisine. The Vereda Afroantillana is a row of kiosks where chefs Sugey Foster, Henry Francis, Francisco Small, Iván Gómez, Yahaira Bedford, Nilsa Brown and Gabriel Dimas Brown cook up a storm; locals and tourists from all over the world gather at Río Abajo to try their food.

Café Unido

Another hit by Mario Castrellón. This time with Café Unido – combined with the efforts of Alberto Bermúdez, Manuel Ferrer and Paola Reyes – Mario started a coffee renaissance in Panama. Before most of our best coffees were only grown for export: Café Unido’s concept is to keep some of our prize-winning beans here for local consumers to enjoy, while helping communities of coffee growers strive.

  • (+507) 399 2408
  • Go to Website
  • Edificio Le Mare
    Planta Baja
    Coco del Mar

TO SHOP

Lupa and Super Mini

Lupa is another venture by the talented group behind Diablo Rosso. An exhibition space and store, Lupa is a platform where art and commerce merge seamlessly to provide exposure for local, emerging creators and a means by which to sell their products and designs. Similarly, check out Super Mini, another concept store by Diablo Rosso that empowers local entrepreneurs with lectures and other activities.

  • (+507) 288 8428
  • Go to Website
  • Calle José De Obaldía y Calle 8va Oeste
    Casco Antiguo

Nina Concept Store

A great mix of homewares, accessories, jewellery, books, toys, art and anything in between. They host a market with local vendors every other month that is a huge success. They host a brunch on the weekends too which is also great.

TO DO

Casco Viejo

Visiting the old part of town, is a must. One could really just spend an entire day there walking through all the streets, peeking into shops, cafés and restaurants like Barrio Pizza, La Michoacana, Granclement, Crave and more.

    Diablo Rosso

    Also in Casco Viejo, Diablo Rosso is an art gallery representing local artists like Jonathan Harker and Donna Conlon – who’s collaborative videos have been exhibited in the Guggenheim Museum in New York – and photographer José Castrellón, who has shown in the Tate Modern in London.

    • (+507) 209 9380
    • Go to Website
    • Calle José De Obaldía y Calle 8va Oeste
      Casco Antiguo

    The Panama Canal Museum

    The Canal Museum in Casco Viejo is also quite interesting, and it goes without saying that the Canal itself is a must.

    BioMuseo

    For science enthusiasts the BioMuseo is great for understanding the role Panama has played in the evolution of the flora and fauna of the Americas. Fans of wildlife and the outdoors would enjoy visiting the Metropolitan park. But this is equally exciting for lovers of design, the building itself is a rainbow structure built in 2014 and designed by the acclaimed architect Frank Gerry as his first project in Latin America.

    Beaches

    Sandwiched between the Pacific and the Caribbean seas, beaches are never far. Escape the city with a day trip to the San Blas archipelago (made up of 365 islands in the Caribbean) or Taboga Island in the Pacific Ocean, just 15 minutes away from Panama City by boat.

      TO DRINK

      Ochoymedio

      Michelin-star chef Andrés Madrigal co-owns this restaurant with the owners of the art gallery Diablo Rosso. Not only is this a great place to eat, but the atmosphere is sexy and stylish – ideal for a relaxed cocktail.

      Tacos La Neta

      Mario Castrellón’s latest venture is a no-fuss taquería with the best spicy margaritas in town. La Neta also hosts live music events and ping-pong tournaments.

      El Republicano

      A recently opened gastropub with an already huge following. Before setting up shop, their pop-ups would sell out in minutes; people love their burgers and mix of local and international microbrews.

      TO DANCE

      El Apartamento/El Sotano

      Equal parts dive bar and underground club. Their focus is not in trendy decor or aesthetics but more about the music and having fun. They always have great activities like rock ‘n’ roll karaoke, local band gigs, various DJs and stand up comedy.

      Danilo’s Jazz Club at The American Trade hotel

      A venture between world renowned Panamanian jazz musician Danilo Pérez and the American Trade Hotel, Danilo’s  presents the opportunity to listen to and enjoy both local and international jazz talents in an intimate (and very stylish) setting in Casco Viejo.

      Casa Jaguar

      Currently one of the hottest clubs in the city – no more details needed.

      Teatro Amador

      A historic movie theatre which now hosts events and concerts in it’s beautiful interior. Diverse night lineups can be anything from EDM to rock and anything in between.

      • (+507) 212 1565
      • Go to Website
      • Avenida Central
        Between Calle 11 & 13
        Casco Viejo

      American Trade Hotel

      Las Clementinas

      Maito

      Makoto

      Intimo

      Casa Escondida

      Vereda Afroantillana

      Café Unido

      Lupa and Super Mini

      Nina Concept Store

      Casco Viejo

      Diablo Rosso

      The Panama Canal Museum

      BioMuseo

      Beaches

      Ochoymedio

      Tacos La Neta

      El Republicano

      El Apartamento/El Sotano

      Danilo's Jazz Club at the American Trade Hotel

      Casa Jaguar

      Teatro Amador

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