Historical Churches Tour (Self Guided), Panama City

Panama City, Panama's largest city, houses the country's most churches. The majority of the population is Catholic, though there are Muslim and Jewish communities as well. Here you can admire beautiful old churches dating back to the beginning of 15th century. Take this tour to discover Panama City’s best known churches.
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Historical Churches Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Churches Tour
Guide Location: Panama » Panama City (See other walking tours in Panama City)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Iglesia San Francisco de Asis
  • Catedral Metropolitana Casco Antiguo
  • Iglesia San Jose
  • Iglesia la Merced
  • Iglesia Santa Ana
  • Cathedral San Lucas
Iglesia San Francisco de Asis

1) Iglesia San Francisco de Asis

Iglesia de San Francisco de Asis, is also prominently known as the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is a Roman Catholic Church, situated in the quaint town of San Fransisco in Panama City, in the historic district of Casco Viejo. This church is very popular for its magnificent view, making it a very famous tourist spot in Panama City. The church is small compared to the other churches and you will be dazed by its splendor as it is one of the most beautiful local churches.

Situated on Plaza Bolivar, the San Francisco de Asis was repeatedly destroyed by fire in 1737 and 1756. It was fully rebuilt in 1998. The church lies across the street from the Teatro Nacional (the National Theater). Down the street, just a block away, is the residence of Panamanian President, the Palacio de las Garzas.

The Iglesia de San Francisco de Asis was built of a stout stone structure way back in the early 1700s. Indigenous artisans from the nearby town of San Fransisco, supervised by Franciscan monks, helped to build the eight hardwood baroque altars. The elegant main altar consists of over 400 pieces of colorfully painted tropical cedar and is an impressive example of colonial art. You can have an amazing life time experience by visiting this place.
Catedral Metropolitana Casco Antiguo

2) Catedral Metropolitana Casco Antiguo (must see)

The Catedral Metropolitana Casco Antiguo which is otherwise called The Catedral Metropolitana, is located at Plaza de la Independencia in the historic district of Casco Viejo in Panama City. The cathedral is one of the largest in Central America, and was designed by military engineers and completed in 1796. No trip to Casco Viejo is complete without visiting this beautiful and historic edifice. In the late 19th century there was an earthquake which destroyed all of the surrounding structures but the cathedral remarkably survived. Surprisingly, but it had stayed deserted until a major renovation was undertaken in 2003.

The cathedral stands out for its contrast in color combination and for the mix of architectural styles which gives a glimpse of the fascinating history of the country. The stones used for the construction of the entrance wall were taken from the ruins of the city of Viejo. The walls are grey in color, and there are two tower-like structures on both sides of the entrance, which are white. These towers are layered with material called “mother of pearl”, brought from Pearl Islands, and create the look which contrasts the stone walled entrance. You will find the Catedral Metropolitana a spectacular sight at night when the whole structure is lit up. A wonderful place to visit, it will leave you with nostalgic memories long after you return home.
Iglesia San Jose

3) Iglesia San Jose (must see)

One of the most magnificent places to visit in Panama City is the Iglesia San Jose, located at Avenida A, near Plaza Herrera, Casco Viejo. The main attraction of this church is the seventeenth century Baroque style Golden Altar, Altar de Oro. The altar was originally located in a temple by the similar name, San Jose. After the pirates had burned down the Old Panama city, the altar was relocated to the new place and entirely renovated in 1915. Carved in mahogany, the altar is covered in golden leaf.

There is an interesting story behind the altar which says that when Henry Morgan, the infamous pirate, attacked Panama Viejo, the priest of the church concealed the golden altar by coloring it black. This was done in order to save this valuable object from being looted by the pirate gang. It also seems that the priest had told Henry Morgan that the altar had been stolen by another pirate and even managed to convince Henry to give a handsome donation to replace the supposedly stolen golden artifact.

When you go to the city of Casco Viejo, you must visit the Church of Iglesia San Jose, to admire the magnificent golden altar.
Iglesia la Merced

4) Iglesia la Merced

If you are a history lover or want to visit some exquisite historic divine place, Iglesia la Merced is the right place for you. The Iglesia la Merced is a very old church which was constructed way back in 1680 and situated in Casco Antiguo, which is close to Cathedral Park within Panama City. The church is remarkable and its beautiful and intricate Baroque stonework was moved piece by piece from the original site in Panama Viejo which incidentally was the initial city center that the Spaniards had founded.

Although the chapel has undergone renovations recently, its ornate Baroque facade is a classic example of Baroque architecture that is only observed amongst the oldest buildings in Casco Viejo. The church’s Baroque façade squarely faces anyone walking from the North towards it on Avenida Central. Despite the small structure, the stones with which the church is built have an impressive and long history. The church is said to have a better exterior than the interior and that it is best photographed and viewed late in the afternoon. The afternoon sun’s rays provide a sparkling effect on the tiny chapels and the bell towers. This amazing sight makes every tourist’s trip worthwhile and mesmerizing.

A museum that houses documents of historic and religious value lies in close proximity to the church, which incidentally was the site for storing birth and baptism records in Panama City.
Iglesia Santa Ana

5) Iglesia Santa Ana

In the center of the city of Panama is located the township of Santa Ana. The town gets its name from the Iglesia Santa Ana, a shrine dedicated to Santa Ana, who, according to Christian tradition, is the mother of Mary and the grandmother of Jesus. The Iglesia Santa Ana was initially a parish church. The Count of Santa Ana donated funds to build the church and it was consecrated in 1764. The church was very popular in its early days and attracted a community of humble people all around it. These were the people who were engaged in various trades and the town of Santa Ana grew in reputation as a transit point for many trade routes.

The church was destroyed by fire in the year 1854 and was completely renovated only in the twentieth century. In 1980, the Iglesia Santa Ana was declared a historic landmark of national importance. Surrounding the church is a park that also goes by the name of the church. The area surrounding the church is far from the main tourist attractions that are in the old part of the city. You can experience a bit of the traditional Panamanian lifestyle with folk festivals, dance and music in a gazebo that is also a national landmark.
Cathedral San Lucas

6) Cathedral San Lucas

Cathedral San Lucas began as a private chapel at Coronal William Crawford’s home and was later converted into a wooden chapel in 1908. This structure was supposed to, at a later date, become the St Luke's Episcopal Church of Ancon. Bishop James Craik Morris envisioned replacing the chapel with a larger and permanent edifice. The construction of the structure was completed on 12th August 1923 and it was consecrated on the 3rd Sunday of Lent in 1924.

Thus, today, the Cathedral San Lucas is situated in Ancon district. The site of the church adjoins the Cerro Ancón as one approaches it from Plaza Cinco de Mayo. The Episcopal Diocese of Panama owns the Cathedral San Lucas and the church is reputed to be amongst the most famous Episcopal churches in Latin America. You can get a lifetime experience by seeing this awesome cathedral which is a truly magnificent structure, and constructed according to Italian neo-classical style. It followed what was, at that time, the newest technique of using reinforced concrete. On the first Sunday of every month, the church offers a bilingual service in addition to the regular services. It is also worth noting that during the Panama Canal construction on the isthmus, the Cathedral San Lucas was amongst the most important churches and continues to be the center for spiritualism for all Episcopal churches in Panama.

Walking Tours in Panama City, Panama

Create Your Own Walk in Panama City

Create Your Own Walk in Panama City

Creating your own self-guided walk in Panama City is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Modern Architectural Buildings

Modern Architectural Buildings

Panama City is an amazing place where you can see a 16th century building standing near a modern 300 meter steel and glass tower. Every year dozens of tall office and apartment buildings are constructed, each with a unique design. Take this tour to discover Panama City’s most prominent modern architecture.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.6 Km or 3.5 Miles
Old Town Walking Tour

Old Town Walking Tour

Casco Antiguo, also known as Casco Viejo, a historic district of Panama City, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area features a unique mix of architectural styles, each revealing a certain part of the country’s eventful history, plus a number of museums and other attractions. Follow this orientation walk to discover the most interesting sights of Casco Antiguo.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles