Panama City, or City Panama, is the capital of Panama, as well as a political, administrative and cultural centre of the country. The city itself was founded on August 15, 1519 by Pedro Arias de Avila -- the appointed governor of Panama, where he arrived in 1514, -- then looted and destroyed by invading marauders, then rebuilt again. During the World War II construction of American military bases and presence of big numbers of American military forces resulted in a tremendous increase of prosperity level and living standards in City Panama. End 1970s -- beginning 1980s City Panama became an international banking centre housing many reliable banks and accounting firms. Up to nowadays, City Panama remains a financial core, although with very visible control in cash flows.
There are numerous tourist attractions and lots of high-rated hotels and restaurants in Panama City. Many places here are of particular interest for tourists, such as Las B-vedas, literally 'the vaults', a waterfront promenade jutting out into the Pacific; the Supreme Court Building and the French Embassy; the Cathedral on Plaza de la Catedral; Teatro Nacional, a recently renovated performance centre, with outstanding natural acoustics, providing intimate performance environment; Museo del Canal Interoceanico, 'Museum of the Transoceanic Canal'; as well as Palacio de las Garzas, the presidential palace; and numerous restaurants located near the French embassy. Yet, tourists are normally advised against walking around all the above-mentioned places of interest in the night-time, mostly because local police are ineffective in preventing thefts and robbery incidents in those areas.
Tourist attractions located outside the city include the hill Cerro Ancon perfectly overlooking the city. Tourists may enjoy Panama City's majestic overview if having climbed this colossus. Not far from Cerro Ancon, to the southwest, a well-known bridge crossing the Panama Canal, the so-called Puente de las Americas, 'Bridge of the Americas', has found its place. Those who want to get deeper into the local atmosphere are advised to look for accommodation not far from the city downtown, in the regions of Bella Vista, Marbella, or El Cangrejo. Casco Viejo is a better option for smaller budgets.
As for beaches, City Panama has nothing to be especially proud of. Apart from a fairly small Panama City Beach located on Naos Island, there are no beaches in the city or anywhere in the vicinity to be good for swimming. Still, if you bother to drive a few hours away from the city there will be a wide choice of isolated beaches, particularly on the Caribbean side. If driving further you will finally come to beaches in the interior, Bocas del Toro and Archipilago de las Perlas in the Gulf of Panama.
Panamanian nature is very similar to that of Costa Rica, though, not so abundant. Still, close to Panama City there are some of the most accessible nature reserves, such as Parque Natural Metropolitano and Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas, the latter being famous for its outstanding aquatic attractions. Panama City is a unique phenomenon in business world. In fact, it is the only city on the globe where skyscrapers and luxurious hotels are situated in the very depth of tropical forests. Panama City suburbia is built-up by immense convent centres and classy palaces intended for solemn ceremonies. And travel here is always a true adventure.