Spencer Lowell


One of Panama City’s oldest neighborhoods, Casco Viejo, has undergone an extreme makeover of late, led primarily by a number of American expatriates who discovered the 16th- and 17th-century architectural charm of the area. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the once-rundown neighborhood is now seeing a surge of gourmet restaurants, boutique hotels and artisan shops. The latest in the string of openings, though, is THE AMERICAN TRADE HOTEL, an amalgamation of two of the city’s legendary buildings: the 1917 American Trade Building (a department store that sold American-made goods) and a 1928 art deco bank built after the successful financing of the Panama Canal. Creating an Old World-meets-new design theme reflective of the neighborhood’s changing face, the hotel’s interior decor (a collaborative effort between Los Angeles-­based design firm Commune Design and Ace Hotel’s creative team, Atelier Ace) features a range of antique and contemporary furnishings, from Spanish Colonial to modern Danish. “The goal is for guests to feel as if they are staying in someone’s residence or in one of those old, family-run hotels in an exotic destination filled with foreign correspondents and spies featured in a Humphrey Bogart wartime movie,” explains Commune Design founder ­Roman Alonso.

And while the ambiance might have an air of the international, the amenities are all Panamanian, from the jazz club featuring Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez, to the local coffee roaster featured in the café, to the bistro featuring the country’s abundant seafood. As they say in Panama: ¡Qué chévere! From $249, www.americantradehotel.com