Few cities in Central America come close to the cosmopolitan edginess of Panama City. Its unique position as a trading hub and center of economic activity has attracted a wave of immigration, which has influenced the city's culture and aesthetic.
Metropolitan Panama City's glimmering skyline is reminiscent of many of the larger trading cities you might see in the Far East, its urban appeal also accentuated by the roaring traffic, construction sites, and chic neighbourhoods. It is the older peninsula of the city, the Casco Viejo, that retains the local flavour, and makes for an interesting contrast with the boom and bustle of the big city. Here you can wander through the cobblestoned streets, visit a handful of museums that showcase Panama's colonial history, tipple at one of its underground bars, or ride a bike along the shady Paseo de la Bovedas to catch a glimpse of the ships waiting to cross the canal.
Though the city is uncompromisingly urban, escape to a quieter, more relaxed scene is never far. Just north of the downtown area, you will come across the Parque Natural Metropolitano, a lush semideciduous rainforest, where you can hike, birdwatch, or bike to your heart's content. Another popular getaway, 20 kilometres off the coast, is the Isla Taboga - the Island of Flowers, where you can admire the verdant beauty of the local fauna, and unwind in the warm, crystal clear waters of its beaches.
As with every urban city, Panama comes with a set of problems, but that hasn't stopped its rapid growth to become one of the closely watched start-up capitals in the world. Its key location, the rapid rise of tourism, well-developed trade and commercial agreements, and strong local network are all factors that contribute to the growth of start-up initiatives in the city.
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