By: Panorama of the Americas staff
Photos: Javier A. Pinzón
Panama, the small isthmus that links the east with the west, has always been recognized as a commercial hub. Since colonial times, the Feria de Portobelo has been the place where goods from the old continent were exchanged with those from the newly discovered Pacific route leading to the treasures of Peru. This ancient custom of buying and selling has survived over the years and is growing even stronger, thanks to the Panama Black Weekend super discounts.
From September 15 to17, all of Panama will be shopping and the country’s twelve largest shopping centers will be offering discounts of 20-70%. According to Nadki Duque, President of the Association of Shopping Centers, this event proves that Panama is the region’s main shopping destination. And this time, there will be no holds barred as the Association has joined with the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP) to offer tourists special rates on hotels, airlines, and tours. In addition to Panamanians taking advantage of the event, shoppers are expected to come from Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, the Caribbean, and Central America.
Here’s a quick guide for shoppers visiting Panama who want to make the most of the three days of madness.
This is Panama’s largest shopping center; it’s almost impossible to visit all of its more than seven hundred businesses, especially if time is limited. It is, therefore, important to understand the mall’s dynamics and plan your visit accordingly. The building stretches out vertically along a central corridor with large colorful animals that mark each area, giving them their respective names. While adults entertain themselves with shopping, kids can have a fun at Divercity, a make-believe town where the little ones can play at being adults and enjoy being “big” for a few hours. The mall has a huge range of shops, from the country’s most diverse budget stores, such as La Oca Loca and El Costo, to luxurious brands such as Kenneth Cole and Óscar de la Renta.
Albrook Mall is so large that it includes a hotel: the Wyndham Panama Albrook Mall. Getting there is easy; the mall is just five minutes from the city center, located next to the transport terminal and the first subway station.
While visiting, keep in mind that the hall with luxury brands starts at the Whales and ends at the Koalas. Further ahead are several popular stores with incredibly low prices and then, along the central corridor, between the Carousel and the Giraffes, are several medium and high-end stores offering quality products at attractive prices.
Main advantages: two kilometers of shops for all tastes and budgets and a small train that travels continuously from one end to the other.
This mall is similar to Albrook but located in West Panama. It is smaller, but its shops are definitely worth visiting; they are usually less crowded than the metropolitan area businesses, while offering competitive prices.
Advantages: it is on the way to the beaches so you can combine your visit with some walking close to the city.
The preferred spot for Panamanians looking for the latest trends in brand-name clothes, shoes, and accessories, this mall has 320 stores, including exclusive Cartier, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Tiffany, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Ermenegildo Zegna, Bulgari, and Carolina Herrera stores, among others. It is located next to the city’s banking zone, surrounded by large buildings, in the heart of the business sector. Here, you can shop and enjoy a great meal in a restaurant, then, at the end of the day, have a refreshing drink in one of the bars or restaurants on Las Terrazas. Lodging for Multiplaza visitors is also easy as it is right next door to the Marriott Courtyard.
Metromall is Multiplaza’s baby brother, close to Tocumen International Airport. If you have a layover in Panama during the sale weekend, don’t hesitate to leave the airport and visit Metromall, which offers free round-trip transportation to its more than three hundred stores. And, if you’re traveling with an infant, Metromall has a lactation room with the perfect conditions for mom and baby to relax comfortably.
This beautiful shopping center on the edge of the city, near Centenario Bridge, is a meeting place for many Panamanians. At Altaplaza, both children and adults have fun. While the adults visit its more than 150 shops, children and youngsters can have fun at Crazy Park, which offers bouncing areas, climbing walls, and laser games, not to mention the only cinema with IMAX and 4DX technology in Panama. It also has excellent indoor restaurants and a food court that is less noisy than most.
Panama’s first shopping center, El Dorado, is in the heart of the city’s Chinese district and features Chinese stores and food. This year, El Dorado is celebrating a new 21st-century look. Among its hundreds of shops are typical Panamanian stores like Gran Morrison, but also a Chinese supermarket with everything you need to prepare a good dinner at home. In addition to high-end stores with the latest in Chinese fashions, there are Indian clothing and furniture stores. It may be the most diverse and interesting shopping center in the world!
Newly opened, the Atrio Mall serves the city’s exclusive Costa del Este and Santa María neighborhoods. It offers shops for the most demanding tastes as well as a spa, family recreation area, restaurants, and bars.
Megamall and other Malls on the City’s East Side
In the densely-populated neighborhoods a little further from downtown, you’ll find Megamall (December 24 neighborhood, a few minutes from the airport, making it another option for those with long stops at Tocumen). Other examples are Andes Mall (San Miguelito, on the No. 1 subway line), and Los Pueblos, an “old fashioned” agglomeration of traditional department stores and outlets, all with great prices on everything.
in the Interior
Although most shopping centers are located in Panama City, rapid development throughout the country has sparked commercial growth in smaller cities, or what the locals call “the interior.” It’s now much easier to combine shopping tourism with visits to beaches, mountains, and rivers. Mareas Mall is the younger sibling of Albrook and Westland, located in Coclé, close to the country’s largest beach resorts. In Chitré, the birthplace of carnivals, cultural festivals, river trips, and waterfalls, there is Mall Paseo Central, and in Santiago, a city in the country’s interior, there is Santiago Mall.
In Panama, there are stores for every taste. Whether you’re looking for housewares, clothing, shoes, or toys, you’ll find department stores with a wide variety of prices and qualities, starting with Saks and Dorians (featuring sale items from American stores); El Campeón, La Oca Loca, La Onda, El Costo, Madisson, and Titán (with budget goods); Conway, Steven’s, Aliss (in Multicentro), and Sanborns (in Multiplaza), all moderately priced; and Collins and Felix Maduro, with a wide range of luxury goods. For technology, visit Panafoto, Multimax, Audiofoto, Hometeck, Premier, and Photura (shops in Albrook Mall and most other malls). Samsung has wonderful stores in Altaplaza and Multiplaza and there are Mac Stores in Albrook Mall, Multiplaza, Altaplaza, and Atrio Mall. There are sporting goods and sportswear stores in all the shopping centers, along with stores featuring goods for adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts.