Two blocks east of the Palacio Presidencial is Plaza Bolívar, an elegant square dedicated in 1883 to Simón Bolívar, whose statue, crowned by a condor, stands in its centre. Bolívar came here in 1826 for the first Panamerican Congress, held in the chapter-room of the old monastery on the northeast corner of the square, now the Salón Bolívar, a small museum whose centrepiece is a replica of the Liberator’s bejewelled ceremonial sword. The whole building has been beautifully restored and currently houses government offices but you can visit for free.

Next door stands the church and monastery of San Francisco, built in the seventeenth century but extensively modified subsequently. Since the impressive tower is collapsing, the place has been closed for years awaiting unforthcoming restoration.

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A little piece of paradise: visiting Panama’s San Blas Islands

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