It's logical that the shopping mall that consistently offers the best deals would be the busiest mall in town. In Panama City, Albrook Mall mall happens to be across the street from the main Bus Terminal, and the action is amped up a notch. Offering more discount stores than the big shopping malls downtown, an uncomparably convenient location, a supermarket, a movie theater, and air conditioning on top of it all, the Albrook Mall is a bustling, vibrant place. Many commuters take advantage of this mall before they transfer to their connecting bus, but plenty of shoppers make it a destination in itself.
Molas are possibly the most incredible example of the indigenous Panamanian artisanal tradition. Intricate reverse appliqué embroidery has been practiced by the Kuna people for hundreds of years to make the colorful, geometric patterns of animals, plants, and any other form the artist cares to imagine. At Flory Saltzman Molas, customers are treated to a remarkable array of items demonstrating this technique, with the textiles sewn into bags, shirts, coin-purses, headbands, and simply sold as patches to take on whatever purpose necessary. The encyclopedic place has options for every budget, from small designs costing pocket change to elaborate projects priced at hundreds of dollars.
Not satisfied with a mere marina and cruise ship terminal, developers on the Calzada de Amador transformed this practical meeting place into a two-story center of shopping, dining, drinking and, of course, appreciating the great view. Catch a boat to Tobajo after a great Italian meal, or stare at the slow movements of massive ships through shiny new sunglasses.
Those tourists interested in learning about the many remarkable artistic traditions of Panama—and, of course, interested in bringing some examples back home—have few better resources at their disposal than the Galería Art Indigena in Casco Viejo. The store stocks carvings, paintings, woven baskets and bowls, figurines, masks, t-shirts, post cards, maracas, hammocks, decorated gourds, hats, animals fashioned from palm seeds, and many more treasures to be discovered along the shelves. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the Galería also hosts folkloric dancing performances from 6 until 8p.
Just north of Casco Viejo, Central Avenue makes a turn eastwards and undergoes a remarkable transformation between the Plaza Santa Ana and the Plaza Cinco de Mayo. Cars are permanently barred from this stretch of wide roadway, lined with businesses and teeming with a combination of shoppers, sellers, colors, and noise. Pushcarts and stands vend fresh juices, agua de pipa, candy, hot dogs, produce and ices, while the inexpensive stores bordering the avenue display a cacophony of fabrics, jewelry, electronics, and food presented on steam tables. The crowds that are drawn to this area are endlessly fascinating to be a part of, and if you actually need to buy something at a good price, look no further.
A dazzling spread of sparkling jewels draw visitors to the Museo de la Esmeralda, across the street from the lovely Plaza de la Catedral in Casco Viejo. Beautiful emeralds shine out in their polished and unpolished forms and are even displayed as crystals appropriate for special exhibitions. A large portion of the space is devoted to jewelry which is available for purchase, and each customer receives a gift of an emerald. Entrance to the jewelry store and museum is free of charge.
Sparkling with glass-fronted boutiques and speckled with designer-brand names, the Multiplaza Mall is the high-end, shopping destination of choice in Panama City. Located near the business district, the glamour of haute couture lures fashionable crowds to pass a few hours strolling between stores, enjoying a flick at the movie theater, or nibbling at the food court tables to keep up their strength for browsing action.
The mighty modern mass of Multicentro shopping mall—four stories of stores ranging from international brand names to monikers you'll find nowhere but Panama—is much appreciated by most shoppers in the city and is especially a favorite of the youth culture. As well as loads of shopping options, the mall contains a movie theater, a few outdoor restaurants, and even a casino. The food court is situated on the top floor, so everyone who eats there is treated to a gorgeous view over the city regardless of what kitchen they choose.