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American Trade Hotel 4.5

Panama City, Panama Province, Panama

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Beautifully renovated building instilled with local history
  • Excellent vintage-inspired interior design throughout the property
  • Bright, stylish rooms with rustic charms
  • Luxurious marble bathrooms with spacious showers
  • Lovely upscale restaurant and lobby bar
  • Great, intimate jazz club next door
  • Cute coffee shop with excellent coffee
  • Small rooftop pool and sundeck with great views
  • Free Wi-Fi

Cons

  • No spa
  • Tiny fitness room
  • Street noise and loud church bells heard from some rooms

Bottom Line

The beautifully decorated 50-room American Trade Hotel, a member of the hip Ace Hotels family, brings new life to a historic building in the center of Casco Viejo. This fully restored colonial building is right in the heart of the vibrant UNESCO World Heritage neighborhood. The hotel features a stylish lobby, trendy restaurant, small rooftop pool, and an excellent jazz club. All of the details of the hotel – down to the bath products – are hand-curated and thoughtful. It’s undoubtedly the best luxury boutique hotel in the Casco Viejo neighborhood, and for those looking for culture and history wrapped in a stylish package, probably in all of Panama City.

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Scene

Historic, design-centric boutique hotel with a hip, vintage style that’s a little bit tropical, a little bit Euro-chic

The hotel lobby of this historic building has slightly tropical, vintage-inspired interiors fitting the hotel's colorful history

The American Trade Hotel is set in a restored landmark building from 1917 in the center of Casco Viejo, Panama City’s quaint old town district. This building used to be a meeting place for local gangs, which ruled the neighborhood as recently as the mid 2000s. Now rehabilitated former gang members give tours of the neighborhood, including a stop in the hotel’s lobby to peek at the main staircase, which displays photos of the gang graffiti that existed in the building before it was restored. Previously, the building was originally the site of the American Trade Developing Company, hence the hotel’s name. But the history is just one of this property’s many charms.

Open since fall 2013, this hotel is one of the area’s hallmark properties marking the revival of the historic neighborhood, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The property is in the Ace Hotels family, a trendy urban brand with popular design-centric hotels in New York, L.A., and other cities. The style of the hotel is definitely eclectic, with a mix of neoclassical and Spanish colonial architectural styles. Commune Design, an L.A. firm, did the interiors, which blend mid-century modern pieces with rustic and vintage details and a breezy, tropical ambience that reflects Latin America’s easy cool.  Next door the hotel’s event space called the American Trade Hall has bold touches of Art Deco.

In the bright, sunny lobby the blue-and-white Moroccan-style tile floors are one of the hotel’s most memorable features. The airy room features soaring ceilings and high windows, with neutral tones of whites, beiges and natural woods accented by navy blue and the jungle green of the tropical plants placed around the space. There are great vintage touches all around the hotel, including the old-fashioned elevator and the steampunk brass light switches. Attention to detail is certainly high. The atmosphere is generally hip and young, with a mix of international travelers and families as well.

Location

The figurative and geographical heart of the Casco Viejo, a historic district that's in the swells of a revival

Map of American Trade Hotel

On the south end of Panama City on a small point that juts out into the water lies the historic neighborhood known interchangeably as Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo. The American Trade Hotel is a landmark building of the old district, encompassing a block along the main strip on Ave Central, a bustling area with many bars and restaurants and a hopping nightlife scene. The back of the hotel faces out onto a small square lined with tables from nearby restaurants. The Iglesia La Merced located across the street is oldest in the neighborhood, although the clanging church bells are known to be heard by hotel guests in the early morning hours.

The hotel is about a 15-minute taxi ride from Panama City’s central financial district, depending on traffic. It’s also not far to reach the much lauded new Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo, only about a 10-minute ride away. It’s about a 30-minute taxi ride to the Tocumen international airport.

Rooms

Fresh, minimalist rooms with vintage touches and elegant bathrooms

The Panorama Room has floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the bed that provide amazing views of the city skyline and ocean

The 50 rooms of the American Trade carry on the hotel’s eclectic style. The lovely, fresh contemporary rooms impart a rustic, minimalist design with vintage touches. The decor includes mid-century modern furniture pieces like sidebars and tables. The colors are elegant and natural, with hardwood flooring, and lots of white and beige accented with navy blue. As everywhere throughout the property, the attention to detail shines. The steampunk-inspired lighting fixtures are a throwback, while rustic natural-wood headboards give a farmhouse vibe. Every room has an iPod stereo that looks like a vintage radio, a flat-screen TV, and a stocked mini-fridge with a variety of drinks and snacks for extra charges.

The bathrooms are all white with marble countertops and beautiful tile floors featuring a green leaf pattern set into baby blue tiles. Just the bathrooms are enough to make you feel transported away to a different, more elegant, time and place. Many of the bathrooms include claw-foot soaking tubs, while others have spacious walk-in showers with sky lights and double rainfall showerheads. The hotel offers Aesop bath products and special hand-woven bath robes. Even in the bathroom every detail is curated and thoughtful.

Many rooms include a small balcony with a little table and chairs that overlook the streets of the Casco Viejo. Some rooms have a small patio with outdoor seating area. The Garden Room offers the largest outdoor area. The Suites have a separate living room and bedroom area, providing lots of comfortable space. The Panorama Room on the top floor is lined by big picture windows on two sides of the room, which provide amazing views of the city skyline, the ocean, and the quaint buildings and churches of old town. The church right next door, however, can be a nuisance – several guests have reported that the loud church bells can be heard at that crack of dawn.

Features

A small rooftop pool, a trendy restaurant and cafe, and a fantastic jazz club

The small rooftop pool and sundeck looks out over the old buildings and alleyways of Casco Viejo

The Dining Room, the hotel’s chic, upscale restaurant, is essentially an extension of the lobby – it shares the same intricate tile floors and natural wood tones. Custom crochet folk art pieces adorn the walls. The restaurant creates fresh, contemporary, locally inspired dishes for lunch and dinner. The Lobby Café and Bar serves cocktails in the evenings and coffee in the mornings, with occasional live music in a light, casual atmosphere that’s great for meeting place before going out. The trendy on-site cafe, Unido Panama Coffee Roasters, is a craft roaster featuring coffee from Panamanian farms, alongside some light snacks and sandwiches.

An extra cool feature of the hotel, just outside the lobby, is Danilo's Jazz Club. The club has a different owner but is closely connected to the hotel. Danilo Perez, a Grammy-winning  jazz pianist and composer, brings world-class jazz to a warm, intimate atmosphere with great sound.

Back inside the hotel, one of the most interesting spaces is the small Library Room – a vintage-inspired space decorated with antique artifacts such as an old Kodascope projector. Guests can arrange for a private lunch or dinner in this room. It faces out onto the hotel’s central courtyard. The hotel rooms are arranged around this sunny inner courtyard – a beautiful space offering tables under canvas umbrellas with lush tropical plants and elegant striped cushion benches.

Guests can take the wide staircase up to the fourth floor to reach the rooftop pool and sundeck. The tiny, square pool is perched on the edge of the rooftop with views looking out over the old buildings and alleyways of Casco Viejo. Though the pool is quite small, it’s in a lovely setting with several soft padded lounge chairs and outdoor couches with stripes that are reminiscent of the south of France.

The hotel also features a tiny fitness room located in an inner chamber of the building’s mansion-like setup. Though the equipment is modern, only a few machines can fit in this tiny space. There are also a few meeting rooms and event spaces available, and next door the hotel runs a large banquet hall called the American Trade Hall, a popular spot for weddings.

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Address

Avenida Central & Calle 8, Plaza Herrera Casco Antiguo, Panama City 0857, Panama

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