With an average GDP per capita of $11,700, Panama has been among the top five places for retirement in the world, according to International Living magazine. Panama City has a dense skyline of mostly highrise buildings, and it is surrounded by a large belt of tropical rainforest. It has an advanced communications system, Internet use is widespread; and Panama's Tocumen International Airport, the largest and busiest airport in Central America, offers daily flights to major international destinations. Panama City was chosen to be the American Capital of Culture for 2003 (jointly, with Curitiba, Brazil).
Panama was founded on August 15, 1519 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias de Ávila. The city was the starting point of expeditions that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru (1532). It was a stopover point of one of the most important trade routes in the history of the American continent leading to the fairs of Nombre de Dios and Portobelo, where most of the gold and silver that Spain took from the Americas passed through. The city was destroyed by a devastating fire, when the pirate Henry Morgan sacked it on January 28, 1671. It was rebuilt and formally established on January 21, 1673 in a peninsula located 8 km from the original settlement. The place where the previously devastated city was located is still in ruins, and has become a tourist attraction known as "Panama Viejo".
Panama is located between the Pacific Ocean and tropical rain forest. The Parque Natural Metropolitano (Metropolitan Nature Park), stretching from Panama along the Panama Canal, has unique bird species and other animals such as tapir, puma, alligators, etc. At the Pacific entrance of the canal is the Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas (Marine Exhibitions Center), a research center for those interested in tropical marine life and ecology. Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas is managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Tropical forests around Panama are vital for the functioning of the Panama Canal. These forests provide the canal with the water required for its operation (a rare example of a vast engineering project in the middle of the forest which actually helped preserve that forest). Due to the importance of the Canal to the Panamanian economy, tropical forests around the canal have been kept in an almost pristine state. Along the western side of the Canal is the Parque Nacional Soberania (Sovereignty National Park) which includes Summit botanical gardens and a zoo. In this national park, the best known trail is the Pipeline Road, popular among birdwatchers.
Panama's old quarter features many architectural styles, from Spanish colonial buildings to French and Antillean townhouses built during the construction of the Panama Canal. The more modern areas of the city have many high-rise buildings, which together form a very dense skyline. There are currently more than 110 high-rise projects being constructed, with 127 high-rise buildings already built.The city holds the 39th place in the world by highrise buildings count. The Centennial Bridge, that crosses the Panama Canal earned the American Segmental Bridge Institute prize of excellence together with seven other bridges in the Americas.
Being the economic and financial center of the country, Panama City's economy is service-based, heavily weighted toward banking, commerce, and tourism. The economy is dependent, to a significant extent, on trade and shipping activities, associated to the Panama Canal, and port facilities located in Balboa. The city has benefited from significant economic growth in the latest years, mainly due to the ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal, an increase in real estate investment, and a relatively stable banking sector. There are around eighty banks in the city, with at least fifteen of them being national.
Panama city is responsible for the production of about 55% of the country's GDP. This is because most Panama businesses and premises are located in the city and its metro area. It is a stopover for other destinations in the country as well as a tourist destination in its own right.
The City proper has around 813,097 inhabitants in the 23 Panama City boroughs. The city, like all of Panama, is ethnically mixed, with mestizos, mulattos, Whites, and Asians all living together