Panama City  is a growing metropolis of 813,000 people, or more than 1.2 million if you include the greater metropolitan area. All of them seem to be on the road 24 hours a day. Streets and public transportation have not kept pace with the city’s growth, and the roads are choked during morning and evening rush hours.
In recent years the city has grown east toward Tocumen International Airport, and with the city’s absorption of the former U.S. Canal Zone, urban sprawl has been creeping north and west as well.
Note that Panamanians typically drop the “city” when referring to the capital and just call it “Panama.” As with the country, the accent is on the last syllable—Panamá (pah-nah-MA)—when speaking Spanish. Formally, it’s La Ciudad de Panamá.
The city is bounded by the Bahía de Panamá (Panama Bay) and the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Panama Canal  to the west. The terrain is fairly flat—the United States dug the canal nearby because the Continental Divide is particularly low-lying here—though a few isolated hills, most notably Cerro Ancón , jut up near the canal’s Pacific entrance.
The section of the city of most interest to visitors runs along the coast from Casco Viejo , the cornerstone of modern Panama City, east to the ruins of Panamá la Vieja , eight kilometers away. Most of the cosmopolitan parts of the capital lie between these two boundaries.
An exception to this rule is Costa del Este, a new city within (or, more accurately, on the outskirts of) Panama City. It’s a rapidly growing mini-metropolis of upscale homes and condos whose skyline is beginning to rival downtown’s in its concentration of skyscrapers. It’s a new frontier for privileged Panamanians escaping the city’s congestion and noise and for international jet-setters adding to their portfolio of vacation homes. But it doesn’t yet hold enough interest to the average visitor to justify making the long trip from the center of the city.
Getting one’s bearings can be tricky in Panama City , given its confusing mass of winding streets and its topsy-turvy geography (some never get used to seeing the Pacific Ocean lying to the south, for instance).