The west end of Avenida Central, from Plaza Cinco de Mayo to Parque Santa Ana, is a busy walking street lined with shops. Except for the handicraft stalls on Plaza Cinco de Mayo , the shops won’t interest foreign visitors much, as they deal mainly in cheap clothes and jewelry, electronics, and photo-development services.
But the people-watching on the street is fun. The area provides a real sense of daily life in an older, humbler section of Panama City . The walk along Avenida Central goes through the heart of the Santa Ana district to the outskirts of Casco Viejo .
To take a walking tour, start at the highly congested Plaza Cinco de Mayo. Note the massive building. It was inaugurated in 1912 as the terminus of the Panama Railroad and had an on-again, off-again life as Panama’s anthropology museum  until the museum was finally moved to the Curundu area. To the east is the rather unattractive Palacio Legislativo, which houses the Asamblea Legislativa (Panama’s national legislature).
Now head down Central. Visitors are often warned to beware of pickpockets in this area, which is probably a good idea, but this place is well patrolled by police and you’re unlikely to have an unpleasant encounter, at least during the day.
The area is a photographer’s dream. On a typical stroll one can spot Kuna women going about their business in traditional clothing, juice vendors squeezing tropical fruit or crushing sugarcane in hand-cranked presses (try some!), and hawkers luring customers into stores by clapping their hands. The crumbling old buildings reflect a real mish-mash of architectural styles, including neoclassical, neobaroque, and art deco. Some are quite striking.
When you come to the major intersection, note the art deco building on the corner, the one housing the Banco Nacional de Panamá. Also check out the facade of the old building right next to it on the walking street. Its tiles are covered with pretty murals depicting the history of Panama  from the conquest to the building of the Panama Canal .
Be sure to walk all the way to Parque Santa Ana. The twice weekly lottery drawings were held here for many years, and it’s like a place from another, very Spanish era. It’s very pleasant to get here before 8 a.m., when it’s still cool under the ancient shade trees, and eavesdrop on the old men sitting around reading newspapers or arguing politics while getting a spectacularly vigorous shoeshine. The dilapidated old church on the plaza was getting a much-needed facelift in 2010. Consider a visit to Café Coca Cola  across the street. Walk down the opposite side of Central on the way back.
Slip into the maze of side streets if you want to do some more exploring. A likely spot is the major intersection with Calle I; head uphill to Calle Estudiante, where you’ll find Pizzeria Napoli and the Instituto Nacional. The latter was built in 1911 and has a rather heroic, neoclassical yellow facade. Students here are known for frequent participation in demonstrations, most notably the Flag Riots of 1964, which had as its main battleground the nearby Avenida de los Mártires (Martyrs’ Avenue, which until the riots was called Fourth of July Avenue). This area was once quite vibrant, with everything from fine jewelry shops to brothels (ask old-timers about the notorious Ancon Inn, now closed), but is virtually abandoned these days. Don’t wander around here at night.