Manila Destination Guide
A city of complex contrasts, Manila is the capital of the Philippines and one of the most densely populated places on the planet. An agglomeration of 16 distinct towns, Manila tourism offers many hidden treasures if you look beyond the urban sprawl. From the historic walled city of Intramuros to one of Asia's oldest Chinatowns, there is plenty to see and do in this culturally diverse and constantly evolving city. Whether it's colonial history, religious architecture or a lively nightlife scene you're interested in, there's more to this surprising city than meets the eye.
Considered a national hero in the Philippines, Jose Rizal's name is ubiquitous throughout the city. The venerated patriot lends his name to the sprawling Rizal Park and one of the most popular things to do in Manila is spend a day exploring its vast layout and the many important buildings within. One of those is the Rizal Monument in the centre of the park, while the historic Manila Hotel dominates a corner not far from Manila Bay. Take a stroll along the Baywalk at dusk to catch a glimpse of a famous Manila sunset before heading back towards the walled Intramuros to view the UNESCO World Heritage-listed San Agustin Church and the historically significant Manila Cathedral.
Manila has rarely been renowned as a culinary capital but the range of food options is gradually increasing. In recent years Manila restaurants have brushed off their reputation for blandness to transform into enticing dens of delicious dining. Pasay Road in Makati City offers plenty of cheap fare, including some of the best ramen and noodle restaurants in the city. Another Makati City favourite is Massetto Restaurant and Wine Bar but for a less expensive alternative try Spiral at the Sofitel Hotel. So-called beerhouses are situated throughout the city but perhaps the best place to drink is one of the ubiquitous karaoke bars favoured by students, homemakers and rowdy office workers alike.
Where to Stay
Makati City is Manila's financial and commercial hub and it's also where many of the best Manila hotels are located. The Makati Shangri-La is an old favourite but there are several cheaper alternatives nearby, including the Peninsula Manila. The Bayleaf Intramuros offers an excellent location in the heart of the city, while the Crowne Plaza Manila is a great option for those wanting to stay in the busy Ortigas part of town. For less expensive alternatives head to the districts of Ermita and Malate, where most of Manila's hostels and cheapest self-catering apartments are located.
It's no surprise that a country boasting 3 of the world's largest shopping centres is a bargain hunter's paradise. Shopping in Manila is practically a national pastime and the monumental Mall of Asia overlooking Manila Bay is one of the busiest shopping centres in the world. Thanks to advantageous conversion rates and a seemingly infinite supply of high-quality merchandise, some tourists visit the city solely to shop. Clothes, jewellery, cosmetics and luxury goods are the hot-ticket items, the latter of which are readily available in the swanky Glorietta and Greenbelt shopping complexes in upscale Makati City.
Manila like a Local
Manila weather is typically hot and humid, making indoor activities an attractive proposition for locals. One of the most popular new attractions is the Manila Ocean Park – a vast aquarium on the edge of Manila Bay. It includes a 25-metre long walkway showcasing an impressive array of exotic underwater species. After a day exploring the underwater world head to inner city Binondo, better known as the oldest Chinatown in the world. Sample authentic Chinese cuisine and see the sights from the comfort of your very own 'calesa' – an old-world horse-drawn carriage still pounding the cobbled alleyways of the city.