Known by many as the "Pearl of the Orient", Manila's outer shell made up of busy traffic, bustling streets and looming skyscrapers can be peeled open to reveal a vibrant cosmopolitan city that is enriched by its colonial past. Manila is a mélange of Asia, Europe and the United States; evidenced in the byzantine Spanish architecture, preserved Chinese enclaves and metropolitan business districts.
Experience the epicentre of Spain's cultural influence and visit Intramuros, Manila's oldest district – a place that provides a pleasant contrast to the chaotic buzz of the rest of the city. Walk amidst the Romanesque arches of Manila Cathedral or explore the popular Fort Santiago, the former hub of the Spanish colonial government and home to the Rizal Shrine Museum; dedicated to national hero, Dr José Rizal.
With a number of Chinese enclaves, Manila is home to the oldest Chinatown in the world. Head to the Binondo District to see streets embroidered with intricate Chinese lanterns and lined with small shops selling ancient Chinese remedies and authentic Hokkien cuisine. For a breathing-taking experience, travel north of Binondo to the Chinese Cemetery; a sight that has been preserved to showcase the opulent and luxurious tombs of the Chinese citizens who were denied burial in Catholic cemeteries during the Spanish colonial period.
One of the perks of having such a rich heritage is the collection of various museums dotted around the city; perfect for history buffs and those interested in the arts or sciences. Learn about quintessential Filipino culture and view pre-Hispanic artefacts at the National Museum of the Filipino People. Alternatively, watch science come alive at The Mind Museum; a place which makes learning fun and interactive for the whole family.
Whilst it doesn't quite rival places such as Bangkok when it comes to shopping, take a trip to Bonifacio High Street – a place that boasts open air high-end shopping, restaurants, boutique bars and a homely café culture that is said to be the heart of 'third wave coffee'.
For those seeking to experience the wilder side that Manila has to offer, the city hosts a vibrant nightlife with a hive of sophisticated rooftop wineries, American-style speakeasies and bohemian bars lining Quezon City. Like with many Asian destinations, Manila offers an innovative and expansive range of cuisine that is inspired by the flow of different cultures that runs through it. The culinary choice within the city caters to all different tastes from typical Far East Asian cuisine with a Latin twist to hipster foodie hot-spots serving classic dishes from all corners of the globe.
Due to the heavy traffic, travelling around by bus, car or taxi can be difficult. However, both the LRT (Light Rail Transit system) and MRT (Metro Rail Transit system) soar over the bustling streets and by-pass the chaos altogether. This is particularly recommended because, luckily, public transport in Manila is inexpensive.
Once you've experienced all that Manila has to offer, it is easy to begin to embark on day and night trips, as the city serves as a hub for a host of different activities. Explore beautiful volcanoes at Mt Pinatubo or dive below the surface at Anilao; the country's most popular diving and snorkelling spot. Manila is also the Launchpad to the breathtaking scenery and fascinating culture of Banaue, Bauko and Baguio.
Whatever it is you're looking for, you'll be sure to find it in the curious cocktail that is Manila.
- Spanish heritage in Intramuros
- World-class museums
- Art galleries
- Excellent nightlife