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Pocket Guide: Manila

Visiting Manila

Known as “the pearl of the orient”, Manila is an island city and the capital of the Philippines. It’s a city of soaring skyscrapers, Spanish colonial architecture and shanty towns overlooking the searing blue Pacific. A busy multicultural hub of commerce and culture, Manila also has much to offer by way of shopping, dining and nightlife. It’s also known for having an edgy music, arts and cafe scene. Whether you’re a lover of quaint colonial charm, delightfully chaotic markets, gleaming shopping malls or hipster gig venues, Manila will have something to offer you.

Where to stay in Manila

You have a number of interesting areas to choose from when deciding which of the various hotels in Manila to stay in. Intramuros, the walled city, is the historical district and the oldest part of the city. It was originally settled in the 16th century and is the former seat of government. Santa Cruz, on the right bank of the Pasig river, has much to offer by way of colonial architecture and historic landmarks, plus also includes Carriedo Street, a great place for picking up cheap goods from vendors. Next door is Binoldo, which is considered to be the world’s oldest Chinatown and was settled in the 16th century. Ermita, the centre of finance and commerce, is the main tourist area and has many good restaurants, cafes and nightlife, plus souvenir and antique shops. Makati (also known as Malate) is Manila’s upmarket centre of commerce and is filled with skyscrapers, mansions, resort hotels, malls and tourist attractions. Within Makati is the edgy Poblacion area (also known as the P Burgos), an increasingly fashionable hipster enclave filled with groovy restaurants, indie hangouts and speakeasy bars, plus traditional street food carts. Sampaloc is the university belt of Manila and contains a cluster of higher education institutes, meaning the area has a youthful buzz.

Accommodation choices in Manila

Hotels in Manila offer accommodation to suit a range of budgets. There are many good Manila hotels so you are spoiled for choice, it’s just a question of deciding which area and facilities are right for you. For 5 star luxury, you could consider the Manila Hotel in the historical district, which offers an outdoor pool, health club and lounge bar. The 3.5 star Amelie Hotel, in Makati, is a mid-price choice with a restaurant, outdoor pool and lounge bar. A budget option is the 3 star Aurum One Makati hotel, also in Makati, which includes free Wi-Fi, LED TVs in every room and a 24-hour front desk.

What to do during your stay in Manila

Manila offers many attractions to appeal to culture vultures, nature lovers, history enthusiasts and families. Rizal Park, next to the historical Intramuros district, is one of the largest urban green spaces in Asia. It’s also adjacent to the amazing Manila Ocean Park, one of the biggest aquariums in the Philippines. Also in Intramuros is the Baroque 16th century San Agustin church and the old defence system of Fort Santiago, a citadel which includes immaculately manicured gardens, an old military prison and the Rizal Shrine.

Santa Cruz includes a bustling market, the 17th century Santa Cruz church and Manila’s three oldest cemeteries. Sampaloc, as well as being home to various higher education establishments, is also the location of the vibrant Dangwa flower market. Fascinating museums include the Yuchengco Museum, the National Museum of the Philippines, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, the Museo Pambata children’s museum and the wonderfully named Mind Museum, which houses science exhibits. Located in the main tourist area, the 19th century Ermita Church has a fascinating history and is well worth visiting.

Manila is also a shopper’s paradise, with Robinsons Place being its massive flagship mall. Its seven levels offer thousands of local and international stores, plus restaurants and entertainment. At the waterfront area, the natural harbour of Manila Bay is a stunning place to visit at sunset, while Roxas Boulevard is a popular promenade area lined with palm trees, parks and luxury apartments.

Attractions outside of the city include Quezon City nine miles away. Quezon City is the largest and most highly populated urban space in the Philippines. It’s the seat of many important government offices, with the major attractions being the Quezon Memorial Circle and Corregidor Island, a former island fortress that was ruined in World War Two. Additionally, Taal volcano on the island of Luzon is a popular day trip for hikers.

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