The capital of the Philippines and the most populous part of the country Manila has a tough urban reputation that does a disservice to its lively multi-cultural heritage and thriving nightlife. More than just the sum of its many skyscrapers and vast shanty towns visitors to Manila will also discover a truly creative spiritwith exciting art galleries and a buzzing music scene. Add to that a plethora of bars markets cafes and restaurants and it all adds up to a city that is as cool as it is edgy.
Areas & Neighbourhoods in Manila
Binondo — Famous for its incredible Chinese cuisine and authentic Chinese stalls and shops Binondo is also the oldest Chinatown in the world. A bustling cultural quarter since before the Spanish landed in the 16th century what was once Manila’s trading centre is now a fascinating monument to Chinese culture and traditions overlaid with a light dusting of Spanish colonial influence.
Santa Cruz — Situated right next door to Chinatown Santa Cruz is a curious blend of sites and influences. On Carriedo Street you will find a ramshackle market area where you can pick up locally made fabrics and clothing as well as a lucky dip of cheap export goods and other items. There are also a number of palatial mausoleums some of which have hotel suites alongside the Chinese cemetery the second oldest cemetery in the city.
Malate — Once home to Manila’s financial elite Malate boasts many mansions and elite schools. Nowadays however this district is better known for its vivid bohemian nightlife where the alternative minded mingle with the party people and really bring this colourful hotel district to life.
Ermita — This tourist quarter used to be Manila’s red light district. It’s much more than that now with bars cafes nightclubs and massage parlours rubbing shoulders with city recruitment firms attracting international business people to both work and play. As well as the lively nightlife you’ll also find a selection of art antique and souvenir shops.
Things to See in Manila
Buried in amongst Manila’s almost overwhelming megacity canvas there is a lot of fascinating heritage to unearth. The National Museum of the Filipino People is a great place to start. Housing a fantastic collection of art and artefacts the museum is a must for culture fanatics. For a more immersive experience of Manila’s colourful history head to Fort Santiago. Here as well as wonderfully tended gardens plazas and fountains you will also find the Rizal Shrine the building in which Filipino national hero Dr José Rizal was imprisoned. The shrine contains original Rizal artefacts and even a reconstruction of his actual cell.
Things to Do in Manila
Manila has all the things to do that you might expect in any city: shopping malls cinema complexes pubs and clubs. Alternatives to such standard city fare include the Club Intramuros Golf Course which curiously is open both day and night. There are also many guided cycling and walking tours of the city.