At first glance Manila might seem a bit intimidating as an intense, over-crowded and noisy urban jungle but there really is more to this underappreciated capital city. Manila has a rich cultural history with diverse influences from Spanish, American, Chinese, Arabic and Malay cultures.
Luneta Rizal Monument
Most tourists come to Manila on route to the islands or to head to the beaches in the south but, if you are sticking around at least for a few days, here is a quick guide to the most popular tourist-friendly neighborhoods.
Intramuros was the traditional center of the city but was mostly destroyed during bombing in World War II. It is worth a wander to take a look at the remnants of its diverse past. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city behind the thick perimeter walls of this fortified Spanish colonial part of town. Literally translated from Spanish as ‘within the walls’, this is where the old Spanish Fort was located and where the Spanish regime ended in the 19th century. There are historical sights to see here and the European influence of the stone buildings and grassy courtyards will make it hard to remember you are still in Asia. Jump on a horse-drawn carriage for a pleasant tour and to see the main attractions.
Around the Quiapo church area is the place to go to stimulate the senses and find a wonderful selection of bizarre wares and trinkets for sale. There is always a buzz of activity, especially on Fridays, where people gather to sell all manner of products, read fortunes and light candles. Quiapo is a great place to do a bit of bargain-hunting.
As one of the main tourist districts, Ermita has a lively and diverse nightlife with lots of bars, cafes, clubs, casinos and bistros as well as antique and souvenir shops. It is home to Rizal Park, one of the main tourist attractions in Manila, where hundreds of Filipinos gather every day to relax, exercise, picnic and have fun. There are open lawns, paths, wooded areas and gardens, not to mention a good helping of monuments to famous Filipino heroes .
Makati, at the heart of modern Manila, is the center for commercial enterprise. There are many opportunities to shop, dine and relax whilst enjoying the positive vibes of modern Manila. Makati is a good choice if you want to check out the vibrant nightlife scene in Manila.
Located on the waterfront of the Manila Bay, it is a perfect place to try out the famous and popular Dampa seafood. There are many ‘Dampa markets’ around the city and the popular ‘Seaside Dampa’ market next to the huge ‘Mall of Asia’ is here in Pasay City. From a huge selection in the bustling market, you can purchase whatever selection of seafood takes your fancy, then pop into the restaurant next door and they will prepare it for you however you wish! Take your pick from buttered crab in chili sauce to sizzling squid.
Whatever your reasons for visiting Manila, make sure you stick around at least long enough to get a taste of this vibrant city. Got any suggestions for places to add to the list? Do you have any other tips to share about visiting Manila? Feel free to leave your tips in the comments below.