The capital city of the Philippines, Manila sits on the island of Luzon, and is said to be home to at least 1,7 million people. While many capital cities in Southeast Asia may be the highlight of your trip, Manila does not have a lot to recommend it, but if you are looking for some interesting nightlife and some high end shopping opportunities, then you will certainly find those here. When it comes to actual attractions, you will not have a huge amount to choose from, although if you look around and explore a little bit then there are a few places worth checking out. If you are using Manila to fly in and out of the Philippines and you’ve got some time to left, it can be worth it to see some of the sights.
The oldest district in Manila and its historic core, Intramuros is a popular attraction and is not yet overrun with tour groups, so you will find that you don’t have to fight through the crowds when you are here. In the past, this area would have been the center of the city and it is now home to Fort Santiago, one of the best sights in Manila. The fort will fill you in on some of the history of the colonial period and next to the fort lies Rizal Park which has a memorial to war hero Jose Rizal who helped lead the revolution against Spanish colonialism.
When it comes to other areas of Manila that are worth a visit, there are a few to choose from, and if you cross the river you will come to the Binodo district where you will find Manila’s Chinatown. This also happens to be the oldest Chinatown in the world, so as you would expect, you will find some delicious cheap eats here and it makes a nice change of pace from the rest of the city.
Makati is known as one of the most affluent districts in Manila, so come here if you are looking for boutique shopping and dining experiences. If you are newly arrived in the city then this can be a good place to come to get your bearings and you can think of it as an ‘easy’ introduction to Manila.
One thing that this city is better known for is its infamous nightlife, so with that in mind head for areas like Makati, Quezon, or Manila proper, as this is where you will find the most action. Nightclubs, bars, and karaoke are all famous in these districts, so if you are looking for a bit of a party then this is the place to come.
The National Museum and Galleries
One thing that Manila does do well is art, so if you want to check out what is arguably one of Asia’s most energetic contemporary art scenes, then you won’t be disappointed here. In the city you will find multiple galleries continually rotating fresh and stimulating exhibits and there are also some good museums that weave together an interesting story of the Philippines, including the National Museum with centuries old artifacts from islands throughout the country.
Manila may not have the best reputation in the Philippines or in Southeast Asia generally, but you will probably find yourself using it to fly either in or out of the country, and with that in mind it is certainly worth spending a day here. It’s in many ways an ‘up and coming’ city that hasn’t quite found its voice, but if you like big cities then there are a range of things to see and do here in this thriving metropolis.