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Welcome to Manila

Although many first-time visitors to the Philippines use Manila as a jumping-off point for Luzon, Davao, and the rest of the scattered archipelago, the Asian metropolis yields great rewards for travelers willing to stick around. A Jeepney (colorful mode of public transport) tour is indisputably the best way to discover Manila. Explore Makati (Old Manila), Intramuros, and Chinatown (Binondo); roam around the Rizal Park and Shrine, and delve into World War II history at Corregidor Island and Fort Santiago. An evening cruise on the illuminated Manila Bay reveals a different side to the capital, as do excursions to the coconut farms of Villa Escudero. Then, once you’ve had your fill of Manila’s cosmopolitan culinary scene and chaotic allure, take a day trip to farther-afield natural wonders such as the Taal Volcano, Tagaytay Ridge, and Hidden Valley, where volcanic water pools and mountain landscapes soothe the soul. Art tours cover the Angono Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage–listed site home to prehistoric petroglyphs, and the Nemiranda Arthouse; cultural experiences combine Filipino cuisine with traditional dance performances; and passes to Manila Ocean Park guarantee a fun-filled day out for those traveling with kids. For families wanting the best of both worlds, choose a sightseeing tour of Manila and Makati that includes admission to Manila Ocean Park.

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Top 10 attractions in Manila

Fort Santiago
#1

Fort Santiago

One of the most important historical sites in Manila, Fort Santiago was built by the Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi as a defensive fortress designed to protect the newly formed city of Manila. It is a key feature of the famous Walled City of Manila, which is referred to as Intramuros. José Rizal, considered a national hero in the Philippines, was imprisoned at Fort Santiago before his execution in 1896, as were countless others. It played a role in the city’s penal and defense system all the way up to World War II, and has been occupied by: the Spanish, free Filipinos, the US (the Stars and Stripes were raised there in 1898), and the Japanese Imperial Army. Today, this beautiful, 16th century structure is home to a shrine dedicated to Rizal, which includes an eerie set of footprints painted onto the street outlining the great man’s final steps as he was led to his death....
Intramuros
#2

Intramuros

The historic heart of Manila, Intramuros (literally meaning "within the walls") is the oldest district in the capital city. The three-mile-long stone wall completely surrounds the district (with the exception of a small stretch near the River Pasig) and despite the fact that the district was nearly entirely obliterated by US bombers, it remains for visitors a rich cultural experience. Historical attractions within Intramuros include Fort Santiago, Postigo del Palacio, Baluarte de San Diego, Puerta de Isabel II, Plaza de Roma, San Agustin Church, and Ayuntamiento. The church, which was the sole structure left unmarred by the bombers, has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site There are also multiple museums and other points of cultural interest, many ruins, and a few tasty eateries. Intramuros is also a great locus for buying souvenirs and local wares. There are also a few choices for overnight stays....
San Agustin Church and Museum
#3

San Agustin Church and Museum

Located in the historic Intramuros district of Manila (the oldest district and historic core of Manila, otherwise known as the "Walled City"), the Church of San Agustin was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site as an example of the Baroque architecture that was specific to the Philippines. A Roman Catholic Church, it was constructed by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, but was not consecrated until 1607. Its beautiful architecture is worth the visit all by itself, though it also houses the tombs of several historical figures, including several conquistadors, statesmen and artists. The accompanying San Agustin Museum is housed in the adjacent San Agustin Monastery, and exhibits art and artifacts from the Philippines, Spain, Mexico and other cultural centers. The original Augustinians arrived in the Philippines in 1565 just a few decades after Magellan explored the islands, meaning that the aforementioned museum is no slouch....
Casa Manila
#4

Casa Manila

Step back in time and see how upper-class Filipinos lived during the colonial era at Casa Manila, a beautifully reconstructed traditional Spanish colonial home within the walls of Intramuros, in the heart of Manila. Casa Manila is filled with period furniture, furnishings, decorative objects, and artwork from the colonial era....
National Museum of the Philippines
#5

National Museum of the Philippines

Established in 1901, the National Museum of the Philippines is a vast complex of museums and a planetarium located next to Rizal Park. Immerse yourself in the artistic, historical, and cultural heritage of the Philippines through the museum’s expansive collections covering fine art, ethnography, anthropology, archaeology, and natural history....
Roxas Boulevard
#6

Roxas Boulevard

One of Manila’s best-known streets, Roxas Boulevard hugs the waterfront for most of its length and includes Rizal Park, the historic Manila Hotel, and the popular promenade Manila Baywalk. It’s backed by the lively Malate district, with its open-air bars and restaurants, while Manila Bay sunset views make it a popular early evening stop....
Rizal Park and Shrine
#7

Rizal Park and Shrine

Covering several blocks near Manila Bay, the Rizal Park and Shrine is considered one of the best ways to relax in Manila. A shinning tribute to national hero and icon Dr. Jose Rizal, a patriot for reform during the Spanish Colonial Era, the park is a historical landmark as well as a beautiful stroll, with several well-manicured ponds, gardens and statues. Scattered throughout the park are the affects and literature of Dr. Rizal, including one poem carved into a stone, called "Mi Ultimo Adios." It is a moving, yet tragic account of his feelings written in the moments leading up to his execution. At the shrine itself, located on Santa Clara Street, are several pieces of memorabilia, including Dr. Rizal's collected artwork, his manuscripts, books and even seashells that he accumulated over the years. Rizal Park is also home to a number of great attractions including the national library, a butterfly pavilion, a museum of Philippine history, and a planetarium....
Chinese Cemetery
#8

Chinese Cemetery

In death as in life, Manila’s rich Chinese like to live large, and the renowned Chinese Cemetery—lined with otherworldly mansions, some complete with air-conditioning and flush toilets—is a tribute to their wealth. Sprawling over 133 acres (54 hectares), it’s one of Manila’s quirkiest attractions: You can even rent a bike to get around....
Manila Ocean Park
#9

Manila Ocean Park

One of the best family destinations in the Philippines, Manila Ocean Park is as fruitful a journey through the aquatic that one can imagine. A tour through the oceanarium reveals an astounding variety of fish and marine life: over 5,000 kinds in all. The viewing tunnel is the biggest in the region, spanning 82 feet (25 meters), and contains stingrays, colorful seahorses, sharks and loads of attractive reefs. The experience of passing through the tunnel is like walking along the ocean floor. Another recommended feature at the Ocean Park is its newest attraction: the marine life habitat and sea lion show. Open daily, the show features five new South American Sea Lions - with names like Isabel and Sandra - which are a dazzling addition to the park as they talk and clap their way into visitors' hearts. For a more interactive experience, you can make an appointment at the fish spa where you submerge your hands and feet into a pool filled with dozens of little fish....
Binondo (Chinatown)
#10

Binondo (Chinatown)

First settled by the Spanish during the 16th century, Manila Chinatown in Binondo is one of the world’s older Chinatowns. It centers on Ongpin Street, where stores offer mooncakes, incense, paper money, herbal medicines, and tasty dumplings. Buddhist temples and towering gates add extra color to the Chinese area of Binondo....

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Food Lover's Guide to Manila

Food Lover's Guide to Manila

How to Spend 1 Day in Manila

How to Spend 1 Day in Manila

How to Spend 3 Days in Manila

How to Spend 3 Days in Manila

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