Manila is a historic city that has come a long way from its days as a strategic trading port under Spanish administration, developing into a sprawling metropolis that is an aggregate of various cities and municipalities.
Locals and newcomers alike will find a wide range of attractions and variations of design and function across the many areas of the city. However, the infrastructure is still a work in progress, and the traffic on an average day can throw a wrench in your travel plans. The typical heat and humidity can make walking a less attractive option.
To make the city more accessible, services like Airbnb or RentCarManila.com give you full control of your starting location and means of transportation within the metropolis. Having an idea of where you’re going can save a lot of precious time, so here are some excellent places to visit in Metro Manila:
For first time visitors, the city’s historic Spanish quarter should be one of the top attractions. Since the destruction of the Second World War, restoration work has been done in iconic Intramuros. Preserving much of the old Spanish architecture, the Walled City is filled with cultural exhibits and museums that give insight into Philippine history under Spanish rule.
Several other attractions are a stone’s throw away from Intramuros. You can walk to Binondo, one of the world’s oldest Chinatowns. You can also visit the trio of nearby National Museums and head over to Rizal Park, commonly known as Luneta. And of course, head over to any of the vantage points across the shore to take in the Manila Bay sunset.
Further down the waterfront, you’ll find new development areas offering opposing views of the bay. The Mall of Asia is one of the country’s biggest shopping malls, with a wide variety of dining options and views of the bay from the esplanade or the Ferris wheel. With its proximity to the airport, it’s also a popular option for travelers.
The city of Makati offers some of the best high-end shopping and dining options in all of Manila, amid the orderly and well-developed setting you’d expect of the central business district. Drive to Greenbelt, a strip of shopping malls designed to blend in with relaxing groves of trees and quiet ponds. You can head over to the Ayala Museum and view its historical exhibits and walk to Ayala Triangle Gardens and enjoy one of the best urban green spaces anywhere in the metro.
In Manila’s financial district, Bonifacio Global City (BGC) has recently developed into an urban attraction, serving a mix of trendy and upscale experiences. The main strip of establishments along Bonifacio High Street offers a great way to sample different kinds of food and retail stores. Still, you can walk around the area for more hidden gems as well as a glimpse of nearby murals and street art installations.
Designed by former President Manuel Quezon to be a city for the working man, “QC” as it’s locally known won’t usually headline a tourist’s destination list. But the most populous city of the metro offers some of its most extensive green spaces, from the University of the Philippines’ Diliman campus to La Mesa Ecopark. A favorite local attraction is Maginhawa Street, with its variety of cafes, food parks, and restaurants.
You might not be able to explore all of Manila in one go. Still, within this vast metropolis, there’s undoubtedly something for everyone and enough to keep you coming back.