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Set on Manila Bay, Metro Manila, the capital of the Philippines is divided into no less than 16 cities, each with its own unique character. Vibrantly decorated but at times erratically maintained, the ubiquitous pick-up trucks link the districts and ferry locals from place to place.

The city is a delightful mix of the old and new — from ancient Spanish churches to gleaming high-rise structures, quaint street stalls and modern shopping malls, historical landmarks to sophisticated, lively bars and restaurants.

Remnants of Spanish colonial era are found right in the heart of Manila in the well-preserved 16th century walled city of Intramuros. Here, dungeons and old churches share space with art galleries, theaters and a nature park. At the edge of the city walls, Rizal Park is worth exploring in the early morning when groups of people can be seen silently practicing t'ai chi or the traditional martial art of arnis de mano.

Binondo, Metro Manila's Chinatown, stretches along the northern bank of the Pasig River and is a vidi testament to the long history of Chinese settlement in the Philippines, with traditional tea houses and shops selling indigenous snacks, offerings and incense.

Modern buildings, ManilaMakati is the commercial head of the capital and offers a marked contrast, home to smart restaurants and opulent five star hotels and shopping malls such as Rockwell and Greenbelt, which with their quieter walkways among manicured gardens provide cooler havens away from the teeming streets of the city.

Far more traditional is Quiapo, its streets lined with herbalists, fortune-tellers, traders and handicraft markets. Malate and Ermita districts are popular for their eclectic variety of restaurants, clubs, bars and cafés as well as boutiques and local art galleries.

Whichever district you explore, you will encounter friendly Filipinos — one of the city's most attractive assets, and light conversations are easily enjoyed as English is widely and fluently spoken. Often overlooked as a destination in its own right, it is worth allowing a few days to explore this dynamic, ever-changing city.

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Map of Manila

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    Places near Manila

    Accommodation choices for Manila

    We've selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Manila. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    Ideas for experiencing Manila

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Manila, and which use the best local guides.

    • Manila City Tour
      Modern buildings, Manila

      Manila City Tour

      Manila City Tour

      Highlights of the tour include Rizal Park, named after the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, and Intramuros (walled city) where you can see the remains of the Spanish conquistadores. You also go along the old cobbled streets to visit San Agustin Church, the oldest stone church in the country.

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    • Full day tour to Taal Lake & Taal Volcano
      Taal volcano

      Full day tour to Taal Lake & Taal Volcano

      Full day tour to Taal Lake & Taal Volcano

      Taal Volcano and Taal Lake lie approximately 70 kilometers south of Manila. Once you reach the shore of the lake you will board an outrigger boat for the 30-minute trip across the lake to Taal Volcano Island, from where you'll trek uphill through the hardened black lava to the crater rim.

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    • Half day bamboo bike tour of Manila
      Bamboo bike, Intramuros

      Half day bamboo bike tour of Manila

      Half day bamboo bike tour of Manila

      This is a unique way of getting to know about old Manila's history. You will ride through the streets on bamboo bikes, hand-made by village folk who make up Gawad Kalinga — a non-profit organization whose mission is to end poverty in the Philippines.

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    • Day trip to Corregidor
      One mile barracks, Corregidor

      Day trip to Corregidor

      Day trip to Corregidor

      This fascinating offshore island fortress, 40 kilometers west of Manila, is a treasure trove of information for history buffs.

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    • Half day tour of Intramuros
      Intramuros, Manila

      Half day tour of Intramuros

      Half day tour of Intramuros

      Visit Intramuros, located along the southern bank of the Pasig River. The tour includes a wander through the cobbled streets, a visit to Casa Manila (a reproduction of a 19th century house) as well as the country's oldest stone church. There is also the option to ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

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