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, theatres 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 practising tai 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.
Makati 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 amongst 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 cafes 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.
Suggested itineraries featuring Manila
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Manila, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Manila
Places & hotels on the map
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.