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Manila Cathedral
Manila Cathedral © Philippines Department of Tourism

Manila Travel Guide

Manila is chaotic, polluted and thrilling; an old city but one overflowing with life, which is steadily increasing in popularity with adventurous travellers and making every effort to attract tourists: 

Many who travel to Manila find that the cosmopolitan capital of the Philippines is the most exciting city in Asia, offering a blend of cultures, a good supply of historic sights and places to see, and famously friendly locals. It is an old city with a rich colonial and military history and some fantastic traditional sightseeing. Another plus for a holiday in Manila is that the city is as lively at night as it is during the day. A vacation in Manila is recommended for young, energetic travellers who enjoy sightseeing, shopping malls and plenty of after-dark activity in the city's infamous go-go clubs and wild nightspots. Manila may be smoggy, polluted and overcrowded but it is also lots of fun!

Best time to visit Manila

Peak season for a holiday in Manila is between November and February, when the generally high tropical temperatures drop to reasonable levels. This period also falls in the dry season, which is a big consideration because during the wet season the city can be subject to typhoons and tropical storms. Read more on Manila's Climate and Weather.

What to see in Manila

-Explore the medieval walled enclave of Intramuros, which is full of historic attractions.

-Take a guided tour of the lavish Malacanang Palace.

-Visit Manila's oldest stone church, San Agustin.

-See the famous Taal Volcano at nearby Tagaytay City.

What to do in Manila

-Stroll around the beautifully landscaped and moving American Cemetery and Memorial.

-Eat and shop your way through Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world.

-Picnic in the lovely Rizal Park, the heart of Manila.

-Go scuba diving and game viewing in Subic Bay.

Beyond Manila

Manila is perfectly situated for daytrips and popular excursions from the city include visits to the fascinating Banaue region and the 16th-century Spanish town of Vigan, both on Luzon Island. The best islands to visit from Manila include historic Corregidor, stunningly beautiful Palawan, and the resort hub of Mindoro.

Getting there

The largest airport and primary gateway to the Philippines, Ninoy Aquino International Airport is situated just over four miles (7km) south of Manila. There are connecting flights to Manila from the UK and the US. Get more information on Airports in Manila.

Did you know?

-Manila was originally called Ginto, meaning Land of Gold.

-The University of Santo Tomas is 25 years older than Harvard.

-Manila is one of the most polluted cities in the world.


Overview


Manila, the somewhat daunting capital and pulsating hub of the Philippines, is situated on the east coast of Luzon, the most northern Filipino island, as well as the largest and the most developed. The city was founded in 1571 on the site of a Muslim settlement. The city is made up of 16 areas which were once towns in their own right, and its major tourist attraction is the old Spanish walled city known as Intramuros, which contains some historic buildings and ruins.

Manila was once known as The Pearl of the Orient and was an important centre for South East Asia. However, during the second world war the city was ravaged by the some of the most destructive urban battles of the period - as a result, much of the old Manila was destroyed. Today, Manila is a morass of traffic and people, polluted and chaotic, it grew from the ashes of war and is the cultural and political centre of the archipelago. Thick, congested traffic is juxtaposed with expansive parks, modern high-rises with polluted slums, all of which conspire to make Manila a difficult but enthralling metropolis.

Most visitors to the Philippines use Manila as a spring board for their exploration of the other provinces and islands, as most flights must land at Nino Aquino International Airport; however, it is possible to fly into Cebu and Aklan on select airlines and from particular locations. Manila is also within easy reach of day and weekend getaways on the island of Luzon, which makes it a good base for travellers intent on touring. One thing no visitor should miss is a famous Manila Bay sunset: a light show created out of the high humidity conditions coupled with the effects of cloud over the city's harbour. View the sunset from Rizal Park, Roxas Boulevard or from a cruise boat that circles around the bay.

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