Manila is a complicated, sprawling, diverse and big city, but it is at the same time very fascinating. Our recent trip showed us that it is an affordable place to visit, full of history, local charm and not as touristy as perhaps other places in the Philippines are. The Manila area is divided into a historic old town and surrounding modern city districts, together it is known as Metro Manila.
To start any visit to Manila one will certainly want to see the most historic quarters. The walled city is an impressive monument that dates back to Spanish settlement of Manila. Sadly the buildings are not well cared for, so their beauty is diminishing but there are many interesting museums, ruins, and churches to see here. Some nice restaurants can be found as well. Skip the guided tours as you will be able to find your own way and do go up and explore the city walls.
Manila has one of the biggest Chinatown’s on the globe. The official name of the district is Biondo. Here churches and temples stand side by side and many Chinese traditions still prevail, best of all the New Years celebrations in Jan/Feb. Carvajal street is a great place to see fruit vendors, Arrange Market is the wet market where all sorts of exotic foods are sold. Escalate street is reminiscent of several decades ago when luxury homes and shops made this “the place to be” in Manila.\
This is a park the stretches vertically along Manila Bay. It offers great open spaces to relax and huge walls on which to watch the waves and sunsets. There are restaurants set up across the street as well as the Mall of Asia which allow for great views of the bay. There are many play areas for families and children.
This is a wide area outside the walled city that serves as a grand complex with a monument to the Nation’s hero José Rizal. There are museums, restaurants, an open-air theater, planetarium, exercise areas and gardens.
This outlying neighborhood is Manila’s most affluent and appealing center of commerce and lifestyle. Ayala Avenue, is the Fifth Avenue of the Philippines with every imaginable brand, hotel and skyscrapers. From the Ayala Triangle a verdant park one can reach all the Malls and stores of Makati within several minutes walk.