Comprised of 17 cities and municipalities, Metro Manila is the National Capital Region and one of the primary tourist destinations in the Philippines. Situated on the island of Luzon, this thriving metropolis is the home of almost 15 million people and is the country's hub for commerce, education and entertainment.
Best time to visit: during the dry season between December and April.
Despite an unpleasant blend of heavy pollution, the densest population in the world, and a frenzied pace of life, Manila experiences a flourishing tourist industry that draws over one million visitors from throughout the globe every year. The city boasts a wide spectacle of attractions ranging from historic buildings and appealing museums to entertainment facilities, gardens and parks.
A favorite tourist spot is Intramuros, the Walled City, which was built by the Spaniards during the 16th century, the walls defining the original borders of the city of Manila. Several historic structures are sited here, above all Fort Santiago, a fortress which protected the mouth of the River Pasig.
Dating from 1607, San Agustin Church is the oldest church in the Philippines and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. Also standing inside Intramuros, Manila Cathedral is regarded as the mother of all Philippine churches.
Another attraction worth visiting is the superb Malacanang Palace, which nowadays serves as the Philippine president's official residence. This impressive complex is notable for its marvelous architecture and is composed of diverse sections, including Bonifacio Hall that used to be the office of Corazon Aquino, Kalayaan Hall constructed under American administration, and Mabini Hall, the administration hall.
Housed inside the Kaisa Heritage Center, Bahay Sinoy is an attention-grabbing museum which exhibits compilations connected with Chinese-Filipino culture, such as pictures illustrating the life of Chinese immigrants, as well as numerous artifacts, including pottery, kitchen utensils and coins.
Perhaps one of a kind in the world, Paco Park used to be a cemetery and is composed of two circular structures having dissimilar levels of recesses, making this a most astoundingly designed place. Other pulls not to be missed in Manila are the Zoological Garden that houses some rare Philippine and African wildlife and Meban Garden, the city's very first botanical garden.
Carfel Seashell Museum has several uncommon seashells on display while Liwasang Bonifacio, a lovely park built to commemorate Andres Bonifacio, a Philippine hero, is also a worthwhile stop. Kanlungan ng Sining features an exclusive diversity of sculptures, photographs and paintings and the remarkable Ayala Bridge which links San Miguel to Arroceros as well as Chinatown in Binondo, home to the biggest Chinese community in the Philippines, are other sights.
Upmarket visitors and residents alike enjoy the established city of Makati, where restaurants, cafés and lively bars are lined up side by side along Nakpil Street. This area is famous for its street parties and draws the very young and trendy with distinctive amusement in a stimulating atmosphere. From the exotic Filipino dish to the stylish presentation of French cuisine, Makati has a lot to offer its appropriately outfitted guests.
Manila has gained a reputation as the country's hub for arts and entertainment offering its visitors a great variety of vivacious bars, discos and nightclubs to choose from, above all in Malate and Ermita. Since the Filipinos are biologically inclined to music, a great number of prominent local artists have become famous entertainers worldwide. Hotels in Manila present their own venues for performances by popular musicians that magnetize concertgoers in droves, particularly at weekends.
Manila is accessible via its Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Domestic Airport located a 30-minute drive south of the city. Most of the bus terminals are placed in Manila, while numerous jeepneys, tricycles and pedicabs are used for transportation as well. Philippine National Railways has its train hub in Tutuban north of the city and services the southern provinces of Luzon.