Welcome to Manila, the vibrant capital city of the Philippines, where history, culture, and modernity converge in a bustling metropolis.
In this article, we take a stroll through the pulsating streets of Manila’s city centre to uncover the hidden gems and rich tapestry of Filipino heritage.
- Discovering Manila City Centre
- Griller in Manila – Try ‘Shabu Shabu’
- Manila Airport Exit Fees
- Our Overall Philippines Impressions
- Get to the Airport from Manila Center
- All Hotel Options in Manila
- Our Complete Philippines Itinerary
We tactically avoided a trip into Manila on our arrival in the Philippines, but opted to spend just a couple of days there before taking our return flight home.
Although we didn’t have a lot of time to spare in the city, we visited the older Intramuros area and enjoyed a novel eating experience at a Manila Shabu Shabu restaurant.
Intramuros: A Gateway to the Past
We took a stroll from our Oasis Park Hotel in central Manila to Intramuros. Along the way we were surprised to pass by a golf course. It wasn’t very big, but that’s not the point:
How many cities feature a golf course in the center of the city?
After this we entered the ancient walls of Intramuros, a living testament to Manila’s colonial heritage. We felt we’d stepped back in time as we traversed cobblestone streets lined with centuries-old Spanish architecture.
In this area you can find iconic landmarks such as Fort Santiago, and dive into the depths of history at the San Agustin Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site adorned with ornate baroque details.
We then strolled on to Manila Cathedral.
Originally established in 1571, Manila Cathedral has been reduced to ruins multiple times during its chequered history – by fire in 1583, by earthquakes in 1600, 1645 and 1863, and by Allied bombing at the end of the 2nd World War.
From the majestic Manila Cathedral to the charming Casa Manila, every corner of Intramuros exudes a timeless charm.
Cultural Kaleidoscope: Rizal Park & National Museum
Venturing beyond the walls of Intramuros, we found ourselves amidst the lush greenery of Rizal Park, a sprawling oasis in the heart of Manila.
Rizal Park is one of the largest urban parks in Asia. It is a favorite leisure spot, especially on Sundays and National holidays. The park is named after the Philippine national hero José Rizal who was executed here on December 30, 1896, fanning the flames of the 1896 Philippine Revolution against Spain.
We took a leisurely stroll along the manicured gardens and tranquil ponds, finally visiting the iconic Rizal Monument. The park is animated and lively, with lots of people and activities, and numerous places to get snacks and drinks.
Nearby, you can also find the National Museum Complex, with its treasure trove of art, history, and culture.
From ancient artifacts to contemporary masterpieces, the museum offers a diverse tapestry of Filipino heritage, spanning millennia of civilization.
Culinary Delights in Binondo, World’s Oldest Chinatown
No exploration of Manila is complete without exploring Binondo, the ultimate gastronomic paradise.
Here, you can embark on a culinary journey through the labyrinthine streets of the world’s oldest Chinatown, where the aroma of sizzling noodles and savory dumplings fills the air. Sink your teeth into mouthwatering delights such as steaming hot siopao, crispy pork belly, and delectable hopia pastries.
Whether feasting at a humble sidewalk stall or a century-old restaurant, every bite in Binondo is a symphony of flavors that celebrates Manila’s multicultural heritage.
The Urban Oasis of Makati
You can escape the hustle and bustle of Manila City Centre by venturing into the sleek and cosmopolitan enclave of Makati Central Business District.
Here, towering skyscrapers stand as symbols of progress, housing multinational corporations, upscale shopping malls, and chic dining establishments.
You can also indulge in a shopping spree at Greenbelt or Ayala Center, where designer boutiques and trendy cafes abound. Afterward, unwind amidst the lush greenery of Ayala Triangle Gardens, a tranquil oasis amidst the urban jungle.
From high-end luxury to serene natural beauty, Makati offers a glimpse of Manila’s modern allure.
Sunset Serenade along Manila Baywalk
As our day drew to a close, we wandered down to Manila Baywalk and strolled along the palm-fringed promenade. If you’re in the mood, here you can enjoy freshly grilled seafood at one of the seaside eateries.
As night falls, Manila Bay transforms into a glittering spectacle, and if you’re lucky you can watch the Manila Bay sunset painting the sky in hues of gold and crimson.
After our walk we ended up again at Robinson’s Mall where we ate at a Shabu Shabu restaurant.
These are restaurants where you can eat and drink as much as you want – including beer. You cook your own soup and grill food at your own table.
Not bad for 599 pesos per person.
Shopping at the Mall of Asia?
When we checked out of our hotel we still had time to kill, so we headed across town to the Mall of Asia – supposedly the biggest mall in all of Asia.
It sprawls over a huge area, with far too many fast-food eating places all selling dishes which basically taste the same (chicken, pork or beef cooked in a sweet marinade, served with noodles or rice).
The shops are the most expensive we found in the Philippines, so we wouldn’t recommend this place for souvenir shopping.
At the end of an extended trip like this, it can be tricky to calculate exactly how much local currency you will need on your last day to cover final costs.
We knew there was a Terminal Exit Fee to pay at Manila airport, but had no accurate information on how much this would be.
The good news is you can pay the terminal fee by credit card (550 pesos). You’ll also need around 200 pesos taxi fare to get to the airport.
After you pass through to the gates at the airport, there are a few cafes and a limited number of souvenir shops where you can spend your last pesos.
It’s better to have done your shopping beforehand though, as there is not much of interest to buy here.
Our trip through the Philippines finally ended with a return flight home (via Rome) with Emirates.
… and our overall Philippines impressions? It wasn’t quite what we’d expected…
From the historic streets of Intramuros to the bustling energy of Makati, Manila captivates with its rich tapestry of experiences and warm Filipino hospitality.
So why not embark on your own adventure? and discover the pulse of the Philippines in Manila’s city centre.
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