reasons to visit Manila
Despite being one of Southeast Asia's best capital cities for sightseeing and culture, Manila continues to (unfairly) get a bad rap. Crime, pollution, poverty, corruption, overpopulation and horrendous traffic jams are all typically associated with the city, but this paints an unbalanced picture. Sure, it’s not without its faults, but with a booming economy and buzz generated by a hip new wave of restaurants, nightlife and galleries, Manila has renewed vitality and self-confidence. Here are just 10 good reasons to give it a chance – you'll discover it's one of Asia's absolute gems.
Spanish heritage in Intramuros
As Asia’s only former Spanish colony, the Philippines offers an intriguing point of difference to its neighbouring countries. Intramuros is the nucleus of Spanish life in Manila and the best place to soak up this history. After having been destroyed during WWII, this walled city has been faithfully restored and provides a great escape from Manila’s chaos. Here you can enjoy the laidback atmosphere and stroll leafy residential streets that are lined with colonial architecture.
Intramuros’ centrepiece is Fort Santiago – a citadel used by Spanish and American military, with its arched gateways, barracks and cell blocks offset by a sanctuary of gardens, fountains and plazas. Other highlights in Intramuros include San Agustin Church (the only building left intact following the Battle of Manila in WWII) and Casa Manila, a lavish reproduction of a colonial Spanish house that was a project of Imelda Marcos.
Manila has a number of must-visit museums covering a range of themes. For wonderful pre-Hispanic artefacts, head to the National Museum of the Filipino People, located within an imposing neoclassical building and showing exquisite pieces from across the Philippines. Nearby in Intramuros is the Rizal Shrine museum, which highlights the extraordinary life of national hero Dr José Rizal – from his last days before being executed for standing up against the Spanish, to documenting his genius as a modern-day Renaissance man.
A more offbeat attraction is Imelda Marcos’ infamous shoe collection at the Marikina Shoe Museum, where some 800 pairs of her shoes are displayed. Or check out the ultra-modern Ayala Museum, with four floors showcasing a superb collection of gleaming pre-Hispanic gold artefacts, quality art shows, and impressive dioramas detailing the country’s history.
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