Manila: 10 Must-Have Places
Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is an interesting option to consider when choosing a destination for a different trip. In this warm and humid city on the eastern coast of Manila Bay, travellers can discover the charms of national cuisine, find numerous artistic and cultural offerings, be captivated by its architectural heritage and explore its neighborhoods.
Despite treasuring some attractions of historical interest, this city that before the arrival of the Spaniards knew how to be a Muslim enclave lost much of its original architectural wealth because, during the Second World War, it was destroyed.
The Basilica of San Sebastian, the Church of St. Augustine and Rizal Park are some of Manila's most outstanding sites today.
Feel the Tropical and Humid Climate of the City
In Manila, the warm and humid tropical climate predominate. While each traveller can choose the time he likes to travel there, it is not advisable to travel either in May or September as the months most likely to be typhoons.
In general, it is convenient to reach the city between December and May, as during this period the weather is somewhat cool and dry, two pleasant conditions for strolling around the city.
In the Philippine capital, the average temperature is around 27 degrees Celsius, but heat marks can fall, depending on the time, to 20 degrees Celsius or rise above 34 degrees Celsius.
Visit the Intramuros, an emblematic area
In 1571, the Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi founded the city of Manila on the south bank of the River Pásig. Today this place is the district of Intramuros which, as its name suggests, is walled.
Intramuros was the heart of the Spanish period of the Philippines. Over time it became under American administration and, during World War II, it was razed by bombings as Japanese occupation settled there.
As a result of this fact, coupled with natural events such as earthquakes, much of the Spanish colonial architecture was destroyed. However, visitors can still appreciate the walls that gave the district's name, remains of emblematic buildings and some modern versions or reconstructions of certain buildings.
The Church of St. Augustine is one of the main attractions of Intramuros. It is the oldest construction in the nation among those still standing, since it was formally inaugurated in 1607.
Another important temple is the Manila Cathedral, destroyed on various occasions and rebuilt for the sixth and (so far) last time in 1958. The architect Fernando Ocampo was responsible for its current design.
The Governor's Palace, the Manila House, the Redoubt of San Pedro, the Bastion of San Diego, the Royal Gate and Fort Santiago are other places of interest that, in good condition or in ruins, are located in this district.
Get to know the History of Hermita
The Ermita district is located between Intramuros and Malate. It was founded at the end of the 16th century and is named after an ancient hermitage that housed an image of Our Lady of Guide.
During American domination, Ermita acquired particular relevance. Several universities settled in the area, as were clubs that allowed the gathering of American citizens.
More than 70% of the buildings in the Hermitage were destroyed during the Battle of Manila in February 1945. Like Intramuros and the rest of the city's districts, the authorities had to devote great efforts to reconstruction.
Rizal Park (named in homage to a hero of the Philippine Revolution) is the tourist attraction par excellence of Ermita. In it is the monument to Rizal which, in turn, is the mausoleum that houses his remains.
The Department of the Main Tourist Office (opened in 1973), the National Museum of the Philippine People (whose building was designed in 1918), the National Museum of the Philippines, the National Library (with more than 210,000 books) and the Manila Ocean Park (with an area of more than 8,000 square meters) are interesting spaces in or near Rizal Park.
Manila City Hall (with its famous clock tower) and the Philippine Supreme Court also stand out for their architecture in the Ermita district.
Malate: a Splendid Place
In the southern part of Manila, stands out the district of Malate, which borders Pasay, Ermita and Paco. This area was a small fishing village during the Spanish colonial period, although little by little it began to grow around the Church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios.
The period of U.S. domination found Malate converted into a residential area for American families, who built large, modern homes and apartments.
The reconstruction of the district after the bombing of the Second World War included the creation of numerous shops and shops, including restaurants, bars and hotels. Today, Malate is considered an international homosexual tourism center with many gay-friendly spaces.
The Manila Zoo and Botanical Garden is one of Malate's most important attractions. It was created in 1959 and houses about 800 animals of a hundred species.
The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, built in 1934 and rebuilt in 1953, is the main sports complex in the country. The Beatles performed at their football stadium in 1966, in what was one of their most massive concerts. The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex also houses several covered pavilions.
Rajah Sulayman Park with its spring of dancing waters and the coastal promenade known as Baywalk are other sights in Malate.
Visit the Sights of Manila
Historical attractions are numerous in the Philippine capital, although in many cases they present conservation problems. It is impossible not to name the Fort Santiago, built by Miguel López de Legazpi on the same site where a Muslim palace of pre-Hispanic times was located. In this fortification, which today functions as a museum, was housed as a prisoner the national hero José Rizal.
The Tahanang Pilipino or Coco Palace is another very attractive building. It was built in 1978 with various types of wood and designed by the architect Francisco Mañosa.
Those who want to appreciate nature should visit Bulaklakan ng Maynila or Dangwa Flower Market, where it is possible to buy hundreds of local flower species.
Walk through Rizal Park
Rizal Park is, for many, Manila's main tourist attraction. Its origins date back to the early 19th century when, although city life went through what happened in Intramuros, a small area south of the walls was developed to prevent attacks. Being crescent shaped, the area was known as Luneta.
There was born Rizal Park, formerly known as Bagumbayan. The Monument to Rizal and the mausoleum of the national hero are guarded throughout the day by ceremonial soldiers who are known as the Knights of Rizal. Tourists will find, the most famous poem of the star, engraved on a commemorative plaque.
The National Museum of the Philippine People, the National Library, the Lapu-Lapu Monument, the Department of the Main Tourist Office, an artificial lake, the landmark marking the country's Kilometer Zero, and several Chinese and Japanese gardens are located on the perimeter of Rizal Park.
Tour the Streets of the City
History and culture are perhaps Manila's main assets to seduce the traveler. Walking through its streets is an invitation to the past that allows you to admire different periods and styles, faced with the various foreign influences that shape the city and despite the destruction of the Second World War.
Manila also stands out for being one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Southeast Asia. Its good infrastructure allows the traveller to travel comfortably and quickly to other regions of the country, such as the island of Boracay (famous for its beautiful beaches), Bohol (with its Chocolate Hills) or Batanga (where the Taal Volcano is located).
The Philippine capital is also the place to take a gastronomic tour and discover the national delicacies, including balut (a duck egg eaten with its embryo inside), dinuguan (pork blood stew) and spasol (rice cake).
Appreciate the Distinctive Green Spaces
We have already talked about Rizal Park, the most important in the Philippines thanks to its monuments, infrastructure and natural life. Several Japanese and Chinese gardens, a lagoon for children's recreation and an artificial lake that, in its center, reproduces the shape of the Philippine archipelago, are part of its attractions.
The groves of Rizal Park invite you to rest and enjoy the days of pleasant temperature. Visitors should be attentive as free shows such as concerts or plays are frequent in their open-air auditoriums.
Paco Park, with more than 4,000 square meters of surface area, is another green space that stands out in Manila. It was used as a cemetery during the Spanish colonial period and currently hosts various types of events.
The Manila Zoo and Botanical Garden also boasts numerous species of flora and fauna that attract thousands of visitors.
Ecotourism in Rios and Lagunas
The River Pásig, which extends 25 kilometers and divides Grand Manila in two, is one of the most important in the nation. Intramuros was founded on its banks and knew how to be an outstanding transport route, although it is currently very polluted.
Along its course, the Pásig River is crossed by thirteen bridges, built at different historical moments. The most famous building on the banks of this river is the Malacañang Palace, the official residence of the Philippine President. The palace complex has several buildings (Kalayaan Hall, Mabini Hall, Boniface Site) while, crossing the river, Malacañang Park appears.
It should be noted that the Pásig River joins Manila Bay with the Bay Lagoon, the largest in the Philippines with an area of almost 950 square kilometers. This lagoon is located on the island of Luzon, with Greater Manila located on the west coast. It is W shaped (with two peninsulas appearing on the north coast) and an average depth of just two meters. This does not prevent hundreds of fishermen from coming daily to the lagoon to obtain food that they then market in different markets throughout Manila and other nearby cities.
The Old Church of St. Augustine
The first Catholic temple built in Intramuros (that is, within the perimeter of the Manila walls) was the Church of St. Augustine, completed in 1607. It is the oldest building in the country among those that still exist.
The national government named it a Historical Monument in 1976 and, seventeen years later, UNESCO included it on the World Heritage List along with three other Baroque churches in the nation.
Among the numerous historical figures who rest within the Church of San Agustín, stands out the Spanish conquistador and founder of Manila, Miguel López de Legazpi.
The doors decorated and built with wood, the sculptures of the courtyard, the details of the interior shaped like a Latin cross and the fourteen side chapels are part of the attractions of the Church of St. Augustine.