Life moves quickly in the Philippines’ cultured capital, which you’ll share with 12 million locals
Where? This populous bayside city is on the island of Luzon.
How? Fly into Ninoy Aquino International Airport from Singapore, or from domestic destinations.
Why? Culture, history and modernity meet in Manila, where 21st-century skyscrapers rub shoulders with handsome historic architecture, with some dating back to the Spanish colonial era.
What? Embark on a whistle-stop tour of the city with Carlos Celdran, who delivers his historical tours of Manila with a generous dash of drama. Admire preserved Spanish colonial architecture at Intramuros – the Walled City – and hitch a ride around the cobbled streets on a kalesa (horse-drawn calash). Broaden your horizons at the Mind Museum (the country’s most contemporary science museum) in Bonifacio Global City, or admire art at the Metropolitan Museum (stuffed with local art and pre-Hispanic artefacts). Pinto Art Museum, the private showcase of art patron Dr. Joven Cuanang, and the Ayala Museum, within Greenbelt Park, are also worth visiting. (Spend some time wandering around the tranquil park, admiring the sculptures and the chapel at its heart; hardcore shoppers may want to pop into one of three award-winning malls.) Catch a show at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and peek at the statue of the national hero, José Rizal, in Rizal Park. You’ll be hungry after all that – explore Binondo, the world’s oldest Chinatown. Don’t miss the famous sunsets at Manila Bay. Pick up souvenirs and presents from the SM Mall of Asia (one of the world’s biggest shopping centres), Greenhills Shopping Center, where you can haggle for bargains, or Tiendesitas Village, a half-hour drive northeast, famed for its arts and crafts.
Try… Halo-halo (a pudding made with shaved ice, boiled milk, fruit and various other flavours and toppings) at the Peninsula Manila. Have afternoon tea at Makati Shangri-La Hotel and don’t miss a meal at Café Adriatico in bohemian Malate. Sip cocktails at Fort Strip; nibble on turon (sweet spring rolls, stuffed with banana and jackfruit) at Abe restaurant in Serendra; see live music at Library bar.