Manila: Main Sights
A bustling city with a laid-back, casual nature
Metro Manila is a sprawling megalopolis with more things to see and do than can be seen and done during one visit! Whatever your tastes, Manila has sights and sounds that will assault your senses and awaken your interests. Places of interest include: Spanish colonial architecture in Intramuros, the sumptuous Manila Hotel, exotic Chinatown, historic Rizal park and the presidential Malacañang Palace. Manila is also home to many museums and old churches.
Intramuros is the old Spanish walled city, also known as Old Manila. The seat of Spanish colonial rule in Asia for over 350 years, Intramuros was once a grand network of plazas, forts, churches and thick, imposing stone walls. The Second World War, along with earthquakes, fires and typhoons, reduced much of Intramuros to ruins, although efforts to restore the walled city and highlight its fascinating history have met with significant success. Points of interest in Intramuros include Manila Cathedral, the ruins of Baluarte de San Diego, the museums of Bahay Tsinoy, Casa Manila and San Agustin, plus many monuments, plazas and forts. Experience Spanish colonial architecture by foot or from the comfort of traditional horse-drawn carriages known as Kalesa.
Adjacent to Intramuros is Manila’s Rizal Park, named after revolutionary national hero José Rizal, and also known as Luneta. Luneta is a wonderful place for sightseeing, picnics, strolling or dining in restaurants along Manila Bay. Rizal Park features botanical, Chinese and Japanese gardens, monuments, fountains, the National Library and National Museum, a planetarium, the Orchidarium and Butterfly Pavillion, and a large stone model of the Philippine archipelago. Luneta is also a venue for free open-air classical and popular music concerts.
Built in 1909, the Manila Hotel is a 570-room, 5 star hotel commissioned by former U.S. president William Howard Taft and located in the Manila Bay area. The Manila Hotel was once the residence of General Douglas McArthur and is now home to several news agencies including the local offices of The New York Times. Occupied by Japanese forces during WWII, this luxury landmark has been a focal point for the modern political, cultural and military history of the Philippines.
Manila’s Malacañang Palace was built as a summer home for a Spanish aristocrat in 1802, and subsequently became the residence of both the Spanish and American Governors General. Since 1935 Malacañang Palace has been the official residence of the President of the Philippines and has been home to such Filipino luminaries as Manuel Quezon, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos (including her infamous shoe collection), and Corazon Aquino. The palace itself is a stately mansion on the banks of the Pasig River in central Manila and features public gardens. Malacañang Palace is often a site of political protest in Manila.
Manila’s Chinatown, also known as Binodo, is one of the larges Chinatowns in the world and is located across the Pasig River from Intramuros. Binodo is a bustling center for commerce and a great place for Chinese goods and cuisine. Created in 1594 by the Spanish Governor, Manila’s Chinatown is the historic home of Chinese Filipinos and the site of Our Lady of China, a Vatican-sanctioned image of the Virgin Mary in the style of the Buddhist bodhisattva Guan Yin.
Museums in Metro Manila include The National Museum of the Filipino People in Rizal Park and the Filipinas Heritage Library in Makati City, which contain excellent exhibitions on Filipino culture. For impressive collections of Philippine modern and fine art, visit The Metropolitan Museum on Roxas Blvd in Pasay, Ayala Museum in Makati City, the Ateneo Art Gallery in Quezon City, the Lopez Museum in Ortigas, and The Museum at De La Salle University, Manila, which integrates the universities humanities curriculum into its exhibits.
Manila’s Catholic tradition stretches back over 400 years and has left many impressive and historical churches. Of particular interest are San Agustin Church, which dates from 1607 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Manila Cathedral, or Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, both of which are located in the old city of Intramuros. Other churches of note in Manila are Baclaran church (Redemptionist church) in Parañaque City, historical Quiapo and Malate churches, and the Sanctuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park.