Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is a bustling metropolis with a rich historical heritage and a cultural heartbeat unparalleled anywhere in Southeast Asia.
Manila is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with a burgeoning tourism and financial industry centred in Makati. A somewhat less visited tourist destination compared to its Southeast Asian neighbours, Manila is truly a hidden gem.
The name Manila is derived from a mangrove plant called Maynilad, and it began as a small Muslim settlement on the banks of the Pasig River. The city was ruled by Rajah Sulayman until the Spanish arrived in 1571, establishing Intramuros as the seat of government.
Today, Intramuros, which means ‘inside the walls’, is the top attraction in Manila as the historic old town is replete with baroque churches, cobbled streets, Spanish villas and forts. It was Manila’s capital for 300 years and is the oldest district in the city.
As Philippines’s cultural capital, Manila is also popular for its museum, art galleries, markets and shopping malls. Areas like Quaipo is where you find traditional handicraft markets, while the central business district of Makati is home to luxury malls and a lively wining and dining scene.
This incredibly huge metropolis is still relatively undiscovered on the tourist trail, yet Manila is so intriguing and rewarding for those who make an effort to see its beauty amidst the crowd and chaos.