While Manila is a great base to explore the rest of the Philippines from, it offers its own unique charm with a plethora of things to see and do. For cultural enthusiasts there’s plenty of museums and galleries to explore and, with a surge in new eateries and entertainment, visitors can tantalise the senses at night. Try a bike or walking tour to unravel the true identity of this diverse and fascinating city. For over three centuries, from 1571 to 1898, the Spanish reigned over Manila and colonised the region. This extensive period of Spanish rule still influences the culture and traditions of Manila today. Most fiestas draw on the region’s Catholic influence, which derived from Spanish colonisation.

Things to see and do

Built in the 16th century, Fort Santiago is Manila’s top tourist destination today. The fort pays homage to José Rizal, a national hero, who was imprisoned here and subsequently executed in 1896. Visitors can meander through the grounds of this historical monument and visit the museum to glean a snapshot of the fort’s chequered history. Built in 1589, San Agustin Church is said to take its design cues from the Augustinians in Mexico. A beautiful architectural feat, visitors are drawn to the church for its ornate and stylish interior. Embark on a culinary adventure down the oldest Chinatown in the world. Binondo, Manila’s very own Chinatown, is a bustling precinct that will get your taste buds as well as your other senses buzzing. Manila is a great base from which to explore the Philippines. With 7,000 islands dotted throughout the region, visitors can travel through never-ending rice fields, trek up volcanoes, dive glorious reefs, bask on pristine beaches and island hop. There’s so much to see and do in the tropics. The Philippines is known to celebrate in style with a number of colourful fiestas throughout the year with a focus on music, dancing and food.

Other attractions worth checking out

  • Manila Contemporary Gallery
  • Manila Zoo
  • National Museum of Philippines
  • Intramuros
  • Manila Bay

Annual Festivals & Shows

  • Sinulog in Cebu, January
  • Black Nazarene in Manila, January & Good Friday
  • Ati-Atihan on Panay Island, January
  • Flores de Mayo in Quezon City, May

© John Batman Group

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