If you’re traveling to the Philippines, don’t just land at the airport and head straight to the islands because you’ll certainly miss out on what Metro Manila has to offer. It’s true that Manila suffers from a bad reputation due to its congested streets. However, this mega city actually has some surprising areas that are highly developed and won’t look out of place in cities like Melbourne or New York. What’s more, its Old Spanish quarter is a sight to behold, in addition to being steeped in history, culture, and artistic expression.
Spare a day to get to know the city and maybe you’ll find something that would make you stay longer. You can always get a hotel near NAIA Terminal 4 or 3, so you can continue your journey to the different islands after spending a day in Manila.
Here’s a list of suggestions for you to consider in deciding how to best spend your valuable day.
Take a History Lesson in Intramuros
Get to know old Manila from the colonial Spanish period in Intramuros, whose name literally means “within the walls.” This 67-hectare walled area became the capital of Spanish Manila in the 1500s, but it used to be the center much older kingdoms that preceded the colonial period.
There are old landmarks within Intramuros you can explore such as the Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church, Museo de Intramuros, Ayuntamiento de Manila Building, and more. With so much to see and learn in Intramuros, joining an organized tour here is indeed a great idea.
Stroll Down Rizal Park
Just a few minutes walk from Intramuros, you can head over to Luneta Park or Rizal Park. With over 58 hectares, this is one of largest public parks in Asia. It’s also the resting place of one of the country’s most beloved hero, Jose Rizal.
Within the park’s massive grounds, you can visit the different well-tended gardens featuring different themes such as the Japanese Garden, Chinese Garden, Orchidarium and Butterfly Pavilion, and the Noli Me Tangere Garden, the last of which commemorates one of two famous novels written by Rizal.
Eat at Binondo Chinatown
The oldest Chinatown in the entire world is found in Manila. This enclave dates back to the 1500s, with restaurants serving the same Chinese recipes for decades. That’s why if you’re in the mood for Chinese food, this is right place to go to.
Foodies can do a DIY food crawl that includes some of Binondo’s oldest and highly rated restaurants, or they can simply join a guided food tour like The Big Binondo Food Wok! offered by Old Manila Walks.
Shop and Dine at the Makati Central Business District
A lot of foreign tourists actually stay in the area of Makati for longer periods, as this is one of the more developed areas in the Metro. There are lush and well-manicured parks amidst the tall high-rise buildings and interconnected walkways that make walking safer and more convenient. Endless choice of restaurants, bars, and cafes can be found within the business district, and there are also weekend farmer’s markets as well, if you come at the right time.
Free Art Appreciation at the Bonifacio Global City
Bonifacio Global City or simply BGC is a shock to most visitors after they’ve seen other parts of the country. This world-class financial and lifestyle district paints a stark contrast to the rest of city with its well-organized roads, wide-open public spaces, and walkable sidewalks.
You will be spoiled for choice when searching for restaurants and retail stores. This is especially true if you visit High Street and the Market! Market! Mall. If you’re strap for cash though, you can simply stroll along the streets of BGC while appreciating the various street art and murals found all over the district.
Metro Manila is a work in progress and it definitely has its challenges. However, if you give it a chance, you’ll be able to take a glimpse of its true personality. Hopefully, even with only a day to get to know the city, you see something worth coming back for.