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Manila: the Philippines’ Capital – the Top Places of Interest

The Philippines and its capital, Manila, is a dream destination for many backpackers. No wonder! It holds countless possibilities, like a wonderful road trip, or hopping from one island to another. Moreover, there really is a lot to discover. Be it the dreamlike islands, the impressive nature, the colorful coral reefs, the white sandy beaches, or the country’s historical background – there is something for just about anyone here!

The capital of this Pacific island nation, Manila, is all the crazier for it. Many different kinds of people live here. The contrast between rich and poor is evident. Even if the city doesn’t count as the most beautiful, clean, or safe, it is still worth visiting for a few days. Especially if you’d like to learn about the people’s culture and the country’s historical backgrounds. Moreover, there are many interesting attractions to see.

We’ve summarized all you need to know about Manila. In addition to that, we’ll show you the best places of interest in Manila and around the city in order to give you an overview of the capital’s many possibilities.

Manila in a Nutshell

The Philippines is a lot bigger than most people think. The southeast Asian republic is made of 7,641 islands in the Pacific Ocean. With its nearly 110 million inhabitants, it’s the world’s fifth-largest island state! It’s weird because we usually only have one small dream island in mind, right? By the way, the country was named after its discoverer, the Spanish monarch Philipp II.

The Philippines was influenced by many countries over time. For instance, Spain and the U.S., as the Philippine cuisine clearly shows. A typical meal is pancit, a delicious noodle dish with meat and vegetables. US-American barbecue is particularly popular, and it’s also often offered as street food.

The capital Manila is the Philippines’ cultural and economic hub. The city, divided by the river Pasig, has a rather humid and tropical climate. Rain season lasts from May to November, causing many floods. Therefore, the months from December to April are way better to explore the city. Sooner, or later, you will be confronted with sex tourism during your stay, as it is quite widespread in the Philippines.

But we also have some happier news: the cool events in Manila! If you want to dive into the country’s multifaceted culture, be sure to add the celebration of the Black Nazarene in January and the Chinese New Year’s Eve in January or February to your bucket list. Or are you more of a movie enthusiast? In that case, visit the Silent Film Festival in May. You won’t believe how exciting silent films can be!

To reach the festivals on time, catch one of the many public transportation options. Be it the elevated railway, the tram, trains, busses, or taxis – choose whichever you like! If you want some more action, take a rickshaw. It will get you to all the places of interest. Speaking of, we’ll show you our favorites in the next passage, be ready for it!

The Top Places of Interest in Manila

As promised, we’ll now reveal the top places of interest in Manila. We’ve come up with a great variety. We hope you’re just as excited as we are. Let’s go!

Rizal Park

Maybe it’s unexpected, but Rizal Park is probably the most important place of interest in Manila, and here’s why: The park has been the site of settlements since the Middle Ages. However, they were repeatedly destroyed. Later, the marshy ground had to be drained, creating a promenade in the process. At the end of the promenade, people gathered to watch executions. The famous GOMBURZA priests and the poet and national hero José Rizal, among others, lost their lives there. That’s why the park was named after Rizal and a monument was erected in his honor.

Not only the park’s history is exciting, but also the buildings. Among them, you’ll find the Lapu-Lapu memorial, in honor of the prince of Mata-an. It is said that he won a battle against Spanish sailors and became a national hero. Moreover, you’ll come across a butterfly pavilion, the Ocean Park, a planetarium, as well as two exciting Philippine museums, and the National Library. So, you can spend a whole day at the park without ever getting bored. There is also a Chinese and a Japanese garden. Both of these parks are wonderful places to relax, much needed after a long sightseeing tour.

Manila Ocean Park

If you’re as fascinated as we are about the sea, then we recommend a visit to the Manila Ocean Park. Here, you can admire the endless diversity of the sea around the Philippines. The highlight of the park is the sea tunnel: It’s as if fish are swimming around your head. In total, the aquarium is home to more than 14,000 animals of 277 different species.

Besides Ocean Park, you’ll also find a hotel that offers various spa options and shopping possibilities. Very thoughtful, isn’t it? By the way, there are aquariums in some of the rooms. So, you’ll be able to relax in bed or in the bathing tub and admire the many colorful fish and jellyfish. In our opinion, there’s no better way to relax.

Basílica de San Sebastián

This Roman Catholic church is a real eyecatcher. It is painted mint green and really stands out when you’re at the Plaza del Cármen. After being destroyed three times by an earthquake, the neo-Gothic basilica was reconstructed in steel by Gustave Eiffel, making it the only church in Asia of this type.

To visit the church, there is a small entrance fee. Its impressive interior is of the Baroque style. We especially liked the great German glass paintings and the amazing main altar of the Basílica de San Sebastián.

Manila Cathedral

If you’re visiting the city’s places of worship, don’t miss the Manila Cathedral. After all, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with good reason. It is really beautiful, and lies near Fort Santiago. You’ll get two sights in one fell swoop.

Just like the Basílica de San Sebastián, the Manila Cathedral was often damaged and even destroyed by natural catastrophes or wars. Nevertheless, it is still standing in all its glory to this day.

Fort Santiago

In the 16th century, before the Spanish army conquered the island state, it was dominated by the Muslim King, Rajah Sulayman. His former estate was rebuilt by the Spanish, thus establishing Fort Santiago. It is really impressive! The outside wall is 22 meters high, and the fortress’ entrance is sumptuous.

After the Spanish-Chinese war, the British invasion, as well as the Second World War, the fortress has become a great museum. The buildings in this area were carefully renovated, and you can learn more about the national hero, José Rizal.

North Cemetery

If you want to see something bizarre, go to the North Cemetery of Manila. It’s not only a place of mourning. On one side of the cemetery, more than a million people were buried, but on the other side, a thousand living people live in between the graves! The inhabitants made themselves comfortable at the cemetery. Unbelievable, right?

Chinatown

Manila Chinatown is a wonder of colors, in stark contrast to the rest of the city. There are Chinese lanterns and colorful decorations everywhere, and it’s teeming with people. The vibe is absolutely unique. It is so multifaceted, you hardly know where to start – at the many different stores or the delicious restaurants? You’re spoiled for choice here. Another fun fact: in the 16th century, Chinese merchants settled here and founded the city district.

Nagsaa Beach

Is there anything better than feeling the thin sand under your feet while looking at the crystal-clear blue water in the Philippines? There isn’t, right? We highly recommend you visit the Philippines’ beautiful beaches as well as take a swim in the sea and go snorkeling. Manila itself isn’t famous for its beaches, but we found an amazing spot near the capital. Because one thing is for sure: when you’re there, you just have to see the country’s dreamlike beaches!

We recommend Nagsaa beach in Zambales. It’s a few hours away from the capital, but you’ll get to see the incredible beauty of the Philippines’ landscape. Surrounded by hills with green forests, you’ll have the chance to explore the beach at your own pace. There even is a camping site. So, if you’ve had enough of the metropolis Manila, enjoy some free time in nature.

Taal

This attraction is super spectacular and crazy! However, you’ll need extra time, as Taal is about 50 km away from Manila.

What makes this place unique, you may ask. Taal is one of the most active volcanos in the Philippines. And in this lake, there is an inhabited island – Volcano Island. In the middle of Volcano Island, there is another crater lake, which also has an island called Vulcan Point. With its 40 meters in diameter, it’s the biggest island of its kind. A great setting for a hike, isn’t it?

Conclusion

A metropolis in the middle of a dreamlike island, that’s Manila. We can tell you one thing: if you’re looking for some action on your Philippines trip, this city is the right place for you. There is a lot to see and explore here, making it the perfect place to spend a few days before traveling on. Hopping from one island to another is great, as there are so many islands to discover! It would be a pity to only stay in one place.

After having read about all the best places of interest in Manila, there are only two remaining questions: What are you waiting for, and when are you leaving?

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