The sprawling melting pot of Manila is home to 19 million people and is the centre of art and commerce in the Philippines.
Its history as a Spanish colony has left an indelible mark on the city, most notably in its architecture. If you get flights to Manila, you should definitely wander around the oldest district of the city, Intramuros, built by the Spanish around 500 years ago. It is made up of the remnants of a fortress and used to house many churches and other buildings which, apart from Manila Cathedral, were mostly destroyed during World War II. Since then, Intramuros has undergone a lot of restoration and is a fascinating area full of horse and carts and old-world charm.
Walk around Manila and just try to breathe in the hustle and bustle. There are outside markets everywhere as well as many churches dotted around, some dilapidated but still in use by the country’s mostly Catholic inhabitants. You’ll also find galleries, cafes, shops and live music venues in the most unexpected places. If you want to get somewhere quickly, jump on a jeepney, one of the compact shuttle buses that follow the routes of the now-defunct tram system.
Although some parts of the city can seem like shanty towns, there are also very luxurious areas such as Makati, Manila’s modern epicentre of business, boutique shopping and entertainment. If you managed to get reasonably cheap flights to Manila, then maybe splash out on one of the many superb hotels here.