Introduction to Manila

Manila might rank 10th in the global top 20 fastest growing cities for international visitors, but it’s still relatively undiscovered on the tourist trail. Those clued up enough to make a stop in the Philippines’ capital will soon discover that amid the chaos and the crowds there is a rich and intriguing history here - coupled with a lively shopping, dining and entertainment scene.

Manila is also the Philippines’ cultural capital – well regarded for its art galleries and museums. In Manila’s markets and shopping malls, you’ll find everything from high-street fashions at bargain prices to local handicrafts and grassroots designers. For your history lesson, head to the old walled city of Intramuros – the oldest district in the city and once the capital of Manila for 300 years. Here, you’ll find cathedrals, museums, restaurants and shopping. If you’re into a bit of under-the-sea action, the Manila Ocean Park Oceanarium is for you.

Sure, Manila’s urban texture is still developing, and the traffic can be stifling, but it still manages to cater to every traveller’s needs – from world-class hotel facilities to laidback student-friendly accommodation. Those willing to embrace the beautiful chaos will find themselves in luck – furthermore, make friends with a Filipino and they’ll happily show you around their city. Their favourite part of town will most likely be the Malate district – a busy and captivating bohemian area.

Manila’s varied cultural identity is seen in its people and its architecture but most easily spotted in its food: a mix of Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and American influences. A magical blend of ancient and modern times, Manila is a hidden gem of Southeast Asia.

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