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A genuine global metropolis, Manila is the capital of the Philippines and the country's center of commerce, culture, transportation and tourism. Originally based on Manila Bay, where many of the city's oldest attractions can now be discovered, this sprawling urban area has now expanded in every direction. The broader Metro Manila area is home to almost a quarter of the country's population and comprises multiple districts including the business hub of Makati City, where the majority of Manila’s global corporations are based. This modern high-rise area is a home to a wealth of shopping malls and skyscrapers, including the country's tallest building. Visitors wanting to explore the historic heart of Manila however, should head to the historic Intramuros area with its forts, churches and ancient city walls. And just along the bay, Manila latest mega-resorts, malls and casinos are now welcoming a new wave of international visitors. Book now at Best Western’s hotels in Manila and Makati City and discover everything this amazing metropolis has to offer.
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Nestled in the ancient heart of the city, overlooking Manila Bay, Intramuros is a historic walled area that was created by Spanish settlers in the 16th Century. Literally meaning "within the walls", this is a 67-hectare area that served as the seat of power in the Philippines under Spanish rule. Surrounded by defensive positions, Intramuros was built to protect Manila against foreign invasions. Today, it remains a charming reminder of the city's cultural and colonial heritage, amidst the seemingly endless urban sprawl. The area contains several important historical landmarks including Fort Santiago and San Agustin Church, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Overlooking the Pasig River, Fort Santiago was one of the key defensive positions for Intramuros, the walled city. Dating back to the late 1500s, the fort features 620 meters of perimeter walls, which rise almost seven meters high and are 2.4 meters thick. But while this is an imposing structure, Fort Santiago also contains a delightful collection of manicured gardens, plazas, fountains and a lily pond. It also features the Rizal Shrine, where revolutionary hero Dr José Rizal was imprisoned by the Spanish. Fort Santiago is now a popular visitor attraction and a must-visit site for any guest exploring the city's Intramuros area.
Binondo – Manila’s Chinatown
Located across the Pasig River from Intramuros, Binondo is reputed to be the world's oldest Chinatown district. Dating back to the late 1500s, Binondo was established by the Spanish colonists as a center for the Catholic Chinese population, and it rapidly grew into a thriving hub of trade and commerce. Today this vibrant community, which is entered through colourful archways, is home to a wealth of restaurants, shops and other attractions. It also provides a wonderful example of Chinese-Filipino Christian culture, with the Binondo Church and a large statue of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, the patron saint of the Philippines. Guests are also advised to take in the architecture of Escolta Street.
Flanked by Manila Bay and the ancient city walls of Intramuros, Rizal Park provides a blissful green oasis in the heart of this busy city. Often referred to as "Luneta" by the locals, this 60-hectare park comprises lawns, gardens, ponds and pathways, along with monuments to key historical figures. The Rizal Monument, which honors the Filipino revolutionary hero José Rizal, features a 46-meter-high flagpole, while the park is also home to the Natural Museum of Natural History, Museum of Anthropology and Planetarium. At one end of the park, a map of the Philippine archipelago floats on the surface of a pond.
Manila Ocean Park
Since it opened in 2008, Manila Ocean Park has become one of the city's top visitor attractions. This aquarium and wildlife center houses approximately 14,000 marine creatures in seven sections, including sharks, rays, jellyfish, seals and penguins, and visitors have the chance to interact with some of the exhibits. Behind the scenes tours are also available and The Birdhouse, Bird of Prey Kingdom and the World of Creepy Crawlies provide further insights into the natural world. Guests can also soothe their aching feet in a fish spa. Manila Ocean Park is located adjacent to Rizal Park, making it an ideal activity for visitors exploring the cultural center of the city.
Guests with an interest in the Catholic culture of the Philippines should pay a visit to Manila Cathedral. Officially known as the Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the cathedral site dates back to the 1500s, but it was completely rebuilt in the 1950s after the original structure was destroyed in World War II. The façade of the new cathedral was designed as replica of the original. Having undergone a major two-year renovation intended to make it earthquake-proof, Manila Cathedral was visited by Pope Francis in 2015. The cathedral is located within Intramuros, the historic walled area of the city.
Located next to Manila Bay, Entertainment City is a vast new complex of resorts, casinos, retail malls and entertainment facilities. Also known as E-City, this 8km² development includes the City of Dreams and Resorts World Manila developments. In addition to gaming facilities, these integrated resorts feature a number of branded dining and leisure elements, including a Nobu restaurant, Pangaea nightclub, DreamWorks attraction and a theater that has attracted Broadway shows. The area is also home to the SM Mall of Asia, which is one of the world's largest shopping centers and features an IMAX cinema, performance arena and the Philippines' first Olympic-sized ice rink.
Located in Makati City's Ayala Center, Greenbelt is a series of major shopping malls that contain a mix of high-end retail outlets, restaurants, leisure and entertainment facilities. Covering approximately 250,000m², this vast commercial complex first opened in 1989. Today, there are five Greenbelt malls in the Makati City area, featuring a vast range of luxury fashion labels including Calvin Klein, Burberry, Bulgari, Louis Vuitton and Prada, as well as high street brands such as Marks & Spencer, Miss Selfridge, Mothercare, Zara and Topshop. There are also a series of restaurants and bars, plus cinemas and other leisure facilities.
Things to do in Manila