The city of Manila became known by the name given by its Tagalog inhabitants, as Maynila, first recorded as Maynilad, or Manila. The name is taken from the nilad plant, a flowering mangrove plant that grew on the marshy shores of Manila Bay. Manila is the capital of the Philippines and the second largest city by population after Quezon City.
Visitors to this populous city on the island of Luzon will see a mix of Spanish architecture along with modern skyscrapers. Founded on June 24, 1571 by Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, it is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines and was the seat of power during the colonial times. All this history is evident in some of the famous landmarks found in the city.
1. Rizal Park
Rizal Park or Luneta National Park or simply Luneta is one of the largest urban park not just in the Phlippines but also in Asia. Covering an area of 140 acres, visitors should devote a whole day to explore this place. It is a historical urban park located along Roxas Boulevard adjacent to the old walled city of Intramuros. The most iconic attraction in the park is the Rizal Monument, although there are other attractions in the area that are worth seeing.
Intramuros, (Spanish “within walls”)a walled city in colonial times, is the oldest district and the heart of Old Manila. This 64-hectare stone citadel was founded by the Spaniard in 1571. The walled city has stood the test of times: wars, natural disasters and successive waves of colonial invaders. Intramuros is the only district of Manila where old Spanish-era influences are still plentiful. As the seat of the religious and political powers during the Spanish era, there were six churches inside but only one remains, and it is also home to one of the oldest educational institution in the Philippines, the Colegio De San Juan de Letran.
There are many things to do and see inside the walled city of manicured gardens, fountains, lily ponds, and sunny plazas so you can opt for a guided tour and if you find it uncomfortable to walk the cobbled stones, you can take the pedicabs or the e-trikes available in the district.
3. Fort Santiago
Fort Santiago is a part of the famous Intramuros. It is located on Santa Clara Street along the Pasig River near Rizal Park. The easiest and most convenient way to visit the fort is on a guided tour of Old Manila but it is also possible to go on your own via public transportation. Fort Santiago was build during the Spanish Colonial Era as a defensive fortress designed to protect the newly formed Intramurosóa complex. The place is steeped with Philippine history and this is the place where Jose Rizal spent his last days before his execution. There’s an entrance fee in Fort Santiago and Intramuros of around 75 pesos. You can take a kalesa or carriage to tour around the area in case you tired walking the cobbled stones.
4. San Agustin Church and Museum
This baroque 16th-century San Agustin Church can be found inside the walled city of Intramuros. This is a Roman Catholic church under the auspices of the Order of St. Augustine. It was named a National Historical Landmark by the Philippine government in 1976. Almost 440 years old, it is considered as the oldest stone church ever built in the Philippines. Its massive façade conceals an ornate interior filled with objects of history and culture. It is an active church where many weddings and other ceremonies are held.
Adjacent to the church is the San Agustin Museum, a treasure house of antiquities that give its visitors a tantalizing glimpse of the famous riches of Old Manila. This museum displays a collection of artifacts and artworks that date back to the Spanish colonial era.
5. Manila Ocean Park
The Manila Ocean Park is one of the most favorite hotspots in the metro. It is the first world-class marine theme park in the Philippines. The facilities are amazing and the technology used to showcase amazing aquatic and marine life will surely give visitors an awesome experience. Visitors can experience dive and swim with the sharks, fishes and cute adorable creatures into the deep. Fees vary according to the package you choose. The park is open from 10am to 9pm, Monday to Sunday and during holidays. However there are certain activities which are scheduled so better check out their website.
6. Manila Bay or Baywalk
Along the Manila Ocean Park and the US Embassy is the Manila Bay, usually called Baywalk. It is a perfect venue to take a stroll and watch the ships, yachts, and the famous Manila By sunset. The 2km strip of seaside promenade is a central public space aimed at creating a venue for social interaction and recreation for visitors in the area.
7. Cultural Center of the Philippines and CCP Complex
The Cultural Center of the Philippines, or CCP) is a government owned and controlled corporation established to preserve, develop and promote arts and culture in the Philippines. You can watch plays, concerts, theater arts and other presentations here. The huge building is located in the Cultural Center Complex, a vast land area with many things to see and do including the Coconut Palace. Also known as Tahanang Pilipino, it is a government building and was the official residence of the Vice President of the Philippines. Daytime especially morning, sees a lot of joggers and exercise enthusiasts, and in the evening, be awed by the fountains and lights display.
8. The National Museum
If you are visiting Manila, the National Museum is a place you must not miss. The museum is a government institution that serves as an educational, scientific, and cultural institution in the Philippines. It houses the most important ethnographic, anthropological, archaeological, and visual artistry of Filipinos from the prehistoric to the modern times. Located along the vicinity of Rizal Park, the museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The admission is free every Sunday. Check their website for entrance fees to the museum.
9. Mall of Asia
More than just a Mall, the SM Mall of Asia (SM MOA) is a tourist destination that has raised the standard of shopping, leisure and entertainment in the Philippines. It is one of the most beautiful and currently the 4th largest shopping mall in the Philippines and the 11th in the world. Although located in Bay City, Pasay, Philippines, near the SM Central Business Park, the Manila Bay, and the southern end of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) any visitor to Manila should not miss a visit to this mega mall. The SM MOA Arena not only offers top amusement activities but is also a destination for gastronomic delights.