Manila is located on Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island. The city offers a clash of cultures and a wealth of great attractions. It’s fun to experience the bright lights and pace of modern Manila but once you’ve had your fill of markets, malls and night life, take a day or two to seek out the cultural and historical sites that will give you a deeper understanding of this unique city and an appreciation for its country’s fascinating past.
Here are our top five historical sites in Manila.
The Walled City of Manila, Intramuros was once the city centre. Founded and fortified by the Spanish in 1571 and covering an area of 64 hectares, Intramuros was home to the Spanish elite until the Second World War, when most of the walled city was destroyed. See the Philippines’ oldest stone churches in Intramuros, the Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Church. Visit by day – the cooler mornings are best – and wander the cobblestone streets or take a guided tour.
The National Museum of the Philippines
Established in 1901 and located in the historically and culturally significant Rizal Park, in front of Manila City Hall, the National Museum of the Philippines is the Philippines’ premiere educational, cultural and scientific institution. Boasting 10,000 artefacts in its anthropology department alone, the National Museum prides itself on collections that showcase the jewellery, earthenware, weapons, coins and art work of the Philippines’ different ethnic groups. Take a guided tour, attend a workshop or watch a cultural performance.
In Manila’s modern-day heart, by Manila Bay, is Rizal Park, an oasis in the city, formally known as Luneta Park and re-named after Dr Jose Rizal, a Philippine national hero. This expanse of green space features an observatory and an open-air theatre, home to the The Martyrdom of Dr Jose Rival, a light and sound memorial tableau. Get a sense of Manila’s history, as you stroll through the gardens to observe historical markers and monuments.
To discover the history of Filipino leadership, pre-arrange a guided tour through the main halls and reception areas of the Malacanang Presidential Palace and Malacanang Museum, constructed in 1920 and located on the north side of Manila’s Pasig River. Exhibits feature Filipino presidents and the current president’s personal collections, which include campaign posters, religious images, photographs and gifts from foreign VIPs.
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial
The largest cemetery in the Pacific for US personnel who died in the Second World War, the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial covers 615 000 square meters in Taguig, Metro Manila. The cemetery features a white masonry chapel and mosaic maps, illustrating American victories in the Pacific, China, India and Burma. Upon The Tablets of the Missing are inscribed 36,285 names.