Both Alan and I had visited Manila in 1980 and we were interested to see how much the city had changed over the years, what we found was a city of surprises.
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Tips for 4 Days in Manila
Best things to see in Manila
Manila’s Chinatown holds the honour of being the World’s first Chinatown and was established in 1594.
Awash with colour, Chinatown’s bustling streets are full of interesting shops to explore, selling such things as Chinese medicine, paper lanterns, curios and jewellery. Fruit stalls line the streets with a huge choice of fresh produce. Small supermarkets are well stocked with not only Chinese items but some familiar western items too.
Chinatown has many shopping Malls including 168 Shopping Mall, 999Mall and Lucky Chinatown Mall. Mary Grace Café, located in Lucky Chinatown Mall, is a lovingly decorated café that is a welcoming sight after a day of sightseeing. Try Mary Graces Banana Chocolate Ensaymadas, sinful but an instant reviver.
Chinatowns dining options are endless, restaurants dot the area and range from upmarket to streetfood, you will find something for every budget.
Paco Park and St. Pancratius Chapel
Paco Park and St. Pancratius Chapel was constructed as a cemetery following a cholera epidemic in 1820 and remained a cemetery until 1912. Paco Park was at one time, the final resting place of National Hero Dr Jose Rizal after his execution in 1896.
Despite its grim past Paco Park’s is an oasis of serenity. Within the walls of the park you will find St Pancratius Chapel. This charming and unusual circular Chapel continues to hold Mass and the peaceful gardens make it a popular Wedding venue. Musical concerts are often held on the grounds.
Fort Santiago and the Intramuros
Fort Santiago is a 16th Century Spanish defensive fortress built to protect Manila and the most important historical site in Manila. Walking through the lush vegetation of these peaceful grounds, it is easy to forget Fort Santiago’s bloody past until you begin to notice bullet marks in the walls of some of the ruins. There is also a Shrine honouring Philippine National Hero Dr Jose Rizal, here you can learn more about the life of this fascinating man.
Intramuros is the historic heart and oldest area of Manila. Walking the streets surrounding Fort Santiago, you can’t help but admire the old Spanish architecture of the old walled city.
Another place to visit within the Intermuros is the Manila Cathedral which has been rebuilt many times after disasters such as fire, earthquake and World War II bombings. The magnificent UNESCO World Heritage listed San Agustin Church also resides in the Intermuros and is the oldest church in the Philippines.
National Museum of Manila
If you enjoy culture the National Museum is the place to visit. This grand building is home to the country’s most important cultural works. I really wish that I could have spent more time here, we only had a short time to visit and I only got to see a small portion of this outstanding Museum.
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial
The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is a monument to honour those young men who lost their lives during the World War II. Beautifully designed and decorated it pays homage to the 36,286 men missing in action and the 17,097 men buried here.
Alan and I visited the American Cemetery and Memorial in 1980 and the change in that time is monumental. When we visited in 1980 the cemetery was surrounded by countryside, today it is surrounded by the impressive skyscrapers of Bonifacio Global City.
Tips for 4 Days in Manila
Traffic in Manila
Manila’s traffic is hectic so allow time to get between destinations. Take into account the traffic to the Airport and give yourself plenty of time to get to there. We got stuck in a small street for half an hour before the traffic started to move, luckily we had given ourselves plenty of time to get there but the trip took us 1 ½ hours.
There are many way to get around Manila tours, taxis, metro, jeepney and motobikes with covered sidecar (not sure what they are called), a mode of transport for every budget. When taking public transport be mindful of your belongings. If you are hiring a taxi for long distances discuss a prices before getting in the taxi. Lock doors once in the taxi to prevent items being snatched, sometimes the taxi driver will do it automatically.
Be aware of pickpockets. We had a few locals tell us to put our phones away as they are a target for theft. Take notice of your surroundings and the people around you.
4 Days in Manila Summary
Our 4 days in Manila went too quickly and soon it was time to leave, would I go back to Manila? Definitely yes, we have only scratched the surface of this remarkable city.