Step foot in the Philippines capital region and you will immediately be bombarded with energy, lights, people, and action. Calling Metro Manila an urban center would be an understatement as it is a highly populated region (over 11 million people) with very little space. Referred to as the Pearl of the Orient, Metro Manila is comprised of Manila (capital), Quezon City (the most populous city in the country), the municipality of Pateros, and the cities Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig, San Juan, Taguig, and Valenzuela. Acting as the cultural, economic, education, and political hub of the Philippines, the metro area is divided into four districts: Capital District, Eastern Manila District, Northern Manila District, and Southern Manila District. All districts have their unique characteristics and offer a unique blend of Asian and Spanish architecture and culture. If you’re looking for the best places to visit while in Metro Manila, then look no further than the below list we have compiled.
Best Places to Stay Near Manila
The capital city of the Philippines and home to over 1.6 million residents, Manila is home to the executive and judicial branches of the government as well as a rich nightlife. Manila is the densest populated city in the world with approximately 43,000 people per square kilometer but have no fear, there’s plenty to do in this wonderful city. You can start with
• The Quiapo Church – home of the Black Nazarene (an image of Christ believed to be miraculous), the life size statue carved from ebony was brought to Quiapo in 1767.
• National Museum of the Filipino People – a beautiful museum housing various Filipino artifacts such as jewelry, plates, and coins.
• Rizal Park – an important symbol of Filipino nationhood, this park is spread out over 60 acres of lawns, gardens, ponds, and trails.
• Manila Cathedral – cathedral facing the spectacular Plaza de Roma, this cathedral is a must.
• Fort Santiago – this is the site where the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Joze Rizal was executed by the Spanish and it contains fascinating memorabilia and a re-creation of Rizal’s cell and courtroom trial.
Manila is also well known for its large shopping centers and has been named one of the best shopping cities in Asia. Robinsons Place Manila is the largest shopping mall in the city and is located in Quiapo or the “Old Downtown.”
Located in the Southern Manila District, Makati is the financial center of the Philippines and it has the highest concentration of corporations in the country. Every major multinational bank and corporation is based in Makati as well as foreign embassies. With a population of approximately 530,000 residents, Makati is one of the more important cultural and entertainment hubs of the Philippines and is home to Metro Manila, the most well-known shopping hub in the country. Metro Manila houses high end shopping boutiques, restaurants, and theaters. Some of the more well-known things to do/see include:
• Greenbelt Malls – shopping mall located the Ayala Center offering high end retail shops, restaurants, and amenities.
• Ayala Museum – private museum run by the Ayala Foundation which houses Filipino artifacts.
• Ayala Triangle Gardens – two hectare urban park which acts as a focal point for Makatis social events and is popular during Christmas due to its extravagant holiday lighting.
As you may have noticed, the Ayala last name is featured prominently throughout Makati. Who were they? The Zobel de Ayala family is a Filipino business family of German-Spanish ancestry which built the Ayala Corporation, the country’s largest and oldest conglomerate that includes banks and telecommunications companies.
Also located in the Southern Manila District, Pasay borders the cities of Manila and Makati. The city of Pasay is renowned for its restaurants, coffee shops, clubs (best ones located along Roxas Boulevard), and cultural institutions. Be sure to visit the SM Mall of Asia which is the 11th largest mall in the world and you could spend your entire day there as it contains an amusement park, museums, theaters, and high end shopping centers. Apart from the SM Mall of Asia other things you can see/do in Pasay include:
• Cultural Center of the Philippines – theater featuring the best dance, musical, and theatrical Filipino performances.
• Star City – large and fun amusement park.
• Mall of Asia Arena – located within the SM Mal of Asia complex, this indoor arena houses Filipino sporting events.
Some popular festivals that take place in Pasay include the Sto. Nino Festival (annual celebration from 1/18-1/31), the Serenata (2nd week of February), Holy Week, and Easter Sunday.
Located in the south east of Metro Manila, Taguig has risen from an important fishing city to a commercial and industrial center. Still growing rapidly, Taguig currently has a population of about 650,000 residents and some of the more fun things to do and see include:
• Fort Bonaficio – The National Headquarters of the Philippine Army and the Marine Bases of the Philippine Navy and Philippine Marine Corps.
• Bonaficio Global City – a 240 hectare business district that houses upscale boutique shops, restaurants, hotels, apartments, and international schools.
• Department of Science and Technology – mini forest and eco-tourism park for camping activity.
• The Mind Museum – the only museum in the Philippines with a life size T-Rex replica.
• Philippine Veteran’s Museum – a war museum honoring Filipino solders.
The city is also home to many of the country’s international schools including the British School Manila, the Manila Japanese School, and Korean International School Philippines.
Known as the fashion capital of Metro Manila, Parañaque is a city with an array of shopping centers, casinos, and tourist attractions. Some of the more well-known shopping malls where you can shop till you drop include SM City Sucat (second biggest mall in the country), SM City Bicutan, and SM City BF Parañaque. If you’re looking to do things other than shop in Parañaque, be sure to check out:
• Asia World City – large arena where the country’s biggest musical acts perform. This is where Michael Jackson performed when he toured in the Philippines.
• Baclaran Redemptorist Church – one of the biggest and most active churches in the country.
• Solaire Resort & Casino – located in Entertainment City.
Parañaque’s Entertainment City is a good place of the city to frequent if you are looking to visit the country’s best casinos and over the top bars and nightclubs.
The most populous city in the Philippines with close to three million residents, Quezon City is an action packed city. Quezon City has the best universities of the Philippines as well as an eclectic nightlife as it is also a haven for the country’s creative/artistic scene (“hipsters”). It is also the home of the country’s major broadcasting networking including ABS-CBN, RPN, GMA Network, and Net 25. The city’s most well-known landmark is the Quezon Memorial Circle which is a national park and shrine containing the remains of Manuel L Quezon, the second president of the Philippines. Other things to do and see include:
Quezon City Attractions
• Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife – a zoological and botanical garden containing man made lagoons for aquatic activities.
• Santo Domingo Church – beautiful church which houses a statue of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary.
• Tomas Morato and Timog Avenue – the strip of land where the city’s most well-known bars, restaurants, clubs, and shopping establishments are located.
• Goethe Institute Art Gallery – gallery displaying early to mid-19th century Filipino art works.
• SM City North EDSA – the largest mall in the country which houses more than 400 shops and 200 restaurants.
Recently, Quezon City is also rapidly becoming the country’s tech hub as well as one of the larger tech hubs of Asia due to the number of world class universities present.
Bordered by Manila to the Northwest, Mandaluyong is a rapidly growing city with an attractive business and commerce center named the Ortigas Center (shared with Pasig). The Ortigas Center houses The Asian Development Bank, San Miguuel Corporation (SE Asia’s largest food and beverage company), and Banco de Oro. Like many of Metro Manila’s other cities, Mandaluyong has a great deal of attractive shopping centers and you can your entire day inside one of those behemoths. These megamalls include Shangri-La Plaza and SM Megamall.
Often dubbed the “next city” of Metro Manila, Pasig’s reputation and influence is increasingly rising within the Philippines. Formerly a rural area, Pasig is now a commercial and residential hub for Filipinos. The Pasig also houses the Ortigas Center and its list of corporate tenants is impressive, including institutions such as The Philippine Stock Exchange and The University of Asia and the Pacific. Some fun things to do and see in Pasig include:
• Pasig Cathedral – built in the 1770’s, this stone church serves as the city’s religious landmark.
• Pasig City Museum – museum showcasing the city’s rich history of culture and arts.
• Lopez Memorial Museum – museum featuring artwork of Filipino artists and sculptors.
There you have it, some of the best cities to visit while in Metro Manila. Visit this lively metropolitan area and gain a sense on why the Philippines has long been a favorite of travelers worldwide.
This article was written by Walter Godinez.