Big, brash, and anything but boring, Manila flaunts the best and worst of the Philippines. Its rich urban fabric runs a broad gamut from dreadful traffic and dire poverty to historical treasures, eclectic shopping, and some of Asia's best nightlife. The sprawling metropolis of nearly 12 million souls very much exemplifies the traditional Filipino greeting: “Mabuhay!” (Live!).
What We Love
Silahis: Like the giant warehouse at the end of Indiana Jones, this arts, antiques, and crafts shop in Intramuros is packed with enough treasures to blow your mind.
The Music Scene: The Philippines produces an amazing array of talented musicians in a number of genres — rock, pop, country, folk, reggae, jazz, hip-hop, and even opera. You can catch singers and bands live in Manila's many music clubs.
Best Known For
Intramuros: This historic walled "city within a city" safeguards most of Manila’s precious Spanish colonial treasures, including San Augustin Church, Fort Santiago, and the hulking Manila Cathedral.
Nightlife: Bangkok may have the bigger rep, but Manila isn't far behind when it comes to action-packed bars and clubs, especially the lively Makati area and the rainbow-draped Malate.
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Who It's Best For
Party Animals: Pick your nightlife poison and chances are you'll find it somewhere in Metro Manila, a city that rocks and tries to knock your socks off every single night.
Shopaholics: Manila's shopping scene promises something for everyone: chic boutiques and giant air-conditioned malls, flea markets and sophisticated galleries. And prices here are better than just about anywhere else in Southeast Asia.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Traffic Sucks: The solution is concentrating your time on walkable neighborhoods like Makati, Intramuros, and Chinatown.
Watch Your Wallet: In a city this size there are bound to be lots of scam artists and pickpockets.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.