Manila is one of the liveliest capital cities on the planet, but it's also a city of great diversity, where luxury, affluence and tourist attractions are somewhat interspersed with squalor and poverty. It is this diversity that makes Manila such a fascinating tourist destination, and a city where things are rarely quiet and attractions are plentiful.
The influences of the Spanish, the Chinese and North Americans have also contributed greatly to the city's eclectic qualities and tourist attractions, together with its unique identity and ambiance. There is interesting architecture all across Manila, serving as evidence to its multicultural past.
Just off Intramuros' walls is the world-class Club Intramuros which offers day and night golfing. Adjacent to it is the 58-hectare Rizal Park, which runs from Taft Avenue up to the seawalls of the fabled Manila Bay.
Across the Pasig River from Fort Santiago is Binondo, or Chinatown. Not much has changed in terms of lifestyle in this quaint district although, now, high-rise buildings have started to appear in its skyline.
Ermita and Malate
A stone's throw away from Rizal Park is the Ermita district which, together with the Malate district, forms what is known as Manila's Tourist Belt. Ermita is known for antique and art galleries, curio and souvenir shops while Malate is best known for its cozy cafes, music lounges and performance theaters.
At the heart of Manila is Quiapo. What has caught the fancy of many bargain-hunters is Ilalim ng Tulay - literally, "Under the Bridge" - where stalls sell an array of handicrafts at prices that are practically a steal.
Near Quiapo is the genteel San Miguel district, with its ancestral homes and Malacanang Palace , seat of the Philippine government. A museum of presidential memorabilia is open to the public.
The Sunset Strip
Roxas Boulevard, which extends from Paranaque City through Pasay City to Manila, is the Bay Area from where one can have a view of the famed Manila sunset.
Many landmarks are found in this area, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Senate buildings. Within the stretch is the International Trade Center complex, the Philippine Trade Training Center and the World Trade Center. Further back is the Government Service Insurance System building which houses an art gallery by the bay.
The boulevard is also home to the country's premier performing venue, the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Within its complex are the Philippine International Convention Center, the Product Design and Development Center, the Folk Arts Theater, the Coconut Palace and the Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel.
Adjoining the complex is the Manila Yacht Club and the Philippine Navy Headquarters. A little farther is the US Embassy.
Across the Yacht Club is the Bangko Sentral (Central Bank) complex which houses the Money Museum. The bank has Asia's biggest and finest gold collection at the Metropolitan Museum, a home for the modern masters.
Roxas Boulevard is lined with posh hotels, casinos and lively nightspots.
Greater Manila is where the country's most prestigious business addresses and the trendiest leisure establishments are found. By day, it hums with the bustle of commerce and, by night, throbs with the excitement of varied, high class entertainment.
Makati City is the country's financial center and the most prestigious business address. Many foreign embassies and multinationals call it home. Fashionable hotels, restaurants, discos, music bars, boutiques and specialty shops converge around the sleek Ayala Center.
In Makati is Forbes Park, home to the rich and famous. The most elite country club, Manila Polo Club, and golf course, Manila Golf Club, are nestled within the village.
Giving Makati a run for its money is Mandaluyong City, with Ortigas Center an impressive alternative to Ayala Center. Home to the Asian Development Bank and the Philippine Stock Exchange, it is also the site of three of Metro Manila's gigantic shopping malls - SM Megamall, Robinson's Galleria and Shangri-la EDSA Plaza.
San Juan is the hometown of former President Joseph Estrada. Built on a hilly terrain, a drive along the old residential section can be a pleasurable diversion. Its Greenhills Commercial Center houses some of Metro Manila's vibrant music halls.
Quezon City was envisioned by the late President Manuel L. Quezon (after whom the city was named) to be the country's government center. Many of the national government offices are located here as well as the country's leading educational institution, the University of the Philippines.
Dominating Cubao, Quezon City's commercial center, is Araneta Coliseum, the country's biggest enclosed entertainment arena. For nightlife, the Quezon Boulevard, Timog Avenue, Tomas Morato Avenue and West Avenue strips offer varied, colorful fares.
Marikina City is the Shoe Center of the Philippines. The city takes pride in its 75.6-hectare River Park.
Paranaque City is generally associated with its dry goods and seafood market and restaurants, and Redemptorist Church, a pilgrimage site which houses the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Las Pinas City has retained much of its provincial appeal. Visitors flock to this city to see the world's only bamboo organ, housed at the picturesque St. Joseph's Parish Church.
Alabang Center is the business and commercial capital of Muntinlupa City. It is also the home of many elite industrial and manufacturing companies, and a fast-rising haven for upper class residential communites.
Metro Manila is one big gastronomic trip of many cuisines.
In Intramuros is Illustrado Restaurant with its colonial ambiance and Spanish provincial cuisine. The old Malate district, with Remedios Circle at its core, is the favorite watering hole of artists, designers and the café society who are only too willing to try the varied international flavors offered by the many restaurants in the area. Authentic Chinese cuisine can be had at the old financial district of Binondo.
Aside from Ayala Center, many fine and theme dining establishments line Jupiter Street and Pasay Road in Makati City. From theme restaurants to beer-and-grill gardens, Tomas Morato Avenue, Timog Street, Quezon Avenue and West Avenue in Quezon City have them all. Interesting clusters of restaurants and bars are found in San Juan's Greenhills and Mandaluyong City's Ortigas Center.