Manila’s moniker, the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, couldn’t be more apt – its cantankerous shell reveals its jewel only to those resolute enough to pry. No stranger to hardship, the city has endured every disaster both human and nature could throw at it, and yet today the chaotic metropolis thrives as a true Asian megacity. Skyscrapers pierce the hazy sky, mushrooming from the grinding poverty of expansive shantytowns, while gleaming malls foreshadow Manila’s brave new air-conditioned world. The congested roads snarl with traffic, but, like the overworked arteries of a sweating giant, they are what keep this modern metropolis alive.
As well as outstanding sightseeing, visitors who put in the effort will discover its creative soul – from edgy galleries to a lively indie music scene. Combine this with a penchant for speakeasy bars, artisan markets and single-origin coffees, it's clear to see Manila's not only one of Asia's most underrated cities, but one of its coolest.
10 reasons to visit Manila
Despite being one of Southeast Asia's best capital cities for sightseeing and culture, Manila continues to (unfairly) get a bad rap...
Need to know
Why Manila is fast becoming one of Asia's coolest cities
The heydays of the 1920s and 1930s saw Manila abuzz with theatres, cabaret, jazz clubs and ritzy boulevards, making it one of the most glamourous cities in the region...
Black Nazarene Procession: a guide to the Philippines' holy festival
'Preview' by denvie balidoy. Creative Commons Attribution This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's A Year of Festivals...