Perched overlooking the Pasig River, the sprawling palace complex dates to the mid-18th century when it was built originally as the residence of a Spanish aristocrat before becoming the office of the Spanish and, later, American governor-generals. It's been the official residence of the Filipino president since 1935. Only the Museo ng Malacañang is open to tourists and is highly recommended for anyone who's interested in both political history and colonial architecture.
It features fascinating displays of memorabilia relating to the 15 Philippines’ presidents since 1899. Highlights include president Quezon's office, the room dedicated to the First Ladies and Ferdinand Marco's original 20-page decree proclaiming martial law (it was here in 1986 that the palace grounds were stormed during the People Power Revolution that overthrew the Marcos' government). The building itself is magnificent with gleaming polished floorboards, high ceilings, sparkling chandeliers, ornate wood panelling and capiz windows.
To visit you'll need to be super organised and book 10 days in advance – which can be done back home before you leave by simply emailng the palace with your contact number, how many people are in your party and attach photocopies of all passports. Otherwise book a tour through Old Manila Walks, which can arrange everything and combine a palace visit with an excellent walking tour of the area.