Manila travel facts

Manila is among the most vibrant and largest capital cities in Southeast Asia, nestled in the island of Luzon’s west coast in the Philippines. Modern Manila is home to a mix of cultural influences with historical places, government buildings, and entertainment spots, so if you are a tourist, you can find a lot of interesting places to visit and explore.

Almost all tourists visiting the Philippines arrive in Manila where they have much to explore and discover, whether it be the history of more than 300 years worth of Spanish colonisation or the shopping options, food, and nightlife of the city. The city has a great historic centre around the Intramuros district, and plenty of hospitality options in the central business district or historic centre of Ermita and Malate.

Interesting Manila facts

Manila started out as settlement on the riverbanks of Pasig River, and its name was derived from ‘Maynilad’ which came from nilad, a mangrove plant that was abundant in that area. Around that time, Rajah Sulayman ruled Manila until the 16th Century when the Spanish arrived to conquer the city.

The city of Manila is home to more than 1.6 million people, making it the second most populous city in the country. It occupies an area of 38.55 square kilometres, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

Manila is nestled on the eastern shores Manila Bay, west Luzon Island. The natural harbour, the Port of Manila, has an area of 1,994 square kilometres and a coastline measuring 190kms.

Several cities border Manila. Caloocan and Navotas are to the north, Mandaluyong and San Juan to the east, Pasay in the south, Makati in the south east and Quezon City towards the northeast.

Manila was initially referred to as the land of gold or ‘Ginto’ and ‘Suvarnadvipa’ by the neighbouring provinces. It was also officially named ‘The Kingdom of Maynila’ during its golden days during big trade with China in the Ming Dynasty. The empire’s capital was Ancient Tondo.

Manila is the Philippines’ seat of political power, with most of its national government offices stationed within the city, including the presidential palace. It has been the centre of government ever since the start of the American colonisation.

The city is home to the main terminal of the Philippine National Railways, which extends all the way to San Fernando, Pampanga (north) and Legazpi City, Albay (south). The city is also served by the Manila Light Rail Transit System, more commonly known as the LRT, which started out in the 1970s under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos.

The LRT became Southeast Asia’s first light rail system. It consists of two lines: Yellow Line (LRT Line 1), which goes through Taft and Rizal Avenues, and the Purple Line (LRT Line 2), which runs along the Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard from Santa Cruz, and then through Quezon City until Pasig City’s Santolan.

Important historical attractions reside in Manila, including Intramuros and Fort Santiago, along with cultural landmarks like Chinatown, the National Museum and the Cultural Centre of the Philippines.

Manila is also home to numerous shopping centres ranging from bargain hubs like Divisoria and privately-owned shopping centres such as the SM Mall of Asia.