Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Thu July 28 2016

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  • A Cruising Couple | July 28, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    A Quick And Dirty Guide To Manila

    A Quick And Dirty Guide To Manila

    Photo via Flickr/beanhead4529

    With so many stunning islands in the Philippines, it’s easy to forget about a visit to the bustling city of Manila. But if you’ve got a bit of extra time in your itinerary, a day or two in the capital is certainly worth the effort.

    Manila can be chaotic and overwhelming, but it is also overflowing with fascinating historical attractions, mouthwatering cuisine and friendly locals. Here are our top tips for getting the most out of a quick visit to Manila:

    Manila, Philippines

    Photo via Flickr/Blobber

    Top Cultural Attractions

    Intramuros: Meaning “within the walls,” this is the oldest section of modern-day Manila. This impressive walled city was built by the Spanish in 1571. Much of Intramuros had to be rebuilt after it was severely destroyed during WWII by Japanese and US air forces. Today, it is extremely interesting to notice the confluence of old and new in and around Intramuros. An 18-hole golf course flirts with one perimeter, while local children play soccer around the other. 

    Intramuros Golf Course

    Photo via Flickr/cb_agulto

    Fort Santiago: One of our favorite attractions within Intramuros is this stunning fortress, first constructed to protect the city against pirates. The Fort would later serve as a prison and a Japanese torture chamber. An entrance fee of $1 grants access to the fortress, where you can also relax with a coffee while enjoying the lovely park grounds.

    Fort Santiago

    Photo via Flickr/Fechi Fajardo

    Rizal Park: Also known as Luneta Park, this grassy area is located just outside of Intramuros. The park is a common place to see families flying kites or to enjoy a free outdoor concert. Jose Rizal, renowned for starting the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish, was executed on the park grounds; the Rizal Monument here commemorates his martyrdom.

    READ MORE: The Top 3 Islands in the Philippines

    Rizal Park

    Photo via Flickr/beanhead4529

    Quiapo Church: This Roman Catholic Church is home to the Black Nazarene, a statue of Jesus believed to have miraculous properties. Every Friday night, thousands of Filipinos attend a novena, or devotion, to the Black Nazarene.

    Quiapo Church

    Photo via Flickr/cb_agulto

    We recommend brushing up on the basic history of the Philippines before a visit to Manila to get the most out of the attractions.

    Mouthwatering Cuisine And Drinks

    The Aristocrat is the place to chow down on a Sunday afternoon. Its claim to fame is chicken barbecue — apparently the best in town. This is a great place to try some local dishes like lumpiang ubod (spring rolls), crispy pata (deep fried pork knuckles) or kare-kare (oxtail and vegetables in a peanut sauce). It’s located right by the Manila Bay, the perfect place to go for a stroll and burn off some extra calories.

    For authentic Japanese cuisine, head to Little Tokyo. Most of the restaurants here are run by Japanese expats, so you’ll find plenty of first-rate sushi, ramen, and bento meals. Alternatively, there are also heaps of excellent Spanish restaurants, a remnant of the Philippines long colonial history. Try El Cirkulo for Spanish tapas with a local twist.

    Mingle With Locals

    For a local market experience, don’t miss a visit to Divisoria Market. It’s hot and crowded, but it’s also one of the best places to mingle with Filipinos while they bargain for a good deal. Don’t bring valuables as pickpocketing is common here. If you’re keen to find a few bargains of your own, it’s best to bring a local friend who can assist with haggling.

    Divisoria Market Night Market

    Photo via Flickr/Adam Cohn

    If you’re looking for an iconic transportation experience, then hop in a Jeepney. These are the most common, and possibly the most practical, mode of public transportation in Manila.

    Jeepneys are cheap and the drivers cram you in like sardines, but that makes it an excellent way to chat with the locals (most of whom speak English.) We met one man who insisted he pay for our Jeepney ride while giving us the lowdown on Manila. We met another woman who toured us around the Quiapo Church and then took us out to lunch. Undeniably, some of our favorite memories of Manila were a result of hopping on a Jeepney.

    Manila is a bustling and vibrant destination with plenty of five-star hotels and designer shopping malls to complement your visit. However, for a memorable stay that’s filled with local flavor, we recommend crossing off at least a few of the items on this quick and dirty guide.

    Have you visited Manila? What would you add to this snapshot of the city? 


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A Cruising Couple A Cruising Couple's Column

A Cruising Couple Dan and Casey are the two lovebirds, world travelers and adventurers extraordinaire behind the popular travel blog A Cruising Couple - adventure travel with a dash of class. Their stories and photographs feature that special place where experiential and stylish travel meet. Find out how you can spend less money, live more adventurously and travel more luxuriously on their blog,
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