The capital city of the Philippines, Manila is actually a combination of 16 smaller cities that make up an area more accurately called Metro Manila, and home to almost 12 million people. Of the 16 smaller cities, Makati and Manila are the most commonly visited. Makati is the city’s financial centre, home to the stock exchange, banks, upmarket shopping malls, luxury hotels and restaurants, while the city of Manila encompasses the tourist sites of Intramuros (a Spanish colonial walled city), the National Museum, the landmark Rizal Park and the historic Manila Hotel. The city started to grow from Manila, based around its seaport, which has been a trade centre since the 9th century, and it is famous for sunset views over Manila Bay. After periods of Islamic rule in the 15th century, British, Spanish and American colonial rule and Japanese occupation, true independence came in 1946 after Quezon city in Manila became the seat of government. The city today is vibrant and continues to grow, with the Parañaque and Taguig areas being developed for tourism and shopping.
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Top things to do in Manila
Discover Manila's Spanish colonial history
Visit Manila's historic walled city, known as Intramuros, Latin for "within the walls". Intramuros was the heart of the Spanish colonial government, and hence heavily fortified; it contains a number of historic buildings and landmarks. Fort Santiago was the headquarters of Spanish military troops and prison to thousands of Filipinos, including the country's national hero, Jose Rizal. San Agustin church was founded in 1571 and is the oldest stone church (from 1589) in the Philippines; terms for the American occupation of Manila were signed here in the sacristy. Nearby is Casa Manila, a reconstruction of the San Nicolas House from the 1850s, rebuilt during the 1980s in a Spanish-colonial architectural style. A few blocks away is the Plaza de Roma, dominated by the imposing Manila Cathedral. Founded In 1581 but damaged and rebuilt several times, the current structure dates from the most recent re-construction in 1985 and includes a detailed replica of the carved main façade.
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