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Beneath Manila's glassy towers and colonial mansions, you'll discover a creative city brimming with innovative bars and quirky shops. Manila is made up of 16 separate cities stretching round a bay on the largest island in the Philippines. Take time to discover the character of the individual districts. You can go hunting for bargains in lively Binondo Market, followed by an evening sipping cocktails on the terrace of a skyscraper.
Hostels in Manila reflect its eclectic past. Spend a night in a 1940's mansion turned capsule hostel, or escape the city in a tropical island-inspired interior. On-site bars and cafés are common, and one Manila hostel even has a rooftop bar and restaurant for dinner overlooking the Malate district. You'll find most have free breakfast and Wi-Fi, as well as female-only dorms. Many Manila hostels also put on free city tours.
Manila's districts are built around the old walled city of Intramuros. It's here you'll find Fort Santiago and the colonial Spanish buildings. Malate is the commercial centre of the city and a focus point for most travellers: think shopping malls and international dining. Foodies should also venture into UP Village, where an exciting restaurant and pop-up bar scene is springing up – a favourite spot of the local student population. It's worth dedicating a morning to Binondo too. This is the oldest Chinatown in the world, and its restaurants and food stands make it a riot of colour and mouthwatering smells.
There's plenty to explore in Manila, whether you're looking for culture, history or shopping. A walking tour is a good way to get to know the city, and when you're ready to rest your legs, head to the gardens of Fort Santiago. This Spanish fort is famous for being the prison of Rizal, a Filipino hero. Manila also has lots of shops, from high-end boutiques and malls to bustling markets. The Salcedo Saturday Market in Makati is one of the largest – an outdoor feast of food, crafts and everyday items.
You can travel around Manila by either the Light Rail Trains or Metro Rail Trains, depending on where you're heading. If you're going from Intramuros to Makati, you can take the Pasig River Ferry. Taxis are another good option for getting around the city. If you're arriving into Ninoy Aquino International Airport, you'll find taxis waiting to take you to the city centre.