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Top Rated Attractions in Manila

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San Agustin Museum

With virtually the whole of Intramuros destroyed during World War II, this is the only remaining repository of the wealth that was once a common feature of Manila's churches. Formerly a monastery, the museum comprises two floors interconnected by a grand staircase. The various rooms and hallways display paintings, santos (religious statues, usually of carved wood or ivory), gold and silver ornaments, liturgical vestments, chests, and altars. It is an artistic treasure house that illustrates the richness of Philippine history and culture.

Intramuros

Unique in Asia, this was a European-style medieval fortified city that functioned as the seat of government from 1571 to 1898. The massive walls stretch some 4.5 kilometers, enclosing a 64-hectare area once occupied by palaces, churches, monasteries, schools and wealthy residences ('Intramuros' means 'inside the walls'). Sadly, the whole city was razed to the ground by bombings conducted by American forces when they recaptured Manila from the Japanese in 1945. Today most of the walls, gates and bulwarks have been restored, affording visitors a glimpse into the past.

San Agustin Church

Constructed in 1587-1604, San Agustin Church is the oldest surviving church in the Philippines. It was the only building left intact when Intramuros was reduced to rubble during the Liberation of Manila in 1945. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a mandatory destination for any Manila visitor interested in history and culture. Concealed behind the imposing facade is an elaborately decorated Baroque-style interior. Throughout the nave and six side chapels are fixtures of great artistic and historical significance.

National Museum of the Philippines

Filipinos and foreigners alike can view some of the Philippines' historic and cultural treasures in this Museum of the Filipino People. Among the many displays here, the galleries devoted to the San Diego galleon merit special mention. Porcelain plates, coins, jewelry, armaments and other artifacts recovered from the sunken battleship present revelatory glimpses of 17th century life. The Story of the Filipino People is another must-see for all visitors.

Manila Bay

The history of Manila is closely tied to this body of water. Naval battles were fought here, including the celebrated La Naval de Manila in 1646, which effectively put a stop to repeated attempts by the Dutch to take over the Philippines. It was also on Manila Bay that the Spanish fleet was annihilated by the American forces under Commodore George Dewey, ushering in 40 years of American occupation. But more than anything else, Manila Bay is renowned for its spectacular sunsets—a must-see for every visitor to the city.

Ayala Avenue

The 1960s saw the emergence of a new business district in the then sleepy municipality of Makati. The Spanish-Filipino conglomerate of Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala developed the district by first establishing this main thoroughfare which cuts through to Highway 54 (now known as Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, or EDSA). Towards the end of the decade, Ayala Avenue emerged as the main artery of the Makati business area. Many major banks, multi-national corporations and embassies are located here.

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