The best way to tackle the Philippines’ capital is to immerse yourself in it. Malay, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, American—all these influences and more are found in everything from Manila's food scene to its architecture.
As well as having some of the best restaurants and street food in Asia—beef ramen is almost an obsession—the city offers some great sightseeing opportunities. Combine these with a visit to the world's oldest Chinatown, in the Binondo district; the food, specifically the Hong Kong fare sold by the hawkers, is unbelievable.
There are 16 districts in what's called Metro Manila. The City of Manila—the western part of Metro Manila—is in turn made up of eight districts. To see the best sights, spend most of your time in Intramuros. The name—intra and muros—means "within the walls" in Spanish. In Intramuros, the Spaniards left some beautiful colonial houses and Fort Santiago, now a museum.
Also worth a visit in this district are Manila Cathedral, Metropolitan Theatre, and the National Art Gallery. South of Intramuros is Ermita, which also has must-see sights—Rizal Park, the Manila Ocean Park, and the Museum of the Filipino People—and is a good place for bistros, restaurants, and nightlife venues.
Manila is built around its energetic nightlife, creative community, and one of Asia’s coolest indie music scenes. They all come together in the city's modern galleries and live music venues. But before you hit the town, take a jeepney (old US military jeeps used as public transport) to the Port Area to see the sunset at Manila Bay.