Manila, Philippines · 6 hotels available
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The beauty of Old Manila boasts a Spanish heritage that thrives beneath the rise of modern urbanity. Sampaloc stands as one of the memories to Manila’s Golden Era, where tourists can find old churches, establishments, and other relics of the city’s storied past.
Apart from the array of historical houses and thriving small business district, Sampaloc is also home to the metro’s original University Belt. Indeed, just one testament to its antiquity is the University of Santo Tomas—the oldest university in Asia.
But the area hasn’t been suspended in time, either. Right beside these antiquated establishments are high-rise buildings and new restaurants where university students and young residents alike enjoy a thriving social life.
Since Sampaloc is right in the middle of the metro, it’s not that difficult to get to and from the area. The old PNR train is located right in the Espana district. Expect the train at the Espana, Laong-Laan, and Blumentritt stations. The LRT 2 also passes by the Recto station. But aside from trains, tourists can expect all modes of transportation available for them, from tricycles, jeepneys, cabs, and even buses.
Sampaloc is full of hole-in-the-wall joints and other hidden gems, so it’s best to explore on foot. However, if you’re not that familiar with the area, getting around in Sampaloc’s narrow streets is done best by using tricycles.
Sampaloc’s historical sites are its best attractions. As an echo of old Spanish heritage, it’s full of churches that display amazing architecture and a rich history. Two of Sampaloc’s most famous sites are the twin churches of Our Lady of Loreto and St. Anthony Shrine.
Built as early as the 16th century, Our Lady of Loreto Church has seen an entire breadth of historical events. These span from the early years of the Spanish occupation to the present day. Its twin, though built a century later, is similarly visited by pilgrims and devotees of St. Anthony.
Aside from being a religious center in the city, Sampaloc is also well-known for the Dangwa Flower Market. The flower market is popular for having the best and freshest flowers in the metro, and often becomes populated during Valentine’s and All Souls’ Day.
Exploring old street names and establishments is definitely on top of the list when it comes to visiting Sampaloc. Don’t miss the architectural heritage and historical landmarks that have shaped the course of local history. It may interest some to guess which famous figure in Philippine history was named after which street.
Those who really want to connect with the center of learning in the Old Manila district can give the University of Santo Tomas a visit. Plenty of renovations have been made up since the Spanish era, but the university retains some of its old world feel. Particularly, its Arc of the Centuries remains one of its most famous landmarks. Tourists and even the university students often take pictures of the structure’s well-preserved antiquity.
When you get hungry, Manila is a great place for food tripping. Sampaloc has plenty of restaurants, bars, and even stalls that give travelers a taste of the city life. From street food to fine dining, the area has a vast range of gastronomically satisfying cuisine for the traveler’s palate.
Sampaloc is a foodie’s haven. Since it’s close to not only UST but also two other universities – Far Eastern University and the University of the East – plenty of food establishments have sprung up for tourists and students.
In Espana alone, you can find Amore Bakery’s original branch. Although smaller than its newer branches, Amore in Espana has the same dreamy interior that is similar to a Korean café. It also offers a plentiful assortment of bread, from savory to sweet. This spot is great for resting and hanging out with a few close friends.
Larger groups, on the other hand, will find Big B better for them. The small restaurant specializes in big burgers with full meat patties. Those who aren’t too fond of big servings can share meals with friends. A good place for a filling meal that doesn’t hurt the wallet.
Art lovers who want a twist to their dining experience may want to visit Troika Resto Art Gallery right across UST. The restaurant doesn’t just offer food, it also has an open bar to go with your quick bites. The walls are also decorated with an artsy vibe that lends to the restaurant’s overall chill ambiance. It’s the perfect hangout for the young and young at heart.
The heart of Manila is often alive at night. Restaurants are open up until the late hours to accommodate students and employees who are going home late or waiting out the city traffic.
At first glance, Wit Avenue Café and Bar may seem like just another cozy coffee shop. But come night time, the place transforms into a bar for more than just caffeinated drinks. Guests can get the best of both worlds when they decide to drop by at any time of the day – Wit Avenue is open 24/7.
A nightly hideaway closer to Espana’s center, however, would be Reuben’s in Vicente Cruz. The bar is open until 2 am, and offers a wide variety of finger food and drinks. Its interiors and exteriors are designed simply, but its main attraction is really its grilled meat. The open air is best enjoyed with large groups of friends.
Acustica Bistro and Lounge offers something a little different. Aside from its mixed drinks and cocktails, the bar also has a live band playing every night. Although it opens a little later than other bars in the area at 3 pm, Acustica also closes at 2 am the next morning.
Plenty of hostels, inns, and pension houses are available in Old Manila for travelers. Lakbayan Hotel by Vicente Cruz is a budget hotel with great amenities. It is also among the most booked hotels in the metro. The hotel is only a few minutes away from major tourist attractions in other parts of Manila, like the San Agustin Church and Rizal Park.
Another well-recommended budget hotel in the area is Windsor Inn. The lodging’s design attempts to give a feel of the old world nostalgia. Other than that, its accommodations are great for backpackers who want to have an impromptu place to stay for the night.
Cosmo Hotel in Earnshaw Street is also easily accessible to major roads and public transport vehicles. It has a more spacious interior, with a well-lit lobby and cozy rooms.
Keep spare change in a separate pouch or pocket. Making use of the available public transportation in the city will be easier if you have quick cash on hand. Most drivers will also only accept small bills instead of larger ones.
Bring water when you go exploring. The heat in the metro can rise higher than thirty degrees Celsius, even during the colder months. Stay hydrated by bringing your own water, fan, and also a change of clothes.
Aside from having spare change ready, it would also be wise to keep other valuables close to you, especially when you go out at night. Pickpockets sometimes roam the streets, and having a foolproof pack will be a good way to protect your belongings.