Despite being one of Southeast Asia's best capital cities for sightseeing and culture, Manila continues to (unfairly) get a bad rap. Crime, pollution, poverty, corruption, overpopulation and horrendous traffic jams are all typically associated with the city, but this paints an unbalanced picture. Sure, it’s not without its faults, but with a booming economy and buzz generated by a hip new wave of restaurants, nightlife and galleries, Manila has renewed vitality and self-confidence. And still, this is one of the best places in Philippines. Here are some of the few good reasons to give it a chance – you'll discover it's one of Asia's absolute gems. You’ll love it as much as I love Philippines ! Spanish heritage in Intramuros As Asia’s only former Spanish colony, the Philippines offers an intriguing point of difference to its neighbouring countries. Intramuros is the nucleus of Spanish life in Manila and the best place to soak up this history. After having been destroyed during WWII, this walled city has been faithfully restored and provides a great escape from Manila’s chaos. Here you can enjoy the laidback atmosphere and stroll leafy residential streets that are lined with colonial architecture. Intramuros’ centrepiece is Fort Santiago – a citadel used by Spanish and American military, with its arched gateways, barracks and cell blocks offset by a sanctuary of gardens, fountains and plazas. Other highlights in Intramuros include San Agustin Church (the only building left intact following the Battle of Manila in WWII) and Casa Manila, a lavish reproduction of a colonial Spanish house that was a project of Imelda Marcos. Art galleries Art lovers will adore Manila's beautiful galleries, which exhibit everything from Filipino masters to modern art. The National Gallery of Art is one of the best places to visit in Manila ; the best location for classic 19th-century Filipino painters (most notably Juan Luna and Fernando Amorsolo), while the fantastic Metropolitan Museum of Manila is the place to go for contemporary works. Across the road from here is the Cultural Center of the Philippines (established by Imelda Marcos), home to several modern art galleries; while Vargas Museum and Yuchengco Museum also have stellar permanent collections and quarterly shows. Like any big city, the bustling capital of the country has its faults. It’s notorious for its traffic jams and gritty vibe. But it’s not without its charms. As a long-time resident, I often take it for granted. But for first-timers who’ve never been here, many of the sights and sounds are worth visiting.