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Looking for a taste of the high life? Then head on to the epitome of cosmopolitan living in Metro Manila. Whether you’re here for work or a vacation, there’s something in Bel-Air that will make your stay wonderful.
Bel-Air started out as a gated subdivision in the 1950s. It was originally built for the pilots of the Philippine Airlines Pilots Union, hence the name of the village being aviation-related. But with the passage of time, this residential zone evolved into the symbol of cosmopolitan life. Today, the entire area is not just home to numerous offices, restaurants, and commercial establishments.
In fact, Bel-Air now refers to an entire barangay that covers the original subdivision, plus areas of the Makati CBD. These include Salcedo Village; Ayala Triangle, which houses the Philippine Stock Exchange; Ayala North; and Buendia Avenue extension. As such, it’s easy to see why the area became the symbol of the high life. After all, it’s where several of the country’s top companies hold court; whatever happens here can have an impact on the country’s economy.
But this area is not all about business. With top-notch restaurants, museums, and other interesting sights in the area, there’s certainly a lot to do here either after office hours or on the weekends.
Other than hailing a taxi or getting a ride on your preferred ride-sharing app, there’s a number of public transportation options to bring you to the area. You can ride buses plying the LRT-Ayala-Leveriza route, getting down at either the Paseo de Roxas or RCBC stops. Or you can ride an “A” bus along EDSA and get down at the Buendia bus stop.
Alternatively, you can ride the MRT and get down at Buendia Station, which is walking distance from the eastern side of Bel-Air. Or you can hop on the Guadalupe-Cartimar jeep that traverses the length of Buendia/Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue.
The numerous public transportation options enumerated above are also your best bets to get around Bel-Air. That said, walking around the area is also a good option. Other than the area’s sidewalks being nicely paved, opting to ride a vehicle also means getting stuck in traffic.
Tourist attractions are not the first things that come to mind when talking about Bel-Air—after all, a huge chunk of it are offices. However, there are still a number of sights that any traveler should see here.
Start your journey at the Nielsen Tower in Ayala Triangle. Now home to the Blackbird fine dining restaurant, this Tower was once used for air traffic control, back in the day when the entire area was used as an airport. Fast fact: the roads of Paseo de Roxas, Makati Avenue, and Ayala Avenue used to be runways.
You can then head to the Yuchengco Museum inside the RCBC Tower, along Ayala Avenue, west of the Triangle. Yes, this museum may not be big. However, its quaint collection boasts of works by Filipino masters such as Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, and Carlos “Botong” Francisco.
Cap it off by checking out the Alliance Française de Manille and Goethe Institute branches in the area. These two cultural centers of France and Germany, respectively, often hold free activities or film screenings that are open to the public.
The aforementioned attractions aren’t the only thing you can get to enjoy in the Bel-Air area. There’s also a handful of activities and events that you can watch out for and try.
First is the Salcedo Saturday Market held at the Jaime C. Velazquez Park. This market, which as the name implies opens every Saturday morning, is the perfect venue to enjoy authentic, freshly prepared local and international cuisine.
Then there’s the annual Ayala Triangle Lights and Sounds Show. Usually running from November to early January of the following year, this free nightly spectacle of lights—set to music—is the perfect way to add some Christmas cheer to your trip.
There are also a good number of spas in the area, such as Qiwellness Massage & Reflexology, HUA Spa Makati, and Nuat Thai Massage. These establishments offer a good range of relaxing treatments, perfect for pampering yourself after a long day of work or walking around.
On the Bel-Air side of Makati, you’ll never run out of dining options. The area has everything for every budget, from fine dining restaurants to fast-food joints. Start with the row of restaurants along Jupiter Street. The establishments here include burger joint Lazy Bastard, Dong Won Korean Restaurant, and the vegetarian Corner Tree Café.
Over at the Salcedo Village side of Bel-Air, you have XO46 Bistro, which specializes in contemporary takes on traditional Filipino food. There’s also Apartment 1B that serves up gourmet comfort food. Cap it all off with desserts at Happy Cream Puff along Malugay Street, near the western end of Bel-Air.
With the Bel-Air area full of offices, it’s no surprise that there’s a good number of bars and late-night restaurants around. After all, office workers need to unwind after a long day. What better way to begin the night than with burgers and alcohol-spiked Adult Milkshakes from Sweet Ecstasy? Better yet, head on to ABV, a bar modeled after Prohibition-era speakeasies in the United States.
Of course, these are not the only options. Those who want top-notch live entertainment can go to Strumm’s, which has live acts every night. Meanwhile, if your definition of entertainment is singing your heart out, the area also has a good number of family-friendly karaoke places such as Centerstage and Maru.
There are a good number of serviced apartments available in the Bel-Air area with reasonable nightly rates. These include The Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences and Fraser Place Manila in Salcedo Village; plus the CEO Suites along Jupiter Street. More options—in the form of hotels and hostels—can be found in the nearby Poblacion or Legazpi Village areas.
Not all portions of Bel-Air are open to the public. With a good number of private residences still in the area, some sections are still gated off for privacy.
Make sure to always bring enough cash with you since not all establishments accept credit cards.
The best time to explore the area is on the weekends when the office worker crowds are gone.