Download GPX file for this article
14.6128120.9989Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The University Belt, or the "U-Belt" in short, contains a large cluster of universities and colleges in Manila. The universities in this district draws locals, other Filipinos, and some foreign students. This guide only deals with the districts traditionally associated with the area, including Sampaloc, San Miguel, Santa Mesa, and the eastern fringe of Quiapo.


The U-Belt from the top
Students crossing the street in Sampaloc

Locals of Manila understand the University Belt in Manila as the cluster of universities around Sampaloc and San Miguel. It is not an official district of Manila, but it rather includes the districts of Sampaloc, San Miguel, and also, Santa Mesa. Other locals include the university cluster along Taft Avenue in Ermita and Malate and another cluster inside Intramuros to the area. Our guide only cover the districts traditionally associated with the area.

The center of most activity in the University Belt is the University of Santo Tomas (UST), one of the oldest universities in the Philippines, dating back to 1611. The university was established inside Intramuros, and moved here in the early 20th century. España Boulevard, a six- to eight-lane avenue, is the main thoroughfare of the district. Towering condominiums rising along the boulevard area, and the rise of mid-range restaurants and beer houses indicates the fast gentrification of the area and growing nightlife. Going further east, the University Belt gives way to a worker-class residential area, with some signs of gentrification due to skyrocketing land prices, but the all too common residential fires and crimes do continue to happen because of its seedy background. The U-Belt still remains a concrete jungle though, so it is easy to get lost into all the nastiness of ordinary Manileño life.

Get in

Map of Manila/University Belt

Getting into the U-Belt is not without hassle. The Manila Line 2 and PNR Metro Commuter Line serves the area, but stations are found near inconvenient areas near rough areas with the obvious threat of crime from lurking thieves and thugs (and Line 2's Legarda station is near the Mendiola Bridge, a hotspot for public demonstrations). Car travel is clearly not for the inexperienced; traffic jams and aggressive drivers are just all around, and parking is hard to find, even for students with a personal car.

By jeepney


Most likely, you will hop onto a jeepney to get into the University Belt. Jeepneys are perhaps the best way to get into the U-Belt from nearby Quiapo or Santa Mesa Heights (Quezon City), but traffic on España Boulevard and connecting streets can vary from time to time. Rush hour is the worst time to take a jeepney; traffic slows to a halt, and pickpockets take advantage of the congestion to hop onto a jeepney and sit beside an unwary passenger, mostly women, especially students in their school's uniform, stealthily steal money or cell phones from their pockets, and hop off even without paying the base fare.

By bus


There are regular bus service through the University Belt, running from Quiapo to Fairview and Taytay (Rizal). There are no buses from southern Metro Manila into the University Belt because of Manila's ordinance that prohibit bus service passing through the city. If you come from the southern parts of the metro, you must get down at Plaza Santa Cruz or Park N' Ride and transfer into a jeepney. A transfer from Santa Cruz is longer as you must walk through the bustling crowds of Quiapo into Quezon Boulevard.

By train


Philippine National Railways Metro Commuter Line trains stop at three stations at this district, Laong Laan, España and Santa Mesa. The elevated Line 2 runs to the south east to west through Ramon Magsaysay Avenue, Legarda Street and Recto Avenue; it has three stations in the district, namely Legarda, Pureza and V. Mapa. The stations are found near rough residential areas, so keep your wits on.


  • 1 Malacañang Palace, Arlegui St. Make way for the most important person in the Philippines....the President. The official residence of the President, the etymology of the name Malacañan is from the Tagalog phrase "may lakan diyan" meaning "there's a nobleman there". The mansion was first used as a residence for the Spanish governor generals as well as the Americans. It was then the official residence of the president when President Manuel L. Quezon took his term and he was the first Filipino resident of the mansion. Visitors must go through security checks at the complex entrance and follow a strict dress code, and picture taking inside the presidential mansion without the necessary permits, rarely granted for non-media people, is prohibited. Only the Museo ng Malacañang is open to tourists. Malacañang Palace (Q942688) on Wikidata Malacañang Palace on Wikipedia
  • 2 Old Executive Building (Just a few minutes walk from Malacañan), J.P. Laurel St. Built during the American colonial era, the emblems of the United States of America are still seen. It was used as official use of the administration of President Manuel L. Quezon until the Marcos' administration. Today it showcases Filipino history Kalayaan Hall (Q56703671) on Wikidata Kalayaan Hall on Wikipedia
  • 3 Legarda Ancestral Mansion. Showcases Juan Luna's and Felix Ressurecion Hidalgo's paintings. It has a library, clinic and a room for photography equipment. Legarda Ancestral House (Q17075694) on Wikidata Legarda Ancestral House on Wikipedia
  • 4 Goldenberg Mansion. Goldenberg Mansion (Q37964047) on Wikidata Goldenberg Mansion on Wikipedia
  • 5 Teus Mansion. Purchased and converted into a guesthouse in the 1970s, it showcases European silver ware including notable 18th and 19th century silversmiths Paul de Lamerie and Paul Storr. It has been given as a gift to the Marcoses during their Silver wedding anniversary.
  • 6 San Miguel de Manila Church. San Miguel Church (Q18379603) on Wikidata San Miguel Church (Manila) on Wikipedia
  • 7 Mabini Bridge, Nagtahan Bridge. Open 24 hours. Mabini Bridge, formerly and still referred as Nagtahan Bridge, is a road bridge crossing the Pasig River between Nagtahan Street in Santa Mesa and Quirino Avenue in Paco, Manila. It was constructed between January to February in 1945. It initially served as a pontoon bridge transporting U.S. Army jeeps and evacuate citizens caught in the crossfire during the Liberation of Manila. In lieu with the 103rd birth anniversary of Apolinario Mabini on July 22, 1967, President Ferdinand Marcos issued the Proclamation No. 234, s. 1967, renaming Nagtahan Bridge as the Mabini Bridge, in memory of Apolinario Mabini, the Sublime Paralytic. Free.
  • 8 Captain Manuel Colayco Historical Marker, Front Gate, 5, 1008 Osmeña Drive (inside of The University of Santo Tomas). Open 24 hours.
  • 9 Arch of the Centuries, Espana Boulevard (inside of The University of Santo Tomas). 6AM–9PM. Venerable baroque arch erected in 1680 & moved piece by piece to its current location in 1954. a city icon in Manila. Free.
  • 10 Miguel de Benavides Monument, Espana Boulevard (inside of The University of Santo Tomas). Free.
  • 11 UST Museum, Espana Boulevard (inside of The University of Santo Tomas). 8:30AM–4:30PM. Eclectic university museum housing paintings, religious, geology, zoology & botany exhibits. Museum of Santo Tomas University is considered the oldest museum in the Philippines. It was formally established in 1869. Museum consists of 4 sections: natural history, fine art (paintings), ethnography and religious artifacts. The collection is impressive, especially natural history. This is really a place worth visiting. The building of the university itself is also of a historic value. Entrance fee: PHP50. UST Museum of Arts and Sciences on Wikipedia
  • 12 Santísimo Rosario Parish Church, Espana Boulevard (inside of The University of Santo Tomas). 8AM–5PM. Beautiful Church, solemn place, air-con, parking available. Free. University of Santo Tomas on Wikipedia
  • 13 Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro Parish Church - Sampaloc, Manila City (Archdiocese of Manila), #2040 Calamba Street. This church just transform into a stunning place.


  • 1 Plaza Noli Public Square / Plaza, Matimyas Street. Open 24 hours. A mini circle park, a place to sit, relax and to have a chitchat. Free.


  • 1 Dangwa Flower Market, Dimasalang and Laon Laan Road. Open 24 hours. Manila's flower market, heavily flocked during Valentine's and All Saint's day and All Soul's Day, it is flocked by people. Dangwa flower market on Wikipedia
  • 2 Trabajo Wet & Dry Market, M. dela Fuente Street corner Loyola Street. 5AM–11:30PM. Public market, lots of choices to buy for, the place is so busy, many foodstalls and if you're lucky you'll have the cheapest price for the friuts.



Sampaloc is famous for its open air lechon (roasted pig) restaurants.

  • 1 Lokasyon MNL, #1966 Laong Laan Road, +639158990808. 11AM–10PM. delicious Filipino & international foods. ₱₱.
  • 2 Pancit Cabagan, Blumentritt Road. 9AM–9PM. viral Pancit of Cabagan, Isabela in Sampaloc, Manila.
  • 3 Bulalohan sa España, Marquez Compond, Espana Boulevard, +639369244901. Open 24 hours.
  • 4 Kubo by Gillid’s, #844B Sto Tomas Street corner Blumentritt Road. 3PM–2AM. Kubo by Gillid's is a boodle-fight alfresco dining restaurant in Sampaloc.
  • 5 EMILIA, House of Filipino Food, #934 Gen. Solano Street, +63285277051. 10AM–9PM. Filipino, Spanish winery & restaurant near the Malacanan Palace. ₱₱₱.
  • 6 Cabel, #1147 Jose Laurel Street, +639152148565. 8AM–8PM. Filipino restaurant near the Malacanan Palace. ₱₱₱.
  • 7 Tapa Supreme-Espana, J. Marzan Street corner Espana Boulevard. Open 24 hours. ood tastes food. A go-to-place, open even midnight.
  • 8 Trinity Jean Pancit Cabagan, #743 F. Cayco Street (beside of Florida Bus Terminal). 8AM–8PM. They have the best pancit cabagan, even better than the ones in Cabagan, Cagayan Province. Regular: PHP80/Special: PHP100.
  • 9 Kanto Tayo, #1008 Moret Street. 11:45AM–2AM. Dumplings, Pork Siomai, Beer Bucket, Chicken Wings with Fries. A very nice and unique drinking place in Manila! They have unli promos at a very reasonable price. The price of beer and other alcoholic beverages are really affordable. Has a lot of food choices. Quality of food is okay but can be better. All in all, a really fun and nice place. Perfect place to hang out with friends. PHP399.
  • 10 James & Che's BBQ House - Adelina, #1143 Adelina Street. 4PM–10 PM. A very delicious barbecue dish I had here. A lot of choice by a good variaty of meat. The restaurant looks clean and very busy between 5 pm 6 pm and and is a great place to crash and fill your stomach.
  • 11 YoWell Frozen Yogurt - Morayta, G/F, Don Lorenzo Building, #916 N. Reyes Street. 10AM–7PM.
  • 12 Yoshimeatsu UST U-belt, #861 Padre Campa Street. noon–10:30PM. Many choices of side dishes and meats. They have tempura, enoki, scallop with cheese, crispy fried chicken karage, kani salad, miso soup, cheese ball, red tea, and etc. PHP599.
  • 13 AsiaMix Diner, DB Bldg, #1015 España Boulevard. 10AM–10PM. PHP150.
  • 14 Mila's Lechon-Laloma, #69 Calavite Street. 9AM–8PM. The institution of the best lechon in the Philippines.


  • 1 Chill Top Restobar - Lacson Manila, #308 Gen. Geronimo Street, +639672409684. 2 PM–6 AM.
  • 2 Max Mango Loyola Branch, #1328 Loyola Street. 11AM–midnight. An excellent mango graham shake. Try their avocado overload too.
  • 3 00:00 Cafe, Unit 1211, A. Loyola Street. 10AM–midnight. Quaint quiet place in the middle of a bustling street with a homey and bright atmosphere which is a great place to work or study.


  • 1 Sans Hotel Laperal Manila, #2119 Recto Ave, Sampaloc. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. PHP1,500.
  • 2 RedDoorz @ University Belt Manila, #1316-1318, Loyola St, Sampaloc. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Set amid shops and casual eateries, this straightforward budget hotel with a striking modern facade is 11 minutes’ walk from a tram stop, 3 km from Malacañang Palace and 4 km from Rizal Park.The low-key, simply decorated rooms come with Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, in addition to air conditioners and en suite wet rooms. Breakfast and parking are available, as is meeting space. PHP900.
  • 3 Monchere, #924 Bilibid Viejo Street. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. PHP1400.
  • 4 Oriental Zen Suites - Manila, #1545 Alfonso Mendoza Street Sampaloc. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. PHP1,300.
  • 5 Skyloft Hotel, #1160 Governor Forbes Boulevard. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. A 5-minute walk from the Dangwa Bus Company bus station, this modern-built hotel set above a coffee shop and close to eateries is a 7-minute stroll from the University of Santo Tomas, and 3 km from the grand Malacañang Palace, the presidential offices and museum. Relaxed rooms with unfussy decor feature flat-screen TVs, desks and modern en suite bathrooms.
    Amenities include a fitness room with floor-to-ceiling windows.
  • 6 OYO 924 Cosmo Hotel Espana, #1725 Vicente Cruz Street. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Set in a busy area along a major road, this humble hotel is 6 minutes’ walk from Espana railway station, 13 minutes away on foot from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and a kilometer from SM City San Lazaro mall. The compact, pared-back rooms provide flat-screen TVs and air conditioning; some rooms also have tea and coffeemaking facilities. Amenities consist of Wi-Fi and event space. ₱1,700.
  • 7 RedDoorz @ Vicente Street Espana Manila, #870 Vicente Cruz Street. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon.

Stay safe

One of the all too common protests around Mendiola Bridge

Getting around the University Belt is hassle-free if you follow common sense, whether as a student or not. Watch out for common petty crimes. If you are a student in any of the universities around the area, beware of all the common crimes committed against students, like pickpocketing, tricycle scams, or the dreaded budol-budol hypnosis theft. Criminals or scammers easily identify a student through a school ID or uniform, and changing clothes, even if it's just the top, or removing your ID may work, but keep vigilant, and if possible, walk in a group. Women need more caution when getting around; being a student, especially in uniform, is an easy way to attract thieves. Theft by stealth (salisi) is a threat when you are eating, even within a group; if someone distracts you by creating a small accident, watch out. Call the police or go to the nearest police outpost.

The University Belt has many beer houses and billiard halls, but bar-hopping is prohibited for students on school days and while in school uniform. Wearing one's uniform and drinking in a bar can mean disciplinary sanctions for indecent student behavior, even if you're just invited in a group.

The area is vulnerable to floods from its low elevation; España Boulevard can turn into a river during heavy downpours. The esteros (estuaries, or more specifically, creeks) can overflow, further worsening flooding. So, be warned: even a localized thunderstorm can grind all activity in the U-Belt into a screeching halt.

Fires frequently break out in the area's poorer residential areas because of illegal power connections. If you see those very cluttered electrical wires hanging on the air, it's a warning some residents are just getting their electricity from a jumper connection, that if it sparks, can ignite huge fires. Dormitories have a negative reputation for poor fire safety, but things have changed since; do research before finding where to sleep, or insist on staying in a condominium block, even where unit prices are twice as of the usual dorm.

The Mendiola Bridge area near Malacañang is a major hotbed of public unrest; demonstrations pointed to the national government often happen here. Always be updated with the news and avoid the area if any protest occurs or will occur. Public demonstrations can turn violent, and there is the risk of being arrested for supposed participation.



Go next


More shopping options can be found in neighboring Quiapo or Divisoria. The Scout Area in Quezon City, a popular weekend hangout by students, is minutes away through Quezon Avenue.



If you plan to find a refuge outside the city, there are some few bus terminals to destinations in northern Luzon.

  • Baguio — The "City of Pines", a popular weekend getaway in northern Luzon is 4 hours away by bus.
  • Banaue — The breathtaking rice terraces and colorful Ifugao culture, a national cultural landmark, is 9 hours away (or longer depending on traffic). Ohayami Transport and G.V. Florida Transport offers provincial bus service, but be warned: safety is questionable after a deadly accident in 2015, so check beforehand.
  • Vigan — Partas and Viron Transit provides regular bus service to this heritage town, 7 and a half hours or longer by bus.

This district travel guide to University Belt is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!