Manila, the bustling capital of the Philippines, boasts a rich tapestry of history, culture, and modernity. From its colonial churches to its state-of-the-art shopping malls, there’s something for every kind of traveler. Here’s a list of the 20 best things to do in this dynamic city:
Intramuros: Begin your Manila journey with a trip back in time. Intramuros, or the “Walled City”, contains remnants of Manila’s Spanish colonial past. Walk along the ramparts, visit Fort Santiago, and stroll along cobbled streets to fully immerse yourself.
Rizal Park: Also known as Luneta, this historical park is dedicated to the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Its sprawling grounds are perfect for picnics, and the Rizal Monument is a must-visit.
Manila Bay Sunset: One of the most breathtaking sights in Manila is the sunset over Manila Bay. The Baywalk is the best place to view this natural spectacle, ideally with a serving of local street food.
San Agustin Church: A UNESCO World Heritage site, this is the oldest stone church in the Philippines, showcasing Baroque architecture and captivating murals.
Divisoria Market: For brave souls who love a bargain, this market offers everything under the sun. Be ready for a sensory overload and remember to haggle!
Binondo: The world’s oldest Chinatown, Binondo offers a mix of history and gastronomy. Walk along Ongpin Street and indulge in authentic Chinese dishes and delicacies.
Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP): For arts enthusiasts, CCP is the hub of Filipino creativity. Watch a play, musical, or ballet in this architectural masterpiece.
Manila Ocean Park: Families will enjoy this oceanarium which offers a walk-through tunnel, mermaid shows, and various marine habitats.
Visit the National Museum Complex: Comprising the National Art Gallery, Museum of the Filipino People, and the Planetarium, it’s a must-visit for art and history buffs.
Star City: A popular amusement park in the city, it offers a plethora of rides and attractions for both kids and adults.
Mall of Asia: One of Asia’s largest malls, it offers not just shopping, but also an IMAX theatre, skating rink, and a stunning view of the Manila Bay.
Quiapo Church: A significant religious site, it’s home to the Black Nazarene, an ebony statue of Jesus Christ believed to be miraculous by many Filipinos.
Explore Escolta Street: Once known as the “Queen of Manila’s Streets”, it offers a glimpse into Manila’s past with its old-world architecture and vintage shops.
Paco Park: A former burial ground turned park, it’s a serene spot ideal for relaxation. It also hosts occasional concerts and events.
Bahay Tsinoy: This museum narrates the story of Chinese influence in Filipino culture and history. It’s a fascinating look into the Chinese-Filipino heritage.
Nightlife in Poblacion, Makati: Just a short drive from Manila, Poblacion is the city’s hippest spot for nightlife. From unique bars to themed restaurants, there’s something for everyone.
Try Local Cuisine: Manila offers an array of local dishes. Must-tries include adobo, sinigang, and halo-halo. Restaurants like Manam and Abe offer contemporary takes on these classics.
Pasig River Ferry: For a unique perspective of Manila, take the Pasig River Ferry. It’s not just a mode of transportation, but also a scenic tour of the city’s landmarks.
The Dessert Museum: A fun, interactive space dedicated to all things sweet. From rooms filled with candy to delicious tastings, it’s a treat for all ages.
Ayala Triangle Gardens: Nestled in the heart of Makati, this green oasis is perfect for unwinding after a busy day. During December, it transforms with a mesmerizing lights and sounds show.
Manila offers a fascinating blend of the old and the new. Its rich history juxtaposed against its modern ambitions makes it a must-visit Asian metropolis. With its diverse attractions, warm people, and delectable cuisine, Manila guarantees a memorable experience for every traveler. Whether you’re here for a weekend or an extended stay, the city will leave an indelible mark on your heart.
While the top 20 attractions offer a comprehensive view of Manila’s diversity, this city is so rich in experiences that it’s worth delving a little deeper. Here are some more activities and places that provide a fuller appreciation of Manila’s allure:
Avida Towers: This is not just another skyscraper, but a vantage point to view the sprawling city. Enjoy the panorama at sunset or nighttime for a breathtaking sight.
Greenbelt Chapel: In the heart of the bustling Makati shopping district lies this tranquil oasis of spiritual reflection. Its modern architecture, surrounded by a serene pond and lush greenery, provides a refreshing respite.
Dampa Seafood Market: A unique dining experience where you choose fresh seafood from the market and have it cooked to your preference in nearby restaurants. Grilled, steamed, or in a delicious Filipino sauce, it’s a seafood lover’s paradise.
Bahay Nakpil-Bautista: In the heart of Quiapo, this ancestral home offers a glimpse into Manila’s history and the lives of some of its prominent residents during the Philippine Revolution against Spain.
Museo Pambata: Tailored for kids but enjoyable for all ages, this interactive museum allows hands-on learning about the world and Philippine culture.
Bambike Ecotours: Explore Intramuros in an eco-friendly way by pedaling bamboo bicycles, locally called “bambikes”. This sustainable travel initiative offers guided tours showcasing the historic sites.
Legazpi Sunday Market: Every Sunday, the streets of Legazpi Village in Makati come alive with a market that offers artisanal crafts, organic produce, and global cuisines.
The Mystery Manila: Test your problem-solving skills with Manila’s first-ever mystery-solving, escape room game. It’s a thrilling activity for families, friends, and team-building events.
Street Art in Bonifacio Global City (BGC): This business district doubles as an open-air museum with colorful murals adorning its buildings. A walk here is a visual treat and a testament to the city’s flourishing art scene.
Manila Contemporary Art Galleries: Venture into spaces like Silverlens and The Drawing Room to discover the works of emerging and established Filipino artists.
Manila’s heartbeat is felt not just in its landmarks but in its side streets, local markets, and the daily lives of its residents. Dive into its neighborhoods, chat with the locals, and sample street foods that aren’t on any tourist map. Experience the karaoke culture in a local joint or enjoy a ‘videoke’ night with friends.
For the best experience, always remember that Manila is not just a destination; it’s a vibrant tapestry of stories, dreams, and passions. Embrace its rhythm, and you’ll find the soul of the Philippines.
As with all travel, it’s essential to approach Manila with an open heart and mind. Beyond the traffic and the urban chaos lies a city with resilience, boundless energy, and unwavering spirit. From its sunsets to its songs, its tales to its treats, Manila is more than just a place – it’s an emotion.