1. Enlist in a walking tour of Intramuros
This historic walled city was once the core of the Spanish and American governments during their colonial reign in the Philippines. After getting ruined during World War II, efforts to rehabilitate the area began in the 1950s. You may simply walk around the area or ride a horse-drawn kalesa to explore this oldest district of Manila; but enlisting in a walking tour with a professional guide can save you time and give you a better perspective of the history and culture of the city.
Where to find a walking tour in Manila: Contact Celdran for a walking tour of candy and carriage rides.
2. Pay homage to our national hero at Rizal Park
This iconic park, also known as Luneta, has been the site of many public executions during the Spanish era, including those of the three Filipino priests collectively known as Gomburza—Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora—and the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Hence, it is where the Rizal Monument was erected. Across historic shrine is the marble marker designated as the country’s Kilometer Zero.
Opening Hours: 5am-9pm daily Tickets: Free to enter Address: Roxas Blvd Ermita, Barangay 666 Zone 72, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila
3. Master your haggling skills in the street markets
Yes, Manila has too many malls to choose from and they’re all air-conditioned; but the real shopping adventure is in haggling in the street markets of Divisoria, Quiapo, and Baclaran. They are crowded and the weather could be extremely humid; but the experience is rewarding once you’ve found (and most likely, you will) very cheap items that match your quirks.
Best street markets in Manila
- Diviroria Market
- San Andres fruit market
- Baclaran Market
4. Discover your singing prowess in a ‘videoke’ bar
To say that Filipinos love to sing is an understatement. Videoke bars are very much a ‘thing’ in Manila, and you’ll have to try a few if you want to sample the nightlife. Nervous? Many offer group rooms (try out Red Box) so you can try it in the comfort of your group of friends, and a few drinks.
5. Catch the sunset while cruising Manila Bay
The sunset at Manila Bay is one of the most common tourist attractions in Manila throughout the years. Whether or not you are a hopeless romantic, the experience becomes more memorable while enjoying a set dinner on a cruise ship or renting your own yacht.
6. Ride the jeepney (dyipni)
You see buses and trains in many places around the globe; but only in the Philippines will you see and experience riding a dyipni. Say "bayad po" to pass your fare until it reaches the driver or his assistant, and "para" when you’re about to alight.
7. Embark on a Binondo food trip
Manila has attracted many foreign traders even before the Spanish conquistadors took over the city and later granted an area, called Binondo, to the Chinese merchants. There you will find the oldest Chinatown in the world and an array of restaurants that serve affordable, mouth-watering dishes and dim sum. Walking tours are also available to help you go around the area more conveniently.
Address: Claro M. Recto Avenue and Avenida Rizal, Manila, Luzon
8. Appreciate art by visiting old Catholic churches
Philippines is the fifth largest Catholic country in the world and there are a number of old churches found in Manila. Their architecture, murals, and different ornaments are great displays of different artistic styles. Some of the most popular ones are the Quiapo Church, Baclaran Church, San Sebastian Church and San Agustin.
9. Chomp down exotic street food like balut and isaw
Aside from the infamous balut (one-day old chick), different types of street food are available to whet (or challenge) your pallet: ‘isaw’ (pork or chicken intestines), ‘betamax’ (pork blood), ‘adidas’ (chicken feet), ‘helmet’ (chicken head), and the list goes on. You have to be careful where to buy them though. For a great isaw experience, check out Mang Larry’s which is found across the International Center in the UP Diliman Campus.
10. Go under at Manila Ocean Park
Wondering what to do in Manila when it’s raining? The Ocean Park is an all-weather activity that’s bound to take you to another world – go on an ‘aquanaut’ voyage with an oxygen supply under the water, become a real mermaid for a few hours or simply pet the sharks and stingrays as you walk around the park. Rather not get wet? Check out the fish spa or jellies exhibit to enjoy the underwater environment without donning a space helmet.
Opening Hours: 10am-8pm Tickets: Tickets start at 590PHP to visit the jellies, aquarium, sea lions, sharks and rays. Tours and packages are also available for different experiences. Address: 666, Behind Quirino Grandstand, Luneta, Manila, Metro Manila 1000
11. Visit the National Museum of the Philippines
Take an anthropological and archaeological tour of the Philippines in this beautioful museum. It was originally meant to be a public library, designed by Ralph Harrington Doane in 1918, but it was used for legislature instead until the war. After being reconstructed post-war, the building was turned into the National Museum in 2003. Walk through the carvings, paintings and statues that illustrate the past hundred years in Filipino heritage.
Opening Hours: 10am-5pm, closed on Mondays Tickets: Free Address: 1000 Padre Burgos Ave, Ermita, Manila, Metro Manila
12. Explore Fort Santiago
This fourteenth century fort was built by Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi, but in the past 500 years it’s been occupied by Brits, Americans and the Japanese. On the tour you’ll have chance to hear the story of the Filipino hero Dr Jose Rizal and walk round the battlements.
Opening Hours: 8am-6pm daily Tickets: Free Address: Intramuros, Manila, Metro Manila
13. Photograph Manila Cathedral
This is another key spot for learning about the Spanish inquisition in the Philippines. Whilst the Cathedral has been knocked down by war and earthquakes multiple times, to keeps being restored to it’s former glory, and you’ll usually find a wedding inside too.
Opening Hours: 24 hours Tickets: Free to enter – you can request a tour Address: Sto. Tomas, Intramuros, Manila, 1002 Metro Manila
14. Bahay Tsinoy National Museum
Whilst many of the monuments and museums commemorate the Spanish influence in the Philippines, this is one of the few attractions that showcases Chinese heritage – the food, the people and the art (tsino is Filipino for Chinese).
Opening Hours: 1pm-5pm, closed on Mondays Tickets: 100PHP per adult, 60PH per child Address: 32 Anda St, Intramuros, Manila, Metro Manila
15. Have fun at Star City
This is where to go with the kids in manila – it’s a theme park full of dungeons, rollercoasters, classic carousels and children’s rides. Snow World is an excellent way to escape Manila’s heat, and they have plenty of food options on site too. Try to visit on a weekday though, as it’s a popular destination for school trips on the weekend.
Opening Hours: Monday-Tuesday 4pm-11.30pm, Wednesday-Thursday 3pm-11.30pm, Friday-Sunday 2pm-11.30pm Tickets: 70PHP entrance, 390PHP for 3 rides. The ride-all-you-can ticket is 450PHP, and presents good value for the amount of time you’ll spend in there. Address: Vicente Sotto St, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
How to get to Manila
There are direct flights to Manila from London, but this is the only airport in the U.K with direct flights. If you’re flying from Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bournemouth or any other major U.K city, you may connect via London or another European city.
Where to stay on a city break in Manila
If you’re looking for a hostel:
The MNL Boutique Hotel is one of the best hostels we’ve seen in Asia, and it’s in the heart of Makati – the place to stay for nightlife in Manila.
If you’re looking for a hotel:
The A Venue Hotel has a full-service spa and indoor pool.
If you’re looking for luxury:
The I’M Hotel has amazing views of Poblacion, beautifully designed suites and 5-star service.