Amazing Things to do and Places to see in Manila | Local Guide to Manila

Travel guide to Manila, Philippines | Things to do in Manila
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Manila isn’t on top of everyone’s list when traveling to the Philippines, but unbeknownst to many there are interesting things to do here too! Here we’ve compiled a list of top things to do and places to see in Manila, Philippines.

Whether you’re going here for a short layover or simply want to explore this city, this guide will help you navigate the buzzing capital of the Philippines.

Tours and sightseeing

Historical tour in Intramuros

Things to do in Manila - Tour Intramurous
(Photo by Bambike Ecotours)

Intramuros is one of the most important historical landmarks in Manila. During the Spanish occupation in the 1500s, Intramuros was synonymous to the City of Manila itself. It was the seat of the government & political power of the Spanish government.

The local government has since declared it as National Cultural Treasures.

You can explore Intramurous via a do-it-yourself walking tour or bamboo bike tour via Bambike Ecotours. Start your tour with the Intramuros Visitor’s Center where you’ll be given brochures of the structures inside the walled city. You can visit Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral, Walls of Intramuros (Puerta de Santa Lucia), San Agustin Church and Museum, and finally Casa Manila.

A tour in Intramuros will take about 2-3 hours.

Click here to book a discounted tour via Klook.

Stroll around Quiapo

If you want to have an authentic exploration of the gritty street of Manila, there’s no better place to be than Quiapo. It’s known as the “Old Downtown of Manila” and it’s currently a local marketplace bargaining hunt.

Here in Quiapo, you’ll find the Quiapo Church, which is the center of devotion for the Black Nazarene. Surrounding the church are different stalls selling fresh fruits, street food, and other items. Interestingly, it’s also where you can find local fortune tellers and vendors who sell anting-anting (talisman) and other items used in traditional healing and witchcraft.

Other interesting points in Quiapo include the Quinta Market, Muslim Town, Bahay Nakpil-Bautista, Maglaqui Talyer, Hidalgo Street, and San Sebastian Basilica.

You can do explore Quiapo on your own, but I highly suggest booking a tour via Bukas Quiapo Tours. It’s a community-based group that supports the community by offering tours to Quiapo, which includes food tasting of local dishes including halal food from the local Muslim community as well.

Day tour at Manila Ocean Park

Things to do in Manila - Manila Ocean Park
(Photo by Manila Ocean Park)

The Manila Ocean Park is considered the first world-class marine theme park in the Philippines. It’s a popular option for educational tours, family trip, and even couples who are on a romantic day-off.

The best feature of Manila Ocean Park is its Oceanarium, which is home to 14,000 sea creatures indigenous to the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia. It also offers various activities such as helmet diving, sharks and sting rays encounter, and mermaid swimming.

Click here to book a discounted ticket via Klook.

P.S. You might also consider staying at Hotel H2O inside the complex where you can book a room with an aquarium on its walls.

Museums

Ayala Museum

If you’d like to delve more into the rich culture of the Philippines, you can visit the Ayala Museum in Makati. It features ethnographic and archaeological displays on Filipino culture, art, and history.

Some of the interesting things you can see in Ayala Museum include ancient ceramics from bartering with China and other Southeast Asian countries and more than 1000 gold objects from local cultures before the colonization of the country in the 16th century.

  • Entrance fee: Resident: basic admission – P150, full admission – P225 | Non-resident: basic admission – P350, full admission – P425

Lakbay Museo

Places to see in Manila - Lakbay Museo PH
(Photo by Lakbay Museo PH)

Lakbay Museo is a newly opened museum located in S Maison at Conrad Manila, Pasay. It lets you see the best of the Philippines in 1-2 hours.

Here you can learn more about the Philippines including its regions, culture, festival, and food staples. It also offers unique experiences such as taking a “lava walk” in Mayon Volcano and swimming in a giant rice bowl.

This museum appeals to not just the history buffs but the younger crowd as well, with its IG-worthy displays and interactive stations.

  • Entrance fee: P699 for online booking / P799 for walk-ins

Dessert Museum

Places to see in Manila - Dessert Museum
(Photo by Dessert Museum)

Arguably more of an entertainment platform than a museum, the Dessert Museum is the most scrumptious museum you can find in Manila. It features themed rooms depicting specific sweets and desserts. Samples are also given along the way. It’s ideal for kids or people who are young at heart, especially those who’d like to amp their IG feed.

Guests in Dessert Museum are given 2 hours to explore inside. After the tour, there’s an option to buy various sweets, supplies & accessories.

Other entertaining places to see

Where to eat

Popular local joint: Jollibee

Ask Filipinos for a suggestion on where to eat and they’ll immediately answer with “Jollibee”. Jollibee is a fast-food chain and it’s what McDonalds is to the US. Jollibee is more than a restaurant, it’s part of the local culture. A lot of people grew up with fond memories of having family meals in Jollibee, which is why it’s a beloved brand.

While you’re here, don’t forget to try out the Chicken Joy fried chicken, spaghetti (which is sweet instead of tangy), and burger.

Food crawl: Binondo, Chinatown

Did you know that you can find the oldest chinatown in the world in Manila? Binondo was established in the 1950s as a place of commerce for Chinese traders. Today, it’s one of the most popular foodie spots in the city.

Some of the must-eats in Binondo include kutsay fried dumplings from Dong Bei Dumplings, fresh lumpia at New Po Heng, and hand-stretched noodles from Lan Zhou La Mien. Also don’t forget to bring home tikoy, hopia, and other pastries from Eng Bee Tin!

A food crawl in Binondo can certainly be done DIY or thru partner tours such as Klook.

Click here to book the food tour via Klook.

City restaurants: Poblacion

Poblacion is a trendy neighborhood in Makati. Over the years, it’s becoming increasingly popular as a food hub. Here you can find various restaurants, from authentic Korean samgyupsal restaurants to Indian curry houses and local food joints. It also hosts drinking holes including roofdeck bars, which makes it a popular spot for professionals and foreigners who are out for a good time.

Market to plate: Seafood dampa

A dampa is a local seafood market. Here you can buy fresh seafood in market stalls and have it cooked for you in a restaurant for a fee. If you don’t want the trouble of buying the ingredients yourself (which, btw is really fun), you can simply ask the restaurant staff to do it for you. Ala carte non-seafood items are also available.

Eating in a dampa is a unique local experience and will allow you to appreciate the bountiful catch in the local seas.

Dampa can be found in various locations in Manila including Macapagal in Pasay and Daang Hari in Las Pinas. There are also “high-end” dampas nowadays including Seascape Village in Pasay.

Weekend market: Salcedo Market

Salcedo Market is a weekend market held every Saturday at Salcedo Village in Makati City. Here you can buy a variety of cuisines, including specialty dishes from different provinces in the Philippines. They also sell organic fruits and vegetables, as well as plants and other items.

Salcedo weekend market rates are more expensive compared to ordinary local markets, but you’re guaranteed to love the cozy & laid-back vibe in this place. It’s a favorite breakfast place of locals residing in Makati as well.

City life

Explore BGC, Taguig

Bonifacio Global City (BGC) is a modern-day business district in Metro Manila. A lot of business people, professionals, and mid-budget travelers stay here as it’s clean, safe, and modern. It also features the usual city comforts such as malls, parks, and leisure activities.

There’s a lot of things you can do in BGC.

Take a walk at Serendra which is a pedestrian-friendly community with various restaurants and retail stores, ride aboard a gondola in Venice Grand Mall, catch all the street murals scattered in the city, or visit interesting museums such as the Mind Museum. You can also stop by Mercato, a night food market where you can buy local cuisines.

Shopping

Greenbelt Mall, Makati

Greenbelt Mall offers a mix of high-end retail stores and shops, including both local and international brands. This is one of the best shopping malls in Manila for a comfortable shopping spree.

Greenbelt Mall is also linked to Landmark, Glorietta, and SM Makati which features budget- to medium-priced stalls.

Greenhills Shopping Center, San Juan

If you want to go bargain shopping but don’t want to venture to local marketplaces such as Divisoria, you can go to Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan. Here you can find hundreds of stalls selling clothes, jewelry such as pearls, arts & crafts, and other knock-off brand merchandise. If you’re looking to buy pasalubong, you can also find local products imported from the provinces here.

Other must-do activities

Watch the sunset at Manila Bay

Things to do in Manila - watch sunset in Manila Bay
(Photo by Wikimedia – Gerald Mondala)

The Philippines presents amazing sunsets. One popular spot where you can enjoy a sunset view is in Manila Bay. Take a walk along Roxas Boulevard or enjoy a drink in one of the bars in the area, such as Sofitel Manila’s Sunset Bar or Bayleaf Hotel’s Sky Deck View Bar which is on a rooftop within Intramuros.

Where to stay in Manila

Luxury stay: Peninsula Manila

Where to stay in Manila: The Peninsula Manila
(Photo by The Peninsula Manila)

The Peninsula Manila is a 5-star hotel located in Makati. This is a great choice if you’re looking for a luxury stay in proximity with shopping malls and other commercial establishments in this city.

The hotel features multiple dining options. It also has a gym, a sauna, and an outdoor pool. Spa services are available for a fee.

Book your stay in the Peninsula Manila.

Luxury Stay: Hotel H2O

Where to stay in Manila: Hotel H2O
(Photo by Hotel H2O)

Hotel H2O is a 4-star hotel located within the Manila Ocean Park complex, right off Manila Bay. This hotel offers a unique experience — you can book a room with an in-room aquarium, which is popular with families and couples. Other rooms offer bay views.

Facilities include a restaurant and lounge, coffee shop, and a bar with bay views. There’s also a spa, a gym, and a hot tub.

Book your say in Hotel H2O.

Mid-range stay: Tropicana Suites

Tropicana Suites hotel
(Photo by Tropicana Suites)

Tropicana Suites is located in the lively district of Malate. It offers 100 modern rooms. The best feature of Tropicana Suites is its location: it’s close to cultural landmarks, malls, dining hotspots, and even the airport.

Book your stay in Tropicana Suites.

Budget stay: Z Hostel

Z Hostel is a popular choice for budget traveleres. It offers private rooms and dorms. It has a rooftop bar, which is a great place to hang out in at night. It also has a 24/7 cafe that offers a good breakfast buffet.

Book your stay in Z Hostel.

Local tips

Safety tips

Manila is a safe place to explore, but be sure to keep your head with you at all times and avoid seedy parts of Manila.

Explore attractions outside Manila

Manila is built for the working population so most of what you can visit here include shopping malls, parks, and museums. If you have more than a day to spare, it’s best to get out of the city. There are nearby provinces where you can enjoy other activities. Here’s name a few:

 

That’s it. I hope you like this travel guide to Manila, Philippines. Do you have other recommendations on things to do and places to see in Manila? If so, let us hear about them in the comments below!

 

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