Travel Guide to Manila | Things to do in Manila
Guides and Itineraries,  Philippines

21 AMAZING Things to Do in Manila (Written By a Local)

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The capital of the Philippines, Manila is a bustling metropolis filled with commercial business districts, diverse neighborhoods, and historical sites. While Manila isn’t on top of everyone’s list when planning a visit to the Philippines, you’ll find that there are many interesting sights and things to do in Manila as well!

Whether you’re a tourist here for layover or a local looking for more things to do on a weekend, here is our guide to the best Manila tourist spots that you can visit.

1. Intramuros

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

Intramuros is one of the best Manila tourist spots and an important historical landmark in the whole country. 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. In 2018, it was declared as a National Cultural Treasure.

Today, the “Walled City” is home to universities, commercial establishments, and of course heritage sites. Some of its noteworthy attractions include Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral, Walls of Intramuros (Puerta de Santa Lucia), San Agustin Church and Museum, and Casa Manila.

You can explore Intramurous via a do-it-yourself walking tour or bamboo bike tour via Bambike Ecotours. Start your tour from the Intramuros Visitor’s Center where you’ll be given a map of the structures inside the city.

There is also a night tour offered at Intramuros called Intramuros After Dark. This will let you see the old streets of the walled city at night and learn about not just historical facts but also urban legends such as ghost huntings. It’s perfect for those who want to see a different side to the old city.

Click here to book a tour in Intramuros via Klook.

2. Rizal Park

Just a short walk from Intramuros, you will find Rizal Park (also known as Luneta Park) — also one of the best places to visit in Manila. It is a sprawling green oasis that pays tribute to the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.

At this park, you will find the iconic monument of Dr. Jose Rizal. You’ll also find a fountain famous for its light show at night, tree-lined pathways and gardens, an open-air concert hall, large stadiums, and observatories, as well as shops and food kiosks.

3. National Museum Complex

National Museum of the Philippines
(Photo by National Museum of the Philippines)

Continue your tour of old Manila at the National Museum Complex. Suitable for those who love art, culture, and history, it is one of the best Manila tourist attractions that you shouldn’t miss.

Established in 1901, National Museum is at the forefront of research, preservation, and promotion of the country’s cultural and natural heritage. It features a wide range of artworks, artifacts, and natural specimens that you can find in the country.

The museum has four main buildings, each with its own distinct collection.

  • The National Museum of Fine Arts houses a collection of Philippine art from the 17th to the 20th century, including works by renowned artists like Juan Luna and Fernando Amorsolo.
  • The National Museum of Anthropology houses archaeological and ethnographic exhibits, including artifacts from the pre-colonial era of the Philippines.
  • The National Museum of Natural History features exhibits on the country’s flora and fauna, including a collection of preserved specimens and interactive exhibits.
  • Finally, the National Planetarium is dedicated to the study of astronomy and space exploration.

4. Food crawl at Binondo

Wai Ying Restaurant - asado/soy chicken rice
Chinese dishes at Wai Ying Restaurant.

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!

You may also want to consider visiting Binondo during Chinese New Year for the festivities.

Click here to book a Binondo food tour via Klook.

5. 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. For those who want a guided tour, check out 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.

6. Shop ’til you drop!

Shopping malls are some of the best Manila tourist attractions that you can visit.

Bonifacio High Street is an open-air shopping complex with plenty of shops, restaurants, and outdoor spaces where you can relax and hang out.

The Mall of Asia in Pasay City is considered the largest shopping mall in the Philippines, with numerous local and international stores, restaurants including buffets, and cafes. At the bayside, you can also find fun rides such as a large ferris wheel that offers a scenic view of the surrounding bayside.

Greenbelt Mall offers a mix of high-end retail stores and shops, including both local and international brands. As it is located in the business district of Makati City, it usually caters to middle and upper-middle class clientele. It is also linked to Landmark, Glorietta, and SM Makati which features budget- to medium-priced stalls.

Tiendesitas is also a worthwhile shopping destination to visit. It is home to over 450 merchants selling specialty goods from the regions of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. It also has various homegrown restaurants where you can try indigenous cuisine.

For bargain shopping, the best options are Divisoria and Greenhills Shopping Center. Divisoria is a local favorite because it sells everyday items for cheap. On the other hand, Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan offers high-end brands, as well as stalls selling modern and locally made clothing, jewelry such as pearls, arts and crafts, and local products from provinces that you can purchase as souvenir/pasalubong. Greenhills Shopping Center is also famous for their tech stores, which sell phones, laptops, and cameras at cheaper price than mall prices.

7. Explore Bonifacio Global City

BGC Art - Dalagang Pilipina
Dalagang Pilipina mural in BGC.

One of the best things to do in Manila is exploring Bonifacio Global City (or BGC). BGC is a modern-day business district located in Taguig City, home to modern commercial buildings, shopping malls, restaurants, and bars. It also has lot of open spaces, making it a favorite place for those who just want to hang out or who want to enjoy a day off with their pets.

BGC is also one of the safest places in the metro, so it’s a great option for a homebase.

There’s a lot of things you can do in BGC. See the modern architecture and find a good restaurant or cafe to eat. Catch all the street murals scattered throughout the city. Visit interesting attractions such as the Mind Museum and Venice Grand Mall. At night, stop by Mercato, a night market where you can get delicious local food.

8. Enjoy a gondola ride at Venice Grand Canal Mall

Gondola ride in Venice Grand Canal Mall in Taguig
Gondola ride in Venice Grand Canal Mall.

One of the most fun things to do in Manila is going on a gondola ride at Venice Grand Canal Mall. Venice Grand Mall is a shopping mall reminiscent of the romantic Italian City. Located in the McKinley Hill township in Taguig City, this one-of-a-kind mall boasts an architectural design inspired by Venetian landmarks, complete with picturesque canals and gondola rides and a piazza where you can feed birds. It also has various restaurants and cafes located along the canal, so you can enjoy good food with a view.

Aside from these, you’ll find elegant storefronts and charming boutiques featuring local and international brands.

9. See marine animals at Manila Ocean Park

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

One of the most interesting Manila tourist spots is the Manila Ocean Park. It’s considered the first world-class marine theme park in the Philippines.

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.

Manila Ocean Park is a popular option for casual tours, as well as educational tours, family trips, and even romantic getaways.

Book a discounted ticket to Manila Ocean Park via Klook.

Or book an overnight stay at Hotel H2O inside the complex, where you can sleep in a hotel room with aquarium walls!

10. 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.

11. 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.

Click here to book a ticket to Lakbay Museo via Klook.

12. 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.

Click here to book a ticket to Dessert Museum via Klook.

13. Eat at the local fast food

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 a huge reason why it is such a beloved brand.

The food in Jollibee will also give you a glimpse about Filipino cuisine. Try out the Chicken Joy, the sweet-style spaghetti, and the aloha burger which has a burger patty and pineapple slices.

14. Experience eating in a 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.

15. Food crawl in Poblacion

Cosmic Vegan Restaurant - one of the best restaurants in Poblacion.
At Cosmic Vegan Restaurant.

Poblacion is a trendy neighborhood in Makati City. Visit here for a Poblacion food crawl and discover various local and international restaurants serving good food, ranging from cheap Asian street food to authentic Indian curry houses, Spanish restaurants, and more.

It’s also one of the best places to experience Manila night life. From late afternoon to past midnight, the streets of Poblacion are alive with laid-back restaurants and bars, roofdeck bars offering a view of the city, and even videoke places for friends who love to sing together.

Whether you’re looking for a place to eat, hang out, or meet fellow travelers such as yourself, Poblacion is a great place to visit in Manila.

16. Visit the artistic hub Cubao Expo

Formerly known as “Marikina Shoe Expo,” Cubao Expo is a unique shopping complex that serves as a haven for artists, collectors, and vintage enthusiasts. You’ll find various shops, ranging from retro clothing boutiques and vinyl record stores to antique shops and art galleries.

Aside from its art and culture vibe, the complex is also known for its vibrang nightlife, with various bars and live music venues showcasing local talents.

Visiting Cubao Expo is one of the best things to do in Manila especially for those interested in arts, crafts, and a taste of Manila’s alternative culture.

17. Shop at weekend markets

There are a few weekend markets in Manila where you can enjoy a good breakfast or brunch, shop for local arts and crafts, and buy fresh produce.

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.

The prices here are more expensive compared to ordinary local markets, but you’re guaranteed to love the cozy & laid-back vibe in this place.

Similar to Salcedo Market, Legazpi Market is a weekend market in Makati City open on Sundays.

For a more authentic vibe, visit the AANI Weekend Market in Arca South, Taguig City. Every Saturday and Sunday, it comes alive with numerous sellers selling local dishes, sweets, and pasalubongs; fresh fruits and vegetables; arts and crafts; and clothing. You will also find different fruiting trees and plants, perfect for plantitos and plantitas!

Aside from these, there are also weekend markets that open from late afternoon to midnight. Greenfield Weekend Market features a large green space and several food stalls. It’s also close to other restaurants and bars if you want to continue hanging out. Mercanto Centrale is a famous night market that can be found in several locations including Makati, Pasig, Intramuros, and Rizal Park.

18. Enjoy thrilling rides at Star City

Star City is an amusement park located within the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex in Pasay City, offering over 30 rides and attractions for both kids and adults.

Families will love the Grand Carousel and Giant Ferris Wheel, while those who love more adventurous rides can go on the roller coast ride called Star Flyer, the Seahorse Viking, and the Jungle Splash. Other notable attractions include the Snow World, where you can experience snow; Dinosaur Alive, for those interested in prehistoric animals; and Gabi ng Lagim, for horror fans.

Star City is open from Thursday to Sunday.

19. Watch the sunset at Manila Bay

One of the best things to do in Manila that you shouldn’t miss is watching sunsets! Manila Bay in particular is famous for sunset watching.

There are plenty of spots good for sunset watching. Find a good spot along the baywalk in Mall of Asia or ride the ferries wheel for a fantastic view of the surrounding and the sun setting over the ocean. Or take a walk along Roxas Boulevard and 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.

20. Experience the nightlife

Nightlife in Poblacion Makati
Nightlife in Poblacion.

There are a few neighborhoods in Manila famous for their nightlife. Manila, Poblacion in Makati City, Tomas Morato in Quezon City, and Molito Complex in Alabang in particular are known for their late-night restaurants, bars, dance clubs, and live music venues.

21. Go on a day trip from Manila

There are lots of interesting Manila tourist spots, but you’ll find more options outside the city. Thankfully, there are plenty of day trip destinations form Manila.

You can go on a 2-hour drive to Tagaytay City, where you can dine with a view of Taal Lake. Or have a beach trip to some of the best Batangas beaches about 2-3 hours away. If you want to unwind, Laguna has several natural hot spring resorts that can help you relax and rejuvenate, as well as other nature attractions such as waterfalls and caves.

Here are some Manila day tours that you can book via Klook:

You can also book tours in and around Manila via Abraham Manila. Use our promocode TARALETS10 to get 10% discount on tours!

Where to stay in Manila

There are numerous Manila hotels, ranging from luxurious 5-star accommodations to budget inns and hostels. Here are your best options:

Luxury stay

  • Peninsula Manila. 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.
  • Hotel H2O. 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.

Mid-range stay

  • Park Inn by Radisson North Edsa. One of our favorite hotel staycations in Manila. Park Inn by Radisson North Edsa is conveniently connected to SM North, which makes it close to a lot of restaurants and shops. Read about our stay here.
  • Tropicana Suites. 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.

Budget stay

  • Abraham Manila. An affordable hostel located in Poblacion, Makati. They are walking distance to restaurants, bars, and shops. They also offers tours in and around Manila. Read about our stay here.
  • Z Hostel. A popular choice for budget travelers in Makati. 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.

How to get around

Manila has plenty of public transportation options including the MRT and LRT train systems, buses, jeepneys, and tricycles. The MRT train station goes along the length of EDSA, while LRT is useful for visiting places in old Manila such as Intramuros.

Go on a public transport if you have ample of time. Otherwise, it’s best to just get a taxi. Online booking apps available in Manila include Grab, as well as Angkas and Joyride (for motorcycle rides).

Travel tips when visiting Manila

Manila is generally a safe place. However, pickpockets are still common so it’s important to avoid seedy areas and keep watch on your belongings.

Expect traffic! Most of the population in the Philippines reside in Manila, so expect traffic particularly during rush hours (early morning and 5PM to 8PM on weekdays) and every Monday and Friday when there is an in- and outgoing of employees from nearby provinces. If you’re here on a short layover, it’s best to stick to attractions near your airport so you don’t miss your flight.

That concludes our guide to the best places to see and things to do in Manila Philippines! Do you have other suggestions for the best Manila tourist spots? If so, let us hear about them in the comments below!

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