1. Take a walking tour
A walking tour with a professional guide in the Intramuros historic walled city will help you understand the complex history and culture of the area. It was once the base of the Spanish and American governments when they ruled the Philippines, but much of it was ruined in World War II. You can either tour the area on foot or put your feet up in a horse-drawn kalesa.
How to find a Manila walking tour: Contact Celdran for lists and prices of walking tours in Manila
2. Go shopping at the street markets
It’s malls-a-plenty in Manila but they’re unlikely to contain anything you haven’t seen before. If you want the real Manila shopping experience, head to the street markets in Quiapo, Baclaran and Divisoria. They’re not air-conditioned, and can get very crowded, but what they lack in amenities they make up for in atmosphere and quirky (and cheap) items to fill your suitcase.
Best markets in Manila: Diviroria Market Baclaran Market San Andres fruit market
3. Pay homage at the Rizal Park
This iconic park has a somewhat gruesome history. It was the site of many a public execution during the Spanish colonial rule. Also known as Luneta, it’s named after the national hero Dr José Rizal, a Filipino nationalist who was executed after being charged with rebellion. As well as the Rizal Monument, there’s also the marble Kilometer Zero.
Address: Roxas Blvd Ermita, Barangay 666 Zone 72, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila Opening hours and tickets: 5am – 9pm, daily. Entry is free
4. Film a music video
The abundance of Filipino cover bands in the UAE is an accurate indication that Filipinos love to sing! To see how much they love this pastime, visit a videoke bar in Manila and test your own singing prowess. You can book a room with friends and enjoy filming your video while being served snacks and drinks!
5. Ride in a jeepney (dyipni)
You might have traveled in some impressive busses or trains in your traveling life, but only in the Philippines will you experience riding in a dyipni. You pass your fare forward to the driver or the driver’s assistant, saying “bayad po”, and “para” when you want to get off.
6. Watch the sunset in Manila Bay
Take a dinner cruise or rent a yacht and head out into Manila Bay to watch the sunset. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Manila so there’s no shortage of boat companies offering excursions all year round.
7. Visit Manila’s old Catholic churches
As the fifth biggest Catholic country in the world, it makes sense that the Philippines has an abundance of old churches. Their murals, architecture and ornament collections are wonderful displays of the different architectural styles that have influenced Manila’s history. The Baclaran Church, San Agustin and the San Sebastian Church are three of the most popular churches in the city.
8. Eat dim sum in the Binondo area
Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the world and was given to the city’s Chinese merchants by the Spanish conquistadors. It’s home to an array of cheap and delicious restaurants serving mouth-watering noodles and dim sum. You can either wander around by yourself, or find the best spots on an organized walking tour.
Address: Claro M. Recto Avenue and Avenida Rizal, Manila, Luzon
9. Visit the National Museum of the Philippines
The National Museum offers a good archaeological and anthropological tour of the country through its carvings, statues, paintings and artifacts. The building was built in 1918 as a public library and was designed by American architect Ralph Harrington Doane. It was actually used for legislature until the country’s war, after which it was rebuilt and turned into the museum in 2003.
Address: 1000 Padre Burgos Ave, Ermita, Manila, Metro Manila Opening hours and tickets: 10am – 5pm, closed on Mondays. Entry is free
10. Be brave with the street food
There’s a whole menu of slightly peculiar street food, starting with the infamous balut (a one-day old chick). If you’re feeling brave, look for the ‘adidas’ (chicken feet) or ‘isaw’ (chicken intestines). Buy from somewhere popular and busy, with a fast turnover of food. A popular place is Mang Lang’s across from the International Center at the UP Diliman Campus.
11. Explore the Fort Santiago
Built by the Spanish conquistador Miguel López in the 14th century, the Fort Santiago then had 50 years of occupation by the Americans, Brits and Japanese. The official tour will share the Fort’s past and also explain the significance of Dr José Rizal, the national hero.
Address: Intramuros, Manila, Metro Manila Opening hours and tickets: 8am – 6pm daily. Entry is free
12. Get wet at the Manila Ocean Park
If the weather is bad, head to the Manila Ocean Park. You’ll likely still get damp but you’ll have much more fun! You can take an ‘aquanaut’ voyage with an oxygen helmet under the water, or dress like a mermaid for a few hours, or pet sharks and stingrays. Other (paid) attractions include the sea lion show, symphony evening show and the penguin talk show.
Address: 666, Behind Quirino Grandstand, Luneta, Manila, Metro Manila 1000 Opening hours and tickets: 10am – 8pm. Adult tickets start at 590PHP (Dh42). Tours and packages available
13. Visit the Bahay Tsinoy National Museum
There’s lots of places around the city that point to the Spanish influence, but the Bahay Tsinoy National Museum is one of the few places that showcases the Chinese heritage. Tsino of Filipino for Chinese and the museum has information on the food, people and art.
Address: 32 Anda St, Intramuros, Manila, Metro Manila Opening hours and tickets: 1pm – 5pm, closed on Mondays. Tickets cost 100PHP (Dh7) per adult, and 60PH (Dh4) per child
14. Take photos at Manila Cathedral
The cathedral in Manila has been knocked down by man or natural disasters a number of times, but authorities keep restoring it to its former glory. It’s another popular place in Manila to find out about the Spanish inquisition in the country. Oh, and if you’re lucky you might see one of the many weddings that take place there.
Address: Sto. Tomas, Intramuros, Manila, 1002 Metro Manila Opening hours and tickets: 24 hours, free to enter
15. Let your hair down at Star City
This is one of the best places to go in Manila if you’re traveling with kids. It’s a decent theme park with rollercoasters, dungeons, children’s rides and classic carousels. If the weather is on the hot end of the spectrum head to Snow World to cool down. The theme park gets busy on weekends so if you can visit on a weekday you’ll be rewarded with much smaller queues.
Address: Vicente Sotto St, Manila, Metro Manila Opening hours and tickets: Monday/Tuesday 4pm – 11.30pm, Wednesday/Thursday 3pm – 11.30pm, Friday/Sunday 2pm – 11.30pm. Entry is 70PHP (Dh5), and 390PHP for 3 rides (Dh28)
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Published October 2017. Information correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.