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Rizal Park

Manila’s iconic and historically significant park where José Rizal was executed by firing squad as ordered by the Spanish colonial authorities. 

Manila Chinatown

Manila’s Chinatown, located around the Binondo district, is the oldest Chinatown in the world and offers a slice of China outside the mainland. A mazy district packed-full of Chinese goods and a display of their heritage and cuisine, this local favorite for food crawl dates back to the early 1590s.

Tagaytay Ridge

Tagaytay Ridge, located around 2.5 hours south of Manila, is another awe-inspiring day trip destination from Manila. This tour involves a picturesque drive to Tagaytay Ridge, a panoramic viewpoint situated at an elevation of 671 meters.

Corregidor Island

A rocky island, strategically located at the mouth of Manila Bay just south of Bataan province in Luzon, Corregidor Island is one of the most significant places in the history of the Philippines. The island served as a silent witness to the two battles between the Japanese and the US during World War II.

Quezon Memorial Circle

The Quezon Memorial Circle lies in the heart of Quezon City that has served as the capital of the Philippines between 1948 and 1976. A national park and a historic site, the key feature of the park is a mausoleum that contains the remains of Manuel L. Quezon, the second President of the Philippines, and his wife, Mrs. Aurora Quezon.

Manila, Philippines Travel Guide: Everything a First-Time Traveler Needs to Know

Manila isn’t only one of the most underrated cities in Asia, but one of its coolest. If you’re planning to visit the Philippines’ megacity, we’ve got you covered. Learn about Manila’s top tourist spots, activities you shouldn’t miss, the best way to get around, where to stay, where to eat, and practical travel tips in this travel guide.


Your Ultimate Guide to Manila, the Bustling Metropolitan Center of the Philippines

Manila, Philippines may constantly get an unpleasant rap for its nightmarish traffic jams, pollution, and noise but there’s absolutely more to this thriving metropolis that makes it deserving to be nicknamed the Pearl of the Orient Seas. The capital of the Philippines offers outstanding sights, historic landmarks, and is packed with world-class shopping malls, vibrant bars, delicious restaurants, and friendly locals. All these combined to create a wonderful vacation destination.

In this ultimate guide, we will refer to Manila as not just the capital city Manila, but also Metro Manila and the other big cities in the Philippines’ bustling urban center.
Manila, Philippines - Quick Facts [click me]
  • Manila is the capital and highly urbanized city of the Republic of the Philippines.
  • It is located in Luzon, the country’s largest island.
  • Next to Quezon City, Manila is the biggest city in the Philippines
  • The Spanish city of Manila was established by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi on June 24, 1571.
  • Manila has the most number of barangays in the Philippines, at 897 barangays.
  • Manila,” can mean two things. It can refer to the City of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, which is made up of 16 administrative districts, including Binondo, Ermita, Intramuros, and Quiapo, among others. Also referred to as Manila is the greater Metropolitan Manila area. It’s officially known as the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila and is comprised of the City of Manila, Makati, Quezon City, Parañaque, Pasay, and Taguig, to name a few.
  • The currency used in Manila and the rest of the Philippines is Philippine Peso (PHP). As of the time of writing, the conversion rate was 48.16 PHP to $1

Manila At a Glance

Manila is the capital and busy city of the Philippines, an archipelago comprised of more than 7,000 islands in Southeast Asia, lying south of Taiwan and Hong Kong, east of Vietnam, north of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. To the east, it is bounded by the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

Manila is nestled in Luzon, the biggest among the three major islands of the country. The city spans an area of 38.55 square kilometers and is bordered on the west by the Manila Bay. It is part of the Metro Manila or National Capital Region (NCR) which is made up of 16 cities and 1 municipality.

Metro Manila is vast, and you’ll be blown away with so much to see in many of its corners. It is also among the most densely populated cities in the world. All these mean that getting from point A to point B in the city often proves challenging, especially if you don’t know your way around. And, if you have ever driven through the infamous rush hour traffic of Manila, then for sure you won’t argue with that. The Philippines is a developing country with a scarcity of well-paying jobs in its provinces. A lot of Filipinos flock to Manila looking for jobs, part of the reason why the city has become so densely populated.

But what the city lacks in this aspect, it makes up for with its people. Like most of the Filipino people, residents in Manila are friendly, hospitable, and helpful. Here, the language barrier is hardly a concern because almost all the locals understand and speak English.

Best Time to Visit Manila

Thanks to the tropical monsoon climate, Manila weather generally comes only in two distinct seasons - dry from December to May and wet from June to November. When planning to visit Manila, it’s best to schedule your trip during the drier months of January to April. During these months, the average temperatures stay around 27°C, with the highest at approximately 34°C. More importantly, at this time of the year, rainfall is rare, with an average maximum of only about 6 rainy days monthly.

While still at the edges of the dry season, December and May aren’t quite as ideal such that December tends to be very humid, while May is likely to be uncomfortably hot.
Meanwhile, the wet season in Manila lasts from June to November. These months are generally not a very pleasant time to visit and explore the city. Although rain does not fall permanently during these months, the city tends to become extra humid – which restricts tourists from going around the town. It’s also not unusual for some streets in Manila to get flooded during this time and, in some cases, entire neighborhoods. Manila, Philippines is regularly battered by cyclones each year, and the capital city has its share of strong wings at this time of the year, too. If you do decide, however, to visit Manila during the wet season, make sure you monitor the weather reports to see the severity of the rains and don’t forget your raincoat.

How to Get to Manila

Getting in via NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport)

The major gateway for flights to Manila is NAIA (IATA: MNL, ICAO: RPLL), which is comprised of a single domestic terminal and three international terminals.

NAIA Terminal 1: The main international terminal, and serves the majority of international flights.
NAIA Terminal 2: Terminal 2 hosts the national flag carrier, Philippine Airlines, domestic and international flights.
NAIA Terminal 3: NAIA’s newest and largest airport terminal, caters to PAL Express and Cebu Pacific domestic and international flights.
NAIA Terminal 4: Domestic terminal hosts domestic and regional flights, including SEAir and ZestAir domestic flights.
NAIA isn’t connected to the rail system of the city, and the easiest way to navigate your way out is by riding a "point to point (P2P)" bus, or one of two taxi types (White and Yellow Taxis) that wait at the arrivals area of any of the four terminals within.

White taxis also referred to as coupon taxis, typically don’t use a taximeter and charge a flat rate according to your destination. They’re ideal for families or groups and/or tourists carrying loads of baggage, as you can ask for a large van-type coupon taxi that can take in your entire load. Yellow taxis, the official registered and certified taxis from the airport, charge a flag-down rate of PHP 70 (around US$1.50) and increments with an additional PHP 4 per 300 meters. While the prices are somewhat higher than the average taxis in the city, the extra is well worth the hassle and the drivers are generally more honest and polite.

P2P buses can be found outside of the airport’s arrival hall right next to the yellow taxi line and will take you to specific points around the metropolis. At the airport, there are two separate P2P bus services you can find:

  • Genesis Transport connects NAIA with Clark International Airport up north. The standard fare is Php 150.
  • Ube Express takes airport arrivals to specific places throughout Metro Manila, including Robinsons Galleria, Araneta Center Cubao and Century Mall Makati north of the airport, and Starmall Alabang, Nuvali and Ayala South Park south of the airport.

Getting Around Manila

For the most part, getting around Manila is relatively simple due to the variety of transportation options available. These include the country’s iconic public jeepneys, taxis, ride-hailing apps like Grab, buses, the Light Rail Transit (LRT), the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and car rental services.

Generally, walking in the major business areas, shopping centers, and tourist destinations in the center of the city is also considered safe. Traffic in Manila drives on the right-hand side of the road and 18 is the minimum driving age (although ‘student permits’ are available to 16 years olds). An overseas national driving license is acceptable in the Philippines, albeit, it can only be used for a maximum of three months after your arrival in the country.

It also helps to know that despite the vast area covered by Manila (approximately 1,475 sq km when you include its suburbs) the city center converged together on the bay shore. This is where you will find the city’s historic center, particularly Manila Intramuros, as well as the hotels and most of the tourist attractions in the city.

What to See and Do in Manila

There’s a lot more to Manila than high-rise buildings, traffic jams, and busy people. You’ll be surprised to know that there are plenty of beautiful spots all over the city, so there's no shortage of things to see and do in Manila. Below are some of the top attractions that should be included on every Manila traveler’s list of destinations:


Visiting Intramuros, which was founded by the Spanish in 1571, is a great way to appreciate the rich history of the Philippines. Intramuros is essentially the original Metro Manila enclosed within the walls. This 64-hectare stone citadel has withstood wars and successive waves of colonial invaders, as well as natural disasters, and as such stands as a metaphor for Manila itself.

A tour inside the historic Intramuros will take you back in time as you stroll through its ancient ruins, where you’ll visit UNESCO World Heritage-listed San Agustin Church and its adjacent museum, the Aduana Building, and Fort Santiago. Fort Santiago, a key historical site in Metro Manila, served as the defense fortress for the newly-established Manila city during the Spanish colonial period. It boasts an extensive military history and impressive architecture.

You can do a DIY tour or hire an expert and friendly local guide who will discuss the interesting historic points of Intramuros. Be sure to pack light, dress comfortably (the trip often includes a visit to churches, might as well wear a decent attire), and have your camera ready when visiting Intramuros, the perfect portal to one of the most historic sites in the capital of the Philippines.

All in all, Intramuros is a vast land area that’ll let you walk down the memory lane and relive the country’s colorful history. Horse-drawn carriages, locally known as kalesa, ply the cobblestone streets of the area. Tourists can also opt to take on a bamboo bike tour Intramuros experience priced at Php 1699. Other historical attractions include the following:

Rizal Shrine - a museum dedicated to the lifework of José Rizal, the country’s national hero. Location: Santa Clara Street, Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila. Admission is free. But visitors are charged the entrance fee worth Php 75 to Fort Santiago to be able to enter the Rizal shrine.

Bahay Tsinoy - is where you will find life-size dioramas of Chinese traders, goldsmiths, and more. Location: 32 Anda St, Intramuros, Manila. The entrance fee for adults is Php 100.

Casa Manila - a fully-furnished home-turned-museum located at Plaza San Luis at General Luna corner Real Street. Entrance fee is Php 75.

Baluarte de San Diego and San Diego Gardens - a small park that dates back to 1586 and features the circular dungeon called Fort Nuestra Señora de Guia. Aside from the historic remains of the fort, it also has beautiful bonsai gardens. Location: Sta. Lucia St, Intramuros, City of Manila. The entrance fee is Php 75.

National Commission for Culture and the Arts Gallery - a small exhibition space made especially for the contemporary art scene in the country. Location: 633 Gen Luna St. Intramuros, Manila (near the San Agustin Church). The entrance is free.

Bagumbayan Light and Sound Museum - a unique museum featuring lights and sound effects that depict Philippine history through the life and works of Dr. Jose Rizal. A visit to the museum will take you to an hour walk in a dark room with various sculptures, paintings, representations, and historical models that will leave you in awe every time a spotlight will be drawn to them. Admission fees: Php 150 per group of 10 or more and Php 1,500 on a per-show basis. Location: Sta. Lucia St, Intramuros, Manila

Quezon Memorial Circle

Quezon Memorial Circle

The Quezon Memorial Circle lies in the heart of Quezon City that has served as the capital of the Philippines between 1948 and 1976. A national park and a historic site, the key feature of the park is a mausoleum that contains the remains of Manuel L. Quezon, the second President of the Philippines, and his wife, Mrs. Aurora Quezon. The park, which is bounded by the Elliptical Road, also houses a small amusement park, some museums, gardens, and green spaces for picnics.

Manila Chinatown

Manila Chinatown

Manila’s Chinatown, located around the Binondo district, is the oldest Chinatown in the world and offers a slice of China outside the mainland. A mazy district packed-full of Chinese goods and a display of their heritage and cuisine, this local favorite for food crawl dates back to the early 1590s. The key streets include Escolta and Ongpin Street serving as an enduring reminder of Chinese heritage in Binondo. 

Rizal Park

Rizal Park

Rizal Park also called Luneta Park, Luneta. Manila’s iconic and historically significant park where José Rizal was executed by firing squad as ordered by the Spanish colonial authorities. The 58-hectare park features historical monuments, open lawns, ornamental gardens, paved walks, ponds, and wooded areas, as well as the Independence Flagpole, which is the highest flagpole in the Philippines at the height of 107 meters. More than a major tourist attraction in Manila, the park is the city dwellers’ favorite spot for socializing, relaxing, jogging, unwinding, strolling, and bonding activities among families and friends.

Manila Bay Walk

Manila Bay Walk

This is a popular leisure center and the locals’ favorite location for terrific sunset views that runs along Roxas boulevard. Manila Baywalk is famous for its golden skies and calm bay waters, as well as its surrounding charming palm trees and ornamental plants that sway in the bay’s breezes. Here you’ll also find an array of open-air bars, outdoor restaurants, cafés, dance spots, and live bands along the Baywalk to keep you entertained. The area is well-known among sports and health enthusiasts, walkers, cyclists, and joggers, too. Location: Roxas Blvd, Malate, Manila

Manila Ocean Park

Manila Ocean Park

Location: Independence Rd, Ermita, Manila, behind the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park

This is a superb marine-themed park where you get to see exhibits of a variety of creatures that thrive in the sea. The oceanarium’s main draw is its 25-meter glass observation tunnel that offers fantastic views of the underwater life featuring stingrays gliding overhead, as well as sharks, eels, and various types of fish.

Besides the oceanarium, they have other attractions such as Sea Lion Show, Bird Show, aquanaut, mermaid swim experience, stingray swim encounter, dancing jellyfish exhibit and a lot more. To top it all they have an aqua-themed hotel as well as bars and restaurants. Check out their website at https://www.manilaoceanpark.com/ for their up-to-date ticket prices, promos, and events.

Day Tours From Manila

Within just a few hours away from Manila, lie some incredibly cool places worth visiting. So, once you’ve had your fill of the metropolis, don’t forget to check out some of these appealing nearby spots:

Pagsanjan Falls

Pagsanjan Falls

The majestic Pagsanjan Falls, also known for its indigenous name “Magdapio Falls,” is about 2 hours drive to the south in Laguna via the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). The main highlight of this tour is riding over exhilarating rapids in a dugout canoe to the stunning waterfall, which is surrounded by the verdant landscape of Pagsanjan Gorge National Park.

The scenic boat ride towards the waterfall is by itself already a treat and hearing the roar of Pagsanjan Falls is simply amazing. Be prepared to get majorly wet in this adventure, though, so make sure you pack extra clothes with you.

Corregidor Island

Corregidor Island

A rocky island, strategically located at the mouth of Manila Bay just south of Bataan province in Luzon, Corregidor Island is one of the most significant places in the history of the Philippines. The island served as a silent witness to the two battles between the Japanese and the US during World War II. Today, Corregidor serves as a memorial for the courage, valor, and heroism of Filipino and American soldiers who bravely fought against the overwhelming forces of the Japanese army.

The easiest and most convenient way to explore Corregidor is via the island’s sole transport and tour operator, Sun Cruises Inc. (SCI). Travel time to the island is one hour and 15 minutes. Once you alight from the North Dock terminal of Corregidor Island, you’ll find tranvia buses that cater to the regular guided tours of the island. Visitors will be treated to great sights and stories during the Historical Tram Tour. The onboard four-hour tour is made up of tours to Corregidor’s Memorial War Zones at the topside, middle side, and bottom side of the island, with the Malinta Tunnel Light and Sound Show that showcases the beginning and the end of WWII, as the main highlight.

Mount Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo

If you’re aching for some action-packed adventure, why not embark on a full-day Mt Pinatubo experience? Mt. Pinatubo, one of the world’s most famous volcanoes, is an active stratovolcano in the Zambales Mountains located no more than 3 hours away from Manila.

The trek to the stunning crater of Mt. Pinatubo can be done in a day. The trek involves an hour-long 4×4 ride on a rugged lahar trail made of volcanic mudflow and rock debris with panoramic sand walls, and at least 3 hours of leisurely hiking back and forth. Upon reaching the crater, you'll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of clear turquoise waters and remarkable surrounding land formations.

Aside from the sight of the incredible volcano’s crater, other activities you shouldn’t miss at Mt Pinatubo include enjoying a rejuvenating volcanic ash massage at the Pinatubo Spa Town, taking a dip at nearby Bueno and Dolores Hot Springs, dropping by at Capas Shrine for a glimpse of Philippine history, and getting up close with the man-shaped rock formation in Sta. Juliana. Be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes and pack light for this adventure-filled Mt. Pinatubo tour.

Tagaytay Ridge

Tagaytay Ridge

Tagaytay Ridge, located around 2.5 hours south of Manila, is another awe-inspiring day trip destination from Manila. This tour involves a picturesque drive to Tagaytay Ridge, a panoramic viewpoint situated at an elevation of 671 meters. On the way, you can also make a stop at St Joseph Parish where you can find the world-famous Las Pinas Bamboo Organ. Upon arrival at Tagaytay Ridge, a drive to the summit of Mt Gonzales takes you to the ‘Palace in the Sky’ and savor the cool and refreshing air. You can also stop by a local restaurant for a festive lunch of traditional Filipino dishes, as well as visit a jeepney factory in Sarao, Las Pinas.

Subic Bay

Subic Bay

Its proximity to the center makes Subic Bay an ideal destination for half-day or day trips from Manila. The North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) link Metro Manila to Subic, which is at least 2 hours away. Once you arrive in Subic you’re in for a handful of activities that make for a trip you won’t easily forget.

Subic boasts a number of mangrove parks, excellent trekking sites, including the El Kabayo Subic Trail, and is also laden with several vintage shipwrecks and WWII remnants that are a major draw among snorkelers and wreck divers. There’s also the Subic Inflatable Island perfect for the kids at heart and a Subic Bay Yacht Cruise at dusk can be the most grandiose way to cap the day.

Hidden Valley Springs

Nestled in the town of Alaminos in the Province of Laguna some 75 kilometers South of Manila, Hidden Valley Springs offers a perfect spot to escape from the hustle and bustle of Manila. The endearing springs of Hidden Valley can be found between two mystical mountains - Mt. Makiling and Mt. Banahaw.

The main attraction of the landscape is the enormous 110-acre wide, 300-foot deep crater. The valley is surrounded by lush vegetation and an impressive collection of rare orchids and other exotic flora and the peaceful sounds of the local wildlife are just as pleasing to the ears. Here you can also pamper yourself in the invigorating hot springs and complete the experience by dining on some delectable Filipino cuisine.

Villa Escudero Plantation

Spend a relaxing day at Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort, a historic coconut plantation tucked away at the provincial boundaries of Laguna and Quezon, just two hours away from Manila. The villa serves as a reminiscent of the old plantation life and its beautiful surroundings will leave you in awe. Experience Filipino culture and history as you ride a water buffalo-drawn cart to the human-made Labasin Falls, listen to folks songs, see interesting artifacts and antique collections at the museum, and enjoy a picturesque lunch at the foot of a calm spillway from Labasin Dam while the water runs over your feet.

Best Time to Visit Manila

Comprised of multiple cities, traveling from one city to another in Manila can eat up a huge chunk of your time, especially during the rush hour. That said, it is paramount that you plan where your accommodation will be during your stay in Manila. This way, it’s much easier and faster for you to go to the attractions and activities that are included in your itinerary.

Whether you are a traveler on a tight budget or someone who prefers to splurge on luxurious accommodations, you’re sure to find the right place to stay based on your budget, needs, and tastes in the vast city of Manila.

Types of Accommodations

From budget hotels, inns, and vacation rentals to luxury accommodations, Manila has them all. The key is planning and researching your accommodation before you visit the city. Below are some of the popular choices of accommodations in the metropolis:


Whether you're here in Manila for business or pleasure, there is an array of hotels in Manila suitable for any type of budget. With luxury hotels in Manila, you can expect special amenities that include swimming pools and spas on top of world-class services and facilities. Hotels on the cheaper side provide basic amenities and facilities for your stay. Some hotels may allow early check-in at no cost based on room availability, while others will charge 50% of the room rate.


Ideal for solo travelers/backpackers, hostels in Manila typically provide dorm-type rooms and single rooms options, but with shared bathrooms. You can find a good deal of hostels in Manila, particularly in Makati. The common areas in hostels offer excellent opportunities for meeting new people, with some even having rooftop bars where guests can chill at night.

Vacation Rentals

For those looking for more privacy and homey comfort, renting a private condominium or house within Manila is the best way to go. You’ll find several vacation rentals at relatively affordable prices scattered throughout Manila; from the city of Manila, Makati City, Pasay City, Mandaluyong City, and Quezon City. You can save even more money if you are in a group as you can divide the expenses.

Budget Accommodations

For backpackers or travelers who would prefer to spend more on the sights and experiences rather than on the accommodation, the great news is that Manila has plenty of options to fit your needs.

Best Places to Stay in Manila Based on Neighborhoods and Areas


When booking for your place to stay in Manila, location is arguably everything. The perfect accommodation would either be one closest to the airport or where most of the attractions and activities you plan will be concentrated around. 

If you plan to stay a little longer, though, it’s best to have ample time to explore Manila thoroughly, and in this case, your choice of accommodation will rely on your budget and travel plans. 

For business and leisure travelers who require modern conveniences, all-inclusive amenities, and luxurious hotels, the ideal place to stay would be in Manila’s central business districts. There is a lavish option of central business districts to choose from in Manila, which include Makati, Bonifacio Global City (BGC), and Ortigas Center. Quezon City, Mandaluyong City, Pasay City, and the city of Manila also boast an excellent selection of quality and modern accommodations. The following is a rundown of the top areas where you should book your hotel in Manila.


For those who want to discover more of the capital city of the Philippines, booking a hotel in Manila is ideal. Does your itinerary include a food trip in Binondo’s Chinatown, a trip to the National Museum, or a visit to the historic Intramuros? Then there’s no need to stray too far as there are a lot of luxury hotels and budget hotels you can find just within Manila. Some of the best views are in the hotels lined up at Roxas Boulevard, where you can feast your eyes with the spectacular sunset of the Manila Bay.

Pasay City

Aside from its proximity to the best attractions in Manila, Pasay City is also a great place to find your accommodation with if you are searching for hotels in Manila that are near the airports. The city in itself offers fascinating attractions and entertainment hubs, including:

  • The Dessert Museum
  • Lakbay Museo, 
  • Upside Down Museum 
  • Resorts World Manila
  • The amusement park, Star City
  • The SM Mall of Asia, the fourth largest shopping mall in the Philippines

Makati City

The city of Makati is reputed to be the best area to stay when traveling in Manila, especially for first-time travelers. Makati, one of the16 cities that make up Metro Manila, represents the financial and business hub of the Philippines with all the skyscrapers and its array of luxury malls, the majority of which can be found in Ayala Center, the city's prime shopping and entertainment hub. 

International brands in retail shopping can also be found in Makati’s department stores such as in Glorietta Malls and Greenbelt Malls. The city also boasts various retail shops, top sights, and vibrant nightlife, on top of its extensive range of hotels and accommodations from budget-priced hostels to high-end hotels.  

Bonifacio Global City (BGC)

BGC, also called Global City and The Fort, in Taguig City is a booming financial and lifestyle district in Manila. A popular hub of corporate offices of multinational companies and startups, BGC, just like Makati also has a lively nightlife, in fact, you can find the hottest clubs and bars in BGC. 

It also houses several malls, including SM Aura, Market! Market!, Uptown Mall, and the lifestyle mall, Venice Grand Canal Mall. BGC's Bonifacio High Street boasts open-air shopping blocks with a host of upscale retail outlets and a diverse array of local and international restaurants.

If you’re looking for classy vacation rentals or luxury hotels in Manila that are near clubs, restaurants, and shopping malls,  BGC offers all these and more, including plush residential condominiums.

Quezon City

Quezon City previously served as the country’s capital city. Today, it is Manila’s largest and most populous city. Home to some of the remarkable historical monuments like the Quezon City Memorial Circle and the EDSA People Power Monument, the city has developed into a premier and vibrant metropolis offering abundant activities and delightful attractions.

QC has also become a food haven delighting guests with a variety of delicious meals - from local cuisine to international gastronomical treats. So, if food-trips are your thing, then you’ll love it here in Quezon City.

Manila Accommodations - Key Takeaway

Overall, when deciding which place is ideal for your Manila accommodation, it's crucial to keep these factors in mind: location, price, and service. While a cheaper place may sound appealing, one must also take into account the number of people that will be staying. If you're traveling in a group, renting a private house or staying at Manila hotels that offer family rooms can be a cheaper and more convenient option.

What and Where to Eat in Manila

Not everyone will agree that Filipino cuisine is among the best in Asia, nonetheless, they are certainly a must-try. And, for first-time travelers, one of the best things to do is to enjoy Filipino cuisines, which represent a multicultural lifestyle due to the fact that the country is a melting pot of various cultures. 

Plus, did you know that Manila, with its beautiful settings and exceptional service, is one of the best and affordable places to enjoy Chinese, Japanese, Thai, French, and Italian cuisines to international standards? Check out our recommendations below of where and what to eat in Manila, and discover why this bustling metro is a happy place to dine and wine:

Budget Accommodations

The Kismet Cafe

This charming, little cafe in Makati is a haven for those looking for healthy vegetarian and vegan options.

Via Mare Oyster Bar and Cafe

One of the city’s most celebrated seafood restaurants, Via Mare is set in a relaxed ambiance on top of their fresh and mouth-watering seafood. Even better, they have several locations across the city, including Alabang, Makati City, Greenhills, and Mandaluyong City.

Harbor View Restaurant

With its location on Manila Bay, Harbor View offers a stunning harbor view. But their main selling point is their house specialties - deep-fried shrimps and seafood cooked in chili, as well as the rest of their menu that features a wide variety of Filipino favorites.

Le Petit Souffle

A well-loved French restaurant in Manila, Le Petit Souffle serves French and Japanese-inspired dishes and their relaxed and cozy ambiance makes this cafe more appealing. Their luxurious Valrhona dessert is a must-try if you have a sweet tooth.

A Taste of Authentic Filipino Food in Manila

Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant

A must-visit for those who want a taste of Filipino heritage Barbara’s Restaurant in Intramuros serves classic Filipino dishes such as the iconic Pinoy adobo, Kare-Kare (peanut sauce-based stew), kaldereta (tomato-based meat stew), pork sisig, palitaw (rice cake), and Lechon (roasted pig). Aside from an awesome ambiance one of their dining highlights is a cultural presentation featuring Filipino folk dances and songs.

Islas Pinas

Isla Pinas is one of the best places to go if you want to taste an assortment of Filipino food with innovative flavors. It isn’t surprising that this restaurant located at Double Dragon Plaza in Pasay City has been tagged as a Food and Heritage Village. And, unlike your average restaurant, they implement a cashless system, instead, you need to get an access card upon entry to the restaurant, and pay what you’ve ordered upon exit.

Bistro Remedios

If you’re looking for local home cooking at its finest, Bistro Remedios located at the Remedios Circle in Malate, Manila is not to miss. They serve Kapampangan cuisine in a chic bistro setting that’s without a doubt very Filipino.

Barrio Fiesta

Serving traditional Filipino dishes, such as kare-kare and kaldereta, spiced and cooked to perfection, Barrio Fiesta has been serving festive Filipino recipes with unparalleled friendly service for over 50 years.

The Aristocrat

The famous Aristocrat is best known for its Chicken Barbecue with Javanese rice and has been around since the 1940s. 

Bars and Nightlife in Manila

Manila’s nightlife is among the liveliest in Asia, proof that Filipinos take fun seriously. No matter what neighborhood you find yourself in, it’s easy to find plenty of late-night bars to dance and drink the night away.

Nightclubs and Bars – Manila boasts an impressive selection of bars offering fantastic music, fun-loving company, cheap drinks, high-end settings, and unique clubs that you will only find in the Philippines. Valkyrie is a popular nightclub among locals and foreigners. Another posh and considered the hottest club right now is called The Palace Pool Club, the country’s first pool and day club. Like Valkyrie, this nightclub is also located in Uptown BGC. Expect to comply with a dress code and to pay a cover charge in the city’s top nightclubs. Here are other clubs and bars for you to discover for a night of fun and relaxing:

Revel at the Palace
Location: 11th Avenue corner 38th Street, Uptown Bonifacio Global City

Location: 62 Timog Ave., Quezon City

Prive Luxury Club
Location: Fort Bonifacio The Fort Strip, Uptown Bonifacio Global City

Ocean Telco
Location: Forbestown Rd, Taguig, Metro Manila

Unit 27
Location: Icon Plaza, 26th St, Taguig

Karaoke – Whether you like it or not, karaoke is an integral part of the Filipino culture. So, it’s not surprising that karaoke television aka KTV’s are very popular in the country. CenterStage has a few locations, including in Makati City and Pasay City. They are stocked with the latest hits, great food, and your favorite drinks. Chill Top in Cubao, a four-level roof deck resto-bar and KTV spot will treat you to a stunning view of Metro Manila, and a truly chill vibe. Rockstar KTV, conveniently located in SM Aura also lets you party like a rock star and spend a memorable night in Manila as you sing and dance your heart out.

Rooftop Views – What better way to spend the night than having great conversations over drinks while catching some of the best views of the city lights? Straight Up at Seda Vertis North, considered the premier rooftop bar of the north, is definitely worth a visit. Antidote on the top floor of the I’M Hotel in Makati not only offers spectacular views of the city but also boasts a stunning jellyfish tank immersed in luminescent lights as a backdrop for the bar. And, Rooftop 11 offers a perfect spot to sip on a cocktail while lounging by the pool.

Live Music – If live music is your thing, Manila will treat you to its one-of-a-kind music scene, a celebration of all sorts of genres and talents. Strumm’s in Makati City is a fun venue for live music with lively bands and a chill vibe. Other great options for live music lovers are TodayxFuture in Cubao, 12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub in Ortigas, and Route 196 in Katipunan Avenue.

Cocktails – In the mood for a fancy cocktail drink? You can’t go wrong with Manila’s high-end cocktail bars! Here you’ll have a variety of options, including The Back Room, located in the ground floor area of Shangri-La at the Fort, Manila Hotel, with 20s Prohibition Era-style look where gin is king and Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen, a quirky cocktail bar in the city that pays homage to the Filipino culture.

Shopping in Manila

More than for shopping purposes, malls in the Philippines have served as the perfect venues for family bondings and gatherings during special occasions, making them pretty much part of the Filipinos’ everyday lives. It only comes naturally then that Manila, being the country’s capital, is also home to the best shopping malls in the country, and among the world’s best.

SM Mall of Asia

The country’s fourth-largest mall, exploring SM Mall of Asia, aka MOA, within one day won’t be enough. MOA overlooks Manila Bay and has an outdoor walkway where shoppers can catch a full view of the picturesque sunset.

Greenbelt Mall

A high-end shopping mall that has it all, Greenbelt Mall in Makati, offers both local and international brands. Here you will find branded shops, internationally renowned boutiques, fancy restaurants, Filipino bistros, and cafes.

Greenhills Shopping Center

A favorite shopping destination all-year-round, Greenhills Shopping Center has the best bargains diverse mix of shops and restaurants to delight every shoppers and mall-goers.

Divisoria Market

Don’t be surprised if you find Divisoria almost always crowded. Divisoria offers everything at prices you will love from school supplies, shoes, bags, and household furniture, that’s why Divisoria is literally a household name among the residents in Manila.

Ayala Center

A vast shopping complex in Makati, Ayala Center offers retail, dining, and entertainment options that are unparalleled.

Robinsons Galleria

Robinsons Galleria, a five-level mall complex located in Quezon City, showcases features distinct to the mall brand, including countless service centers, food stalls, travel agencies, and hardware stores.

Shangri-la Plaza

An upscale shopping destination, Shangri-la Plaza located along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City is ideal for those who want a less crowded and luxurious shopping experience.

Balikbayan Handicrafts

When in Manila, don’t miss shopping in Balikbayan Handicrafts which offer genuine Philippine handicrafts perfect as souvenirs, gifts, or pasalubongs.

Silahis Arts and Handicrafts

If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for local handicrafts, artworks, and furniture, Silahis Arts and Handicrafts located in Intramuros, is the right place for you, with its museum-like ambiance, and various selection of arts and handicrafts ideal as pasalubongs or memorabilia.

Is Manila Safe for Tourists?

One of the major concerns of travelers planning to visit Manila is safety. Big cities all over the world suffer from higher crime rates compared to rural areas, and Manila is of no exemption. With poverty being real and obvious in Manila, as a traveler you should be wary of opportunistic crimes, such as robberies. However, Manila is generally a safe and great place for traveling, as long as you travel smart and exercise caution.

General Safety Tips for Travelers

  • If you are out at night, avoid dark or unlit areas and if possible, always walk in groups.
  • When commuting or going through crowded shopping areas such as in Quiapo, Divisoria, and Baclaran, always be mindful of your belongings. Sadly, pickpocketing is fairly common, particularly in these areas so, it would also be best to avoid wearing jewelry or anything expensive that will attract thieves lurking around.
  • It’s a good idea to use money belts where you can keep your cash safe and easily accessible.
  • Avoid areas associated with high crime rates, especially at night, including Ermita, Malate, Navotas, Tondo, and Baclaran.
  • Be careful with your drinks as drink spiking isn’t unheard of. Be cautious of those overly friendly strangers offering you food or drink.
  • Only exchange money in reputable places. Make sure you double-check the conversion rate and clarify commission charges before starting any transaction.
  • Keep windows rolled up and doors locked whenever you are in your car or a taxi.
  • Check out Government Travel Advice websites for travel advisories and information on current hot spots.
  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.smarttraveller.gov.au)
  • Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.voyage.gc.ca)
  • German Foreign Office (www.auswaertiges-amt.de)
  • Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.anzen.mofa.go.jp)
  • New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
  • UK Foreign Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
  • US State Department (http://travel.state.gov)

Brief History of Manila

Manila, which started out as a small tribal settlement on the banks of the Pasig River near the mouth of Manila Bay, has been put through the wringer, it’s history intertwined with its geographic location. Manila took its name from the ‘nilad,’ a white-flowered mangrove plant that grew in abundance in the area. Maynilad, or where the nilad grows, was nestled near Manila Bay, which was considered the best natural harbor of East Asia and played a crucial role in the trade and commerce between Manila and its neighboring countries. Unfortunately, this also lured a string of invaders.

In 1571, Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi claimed the islands in the name of the King of Spain, proclaiming Manila as the capital. Thus began more than 300 years of Spanish colonization in the country. The new city of Manila was bordered by double walls, the Intramuros, while at the same time secured by a fort - Fort Santiago.

But by the 1890s, liberal ideologies ignited the spirits of the enlightened Manileños, and as a result, Spain had lost control over the Philippines. Freedom, still, has remained elusive as the Philippines eventually found itself under its former ally, the Americans. While many developments such as schools, roads, and bridges, as well as increased trading, spawned from the occupation of the Americans, the onset of World War II soon halted all that. For three agonizing years, the Philippines was ruled by the Japanese. Towards the end of the Pacific War, the country finally gained its independence. The Commonwealth government under Manuel L. Quezon declared independence in July of 1946.

Today, the colorful history of Manila lies scattered across several museums found in the city, with Intramuros and few other historical landmarks left providing hints of the city’s once beguiling architectural past. Manila is now a booming, ever-expanding urban sprawl and home to an overall population of 12.8 million as per the 2015 Census.

You Will Love Manila, Plan Your Visit to the Philippines’ Capital of Fun!

By and large, Manila may not be the easiest place to explore mainly because of its snarling road congestion, and not to mention the heat and pollution in the city. However, give Manila a time and its joie de vivre will definitely get caught up on you. The capital of the Philippines is far from boring, and as a melting pot of cultures, showcases a rich mix of influences from the Chinese, Europeans, and Americans. And, if things in the metro get too much to take in, buses, ferries, and flights are easily accessible and connect you to the astonishing nooks and crannies of the Philippines.

Photos of Metro Manila, Philippines

See Photos of the Best Destinations and Attractions in Metro Manila, Philippines.
  • Tagaytay
  • Subic Bay
  • Rizal Park or also known as Luneta Park
  • Quezon Memorial Circle Shrine
  • Pagsanjan Falls
  • Mt. Pinatubo
  • Intramuros
  • Manila Ocean Park
  • Manila Cathedral in Intramuros
  • Metro Manila
  • Manila Bay Sunset
  • Metro Manila
  • Intramuros
  • Fort Santiago Manila
  • Corregidor Island
  • Chinatown Manila
  • Casa Manila Intramuros
  • Baluarte de San Diego Rusty Locomotive Train
  • Baluarte de San Diego

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Situated in Southeast Asia in the Western Pacific Ocean, with its topography consisting of mountainous terrains, dense forests, plains, and coastal areas, the Philippines is endowed with rich biodiversity. The

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