Manila is the capital city of the Philippines. Immerse yourself in a perfect blend of rich history, diverse culture, and urban sophistication. Explore the city’s fascinating Spanish colonial landmarks and ancient fortresses, and indulge in its modern shopping centres, buzzing nightlife, and delicious cuisine.
Whatever your interests may be, Manila has something for everyone. This is your guide to the top things to do in Manila, how to get around the city, and whether it’s worth visiting. So don’t wait any longer, pack your bags, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to embark on a thrilling journey through the most exciting and dynamic city in the Philippines!
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13 Things to do in Manila, Philippines.
Here are 13 of the best things to do in Manila City, Philippines.
1. SM Mall of Asia (Mega Mall)
The SM Mall of Asia is one of the largest malls in the Philippines, ranking fifth in the world. You’ll find crowds of people here every day, but Sundays are especially busy, with about 200,000 visitors. This place is a real treat for children with lots of fun stuff like the MOA Food Hall, SM Game Park, SM Skating Rink, SM Cinema and IMAX.
Don’t forget to visit SM by the Bay while you’re here (See the next point). The best way to get here is by taking a Grab taxi. SM Mall of Asia is open from 10:00 to 22:00.
2. SM by the Bay
Do you want to have some fun by the seaside? Head over to SM by the Bay, just outside SM Mall of Asia. This amusement park is a hit with locals and tourists and is a great spot for families. You’ll find all sorts of rides like the big MOA EYE Ferris wheel, the thrilling Drop tower, and the classic bumper cars. Plus, it’s the perfect spot to catch a gorgeous sunset in Manila. And the best part?
It’s a public park with no entrance fee, so you only pay if you want to ride. The park is open 24 hours a day, however, the amusement park is only open Sunday to Thursday from 16:00 to 22:00 and Friday to Saturday from 16:00 to 02:00.
3. Rizal Park
Rizal Park, located in Manila, holds a significant place in the hearts of the Filipino people. It was constructed on the site where José Rizal, a revered national hero, was executed by the Spanish colonial government.
Rizal Park’s opening hours are Monday to Friday from 05:00 to 10:00 and 11:00 to 20:00 and Saturday to Sunday from 05:00 to 09:00 and 11:00 to 20:00.
Many tourists visit Manila for the Intramuros, which is a significant tourist destination in the city. It is possible to spend an entire day exploring the area. The Intramuros is a walled city that was constructed over 400 years ago by the Spanish as a political and military centre. There are several attractions within the Intramuros that can be explored, and they are listed in the following section.
5. Puerta Real Gardens
Puerta Real Gardens is a peaceful oasis located in the Intramuros. This green space features a well-manicured lawn, a fountain, and several benches. It is an ideal spot for a peaceful break from the hustle and bustle of the city. The gardens also offer a picturesque view of the nearby walls and fortifications of Intramuros.
Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax or a scenic backdrop for your photos, Puerta Real Gardens is definitely worth a visit. Puerta Real Gardens is open daily from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm and has no entrance fee.
6. Baluarte de San Diego
Baluarte de San Diego is a spade-shaped fort created from the remnants of an ancient watchtower constructed in the 1500s. Throughout the years, the site has suffered damage from wars and earthquakes. Nevertheless, it remains a popular tourist attraction, offering visitors a glimpse into the past.
You can visit Baluarte de San Diego daily from 8:00 to 17:00, and the entrance fee is PHP 75.000 for adults. Children, students, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities (PWD) may be eligible for a discount.
7. San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church is a must-visit destination for those who are interested in historical religious structures. Although not everyone enjoys visiting churches, this one is an exception.
It is the oldest church in the Philippines and remained standing after the destruction caused by World War II. The church has undergone three renovations over the years, with the latest one being made of adobe stones, which still stands today. The church is more than 420 years old, making it a beautiful piece of Philippine history.
San Agustin Church is open Tuesday to Sunday from 08:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 17:00. There is no entrance fee to visit the church.
8. San Agustin Museum
In addition to the church itself, there is also a museum located on the church grounds that is worth a visit. The museum boasts an impressive collection of paintings, artefacts, statues, sculptures, and other historical items. However, the museum’s most striking feature is its stunning architecture. The building is sure to take your breath away with its beauty.
The entrance fee for the San Agustin Museum is PHP 200.000 for adults. Children, students, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities (PWD) may be eligible for a discount. It’s open daily from 08:00 to 17:00.
9. Casa Manila Museum
The Casa Manila Museum is a unique living museum. It showcases the home and way of life of a wealthy Filipino family during the late Spanish colonial era. Visitors will be able to see authentic furnishings from the 19th century that were imported from Europe and China. This gives an immersive experience of what life was like during that time period. It is a fantastic opportunity to learn about and appreciate the lifestyle of the past.
The Casa Manila Museum is closed on Mondays but open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 to 18:00. The entrance fee is PHP 75.000 for adults. Children, students, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities (PWD) may be eligible for a discount.
10. Manila Cathedral Basilica
The Manila Cathedral Basilica is a historical religious site that was built over 400 years ago. Unfortunately, it has not been as fortunate as the San Agustin Church in terms of survival, as it has been damaged multiple times during wars and earthquakes.
However, the cathedral has undergone 8 restorations to bring it to its current state. To learn more about the rich history of the Manila Cathedral Basilica, you can click here.
The cathedral is open for public visits, and it’s just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. The Manila Cathedral is characterised by its high ceilings and the largest pipe organ in the Philippines. The cathedral is open to visitors daily from 07:00 to 17:00.
11. Fort Santiago
Fort Santiago is a national landmark that symbolises the hard-fought freedom of the Philippines. Throughout its history, the fort has served as the headquarters for the Spanish, the British, the Americans, and the Japanese.
The fort is also famous as the place where the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal, was imprisoned before his execution. To fully appreciate the rich history of Fort Santiago, we recommend that you visit the site and experience it for yourself.
Fort Santiago is open from Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 20:00 and from Saturday to Sunday from 06:00 to 21:00. The entrance fee is PHP 75.000 for adults. Children, students, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities (PWD) may be eligible for a discount.
12. Ride a Jeepney.
Jeepneys are a lasting symbol of Philippine history and culture. After World War II, when American troops left the Philippines, they left behind jeeps, which the locals transformed into a popular mode of public transportation.
They added a metal roof and painted the vehicles in bright colours, making them a unique and recognizable feature of Philippine transportation. Today, Jeepneys are used all over the city of Manila.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a ride in one of these iconic vehicles. Different coloured Jeepneys represent different routes, and although they may not be the most convenient mode of transportation, they offer a truly unique and memorable experience.
13. Eat a Halo-Halo
Halo-halo is a traditional Filipino dessert that everyone loves. The dessert is a mix of various ingredients, including shaved ice, unsweetened condensed milk, and various sweet beans, fruits, and jellies. It is topped with a scoop of ice cream and is known for its sweet, creamy, and colourful appearance.
The dessert is a perfect way to cool off on a hot day and people of all ages love it. The combination of flavours and textures in Halo Halo makes it a unique and tasty treat that is an essential part of the Philippine food culture. If you’re in the Philippines, be sure to try Halo Halo for yourself and experience the delicious blend of flavours that make it a national favourite.
Is Manila Philippines worth visiting?
Manila is definitely worth visiting for those interested in experiencing a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity. Moreover, its rich history has made it home to several important landmarks and museums, including Intramuros, San Agustin Church, and the National Museum of the Philippines.
The city also offers a vibrant food scene, with a wide variety of local and international cuisine to choose from, as well as exciting nightlife with many bars, clubs, and entertainment options.
Additionally, Manila’s central location makes it an ideal starting point for exploring other destinations in the Philippines, such as the stunning beaches of Boracay and Palawan. Whether you prefer history, culture, food, or just a good time, Manila is definitely worth visiting.
How many days should I spend in Manila?
The amount of time you spend in Manila depends on your interests and the type of trip you plan. If you’re looking to get a general sense of the city and its main attractions, 2-3 days should be enough time. However, if you want to explore more of the island and visit its many historical, cultural, and natural attractions, you might consider spending 5 to 7 days on the island.
Additionally, suppose you’re planning to take day trips to nearby destinations, such as the nearby beaches, or the rice terraces in the nearby Cordillera region. In that case, you might want to consider spending more time in Manila to allow for these excursions.
How to get around Manila, Phillippines?
Getting around Manila can be challenging due to the city’s heavy traffic and complex transportation system. Here are some tips on how to get around Manila:
Ride a Jeepney
As mentioned earlier Jeepneys are a popular mode of transportation in Manila. They are colourful, uniquely designed public vehicles that operate on specific routes. It’s relatively cheap and popular among the locals.
Take the MRT or LRT (Skytrain Systems)
The Manila Metro Rail Transit System (MRT) and Light Rail Transit System (LRT) are modern train systems that connect different parts of the city. These trains are fast, efficient, and affordable. However, during peak hours it can get busy and there aren’t as many stations and routes. Look on Google Maps to see if the attraction you want to go to is close to one of the MRT or LRT stations.
Book a Grab taxi (Asia’s Uber)
Grab taxis are widely available in Manila and a recommended way to get around. Not only are they convenient, but they will take you anywhere you want to go. During our trip to Manila, this was our preferred way of transportation. However, there is a catch: taxi drivers expect you to tip them. As a result, they won’t give you change if you pay cash. If you don’t want to tip, make sure you have the exact amount ready.
Use a Tricycle
Tricycles are a common mode of transportation in Manila’s residential areas. In fact, they are motorcycle-type vehicles with a sidecar, which can seat one or two passengers. Additionally, they are an affordable option for short trips within a neighbourhood.
Rent a Car
If you prefer to drive yourself, you can rent a car. However, we don’t recommend this, since driving in Manila can be challenging due to the heavy traffic and the aggressive driving style of some locals. It’s also important to note that Manila has strict traffic rules and regulations. They will also be on the lookout for foreigners because it’s an easy way to make some money.
Get Around by Walking
If you’re up for some exercise, walking can be a great way to explore Manila. This is a great way to get around, especially if you are staying close to the Intramuros. Just be mindful of the weather, as it can get quite hot and humid.
Getting around Manila can be challenging, but there are several options available. Whether you prefer public transportation or driving yourself, there’s a mode of transportation that will suit your needs. Just remember to plan your route ahead of time, be mindful of your safety, and enjoy your time exploring this vibrant city.