As the capital of the Philippines, Manila is one crowded and populated city which offers several surprising treasures. Millions of Filipinos call it home while some regard is it as the gateway to flying to the beautiful beaches of the country.
Despite all the crowds and buzz, Manila has a lot of things to offer. Expect to find here historic spots, parks, museums, delicious cuisine, and so much more!
Here are the epic things to do in Manila. You’ll be surprised!
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Relive the past at Intramuros
During the Spanish colonial area, Intramuros was once the city center and a fortified district. The schools and churches all over this Spanish old town will transport you to another country. You’ll have a hard time believing you’re in Asia.
You can choose to walk around, ride a horse-drawn carriage, or go on a bambike (bamboo + bike) tour around Intramuros. Don’t forget to visit the Fort Santiago (a former citadel), San Agustin Church ( a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Museum, and Casa Manila.
Take lots of photos at the largest 3D art museum in Asia, Art in Island
If you love taking photos, don’t miss Art in Island. Located in Cubao, Art in Island is considered as the first selfie museum in the world. You’ll find here more than 200 works of art! Take as many photos as you’d like and have fun!
Try eating street food and eat a balut
Street food is one of the best ways to get to know a country. In the Philippines, you’ll have to try this. Most people love the isaw (pork or chicken intestines) dipped in vinegar. Others include squid balls, fish balls, kwek-kwek (boiled quail eggs covered in batter), and the famous balut. This article covers the step-by-step guide on how to eat balut like a Filipino.
Choose as much and as many as you like! A single stick of street food costs as low as 10 pesos or $0.2
Be amazed by the toy collections at Yexel’s Toy House
You may have a hard time finding a collection of graphic novels, toys, and life-size action figures and cartoon characters but not in Manila. Yexel’s Toy House offers avid fans a whopping 50,000 collectibles!
The most-loved attractions include the life-size set of Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers, as well as a collection of Iron Man’s suits! This four storeys building is a dream come true. You can find this toy house at 52 Sampaguita Rd, Las Pinas.
If you’re still wondering what are the top things to do in Manila, this is one of them.
Enjoy the nightlife at Bonifacio Global City
Live music? Fruity cocktails? Free-flowing drinks? Bonifacio Global City has it all for you! You’ll surely find the perfect spot to chill and have fun. Some of the most famous bars include The Coconut Club, Ocean’s Telephone Co., The Craft Rock & Grill, and Versus Barcade.
Have fun in one or two amusement park
If you’re a kid at heart, you’re going to love exploring the amusement parks in Manila. Here’s what I recommend that you check:
- DreamWorks DreamPlay
- Manila Ocean Park
- Star City
- By the Bay Amusement Park
See Quiapo Church and San Agustin Church
Quiapo Church is famous for being the home of the miraculous Black Nazarene. This statue came in Manila in 1606 and is made of dark wood which was crafted in Mexico. Every year on January 9, the Feast of the Black Nazarene is held in this church where thousands of devotees join a barefoot procession.
On the other hand, the San Agustin Church is the first church to be established in Luzon. It is the oldest church in the Philippines. It was originally made of palm and wood. By 1993, it replaced by stones. Today, it is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Eat some of the best dishes in one of the world’s oldest Chinatown, Binondo
Binondo is where you should go if you want to fill your stomach with delicious food. Here you’ll find affordable eateries offering roast duck, dim sum, noodle soup, hopia, lumpiang shanghai and a lot more! You can create your own itinerary or opt to join a gastronomic tour with the Big Binondo Food Work.
Watch the sunset at Manila Bay
Months ago, Manila bay has made headlines as it has been cleaned up and restored to its former glory thanks to the efforts of the government. Here, you can take a leisurely stroll along the Baywalk as you wait for the sun to set.
If you’re hungry, you can enjoy the scenery as you eat dinner at a restaurant nearby. I recommend the Bayleaf Hotel’s Sky Deck View Bar or Sofitel Manila’s Sunset Bar.
Explore the Rizal Park and Paco Park
Go on a stroll at Rizal Park and Paco Park for a peaceful environment. The Paco Park was once a cemetery in the 19th century. This was where Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines was buried after he was shot in Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park). Later that same year, the tombs were cleared and then turned into a park. Now, it’s turned into a recreational area boasting of lawns, trees, and gardens.
Rizal Park, on the other hand, transformed into a leisure spot for both locals and tourists. Its open-air auditorium has become a venue for events. Aside from the monument of Rizal, you’ll also find here museums, artwork, fountains and several other statues.
Check out the street arts around Bonifacio Global City
Bonifacio Global City is one of the best places to go hunting for street arts. You can join the Bambike Ecotours for a BGC Art Tour, and be amazed at all the painted walls around the city. During this tour, you’ll learn the stories behind these murals. Not only that, but you’ll get some artsy Instagram photos to post.
Go vintage hunting in Cubao Expo
Cubao Expo is a not-so-touristy place that’s considered a paradise for people who love indie music, vintage finds, antiques and quirky knick-knacks. Plus, if you’re looking for vinyl records, this is the place to go!
Cubao Expo was once a showcase area for shoe vendors in the 1960’s but was later turned into a hub for art galleries, thrift shops, coffee shops, stores, restaurants and bars. After shopping, sit down and get a taste of the local craft beer at Fred’s Revolucion.
I’ve mentioned this before and I’m going to write about it again. Filipinos love karaoke. So it’s no surprise that Manila has tons of karaoke booths outfitted with high tech sound systems. Whether you love to sing or not, you’ll want to try belting a song or two in these booths.
Hunt for bargains at Divisoria
Divisoria is every bargain hunter’s haven. Here, you can find cheap textiles, fruits, baking supplies, party needs, toys, t-shirts, gowns and costumes, school and office supplies, souvenirs and a whole lot more! You can find almost anything in this part of Manila.
Go hop from one museum to the other
Manila is home to a lot of museums. Here’s a list of where you should go:
- Bahay Tsinoy
- The National Museum
- The Mind Museum
- Museum of Natural History
- Museum of Fine Arts
- National Museum of Anthropology
- Ayala Museum
- Casa Manila
- Metropolitan Museum
- San Agustin Museum
Try some Filipino dishes
There are so many delicacies that showcase Filipino culture. But some of the dishes I’d recommend you to try are halo-halo, roast port, chicharon, adobo, sinigang, bicol express, ensaymada, kare-kare, sisig, beef tapa, and dinuguan.
Where to stay in Manila
Gotta love Manila, right? If you’re planning on staying in the city for a few nights here are some of the top-rated hotels.
Related Article: Manila Staycation | 20 Condos and Hotels With Awesome Swimming Pools
Aside from hotels and resorts, you can also opt to stay at an Airbnb.
Zenrooms offers some of the best budget rooms in the city. Get a 15% discount when you use the code WANDERERA upon booking. I booked a stay in Gramercy Residences at Makati and the skyline view of Manila from there was amazing!
In case you’re planning on booking via Airbnb, here’s a P2,200 ($44) discount on your first booking when you sign up on Airbnb via this link.
What to Pack for Manila
- Eco-friendly Reusable Water Bottle
- Light Rain Jacket (especially from June to November)
- T-shirts, a nice top, and a long-sleeved shirt
- Day Bag
- Power Adapter
- Universal Waterproof Phone Case
- Packing Cubes
- Microfiber Towel
- Travel Insurance
- Money Belt
- sneakers, and some flats
- reusable straw and reusable bag (no to single-use plastic!)
Related Article: The Only Travel Packing List You’ll Ever Need (Trust Me)
Our Camera Gear
- Mirrorless Camera: Fujifilm XT3
- Lenses: Fujifilm Fujinon kit lens (18-55mm) | Fujinon 35mm f2 | Fujinon 50mm f2
- Drone: DJI Mavic Pro 2
- GoPro: GoPro Hero Black 7
- Power Bank: Romoss Powerbank
- Camera Backpack: Case Logic Camera and Laptop Backpack
- Monopod: Ifootage Cobra 2 a180
- Mic: Rode VideoMicro
- Gimbal: Zhiyun Weebill-S
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- Manila Staycation | 20 Condos and Hotels With Awesome Swimming Pools
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- 1Bataan Ferry: Travel From Manila To Bataan In As Fast As 1 Hour!
- 2GO Batangas to Caticlan Ferry Ride (Manila to Boracay)
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Johanes is a digital nomad and a web content writer who loves to go on spontaneous travels. She also likes to go camp under the stars and play with her dog and cats.