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Manila is a large city and can easily appear overwhelming to visitors. But it's also one of the world's great cities: It took me years to appreciate my visits here, and now I live here I can truly say that Manila has a lot to offer. Lots of history, culture and activities are available if you know where to go, so follow my guide and discover the Philippines, (and the Filipino), through the vibrant capital city of Manila.

Good for
  • History enthusiast
  • Shopping enthusiast
  • Art and design lover
  • Budget traveller

13 Places

3 City Tips

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13 Places

Day 1

Intramuros

Ancient Ruins, Historic Sites, Historic Walking Areas

Fort Santiago

Historic Sites, Parks

San Agustin Church

Architectural Buildings, Religious Sites, Art Museums, History Museums

Presidential Museum and Library

Historic Sites, Museums

University of Santo Tomas

Educational Sites

Quiapo Church

Religious Sites

Day 2

Manila Ocean Park

Aquariums

Rizal Park

National Parks, Parks

National Museum

Historic Sites, Museums, Art Museums, History Museums

Museo Pambata

Museums

Day 3

Bonifacio Global City

The Mind Museum at Taguig

Museums

Greenbelt Malls

Shopping centres

Helen A's City Tips

  • Though sometimes crowded, the LRT is often the fastest (and cheapest) way to get across the city—especially at peak times.
  • If you have the budget, you can hire a car and driver for the day. Most hotels will assist with this, and it can be relatively inexpensive for what is a luxurious convenience.
  • Try the food from the street stalls, especially in the afternoon, when there are a great many delicious "Merienda" (or light meals) available. Try Turon, Cassava Q, Bibingka...
    Day 1
  • Save
    Intramuros
    Ancient Ruins, Historic Sites, Historic Walking Areas
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    To truly understand Manila today, one has to visit its past. Once known as 'The Pearl of the Orient,' Intramuros, the walled city, has a long and often heartbreaking history. You can see its former glory in the ruined and empty buildings, as well as those that have been preserved and are still in use. The streets here are quiet, making it a pleasant area to stroll around.

    Good for
    • Must see
    • Budget traveller
    • Everyone
    • History enthusiast
    • Outdoors explorer
    Tips
    • Take a walking tour! Personally, I love the Carlos Celdran tour "Walk this Way." He has great insight into the Filipino psyche and provides a good introduction to Manila.
    • Highlights here are the Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church and Manila Cathedral.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #4 of 68 attractions in Manila
    • Historic place 26/12/2014
    • Nice Outing 26/12/2014
    • Intramuros
    Address:
    Bonifacio Dr & Padre Burgos St
    Manila, Luzon 1002
    Philippines
  • Save
    Fort Santiago
    Historic Sites, Parks
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    Fort Santiago is one of the must-see places in Intramuros. Exploring the fort will provide you with a good sense of the old Manila, and the Rizal Shrine Museum in its grounds will tell you all about the nation's favorite hero.

    Good for
    • Must see
    • Budget traveller
    • Local favourite
    • Everyone
    • History enthusiast
    • Outdoors explorer
    Tips
    • If you have young children with you, look-out for the footsteps of Jose Rizal. Kids love to follow these although it's actually his path to execution!
    • Intramuros walking and bike tours all start at Fort Santiago, and the fort also has a Visitor's Center to help you explore the city "within the walls."
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 68 attractions in Manila
    • best preserved fort in intramuros 27/12/2014
    • Somewhat neglected 26/12/2014
    • Fort Santiago
    Address:
    Gen Luna St
    Intramuros
    Manila, Luzon 1002
    Philippines
    Phone:
    63 2 527 1572
  • Save
    San Agustin Church
    Architectural Buildings, Religious Sites, Art Museums, History Museums
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    Another must-do stop whilst walking around Intramuros' little streets, San Agustin Church is the 'Great Survivor'—being the only building to survive the almost total obliteration that World War II wreaked on this historic area. The Baroque-style church was completed in 1606, although the adjacent former monastery, now museum, was reconstructed in the 1970s. The Museum holds a fine collection of Ecclesiastical art, relics, and props, such as the carriages that were used during processions.

    Good for
    • Peace and quiet seeker
    • Must see
    • Budget traveller
    • Local favourite
    • Everyone
    • History enthusiast
    Tips
    • Be sure to go into the main church and look at the Trompe L'Oeil ceilings, painted by Italian artists Alberoni and Dibella. They are beautiful and well preserved.
    • Look for the Pineapples on the gilded pulpit, certainly a rare sight in Baroque decoration. Along with the Chinese Fu dogs in the courtyard, these demonstrate local influence.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 68 attractions in Manila
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • A nice old church 26/12/2014
    • Beautiful church 25/12/2014
    • San Agustin Church
    Address:
    Gen Luna & Real Sts
    Intramuros
    Manila, Luzon 1002
    Philippines
    Phone:
    63 2 524 7141
  • Save
    Presidential Museum and Library
    Historic Sites, Museums
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    After a morning exploring Intramuros, head over the river to the Malacañang Palace. The official residence of the President of The Philippines, the palace also houses the Presidential Museum, which allows you to see the interiors and brings history to life with memorabilia from each of the country's leaders. The guides are informative and interesting, and the museum provides a thorough look at the Philippines and its development—from colony, to democracy, to dictatorship, and back to democracy.

    Good for
    • Must see
    • Everyone
    • History enthusiast
    • Art and design lover
    Tips
    • You may only visit the museum on a guided tour. Book well in advance on the museum website.
    • Be sure to bring your ID along on your visit.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #14 of 68 attractions in Manila
    • A glimpse into the history of Philippine government 24/09/2014
    • Unexpectedly good 04/09/2014
    • Presidential Museum and Library
    Address:
    Kalayaan Hall
    Malacanang
    Manila, Luzon
    Philippines
    Phone:
    +63 2 784 4286
    Other:
  • Save
    University of Santo Tomas
    Educational Sites
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    If you are a true history lover, then a visit to Manila would not be complete without paying homage to the oldest university in Asia. Founded in 1611, the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas is also today the world's largest Catholic university on a single campus. It has been visited by two popes, and is the alma mater of many illustrious individuals, including national hero José Rizal and a number of presidents of the Philippines.

    Good for
    • Must see
    • Budget traveller
    • Everyone
    • History enthusiast
    • Art and design lover
    Tips
    • Other must-sees include Benavides Monument and Plaza Mayor, where you'll find the main building that now houses the Museum of Arts and Sciences.
    • You can walk around the campus and see the sights on your own—be sure to have a look at the Botanical Garden and the Quadricentennial Square with its interactive fountain.
    • Check out the Arch of Centuries, one of the few things that survived from the original campus (which was located in Intramuros and destroyed in WWII).
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #3 of 68 attractions in Manila
    • Impressive Architectural Designs 09/12/2014
    • Simply the best! 04/12/2014
    • University of Santo Tomas
    Address:
    Espana St
    Sampaloc
    Manila, Luzon 1008
    Philippines
    Phone:
    (632)406-1611
  • Save
    Quiapo Church
    Religious Sites
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    To top off a day of history (or perhaps, time depending, as an alternative to The University Of Santo Tomas), visit the Quiapo Church and its surrounding, bustling market streets. The Church is one of the most important Catholic churches for Filipinos, and many travel a long way to worship here. The surrounding area is also very well known for its markets. Many of the country's imported goods arrive here first, as does local produce from the rest of the Philippines. Thus, the church and its neighborhood will give you good insight into the lives of most Manila residents.

    Good for
    • Must see
    • Budget traveller
    • Local favourite
    • Friends
    • Solo
    • History enthusiast
    • Couples
    • Shopping enthusiast
    Tips
    • In Quiapo Church, look for the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, an extremely famous icon of Manila Catholic Faith.
    • Be careful in Quiapo Streets: walk confidently and keep close watch on your belongings.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #20 of 68 attractions in Manila
    • Interesting church and surrounding marketplace 26/12/2014
    • Iconic Church 18/12/2014
    • Quiapo Church
    Address:
    Plaza Miranda & Quezon Blvd.
    Quiapo
    Manila, Luzon
    Philippines
    Phone:
    2-733-4945
  • Day 2
  • Save
    Manila Ocean Park
    Aquariums
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    Time to see a new side of Manila! The Manila Ocean Park Development is a world-class entertainment area centered around the Oceanarium. There are a number of different attractions here—including sea lion and penguin shows, shark encounters, dolphin swimming, and more—so it's easy to spend a whole day here if you like.

    Good for
    • Must see
    • Everyone
    • Adventure seeker
    • Outdoors explorer
    Tips
    • Check out the packages in advance and think about what exactly you want to see and do. (You don't have to pay for everything, and can opt for a pick-and-mix.)
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #12 of 37 activities in Manila
    • Slightly depressing but Sea Lions were impressive 23/12/2014
    • beautiful! 20/12/2014
    • Manila Ocean Park
    Address:
    Behind the Quirino Grandstand Luneta
    Manila, Luzon
    Philippines
    Phone:
    632 5677777
    Other:
  • Save
    Rizal Park
    National Parks, Parks
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    Opposite the Manila Ocean Park, Rizal Park is certainly worth a stroll on your way to the National Museum. Named after José Rizal, the park contains as its focal point a monument where the hero's remains are enshrined. But there are many other attractions here as well, including a huge musical fountain, a flower clock, various sculptures, and formal garden designs.

    Good for
    • Peace and quiet seeker
    • Must see
    • Local favourite
    • Everyone
    • History enthusiast
    • Outdoors explorer
    Tips
    • Look for "Kilometer Zero" in front of the Rizal monument. The marker serves as the starting point for measuring the distance to cities and provinces in all The Philippines.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #9 of 68 attractions in Manila
    • a place that is constant in time 27/12/2014
    • A quiet place 26/12/2014
    • Rizal Park
    Phone:
    632 302 7079
    Other:
  • Save
    National Museum
    Historic Sites, Museums, Art Museums, History Museums
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    An the top corner of Rizal Park, you'll find a grand old building that houses the National Museum. Bombed during WWII, it was restored, faithful to the original, in 1946. Inside, the often-overlooked museum is a treasure trove of Filipino cultural archaeology and fine art. It contains three branches: National Art Gallery, Museum of the Filipino People, and a Planetarium.

    Good for
    • Must see
    • Budget traveller
    • Hidden gem
    • Everyone
    • History enthusiast
    • Art and design lover
    Tips
    • Entrance is free every Sunday and throughout the month of October.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #19 of 68 attractions in Manila
    • If you're a history geek you will love this place! 19/12/2014
    • Great looking building. 30/11/2014
    • National Museum
    Address:
    Rizal Park at Padre Burgos St.
    Manila, Luzon 2004
    Philippines
    Phone:
    632 527 12 15
    Hours:
    Tue - Sun
    10:00 - 6:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Museo Pambata
    Museums
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    If you still have time left, or if you are traveling with young children, you may want to consider Museo Pambata, which translates to 'Children's Museum.' It's not a shiny new place, nor does it have the grandeur of the National Museum, but it is a place with great heart and soul. Children and adults will enjoy the interactivity of the experience, and will learn all about Old Manila in the process!

    Good for
    • Local favourite
    • Art and design lover
    • Family
    Tips
    • The museum runs a children's advocacy program and a mobile library, so supporting it means you are contributing to a good local project too.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #28 of 68 attractions in Manila
    • Kids will surely have fun at Museo Pambata! 20/12/2014
    • Museo Pumbata a winner for kids! 21/08/2014
    • Museo Pambata
    Address:
    Roxas Boulevard
    Manila, Luzon
    Philippines
    Phone:
    +63 2 523 1797
    Hours:
    Tue - Sun
    9:00 - 6:00
    Other:
  • Day 3
  • Save
    Bonifacio Global City
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    At least one day of your Manila visit should be devoted to exploring the best of the 'new' Philippines, and Bonifacio Global City demonstrates the growth and modernization that is happening here. A prime example of the new style of city springing up around, and becoming part of, Manila, Bonifacio is well planned in every aspect. There are places to work, shop, eat, relax, and learn.

    Good for
    • Luxury traveller
    • Everyone
    • Shopping enthusiast
    Tips
    • The green central section is a great place to sit, admire the sculptures, and watch the world go by.
    • Visit the High Street here, and wander along the pedestrianized street to do some shopping or try one of the many good restaurants.
    • Try Brothers Burgers, a local favorite situated on the High Street just after the big rock sculpture.
    • If you want cheap souvenirs, head to Market Market at the end of the High Street. For luxury, visit the new SM Aura Mall and have a custom Magnum ice-cream on the roof!
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 9 attractions in Taguig City
    • Awesome! 27/12/2014
    • Clean,, well Maintained,,, Great Shopping 19/12/2014
    • Bonifacio Global City
  • Save
    The Mind Museum at Taguig
    Museums
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    Whilst in Bonifacio—and especially if you have children or an interest in science and how things work—be sure to check out the Mind Museum. This world-class interactive museum provides hours of fun and interest for visitors of all ages.

    Good for
    • Must see
    • Local favourite
    • Trendy traveller
    • Art and design lover
    • Family
    Tips
    • You can buy an all-day pass or save on the entrance fee with a shorter 3-hour pass.
    • With children, don't miss the playground area outside—there are lots of cool sound and water activities to play on and with.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #4 of 9 attractions in Taguig City
    • Visit This Children's Science Museum 26/12/2014
    • Bit pricey but the kids had fun..! 19/12/2014
    • The Mind Museum at Taguig
    Address:
    JY Campos Park, 3rd Avenue
    Bonifacio Global City
    Taguig City, Luzon
    Philippines
    Phone:
    909 6463
    Hours:
    Sun
    9:00 - 7:00
    Tue - Fri
    9:00 - 7:00
    Sat
    9:00 - 10:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Greenbelt Malls
    Shopping centres
    See more photos
    Helen A Says:

    After Bonifacio, head over to Makati City, the central business district of Manila. Here you can do some serious shopping, starting with the five Greenbelt malls that cater to every budget and need. Greenbelt is a great example of a mall that has retained some lovely outdoor spaces and plenty of places to sit for a bite and a drink, and some interesting people-watching.

    Good for
    • Food lover
    • Luxury traveller
    • Everyone
    • Trendy traveller
    • Shopping enthusiast
    • Nightlife lover
    Tips
    • Look for the chapel in the open space at the center of Greenbelt Malls. It has a unique tented style and oozes tranquility.
    • If you want more shopping, you can also access a number of other malls, including Landmark, Glorietta, and SM, via walkways from here.
    • If you want more museums, visit the Ayala Museum in Greenbelt, which features a fabulous local art gallery. The restaurant underneath is also good and has great cocktails!
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 7 shopping in Makati
    • Shop until you drop 26/12/2014
    • THE PEARL OF MANILA 14/12/2014
    • Greenbelt Malls
    Address:
    Ayala Bussiness Center
    Makati, Luzon
    Philippines
    Other:
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