More than the magnificent white beaches and breathtaking views of rolling hills, the Philippines has a lot more to offer. Take a look at the country’s capital, Manila. The place is so interesting that more and more tourists are frequenting the city. Because aside from the scenic views, there are a lot of fun things to do in Manila.
From cultural and heritage tours to exquisite food trips, Manila will surely satisfy your adventure cravings. No wonder, most tourists, even after several times, keep on coming back to discover and rediscover Manila’s charm.
Here are the top things to do in Manila:
1. Travel back in time in Intramuros
Intramuros, also known as the Walled City, will have you second-guessing whether you are still in the Philippines.
In between the walls of Intramuros is the mark that 300 years of Spanish rule have left in the form of grand churches and colonial houses. Within the city is the ancient Church of San Agustin and Manila Cathedral, with its beautifully sculpted and painted ceilings, and Fort Santiago, where the National Hero Jose Rizal was imprisoned before his execution in 1896.
Intramuros is best visited on foot or by riding a bamboo bicycle. While you can just wander the streets on your own, the best way to get a deeper understanding of the country’s history is with a historic walking tour. This tops the list of the best activities in Manila.
2. Go on a food trip in Binondo
When in Manila, you can never consider yourself a real foodie until you have been to Binondo. Not only Binondo offers a great food adventure but it is also home to the oldest Chinatown in the world.
From fried siopao, dim sum and roast duck to adventurous eats like frog legs, Binondo has just about everything your tummy could ever crave.
Don’t miss the Beef Lamien in Lan Zhou La Mien and Hakaw in Wai Ying Fastfood. They’re not famous to foodies for nothing!
3. Shop at Divisoria
Shopping at Divisoria in the district of Tondo is one of the activities in Manila you shouldn’t miss. It’s a one-stop-shop, so many people would really go here even all the way from the provinces to score great deals. With prices lower than those you’d find in shopping malls, the most exciting part here is the fact that you can still haggle for a much lower price.
Though there are malls within the area that provide air-conditioning and are more organized, that takes away the real Divisoria shopping experience.
Also, it’s a good thing that the Divisoria now is cleaner and more organized than before. The roads are now easily passable because the street vendors were asked to sell on the designated areas.
Pro tip: Wear sneakers, dress down, avoid wearing jewelry or anything flashy and shop until you drop!
4. Shoot at Escolta
Escolta is one of the few streets in Manila that has never lost its charm. No matter where you look, you can easily find Instagram-worthy architectural spots in Escolta. Many of the buildings incorporate Renaissance, Neoclassical, and Art Deco styles in its design.
Be sure to visit the Burke building, home of the first elevator in the Philippines, and the William A. Jones Memorial Bridge—more popularly known as the Jones Bridge—which connects Binondo to Ermita.
Jones Bridge was designed by Juan Arellano (who also designed the Metropolitan Theater and the Manila Central Post Office). The bridge is heavily ornamented with classical elements reminiscent of Haussmann-era Paris bridges.
Escolta is a great location for photoshoots and street photography so make sure to bring a camera with you to take snapshots of these old wonders. Shooting in the evening at Escolta is one of the best things to do in Manila at night.
5. Go to museums
If you’re into history and culture, you can visit a lot of museums around Manila, both traditional and modern. These include the National Museum, Casa Manila, San Agustin Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum.
The National Museum of Fine Arts is one of the top Manila attractions. It is home to Juan Luna’s famous Spolarium— a gigantic painting more than four meters high and seven-and-a-half meters wide, making it the Philippines’ largest painting.
The painting features a glimpse of Roman history centered on the bloody massacre brought by gladiatorial matches. Spoliarium is a Latin word referring to the basement of the Roman Colosseum where the fallen and dying gladiators are dumped and deprived of their worldly possessions.
6. Have a picnic at Rizal Park
Experience peace and a calm environment away from the city’s hustle and bustle by visiting Rizal Park.
Rizal Park has become a favorite leisure spot in Manila. With its greenery and calming ambiance, it’s perfect to have a picnic at Rizal Park with your friends or family— definitely one of the must-try outdoor activities in Manila.
Apart from Rizal’s monument, there are also artworks and museums, fountains, and other statues found within the park.
7. Visit the Manila Ocean Park
If you want a sea adventure, why not visit the Manila Ocean Park? It has regular aquatic performances and chances to get up close to some beautiful tropical fish. Everyone, especially the kids, will love this adventure!
Manila Ocean Park also offers one of the most exciting things to do in Manila— the Aquanaut experience. It allows you to wear an oxygen-filled space helmet and walk underwater.
8. Dine next to the President
Formerly a quaint ancestral home, Casa Roces is a Spanish-inspired restaurant that sits right across Malacañang Palace, the President’s home and office.
You can enjoy a cup of coffee during the day and cocktails, wine and liquor at night at the outdoor wooden deck. You can also go through the gift shop for memorabilia and other little trinkets.
On the second floor, you can indulge yourself with the classiest experience in Manila as Casa Roces offers fine food and genial company, elegant presentation, table etiquette, and simple service. The estimated budget for two is at P2,000.
And if you want to know a bit more about the history of the house, there’s an art and family heritage gallery that you can visit.
9. Take a cruise
Another activity that goes to the list of underrated yet fun things to do in Manila is taking a cruise! Have your dinner and enjoy the magnificent view of Manila’s sunset while on a cruise.
For an hour and a half, you can enjoy the calming waves and beautiful skies as you sail away from the busy city. The average cost is around P500-P700 per person, not bad for one of the most exquisite things to do in Manila at night.
You can avail the dinner cruise at Esplanade Seaside Park, Seaside Boulevard, MOA Complex. Make sure to arrive one hour prior to your schedule as latecomers will not be accommodated.
10. Watch the sunset by the bay
If you’re looking for a romantic but inexpensive place to visit in Manila, then you should go to Manila Baywalk.
Manila Baywalk is a two-kilometer stretch of pedestrian-friendly paths with lined palm trees. The place is a very popular sunset-watching spot as it gives you the best view of the ocean and the sun as it sets.
The place is also enjoyable in the evening as live music starts in several resto-bars. You can also feast on fresh catch seafood with the Manila Bay as your backdrop. If this doesn’t make it to your list of things to do in Manila, we don’t know what will.
11. Party the night away at the best nightlife spots
To cap off your trip, why not drink the night away and party at the best nightlife spots in the metro? Most popular party hubs are in Makati, Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, and Quezon City.
The most recommended clubs are The Island and Early Night? in BGC. While in Makati, Poblacion is known for its hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants. And in Quezon City, you can find bars that are LGBTQ+-friendly like The Nectar.
If you’re planning to visit Manila, book your budget hotels in Manila at ZEN Rooms and enjoy a high-quality service at an affordable price. Travel more, Pay less!