While Manila constantly gets a bad rap for its horrendous traffic jams, the Philippines’ capital city continues to lure in tourists for offering adventures at affordable rates. And, although it’s crowded and noisy most of the time, it’s also lauded for its friendly locals, historic landmarks, and amazing sights that leave one fascinated.
Until today, Filipinos recognize the 300-year rule of Spaniards in the Philippines. Apart from including such in the school curriculum, historic buildings, landmarks, museums, and other places constructed during the Spanish era are being conserved by its national government. When visiting Manila, one will see a slice of Spanish colonial history within the walled city of Intramuros. San Agustin and the widely admired Manila Cathedral, and a citadel known as Fort Santiago.
Apart from its rich cultural scene, there are a lot of art galleries and museums to head over to when visiting Manila. You’ll find vast contemporary landscape, up-and-coming artist-led exhibits, paintings, artworks by National Artists, and art platforms founded by individuals or non-governmental organizations. Likewise, street art pieces are also all over Manila — find murals and works of arts on walls along the streets, underneath a bridge, or even in walkways. The simmering creativity of Filipinos are not only reflected in their artworks and masterpieces. In Manila, you’ll find the best musicians, poets, singers, ballerinas, and theater actors which make for great opportunities to witness live awe-inspiring performances.
While most tourists would prefer to feast their eyes on new sights, visiting Manila also means satisfying one’s hungry tummy. That’s because Filipinos both love to cook and eat. Around the metropolitan area, you’d find fine-dining restaurants, fast food shops, food stalls called carinderia, and food carts that serve a variety of Filipino specialties. One of which is the Chicken (or Pork) Adobo wherein the meat is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. Other famous Filipino dishes to try are balut (duck embryo street food), sinigang (sour meat stew) and favorite Filipino dessert halo-halo.
Manila’s Chinatown, which is popularly known as Binondo, is one of the capital city’s best attractions. Set on a hilly landscape, Binondo was originally created for Chinese immigrants who converted into Catholics. Today it has become one of the most-visited communities in the country because of the presence of authentic Chinese food and bargain shopping. If you’d like to experience the ultimate food trip of your stay in Manila, a food crawl in Binondo is a must! Here you’ll find a wide variety of choices — from budget-friendly meals to mid-range eateries to family-owned restaurants specializing in tasty delicacies.
Travelers would also love that idea that finding a place to stay in Manila is both easy and convenient. It’s mostly because you have different options — you can rent a condo, book a room in a hotel, or join fellow backpackers (if you’d like to meet new people and get the best travel tips). Apart from budget, what you’d only need to consider are the activities you’d like to do and how near you’d want to be to those locations. Just keep in mind that traffic jams are inevitable in this area, so it’s best to stay in a place that’s walking distance to your bucket-list destinations — or at least have a bit of knowledge on how you can survive a traffic situation in Manila.
You’ll literally find malls, fashion outlets, bargain stalls called tiangge, and stores that sell secondhand (yet in good condition) apparel (ukay-ukay) in every corner of Manila. The metropolitan area is home to the largest malls in the country such as SM Mall of Asia. Malls here are no longer merely a shopping destination; these establishments have included entertainment features like an IMAX theater, olympic-sized skating rink, concert grounds, and convention centers. As for bargain stalls and ukay-ukay stores, you’ll find multiple of them in Divisoria, which is the commercial center that’s best known for selling cheap goods — from apparel to shoes and bags to home décor.
Whether you have ample time for visiting Manila or have a few days for a quick escape to the country’s capital city, you’ll never run out of things to do here! There’s a vast landscape of indoor and outdoor activities that you can do at any time of the day. Visit parks and museums, go on a food trip in different food hubs, join tours or fun walks, or join a creative or fitness class — there are a lot of choices available. Of course, it would only depend on your availability, preference, and in some cases, seasonality. You can even maximize your vacation and spend only 48 hours to explore Manila’s top attractions.
Manila Bay is considered one of the country’s best spots to catch the sunset. Seeing the sun seemingly descend down over the bay’s horizon without any foreground distraction is definitely a breathtaking experience for anyone. Both foreigners and locals agree that Manila Bay’s sunset is one of the best in the world. If you’d like to catch a perfect sea and sunset view, head over to the decks and lounges of nearby soaring hotels or go for a leisure stroll along Manila’s boardwalk before dawn.
Because of the government’s proposed modernization program for public utility vehicles, Filipinos will have to bid farewell to the traditional jeepneys that have become part of their lives for decades. Before this happens, visit Manila and take a ride on the country’s most popular mode of transportation. It’s only in the Philippines where you’ll experience riding inside a vehicle that’s doused in several vibrant colors and blasts loud music on the streets. Likewise, grab the opportunity to ride on a horse-drawn calesa to see Manila’s famous historical landmarks.
Apart from being a shopper’s dream destination, tourists also look forward to visiting Manila because it’s the center of night life in the country. You’ll find a wide selection of pubs, clubs, and bars that offer high-end ambience, great music, cheap drinks (which are sometimes unlimited), and good company until the wee hours. Find laid-back or full club scene, experience all kinds of music, and meet loads of people who are hoping to have a night of drinks, fun, and some dancing! If you’re not into clubbing, find yourself in one of Manila’s best karaoke bars and sing your heart out!
It’s a general conception that Filipinos are admired for their warm hospitality. For first-time travelers who have never had an encounter with Filipinos, they might be surprised that the country’s locals are very welcoming and would extend help without asking anything in return. While there may be unfortunate instances that some foreigners have experienced in the metropolitan area, Manila is not an exception when it comes to meeting friendly locals. While it doesn’t apply at all times, it’s surely possible to meet honest, accommodating, and kindhearted individuals who are proud to help and make your stay in Manila a truly memorable, positive experience.