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Manila, Philippines is known for its strong cultural scenes, amazing tours, and various shopping destinations. And by planning in advance, it’s possible for one to visit and explore Manila’s main sights and attractions in 48 hours. Culture Trip has put together this easy-to-follow guide for one to experience what the metropolitan area has to offer.
Ride a calesa (horse-drawn calash) or walk along the cobblestone streets to experience Manila’s famous walled city known as Intramuros. This historic area is the heart of the old Manila that houses Fort Santiago – a citadel which was witness to lives lost during the Spanish colonial era. Within Intramuros, there are old churches such as Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church, colonial houses, and defense structures, which are being preserved and protected by the government since its inception. Make sure to check out Ilustrado Restaurant in Intramuros and get a taste of traditional Filipino-Spanish cuisine.
Pro tip: Hire a personal tour guide to make your trip convenient and informative
From Intramuros, you may opt to walk or ride public transport to visit nearby parks and museums that reflect the country’s rich heritage. After lunch, head over to the National Museum of Fine Arts, which houses preserved artifacts and historic artwork such as the Spolarium of Juan Luna. Across the block are two museums, namely National Museum of Anthropology and National Museum of Natural History. Within walking distance from your museum-hopping destination, is where you’ll find the Rizal Park – a historical urban park and favorite leisure spot that’s perfect for late afternoon strolls.
Pro tip: Walk instead to avoid traffic woes
In the mood for a fun experience? Take a cab and head over to Star City, which is Manila’s leading amusement park. It’s open until 11pm, giving you a chance to try a variety of rides ranging from kid-friendly to extreme ones at affordable rates. Check out their top attractions such as Snow World, Pirate Adventure, and the horror-themed attraction Gabi ng Lagim (Night of Terror) and find out why these have been must-visits on any tourist’s list!
After a full day of immersing yourself in the country’s culture and arts, feel relaxed seeing the numerous underwater creatures at the world-class marine theme park, Manila Ocean Park. Don’t worry if you can’t make it to the park’s operating hours (as it closes at 8 pm). They have an aqua-themed hotel, Hotel H2O, where you can spend your first night in the metropolitan area and their aqua rooms will let you sleep beside a life-size aquarium! Before calling it a day, grab a cold drink at the hotel’s White Moon Bar. But if you’re on a budget, there’s a variety of backpacker hostels you can stay in.
Want to go beyond the usual food trips in restaurants? Check out the world’s first (and oldest) Chinatown in Manila by visiting Binondo! From the place you’re staying in, take a cab and tell the driver to drop you off in front of Binondo Church at the end of Ongpin Street. Binondo is one of the most visited communities for the busy shopping streets of Escolta, and for being the center of authentic Chinese food – you’ll find here dozens of restaurants and hole-in-the-wall stores. Ma Mon Luk is where you’ll find the original noodles called mami, whereas Sincerity Restaurant is highly recommended for fried chicken lovers!
Pro tip: Start your food crawl at Ongpin Street
After a food trip in Binondo, take time to see for yourself why Manila is among the favorite shopping destinations in Asia and visit one of the country’s largest shopping malls. Currently the fourth largest mall in the country, SM Mall of Asia (SM MOA) has an outdoor walkway where shoppers can get a good, full view of the sunset in Manila Bay. This sprawling mall has four buildings which are interconnected via walkways. In addition to branded shops and food establishments across the mall, this establishment also boasts entertainment features for leisure and educational purposes.
After catching a glimpse of the sunset in SM Mall Of Asia’s viewing area, get a scrumptious dinner feast at a seaside dampa. Manila’s seafood dampa experience is definitely something you shouldn’t miss. Dampa works like this: purchase kilos of seafood you’d like, head over to the restaurant door, and have it cooked according to your liking! There are dampa stalls within the SM MOA area and also along Macapagal boulevard, where you can shop and choose fresh seafood in the market.
Pro tip: Use your haggling skills to get discounts from sellers
Before ending your 48-hour trip in the Metro, see the city’s gaming scene in Manila’s biggest casinos. Check out either Resorts World Manila, Solaire Resorts and Casino, or City of Dreams Manila, which is the country’s largest gaming destination. Try your luck at a slot machine or table games. If casinos are not something you’d like to try, these casino hotels have bars where you can catch live music shows and enjoy the nightlife scene!