The Most Instagrammable Spots in Manila

Tourists in boats snap photographs of Pagsanjan Falls on Luzon Island in the Philippines
Tourists in boats snap photographs of Pagsanjan Falls on Luzon Island in the Philippines | © Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Ronica Valdeavilla
Writer10 May 2021

With a distinct blend of big-city vibrancy, rich history and natural beauty, Manila is a photographer’s dream. The capital city of the Philippines boasts a plethora of arts venues, colonial architecture and other Instagram-worthy spots. Check out our guide to Manila’s most photogenic haunts, from the historic to the hip.

Fort Santiago

Ruins
Map View
main gate of Fort Santiago in Manila, Philippines
© Jui-Chi Chan / Alamy Stock Photo

Fort Santiago is one of the most important – and prominent – historical sites in Manila, built in the late 16th century as a launchpad for Spanish expansion in the Far East. Today, this historical landmark takes pride in its legacy, including memorabilia once belonging to José Rizal – the national hero of the Philippines, who was incarcerated here. It has areas ideal for strolls, photo opportunities and picnics. Within Intramuros, the city’s old town, a range of atmospheric streets and colonial-style buildings make the perfect photography opportunity – visit on a walking tour or aboard a calesa (a horse-drawn calash).

Rizal Park

Park
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The Rizal Monument in Rizal Park - Manila, Philippines
© Leonid Andronov / Alamy Stock Photo

The park formerly known as Luneta has become an uber-landmark in honor of the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Families and groups of friends mass here for fun, games and photo sessions. The pleasure of this place lies in its sprawling lawns and ornamental gardens as well as its ‘chess square’, where people gather to play the board game. Also noteworthy are the dancing fountains and statues of other Philippine heroes. The tranquil ambiance encourages regulars to come here for a wander and a chat from late afternoon on into the early evening.

Paco Park and Cemetery

Cemetery, Park
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A cemetery might not immediately sound like the ideal place for a touristy hour or two, but the recreational Paco Park is pure Instagram gold and a must-visit historical landmark in Manila. Built by Dominicans during the Spanish colonial period (1565–1898), the park served as the city’s municipal cemetery and is where many of its wealthiest residents were interred. Paco Park has since been restored and now serves as a venue for weddings, complete with a concert area. The verdant park is perfect for evening wanders and photo sessions.

Manila Baywalk

Park
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Time your visit right and you will get the most spectacular views of the sunset at the pedestrian Baywalk of Manila along Roxas Boulevard. This 2km (1.2mi) stretch is a magnetically popular part of town for jogging and walking. Over the years it has also become a hit venue for arty performances and the simple pleasure of people-watching. The scenes of eating, drinking and carousing last long into the night when brightly colored illuminations sent out by open-air cafes and restaurants add shine to the scene.

National Museum of Natural History

Museum
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Jun 8, 2019 People entering the National Museum of Natural History, Manila, Philippines
© NAMHWI KIM / Alamy Stock Photo

Since reopening in the spring of 2018 in the midst of Rizal Park, the National Museum of Natural History in Manila has had crowds rocking up to admire the old and new displays of curiosities. Follow them and absorb yourself for a couple of hours in its various departments, including botany, zoology, geology, arts and more. There are some terrific exhibits, among them rainforest and mangrove dioramas as well as the taxidermied remains of the fearsome Lolong – at 20.24 ft (6.17 m) the Guinness Book of World Records’ largest crocodile to have been kept in captivity. Best of all, the whole experience is free.

National Museum of Fine Arts

Museum
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This art museum, operated by the National Museum of the Philippines, houses paintings and masterpieces of famous Filipino artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Come and take a look at the works of genius painter, sculptor and Revolutionary Juan Luna, as well as sculptor and professor Guillermo Tolentino. Every artwork in this sumptuous neoclassical building (formerly the National Art Gallery) tells a story of fascinating relevance to Filipino culture. Apart from masterpieces by the aforementioned artists, you’ll also find modern and contemporary works such as sculptures and art prints from this century. You’re bound to find something to jazz up your Instagram feed.

Manila Post Office

Post Office
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If you want a structure of style and swagger to add to your Insta-gallery, point your smartphone at Manila’s magnificent neoclassical Central Post Office. It looms high over the banks of Pasig River in all its columned, Greco-Roman grandeur. Constructed in 1925, it endured significant damage during the Second World War but was restored and to this day functions as the HQ of the Philippine Postal Corporation – although the interiors are a let-down compared with the facade. You might want to step in to buy special-edition stamps.

Binondo

Shop, Store
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Binondo, Manila, Philippines - July 29: Chinatown Gate Entering Binondo
© Zairon Jacobs / Alamy Stock Photo

Binondo district is the Chinatown of Manila, set amid a landscape of hills the site was originally established for Chinese immigrants who converted to Catholicism and has become one of the most-visited of the city’s communities. Home to the busy shopping streets of Escolta, Binondo is a firm fixture on foodie radars for authentic dishes such as Peking duck, century eggs and dumplings. Brimming with life and color, Binondo is a top Instagrammable destination in Manila.

University of the Philippines Diliman

School
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The University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) is the nation’s premier academic institution – but it’s also a beautiful place in its own right. Packed with grand edifices, acacia trees and open spaces that make for wonderful photographs, highlights here include Quezon Hall, with its graceful colonnaded façade, Roxas Avenue and the shady Sunken Garden. Every June the sunflowers burst into bloom along University Avenue, ideal for snapping a vibrant selfie.

Ayala Triangle Gardens

Dog Park, Park
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Metro Manila, Philippines - February, 12, 2020: Ayala Triangle gardens and park in Makati, on a sunny day
© Aldar Darmaev / Alamy Stock Photo

In the center of the bustling Makati City Central Business District is a landscaped urban park ideal for late afternoon strolls, picnics and people-watching. If you’re here during the Christmas season, you could join the huge flow of visitors heading over to the triangular public garden to catch a glimpse of its famous sound and light shows. That said, you can have Instagram-worthy shots all year round – the park is a lush green space packed with foliage. You’ll find the fragrant white-flowered kamuning tree along with rain trees and golden palms.

Venice Grand Canal

Cinema, Shopping Mall
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Venice Grand Canal Shopping Mall, in Manila, Philippines
© Raymond Warren / Alamy Stock Photo

Shopping and lifestyle get the Italian treatment at the Venice Grand Canal Mall, which channels the grand old city with replica waterways, pastel-hued canalside structures and gondoliers handling traditional boats. Little wonder, then, that it has emerged as one of the most selfie-perfect locations not only in Taguig City, but also Metro Manila. Offering fashion for men and women, jewelry and all manner of food and drinks, visitors will get the chance to snap some truly stunning photographs.

BGC Street Art and Wall Murals

Architectural Landmark
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Street art, graffiti and wall murals decorate the financial hub of Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. These public works, created by local and international talent, make for great photography material Art has been a part of the city since 2015, when the Bonifacio Arts Foundation (BAFI) first started holding its annual ArtBGC festivals, using the area as a blank canvas for fresh new visions. Murals have added a touch of character to the otherwise prosaic streets, with key works by famous artists such as Nate Frizzell, Anjo Bolarda and Cyrcle.

Art In Island

Museum
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For quirky, attention-grabbing and downright crazy Instagram posts, head on over to Art In Island. The largest 3D museum in Asia is filled with 3D art and life-size optical illusions that guarantee laughs. There are more than 200 works to explore, among them animals that appear to come to life, Egyptian ruins, works of famous artists and a whole lot more. Decide on various fun poses beside each masterpiece, snap some optical illusions and play with different themed zones inside the museum, capturing it all on film!

Jump Yard Indoor Trampoline Park

Amusement Park
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Welcome to the first – and the largest – indoor trampoline park in the Philippines. Blending fun and fitness, you are bound to have masses of fun, resulting in images that will have those likes coming thick and fast. Spread over a sprawling space, it’s the ideal rendezvous point for friends and families. Play Dodgeball or basketball, jump into foam pits and challenge yourself on the park’s obstacle courses. Of course, you’re free to run, climb and soar high while feeling safe with trained staff ready to help.

The Dessert Museum

Museum
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Many of us long to get a banana split inside us. At the Dessert Museum you can get inside a banana split – or a selection of other gaudily coloured, sugar-coated sweets and puddings. When you arrive you enter through a prodigious pink doughnut, mooch around massive marshmallows, grapple with huge gummy bears, lie on a banana beach and burrow inside a gigantic ball of bubblegum. There are plenty of selfie spots en route and while walls aren’t lickable, confectionary is sold throughout.

Tagaytay

Natural Feature
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View of Taal Lake and volcano in Tagaytay, Philippines, Southeast Asia, Asia
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Manila is not all metropolitan. The volcano views at Tagaytay, 50km (31mi) from the city centre, are nothing less than majestic. A giant caldera drops down to a brilliant blue lake with a smoking volcanic crater at its centre and forested hills all around. You can take a boat ride on the lake or hike to the crater itself and there’s an Instagram shot at every turn.

San Agustin Church

Church
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San Agustin Church; Intramuros; Manila; Philippines
© nobleIMAGES / Alamy Stock Photo

In the heart of Intramuros sits San Agustin, the oldest church in the Philippines. Completed in the early 17th century it was modelled on the bulky, conquistador-designed earthquake-proof cathedrals of Mexico. The best views are from the plaza in front of the heavy-set stone façade and inside looking along the Italianate nave through a procession of arches towards the glittering altar.

Pagsanjan Falls

Natural Feature
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These beautiful waterfalls are located in Pagsanjan Gorge National Park, just under 100km (62mi) from downtown Manila. Surrounded by lush tropical forest brimming with flora, the falls cascade in tiers into a deep-green pool. They make an easy day trip, but for the best pictures, stay overnight in Cavinti village before hiking in early the next morning. If you avoid weekends, you’ll have waterfall and canyon views all to yourself for a few hours before the tour parties arrive.

Bonifacio Global City

Architectural Landmark
Map View

Searching for that iconic Manila skyline? Catch a Jeepney to this purpose-built financial and retail centre, a few kilometres southeast of Manila’s Makati business district. The best Instagram views are from park-edged Bonifacio High Street, which overlooks a matrix of tall buildings – including the Philippines Stock Exchange. Come at dusk for the most memorable shots of all.

Bonifacio Global City

Alex Robinson contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on May 10, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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