Picturesque Mt. Pinatubo Lake

Top 19 Things to Do and Places to Visit in Manila

Ella Larena
By 
Ella Larena
Verified Expert
Manila Cathedral is the religious center of the Archdiocese of Manila

Discover Manila's lovely and vibrant city. Find out the best places to visit, the local delicacies you should try, and the different modes of transportation when visiting the metro.

The Philippines' capital city, Manila, is often the jump-off point to the country's incredible beaches, stunning islands, and unique natural wonders. However, there are many tourist spots to visit in Manila alone! It's a beautiful city full of surprises and amazing things to try!



For first time visitors, Manila may seem overwhelming to explore. But it's quite manageable once you have a well-planned travel itinerary. 

You're bound to fall in love with Manila thanks to its interesting tourist spots, foodie destinations, and fun activities. Read on to find out the best things to do and places to see in the bustling capital of the Philippines and its neighboring cities:

 
Guide to the Philippines' map of things to do and places to visit in Manila

1. Travel Back in Time at Intramuros      

Kalesa, a horse-drawn carriage, in Intramuros, Manila

Intramuros, known as the "Walled City," is the oldest district and historic core of Manila. Intramuros tours are a must-try for history buffs because it's packed with trips to interesting attractions. 

This iconic Manila landmark is actually a walled area within the modern city. It was the seat of government and political power when the Philippines was still under the Spanish rule. 

Intramuros is Manila's only district where travelers can see complete architectural remnants of the Spanish Era.  A day trip in Intramuros is enough for you to go sightseeing in this well-preserved historical attraction.

Wander along paved roads and visit historical monuments and sculptures. You can even join a bambike tour (bamboo bike), or by riding a kalesa or horse-drawn carriage experience. Here are some of the must-visit attractions in Intramuros. 

Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago is a national historical monument in Intramuros, ManilaThis is one of the country's oldest Hispanic stone castles. In 1951, Fort Santiago became a national historical monument and a well-kept destination frequently visited by travelers. You can join a sightseeing and walking trip to explore this attraction.

Manila Cathedral

Facade of the Manila Cathedral in IntramurosThis is the religious center of the Archdiocese of Manila. It was the location of the Spanish Archbishop of Manila, who had jurisdiction over the whole archipelago during the Spanish colonial period. You can visit this tourist spot any time of day, which is why a bambike night experience can also be a fulfilling thing to do.

San Agustin Church

San Agustin Church is one of only four Baroque Churches in the Philippines, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage SiteIt's one of the Philippines’ four Baroque Churches, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many locals visit here daily to pray and contemplate. 

Plaza de Roma

It's one of two significant squares in Intramuros. The plaza is regarded as the area's center of trade during the colonial past. 

Casa Manila

Fountain at Casa Manila CentralIt's a rebuilding of a 19th-century Spanish colonial house that dates back to 1981. Each chamber at Casa Manila is furnished in ancient style with wooden furniture, ornaments, and works of art. It's a relevant tourist spot often included in a walking tour of Manila.

Baluarte de San Diego

Baluarte de San Diego in Intramuros, ManilaThis was built from a circular tower that was initially intended to protect Manila during the Spanish times. This spot is where you can revel in nature, surrounded by colorful flowers and tiny trees.

Bahay Tsinoy

This building houses the Kaisa-Angelo King Heritage Center, a museum that documents the history, lives, and contributions of Chinese ethnicity in Philippine life and history.

2. Visit Rizal Park

Rizal Park in Intramuros, Manila is a homage to the Philippine national hero, Jose RizalLocated in the heart of Manila is Rizal Park, a landmark full of historical significance. The park is a homage to the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal.

He was a doctor and novelist who was shot by firing squad at this site on December 30, 1896, on charges of fostering local rebellion against the Spanish government. 

Rizal Park features monuments, squares and gardens, large stadiums, observatories, an open-air concert hall,s, sound and light theaters, shops, food kiosks, playgrounds, and many fountains.

The park is split into three areas, starting with the 16-hectare Agrifina Circle adjacent to Taft Avenue. It's where the Department of Tourism and the National Museum of Anthropology are situated.

Then there's the northeastern segment; followed by the 22-hectare park extending down to Roxas Boulevard. Lastly, the central section finishing at the southwestern part contains Burnham Green. Join a Rizal Park tour with Intramuros to get the full experience of this local favorite destination.

3. Explore the National Museum Complex

The National Museum Complex in Manila, Philippines represents the various facets of art, culture, and history of the country

The National Museum of the Philippines has several sections included in National Museum trips: Art, Anthropology, Natural History, and Planetarium.

All are within the same building complex and is made up of permanent collections representing the various facets of art, culture, and history of the country. Joining a National Museum tour will take you around the best of the museums in the area.

National Museum of Fine Arts

The collection here contains both classical and contemporary Filipino paintings and sculptures. The famous paintings by the Philippine revolutionary artist Juan Luna, including The Spoliarium, are a must-see. 

National Museum of Anthropology

It features collections of artifacts of Anthropology and Archaeology. You can also have a look at the old Philippine script called "Baybayin," as well as collecting cultural memories from native people throughout the nation.

National Museum of Natural History

This museum presents the rich biodiversity of the country, including Lolong's skeleton, which used to be the world's largest caught crocodile and placed in captivity. Another highlight is The Tree of Life, a glass elevator and a canopy-inspired roof.

National Planetarium

It contains astronomic displays of celestial bodies and their real-life projections. They also offer displays, presentations, and demonstrations for travelers who would like to have a world-wide planetarium experience.

4. Have a Food Trip at Binondo        

Map of 10 streetside shops in Binondo by MoneymaxImage by Moneymax

Binondo is a lively and historic Manila site. It was founded in 1594 and is considered to be the world's first Chinatown. Like the other Chinatowns, contemporary Binondo trips are fun as the town is created up of tight and vibrant alleys.

It is packed with hole-in-the-wall joints, traditional bakeries, and budget-friendly streetside shops. One of the best ways to see its beauty is by trying out a guided food and walking trip in Binondo.

Binondo Church 

Binondo Church is an iconic location in Chinatown, ManilaSince its construction in 1596, it has been an iconic location in Chinatown. It was built for Chinese colonists who became Christians. Its sponsor is the Philippine martyr of Chinese origin, San Lorenzo Ruiz.

Mass generally takes place in English, Tagalog, and Chinese in this church. The church is also called the San Lorenzo Ruiz Basilica Minor.

Escolta 

This used to house the stores of Chinese merchants during the galleon trade in Manila. Today Escolta brews fresh magic thanks to the young community.

Food Trip 

Dumplings and ramen in Binondo, ManilaYou can't leave Binondo without feasting on authentic Chinese delicacies such as dumplings, frozen scallions, lumpia, oyster cake, kiampong and stir fry tofu. 

5. Shop Until You Drop in Manila Stores

Shopping is one of the most enjoyable activities you can do in Manila because of the multitude of malls that we have. Here are some of the best places to shop in the metro: 

Divisoria

Divisoria houses low price stores in Tondo, ManilaThis is a shopping mall in the Philippines of Tondo, Manila. It is renowned for its low price stores and its various manufacturing facilities. It's often combined with a shopping tour in Binondo Chinatown.

Quiapo

There are a lot of shops in Quiapo. For gadgets, you can go to Raon and Hidalgo Street. For arts and handicrafts, you can go to Palanca Street and Plaza Miranda. Go to Quinta Market and Carriedo Street for other necessities.

Baclaran

They have a big market. You can look through so many shops and stores. The stores have a variety of products, from very affordable to more costly.

Greenhills Shopping Center

It's a charming shopping mall and has a mix of thrift stalls and significant shops. There are also excellent restaurants around.

Tiendesitas

Rattan bags and home organizers sold at TiendesitasPhoto by Tiendesitas

This place in Pasig City has it all. From indigenous cuisine, fashion wear and clothing, furniture, antiquities, arts and crafts, private care, crops, and animals. Tiendesitas has shops from over 450 merchants, most of whom offer specialty goods, mainly from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

SM Mall of Asia

SM Mall of Asia or MOA is particularly famous for both domestic and international visitors. It is the biggest shopping center in the Philippines and has several establishments. It's often a part of a bargain shopping experience in Manila.

SM Megamall

It's the second-largest shopping mall in the Philippines. Aside from their various stores in the different buildings, they have their own Mega Fashion Hall.

Greenbelt

The establishment combines high-end boutiques, restaurants, amenities, leisure, and entertainment events. The Mall now includes five components: 2 rooms, two outdoor shops and Greenbelt 5, which were introduced in 2007.

6. Pray at Quiapo Church

The façade of Quiapo Church, built in the baroque style, stands out from both sides with its rolling towersOne of the top religious and historic landmarks in Manila is Quiapo Church. The church is home to the Black Nazarene, a miraculous image of Christ, and one of the most known monuments in Manila. In 1767 Quiapo was the first to bring the life-size model, sculpted from ebony.

Twice in one year, the Black Nazarene Procession, one of Manila's most significant religious celebrations, carries a favorite picture on the shoulders of thousands of devotees.

The façade of Quiapo Church, built in the baroque style, stands out from both sides with its rolling towers. A third of its column twists close to the foundation, while the bottom part has a soft surface.

The top of the four-story bell towers is adorned with balustrades and enormous scrolls. It’s a popular church included in most pilgrimage tours in the country.

In the early 1980s, a four-foil window in the center of the front of the church was screened, and a picture of the pope's crossed keys and tiara was substituted. Only the facade and the transept dome maintained the classic architecture with its latest refurbishment.

7. Hop-On Board the Unique Modes of Transport   

There are distinctive transport modes that you can use to discover Manila. Jeepney and tricycles are two of the most common transportation vehicles used by locals. 

Jeepney

Jeepneys passing by the Manila City HallThe jeepneys or jeeps were initially produced of U.S. military Jeeps left over from the Second World War. These are renowned for their colorful ornaments that showcased Pinoy architecture and pop culture.

Tricycle

Tricycles in Manila, PhilippinesThe tricycles are built with the construction of a sidecar and an imported motorcycle. These public utility cars either follow a specific route or are like taxis available for rent. Passenger tricycles may accommodate up to six or more passengers except for the driver.

MRT/LRT

Commuters inside the LRT in Manila, PhilippinesA heavy railway line wields the three light rail stations of Manila. Service commuters for light rail-LRT-1, LRT-2, and MRT-3, from north to south as Quezon City as Pasay. Most interesting railway stations are located in Manila's primary town, especially along the route LRT-1.

8. Enjoy at The Ocean Park

Family viewing a school of fish at the Manila Ocean ParkPhoto by Manila Ocean Park

Inaugurated in March 2008, the park is famous for its most massive drawing–the Oceanarium in the Philippine Archipelago. The Oceanarium contains more than 13000 ocean animals of approx.

Two hundred seventy-seven species that are native to Southeast Asia and comprises 3,000 cubic meters of ocean waters split into seven parts.

The water used in this attraction is obtained from the newly upgraded Manila Bay. To make the water ideal for marine animals, the center must filter it through a variety of techniques.

The park is also highly informative and instructional, especially for sightseeing activities.

9. Spend a Day at Roxas Boulevard

Skyline of Roxas Boulevard in Manila at nightRoxas Boulevard in Manila is a famous bay walkway. The boulevard, which extends along Manila Bay's coasts, is well-known for its landscapes and coconut trees. It has become a trademark of Philippine tourism, famous for its country club, restaurants, eateries, commercial properties, parks, and gardens. It's also the location of the CCP Complex, Baywalk, Star City, and a famous museum attraction, the BSP Money Museum.

Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex

The CCP Complex is an 88-hectare sport, cultural and art playground. The National Theater, Folk Arts Theater, CCP Library, and Archive, Philippine International Convention Center, Manila Film Center, and many more dominate the complex.

Baywalk

It's a promenade facing Manila Bay on Roxas Boulevard in Manila City, Philippines. The Baywalk is a two-kilometer path from U.S. Embassy, close to Rizal Park and the Philippines Cultural Center just past Manila Yacht Club.

BSP Money Museum

The BSP Money Museum, located in central Bangko in the Philippines, shows the development of the Filipino economy and its past.

The displays are chronologically arranged from the Pre Hispanic Period, Spanish and Revolutionary Periods to the American, Japanese and present-day Republics. The museum is full of elegant barter coats, gold rocks, gold barter chains, old paper money, envelope bills, and silver two-world banknotes.

10. Marvel at the Malacañang Palace

Malacañang Palace is the official building and principal department of the President of the Philippines. It's generally connected to Mendiola Street in San Miguel, Manila. Often the President and his counselors use the term 'Malacañang' as a metonym.

Malacañang's comprehensive scheme of mansions includes many mansions and departments, primarily built in neoclassical style. Among the many heritage trips in the country, visiting Malacanang Palace is worth the immersion.

Originally built as a private household home, Malacanang has been transformed into a magnificent Spanish colonial home. It consists primarily of wooden buildings complete of roofs, courtyards, and azoteas.

The Americans have renovated and enlarged the property of Malacañang. Wooden structures were progressively replaced by horizontal concrete, and the exterior was added to with floors and candlesticks to prevent flooding during typhoons.

Ms. Imelda Marcos, then the first lady of the Philippines, rebuilt and extended the palace in 1978-79. Three years ago with the People's Revolution and the subsequent departure from Marcoses in 1986, the Malacanang Palace went to press as a monument.

Visiting Malacañang Palace is a great opportunity to learn more about its contribution to the country’s history.

11. Explore the Modern Cities of Manila

Buildings in Makati City, Metro ManilaOne of the most exciting things to do in Manila is to visit its aesthetic and modern business districts. What way to discover its relevance than joining a Modern Manila trip

There's much to learn from the remnants of the past, and how it's incorporated in the present, which is why it's also great to join a Manila tour with modern and historical attractions. After all, the Philippines is a progressive country. Here are some of the modern cities of Manila you can visit during your trip:

Makati

In addition to being one of the significant financial, academic, and business institutions in all Asia, it is the economic core of the Philippines. It has a remarkable multicultural culture and notoriety as the central amusement hub of the region of Manila.

Bonifacio Global City

 More known as BGC, It's a leisure district in Metro Manila, Philippines. Besides the high structures, you'll most probably see, you'll also love the high-end retail stores. You can dine in world-class hotels, and be amused by multiple activities.

Taft Avenue

It's primarily considered to be a component of the University Belt, with several of Manila's leading colleges and universities nearby. This plus its closeness to primary forms of travel provides Taft Avenue, the youthful atmosphere and accessibility that has drawn an exciting combination of institutions.

12. Get Artsy at Cubao Expo

Cubao Expo has housed aesthetic institutions, art galleries, thrift stores, and shoe shops for several years. One may lose oneself among vintage comics, knick-knacks, and unique parts in the connectedness of this place and overlook the blazing heat of the sun.

As Quezon City generates a busy atmosphere, the whole rush of the people and public stations at Cubao Expo looks untouched and colorful. All stores are gathered and thoroughly selected solely out of their enthusiasm. You certainly knew that individuals were building these stores to not benefit but to add to the hidden landscape.

Besides photography, the Cubao Expo also serves as a lifestyle center. Here you will discover the most excellent restaurant for lunch, whether it is natural, delicious baked food, or Italian. Whether you want to participate in activities, Cubao Expo also organizes events such as poetry reading, performances, skate road trips, book sales, music concerts, geek conferences, etc.

13. Visit Paco Park and Cemetery

Paco Park is a leisure and nature park that was constructed by Dominicans in the Spanish colonial Era once in Manila's public cemetery. It is on the main street of General Luna in Paco, Manila and the eastern part of Padre Faura Street.

During the reign of President Diosdado Macapagal, the reserve was transformed into a national park in 1966.

After the conflict, Paco Park's grandeur had been progressively rebuilt and has been a government beach and community promenade since then. During President Ferdinand E. Marcos' government, the Paco Park and its maintenance were under the authority of the National Park Development Committee (NPDC). 

Paco Park, with its interior curved strong as the first cemetery, is triangular. Its rooms became empty to become niches and a second outside door with dense, adobe-like bricks was constructed as the population proceeded to expand.

The bottom of the towers then became walking paths. In the garden fence was also built the tiny, dome-coated Roman Catholic church devoted to St. Pancratius.

14. Enjoy the Nightlife 

Filipino's love to party! With their passion for singing and dancing, and coupled with excellent feelings of humor, you're bound to encounter some exciting and enjoyable events when visiting Manila's hot food and nightspots.

There are various places throughout Manila, Makati, and Quezon City, where you can encounter all types of bars and restaurants to eat, drink, and chill. Naturally, it's based on whether you want something lowkey or a full-on club scene. Here are some locations you should visit:

Poblacion

Kartel is a Rooftop Bar in Poblacion, MakatiPhoto by Kartel Rooftop Bar

This is Makati's famous nightlife district, with a wide variety of beautiful hotels and bars to let individuals unwind from stress.

Bonifacio Global City (BGC)

Cityscape of BGC in Taguig City at nightBGC is a region renowned for its high-quality lounges and cocktail clubs. Whether you spend the evening in one of the super bars in the area or want to rest on a hard day at a job, you will undoubtedly discover one that suits your plan.

Tomas Morato

Taggo Bar in Tomas Morato, Quezon CityPhoto by Taggo Bar

This is a famous place for amusement. There are many fine establishments and cafes along these two paths. The nighttime recreation of customers is guaranteed by the discotheques, karaoke joints, and comedy clubs. 

15. Have a Gastronomic Food trip

Filipino streetfood in Manila, Philippines

One of the best things to do in Manila is to have a gastronomic adventure, what better way to than trying some food trips! Try street food such as the infamous embryo of the shell or cooked duck. There are also fish balls, kwek-kwek, kikiam, taho, and sorbets (cheesecake) that are generally marketed in tiny shops.

Try Halo-halo, a Filipino famous dessert of rasped cake and evaporated milk, with several components for a delicious snack. Aside from Binondo, you can have a local food trip here:

Maginhawa Street

Several local restaurants started on this 2.2-kilometer road as hole-in-the-wall food places before becoming increasingly popular due to locals loving the vibrant and trendy atmosphere.

Jolly Jeep

This is the name of Makati's famous food trucks. They're affordable and found within area points in Makati such as Sisig from Rada Street, Mang Lirio's from Palanca Street, and Bulalo and Pares from Esteban Street.

Kapitolyo

This is an area renowned for its charming and eclectic vibe. Kapitolyo has two primary roads. East Drive features cheaper, more inexpensive establishments, while West Drive offers more intimate dates and unique events.

16. Join the Weekend Markets

If you get excited by shopping for real, local products, an excellent activity is to join a city excursion at a weekend market in Manila! Sample a combination of delicious meals and Philippine cuisine, observe local entrepreneurs trading for products, and discover unique things visiting a weekend market, like these listed below:

Salcedo Market

This weekend market starts at 6 a.m. and only on Saturdays. The location is situated in a kid-friendly mall. It has over 50 suppliers. There are delicacies from all over the world so that you can enjoy distinct global flavors as well as local culinary delights.

Legazpi Market

This market is Salcedo's equivalent, available only at 7 a.m. on Sundays. What's unique about the enterprise is its dry goods segment — many artsy items you can purchase from pictures to hand-crafted stuff.

Mercato Centrale

Mercato Centrale in Manila, PhilippinesPhoto by Mercato Centrale

This cultural night weekend market is available during evenings in BGC and Glorietta. You'll discover an enormous range of meals you can consume or have ready-to-go in the popular dishes and rooms.

17. Visit Fun Modern Museums

Modern museums should be on your list if you're the type of traveler who wants to experience something new. It's a way for curators to present their artworks in a different form but is still reflective of tradition. They give comparable feelings and thrill from antique collections but through fresh perspectives. Here are some museum trips you can try in Manila:

The Dessert Museum

The Dessert Museum's milk tea areaPhoto by The Dessert Museum

This is a great spot to see desserts, eat them and take artistic pictures as well. Buying an admission ticket in Dessert Museum is worth it as it's unique and different from other museums.

Lakbay Museo

Lakbay Museo is first cultural interactive museum in the PhilippinesIt's recognized as the first cultural interactive museum that showcases different cultures and tribes in the Philippines. A Lakbay Museo admission ticket brings you on an unforgettable journey through the island through displays and activities that catch the essence of Filipino society as a whole.

Art in Island

Art in Island, one of the world's largest animated 3D art museums, enables visitors to take beautiful photos with wall-to-floor sculptures. The employees can take your image as you give your best poses in each of the 12 areas.

Upside Down

If you like to take pictures in a unique manner, this museum will definitely surprise you. Discover creativity within yourself when you transform your pictures upside down.

Mind Museum

Find out how science is to be discovered every day with an all-day trip to The Mind Museum, Philippines' first world-class research zoo. The Mind Museum is ideal for children and children at the core, with more than 250 educational displays displayed in five interconnected tales of Atom, Earth, Life, the Universe, and Technology.

18. Explore University Campuses

The Philippines doesn't fall short of beautiful universities. These locations are not only an academic institution but also notable Manila destinations. Check out these good Philippine colleges and experience an excursion at the university.

The University of the Philippines-Diliman

People biking around the Academic Oval in UP DilimanThis campus has a vast area of 493 hectares and is wealthy in history and culture. On Sundays, the 100-year-old State University is a place for Sunday walkers, fitness enthusiasts, and nature lovers. The University Academic Oval provides a pleasant buffet with an architecture of the ancient structures and a cool acacia canopy. The University of the Philippines has its own UP Cine Adarna next to the UP Theater and the UP. Carillon tower. Carillon tower.

The University of Santo Tomas

Plaza Mayor of UST in Espana, ManilaPhoto by the Univesity of Santo Tomas

Known as Asia's earliest university, UST has a wealthy heritage visible on its campus. There are a range of UNESCO heritage locations in the Catholic University and a magnificent museum full of memorabilia and pictures. The first house is worth visiting for the murals and the primary staircase-the Spanish architecture highlights.

19. Join a Day Trip from Manila

We all need to switch from tours in Manila to others once in a while. Whether you're a traveler wanting to discover more places beyond the metro, or a local who wants to take some time off from the town, these are some great options:

Corregidor

Canyons at Corregidor If you want to discover the remnants of the historic past, add this to your travel go-to list. It is a national sanctuary commemorating the struggle of U.S. and Philippine forces there during World War II against overwhelming numbers of Japanese forces. It's best to join a Corregidor experience to fully immerse yourself on this breathtaking piece of history.

Tagaytay

Tagaytay overlooks Taal Lake in Batangas CityIt is renowned for being a place for excellent restaurants and picturesque tourist spots. If you want to have a relaxing day with your friends and family, make sure to try out any Tagaytay experience.

Taal Lake

This is the Philippines' third-largest lake. The Taal Volcano, one of the smallest active volcanoes in the globe, is inside it. Make sure to enjoy and take photos of this fantastic destination.

Mt. Pinatubo 

Picturesque Mt. Pinatubo LakeOne of Manila's most breathtaking trips: walking along the picturesque Mount Pinatubo and admiring the province's panoramic perspective. You will see how mother nature turned a tragedy into something lovely again when you join a Mt. Pinatubo excursion.

Manila is a fascinating culture and one of the fast-growing tourism spots in the globe. It offers so many great things for both locals and internationals alike such as sightseeing tours, food and culinary trips, museum-hopping excursions, biking trips, historical and heritage immersions, adventure and nature park visits, hiking excursions, and many more.

Start planning your trip to Manila now! Explore Manila tours and activities that you can add to your itinerary for a complete and hassle-free travel experience.