10 Best Tours and Activities in Manila Philippines: Historical Spots, Museums, Food & Culture

10 Best Tours and Activities in Manila Philippines: Historical Spots, Museums, Food & Culture

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National Museum of the Philippines and Binondo Arch in Manila

IMPORTANT: The tours and activities featured in this article may have COVID-19 travel restrictions and requirements. Check our COVID-19 travel advisory page for details.

Explore the vibrant metropolis of Manila and experience its fun, historical, and contemporary side as you tour around the city’s iconic museums, top restaurants, and famous attractions. Discover why it’s an ideal place to go if you’re seeking outdoor adventures or planning a gastronomic escapade around the metro. 

The Philippines ’capital city, Manila, is home to several food hubs, historical landmarks, and scenic attractions. It's part of Metro Manila which includes other major cities like Makati, Pasay, and Quezon City.  Manila can refer to both the capital city and the metropolitan center. It's a go-to place for those who like to visit scenic urban spots while being close to shopping centers, transportation hubs, food parks, and bars. 

 

 

For local and international travelers, Manila serves as the main gateway if you’re traveling by air (through Manila airport) or land to reach nearby provinces and other popular tourist destinations across the country. However, you don’t have to go too far to explore some of the majestic sights in the Philippines.

When it comes to food and history, Manila and the entirety of Metro Manila have a lot to offer! Read this guide to find out the best tours and activities in store for you in Manila. 

10. Food Tour

A variety of streetfood in Manila

One of the best things to do in Manila is to treat yourself to food tours to get a taste of the daily life of locals. You can try local street food stalls that are usually lined up on the side of the busy streets of the metro or explore food hubs like the following:

Maginhawa Street

Spanning a total of two kilometers, Maginhawa Street is a well-known food district in Quezon City that caters to students, working professionals, and food enthusiasts. There are various Instagram-worthy restaurants in the area offering a diverse fusion of mouthwatering cuisines. 

Kapitolyo

Another popular dining area in the metro is found in Kapitolyo, Pasig. Here, you can hop from one restaurant to another while trying out a wide range of delectable dishes. Kapitolyo’s West Drive features establishments that are perfect for romantic dates while the East Drive is where you can find cheaper restaurants.

 

 

9. University Tour

Statue of Oblation inside UP Diliman

Metro Manila is famous for its notable academic institutions with a rich history and have produced some of the most notable Filipino politicians, artists, and more. Here are some of the premier universities that you can explore: 

University of the Philippines-Diliman

Situated at the heart of Quezon City, the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman campus boasts diverse flora and fauna. Joggers and bikers love to stroll under the cool shade of century-old acacia trees. The 111-year old university houses prominent structures such as Vargas Museum, UP Cine Adarna, Oblation Plaza, and Carillon Tower.

University of Santo Tomas

Recognized as the oldest Catholic university in Asia, the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila brims with a wealthy cultural heritage. It is built with a Renaissance Revival style which adds up to its classy and sophisticated vibe. Some of the most photogenic spots on the campus include The Arch of Centuries, Fountain of Knowledge, and UST Main Building.

8. Modern Museums Tour

Interiors the Mind Museum in TaguigPhoto by the Department of Tourism - Philippines

If there’s one thing Manila stands out among other destinations, it is the rich and diverse cultural heritage showcased in various modern museums scattered across the metro.

Lakbay Museo (Permanently Closed starting July 2022)

Known as the first Philippine interactive millennial museum, Lakbay Museo in Pasay lets you travel to different destinations across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao in just a span of two hours. Here, you can find replicas of Mayon Volcano, Ifugao “Bale” houses, and Ivatan houses. It also features unique Filipino delicacies such as longganisa, empanada, and dried fish.

Dessert Museum

For those who love to indulge in desserts, this might be a perfect venue for your next photoshoot! The colorful museum in Pasay boasts eight rooms displaying giant donuts, candy canes, and a field full of cotton candies.

Mind Museum

Established as a world-class science museum, the Mind Museum in Taguig is another famous attraction suitable for kids and families seeking an extraordinary educational experience. You can discover over 250 interactive exhibits, planetarium shows, and experiment demonstrations!

 

 

7. Modern Cities Tour

A small park inside Greenbelt in MakatiPhoto by the Department of Tourism - Philippines

Metro Manila is known as the busiest urban center in the Philippines. It consists of modern and progressive cities characterized by tall buildings, flickering lights, and fast-moving vehicles. Visit the following modern cities on your Manila trip for the complete experience:

Makati

Famous for its high-end establishments and bars, Makati is known as the undisputed business capital of the Philippines. This is where you can find corporate offices of top financial and business institutions near upscale malls, bars, restaurants, and luxurious hotels.

Bonifacio Global City

Dubbed as the home of the passionate minds, Bonifacio Global City or BGC is commonly referred to as a luxury and lifestyle district in Taguig. From cocktail clubs to high-end retail stores, there’s so much more you can find amidst the city’s high structures and skyscrapers.

Ortigas

Set between the joint boundaries of Pasig and Mandaluyong, Ortigas is a central business district that is home to towering buildings and condominiums.

 

 

6. Roxas Boulevard Tour

Aerial view of Roxas Boulevard in Manila

Roxas Boulevard is probably one of Manila’s most adored public squares where you can catch the famous Manila Bay Sunset. This waterfront walkway extends to well-known restaurants, theaters, museums, and other commercial establishments.

Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP)

The CCP Complex is primarily built to promote the Philippine culture and the arts. It showcases theatrical, cinematic, visual arts, and literary events for more than 40 years. The Cinemalaya Film Festival is one of the critically-acclaimed and much-awaited events held in CCP every year.

Baywalk

Located two kilometers from the U.S. Embassy, Baywalk is a scenic spot where you can usually find couples gazing at the famous Manila Bay sunset. It is situated near Rizal Park, Manila Yacht Club, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

5. Shopping Tour

Clothes for sale in Divisoria

Besides going on a sightseeing and food tour, you can also wander around the renowned shopping centers of Manila. It is one of the most enjoyable activities you can do since you can find malls and retail stores in almost every corner.

Divisoria 

Known for affordable gift items and wholesale apparel, Divisoria is a shopping haven for bargain hunters and budget buyers. Shoppers who tour around the Chinatown of Binondo also make sure to drop by Divisoria’s Tutuban Center and other cheap retail stores nearby.

SM Mall of Asia

The SM Mall of Asia is one of the largest shopping centers in the Philippines. Here, you can find the country’s first Olympic-sized ice skating rink, IMAX theater, MOA Arena, and SMX Convention Center among others.

Baclaran

Another shopping center you must visit in Manila is the Baclaran Market. It looks like Divisoria with makeshift stalls selling bulk clothes and items of all sorts lined up on the street.

4. Binondo Tour

Famous arc of Binondo

Founded in 1594, Binondo is considered the world’s first Chinatown. This iconic district is filled with a plethora of wonders, authentic Chinese cuisines, and classic favorites to delight your eyes and satisfy your stomach. Have a feast of Binondo’s must-try delicacies such as dumplings, oyster cake, hopia, fried siopao, mami, stir fry tofu, and more. Here are some landmarks you shouldn't miss in your Binondo tours:

Binondo Church

Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz or Binondo Church is one of the picturesque and solemn structures in Chinatown. The Spanish Baroque-inspired church has an octagonal five-tier bell tower and a maroon-bordered facade. 

Ongpin

If you’re looking for affordable and great finds of jewelry, you’ll have to stop by Ongpin where you can find gold vendors lined up on the street.

Escolta

Escolta is one of the few streets that used to be part of Old Manila. Despite modern renovations of old buildings, efforts are still made to revive its classic beauty and charm.

3. National Museum Complex Tour

Facade of the National Museum in Manila

As part of the government’s advocacy to preserve the Philippine culture, the National Museum Complex presents an outstanding collection of ethnographic, anthropological, archaeological, and visual arts memorabilia. Here are the museums that you can explore in National Museum tours:

National Art Gallery

The National Museum of Fine Arts was built in 1918 and transformed into the National Art Gallery in 2003. There are 12 galleries inside where you can see famous art pieces of renowned national artists including Juan Luna, Dr. Jose Rizal, Félix Resurrección Hidalgo, and Fernando Amorsolo.

National Museum of Anthropology

The National Museum of Anthropology portrays different periods in Philippine history through its exhibits, galleries, and display of artifacts and ethnic mementos.

National Museum of National History

This museum features the DNA Tree of Life tower and the country’s rich biodiversity including Lolong’s skeleton, the largest crocodile in captivity.

National Planetarium

Established in 1974, the National Planetarium provides a cinematic viewing experience in its astronomical exhibit and real-life projection of celestial bodies.

 

 

2. Rizal Park Tour

Monument of Jose Rizal in Rizal Park

Another must-see attraction in Manila pays tribute to the national hero, Jose Rizal. Commonly known as Luneta, the 60-hectare park is an open-space recreational area perfect for afternoon stroll and evening walks while watching the dancing musical fountain.

Rizal Park is a public square that consists of monuments, playgrounds, large stadiums, concert halls, and observatories. It is intricately laid out with paved walkways, open lawns, and ornamental gardens. The park extends into three segments such as the Agrifina Circle near Taft Avenue, Roxas Boulevard to the north, and the Burnham Green area to the south.

Located at the heart of Manila, Luneta Park serves as a peaceful oasis where kids can play, couples can set up a romantic picnic date, and families can unwind and spend some time together.

1. Intramuros Tour

Entrance to Fort Santiago inside Intramuros

Travel back in time as you tour around the walled city of Intramuros. Deemed as the oldest district in Manila, Intramuros boasts majestic architectural remnants during the Spanish period. 

 

 

One of the highlights of Intramuros tours includes riding a bamboo bike while strolling along the city’s iconic structures. You may also opt to ride a kalesa as you explore the scenic spots in the area.

Here are some of the notable destinations inside Intramuros that you should visit:

Fort Santiago

This famous fortress was built in the late 1500s during the Spanish colonization. Our national hero, Jose Rizal was imprisoned here before his execution on December 30, 1896.

Manila Cathedral

Manila Cathedral during sunrise

The Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception or the Manila Cathedral is a 400-year-old church with grand facades, interiors, and multi-layered arches.

San Agustin Church

This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been witness to key events in history. The San Agustin Church has a magnificent Baroque architectural design with detailed murals and paintings on its walls.

Plaza de Roma

This is one of the three main public squares in Intramuros. It is considered a major trade center in the past.

Casa Manila

Known as the home of the upper-classmen and women during the Spanish era, Casa Manila is a museum that showcases the luxurious lifestyle of rich families in the 19th century.

Baluarte de San Diego

Baluarte de San Diego inside Intramuros

This iconic circular tower was initially built to safeguard the city during the Spanish era. The place is now occupied by flowers and tiny trees.

Bahay Tsinoy

This historical building in Intramuros houses  Kaisa-Angelo King Heritage Center, an ethnic Chinese museum that documents the significant contributions of the Chinese ethnicity to the Filipino culture.

Explore the Best of Manila Philippines 

Wide view of Intramuros and National Museum in Manila

Beyond the highly congested traffic jams and fast-paced kind of living in the metro lies the beautiful culture and rich history of the Philippines preserved over the years. There are a lot of things in store for you when you visit the vibrant and bustling city of Manila and the rest of the metro.

You may choose from going on a sightseeing tour, museum-hopping trip, culinary adventure, photo walk, biking trip, and so much more. Appreciate the true beauty of the metropolis and learn more about its fascinating cultural heritage.

Begin planning your next trip to Manila now! Discover exciting Manila tours and explore the must-see attractions in the metro. Find out the activities and things to do in Manila that you can add to your itinerary.