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What to see and do in Manila

Posted by on Jun 5th, 2008
Filed Under: Manila

There are plenty to see and do in Manila. Your usual walkthrough of Manila wouldn’t do without visiting Intramuros, and for good reason. Within this compound remains authentic structures of the city during the colonial period, and Fort Santiago is where the country’s national hero was detained before execution. There’s a museum dedicated to Jose Rizal here, and you can walk inside the fortress which still stands despite the years. San Agustin church, one of the country’s oldest, is located within the same area, and is currently the favorite wedding venue for the country’s who’s who. There are a number of bars and restaurants in and around Intramuros, which serve more than your usual fill of Filipino cuisine.

Churches in Manila

church manila

The Philippines is a Catholic country, and a deeply religious one at that. There are numerous colonial churches which dot the city and the surrounding metropolis; and although these pale in comparison with the cathedrals of other countries, they are authentic and distinct nonetheless. Some of the more notable churches include the Basilica Minore del Nazareno Negro (Quiapo Church); the Basilica Minore de San Sebastian, made of steel and in gothic fashion; the Basilica Minore de San Lorenzo Ruiz (Binondo Church); and the Basilica Minore de la Immaculada Concepcion (Manila Cathedral). Be sure not to miss out The Church of San Agustin at Intramuros which is the quartet of UNESCO – Baroque Churches of the Philippines.

Cultural Experiences in Manila

manila chinatown

If you want to soak up on culture during your stay, excellent samplings of what the country has to offer are presented on the stages of the CCP Complex along Roxas Boulevard, or at the open air theater on Paco Park, also within the same area. The Ayala Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Manila showcases aged and contemporary artifacts and pieces, and the National Museum at P. Burgos Drive offers a cross-cultural perspective of the Philippines. The Plaza San Luis and the Binondo area (Chinatown) are also rich in history and culture, much of which are still evident today. The former accommodates five Spanish-era houses (mansions), including the presidential residence, Malacanang Palace.

Shopping in Manila

If you’re on a shopping frenzy, you’ll find the city and the metropolis a haven. There are plenty of malls dotted about, more notably the chains of Shoe Mart (SM) and Robinson’s Malls – there’s practically a shopping mall within fifteen minutes from the airport, and it is touted as the largest in Asia. There are also smaller malls which cater more to the high-end niche, such as the Powerplant mall in Makati, the TriNoma mall along North EDSA, and the Ayala Malls (Greenbelt and Glorietta). These high-end complexes accommodate designer and branded products, but at least the items carry lower prices when compared to similar shops in Hong Kong or Singapore. For real bargains, visit the areas of Divisoria, Baclaran, or Quiapo, but do so with company: these are problem areas with a significant crime rate. If the traffic and the heat get to you, you can always try Greenhills when hundreds of stalls are open and selling knock off wares.

Nightlife in Manila

The nightlife in and around Manila is cosmopolite, and areas like Malate and Roxas Boulevard are throbbing in activity up to the wee hours of the morning. There are also popular clubbing strips in nearby Quezon City (Eastwood City in Libis), Mandaluyong (The Podium area along Ortigas), and Pasay (the resto block at the SM Mall of Asia). These areas are very safe, even for tourists who are carousing on their own. There are practically no peak periods either; you can visit any of these areas and find them packed. The Philippines is an outsourcing hub of Asia, and nightshift employees hobnob with the elite, a trend initiated by the rising middle class.

Although it’s not highly recommended that you visit Manila’s red light district, there are some areas where you can safely spend time with beautiful Filipinas. Quezon City offers a huge variety of sophisticated nightclubs where you can safely wile away a whole night. Makati, Malate and Pasay have their own strips of gentlemen’s clubs; which are both safe and sanitary. Stay away from small, run-of-the-mill pubs.

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Grace is loving every minute she spend traveling around Philippines, meeting people and making new friends. Her travel mantra - “Live, breathe. It is never too late to feel alive.”

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5 Responses to “What to see and do in Manila”

  1. Louise says:

    Is it possible to find a guided tour or a guide to take us to Ninoy Aquino spots around Manila ? How to go Ninoy Aquino Museum in Tarlac area ? Thanks for your reply.

    • Ryan says:

      I think you may want to have to contact any of the tour agencies in Manila for a customised tour. As far as we know, there are no Ninoy Aquino tours being promoted yet. You may contact Carlos Celdran ( if he can customise one for you. For the Ninoy Aquino Museum in Tarlac, you may take a bus going north – usually you can take the ones that goes to Baguio and asked to be let off the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. I am not sure how much the entrance fees now (blogs say it is about PhP 100). The Museum was closed when I went to Hacienda Luisita about 10 years ago, so I can’t really say. You can do a half day trip going there and back. Try leaving before 7 AM and if you dont need to go around the area, you should be able to be back in Manila by the afternoon.


  2. Bob says:

    I was in Manila once before about 15 years ago, very briefly and don’t recall much. I am in Manila again for a conference, around November 17/18 and may just have one full day and 2 nights free. would be great if someone can list out the 10 must things to do in this available time. For the 2 evenings, perhaps the top 5 nightclubs list! I am generally not into historical sites and prefer to see how the people of the country is living in my day and age. And I do like to party in the evenings.

    • Scott says:

      Hi Bob,

      One of our writers on this site already put a list like that together. You can find it here:
      Hope you have a good time in Manila.

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Bob,

      You may click the Destinations tab on the top. Under Manila heading, there are articles such as 24 Hours in Manila, and top 10 best places to eat in Manila. I haven’t done clubbing in Manila article yet as the club scene here is a bit fickle. let me know which kinds of places you like and I may have some ideas which ones to recommend.



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