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10 Best things to do in Manila in 2024

Casa Manila

Most people visit Manila for a stopover to one of the islands dotted around the Philippines, and I have been one of these people in the past. But I am here to tell you Manila has more to offer than a busy city. It has many cultures, fantastic food and beautiful surrounding areas that are well worth visiting. So next time you come to the Phillipines, spend longer than a day and get to know what Manila is all about. Check out some of the best things to do in Manila. 

The city derived its name from the original name Maynilad (meaning nilad plant, flowering shrub adjusted to muddy conditions, which is what grew along the river banks here). 

Manila

Things to know before you go to Manila

Visa for the Phillipines

Check that you do not require a visa for The Phillipines. The ivisa website is a quick and easy way to check whether your passport requires a permit.

Travel insurance for Manila

SafetyWing is the World’s first International Travel Medical Insurance developed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and remote workers travelling or living abroad. However, if you do not fall under this category, do not worry; SafetyWing also suits all vacation types.

The best time to travel to Manila

The best time to travel to Manila is between January to April because, during these months, the average temperature is around 27°C. Try to avoid June to November, as this is the rainy season in Manila. 

How to get to Manila

You can fly to Manila directly with Singapore Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Scoot and Jetstar Asia in under 4 hours. 

Transport: You can catch a taxi, grab or hotel car to and from the airport; the trip is around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on where you are staying and whether you are travelling in peak hour.

If you would instead like to catch public transport, then the NAIA Airport shuttle bus information is here.

Tipping in Manila

Tipping is usually not expected in Manila, but the locals greatly appreciate it. If you want to leave a tip because the service was excellent, you should do so. Although tipping isn’t necessarily expected, tour guides expect a little something for their effort. 

Fort Santiago

Ten best things to do In and Around Manila

1 Enjoy a day at Manila Ocean Park

The Manila Ocean park has 14,000 animals, including penguins, sea lions and Bird shows. Yes, you heard that right, there are other types of animals, not just creatures of the sea. Other fun things to do here include feeding the penguins in the Trails to Antarctica, singing along to your favourite songs at the neon rides and exploring the creepy crawly area of the Park. Manila Ocean Park opens daily from 10 am to 8 pm; tickets are found here.

Manila Ocean Park
Photo by Kelly Doroteo on Unsplash

2 Find International Brands at Bonifacio Global City

Bonifacio Global City (BGC) is well planned out and in the heart of Taguig City, Manila’s latest Central Business District. The BGC High Street is an open-air shopping area full of leading international branded shops, fantastic restaurants, corporate buildings, and major hotel chains. With New York City as its inspiration, you will find familiarly named streets and streetscape designs. 

Bonafacio Global City high street

3 Visit one of Manila’s UNESCO sites

Manila has many impressive churches and cathedrals, but nothing compares to San Agustin Church in the historic walled city of Intramuros. This unique UNESCO world heritage site was completed in 1607. However, parts of the Baroque structure were damaged by both World war II and earthquakes. Head over during mass and listen to the beautiful voices within; it is a magical experience. 

San Agustin

4 Explore the Old City of Manila 

There are many historical sites within Manila, particularly in the walled historical area of Intramuros. Make sure you add Fort Santiago, Baluarte de San Diego and Manila Cathedral to your list, as they are a big part of the phillipines history. The Spanish constructed the walls in the late 16th century; however, the area was destroyed in 1945, but today the country is reconstructing its history brick by brick. So what is the best way to get around here? It is on a bamboo guided bike tour; the bambikes are locally hand-crafted and purposefully built for sustainability travelling around Manila. 

Fort Santiago

5 See first-hand a Colonial Lifestyle museum

While in Intramuros, you must visit Casa Manila; here, you will find cobblestone streets, beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture and a real sense of history in this part of Manila. Although it was rebuilt in 1981, it feels like you’ve stepped back in time to a time when the Spanish occupied The Philippines. You can experience first-hand what it would have been like during the Spanish occupancy. Take a guided tour of this area, or visit Casa Manila (Manila W House) yourself and enjoy this colonial lifestyle museum. 

Casa Manila

6 Take a break at the Belfry Cafe

Belfry Cafe was opened in 2021, and the aptly named cafe is situated on the ground belfry of the Manila Cathedral – in other words, in the bell tower. This cafe has excellent coffee and delicious cakes and is open between Tuesdays to Fridays, 9:00 am to 8:00 pm and weekends between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm. While there, please look inside the Manila Cathedral and be awed by its interior and history scattered around on plaques around the walls. 

Belfry cafe

7 Checkout the National Museum Complex

There are three main areas within the National Museum Complex, which will have you exploring for hours. The National Museum of Natural History, the Natural museum of fine arts, and the Natural Museum of archaeology can all be located near Rizal Park. Many tours include guided museum experiences, so it is worth checking before purchasing your museum ticket. 

The National Museum of Natural History
Photo by Kevin Rein Bantang on Unsplash

 8 Travel to The World’s oldest Chinatown

I love to visit Chinatowns around the World; I’ve been to the largest in the World (New York and San Francisco) and the largest in Asia (Yokohama), and now it is time to visit the oldest Chinatown in the World, which dates back to 1594. You will find everything you expect from other Chinatowns: loads of Chinese foods, tea houses, shops and trinkets. Binondo also has teh Send Guang and Kuang Kong Temples. If you head to Lucky Chinatown Mall, there are many shops, restaurants and local food stalls to choose from here. 

Chinatown

9 Relax at Rizal Park 

Dr Jose Rizal is one of the most famous figures in the Philippines. His political writings inspired a revolution, so the Park is named after him. Rizal Park is a little bit of greenery in the old part of the significant bustling city, a beautiful place to relax, take a stroll or explore the points of interest around the historic site. The area has many things to see and do, including playgrounds, food vendors and an open-air concert hall.

10 Try the local cuisine 

Explore the many food areas of Manila, or better still, try one of the many local food tours, where your knowledgeable guide can explain each item before trying it. Everything from Chicken Adobo to Halo Halo, the many street foods here in Manila are worth trying; however, be warned, they do like their food sweet; if you have an option, try not to add any extra sugar to your foods. 

Manila Food tour

Accommodation

Ascott Bonifacio Global City Manila

This hotel (or serviced apartments) is in the perfect location in Taguig City. Walking distance to BGC high street and all other major attractions in this area. There is a 24-hour front desk service, a kitchenette perfect for families, and a pool and gymnasium. The staff are friendly, and the rooms are clean and comfortable. Breakfast is also included at the Ascott BGC Manila, and room service is until late. 

The Bayleaf Intramuros

Located within the historical walled area of Manila, the Bayleaf Intramuros has a bar, laundry facilities and 24-hour front desk facilities. This hotel is excellent value for money, the rooms are clean, and the staff are friendly. Perfect for you to explore the old part of Manila. There are rooms and suites at the Bayleaf Intramuros available. 

Ascott BGC Manila

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I hope this post has given you the information you need. If you have any recommendations, tips or advice, I would love for you to share them in the comment section below!

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10 best things to do in Manila

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  • Paula Barreca Barnes

    So 17 years ago, my husband and I set off with our little family in tow, embarking on a short-term assignment in Taiwan. Although without any knowledge of expat life or the Taiwanese culture, we took the chance and decided this would be an exciting little adventure; little did we know it changed the direction of our lives forever.

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