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Things To Do in Manila: 20 Places To Visit in Manila

Things To Do in Manila: Sights, Restaurants, Bars, Nightlife – Manila is the capital of the Philippines, a true mega-metropolis and not at all a popular holiday destination for tourists. In contrast to Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong, only few travelers want to spend some time in Manila or make a stopover there.

This is certainly due to many reasons, but definitely also the bad image of the city in terms of reporting. At the beginning of our first trip to the Philippines, we also considered whether we wanted to visit Manila and even came to the decision to stay in the city for a 7 days. In the meantime, we have been to Manila several times since 2015 and 2021 and were able to experience the drastic changes for the better.

In this post we will show you the best things to do in Manila as well as useful tips about accommodation, dining and nightlife in Manila. We hope that you give Manila a chance after reading this guide and just experience the city for yourself.

Weather in Manila

In Manila it is warm all year round, the fresh wind from the sea is hardly noticeable between the dense high-rise buildings. The temperatures rarely drop below 25 degrees at night, but 20-35 degrees Celsius are considered normal. The climate in Manila can be divided into a rainy season and a dry season, with the rainy season falling between May and November. The heaviest rainfall can usually be expected between June and September.

Even in the rainy season, the temperatures do not drop, but then you can still count on 4 hours of sunshine per day. In my opinion, you can visit Manila all year round, but it is particularly recommended to visit outside of the rainy season.

Manila Makati City Skyline - Onyourpath

How to get to Manila

Manila International Airport (Ninoy Aquino) is served by virtually all domestic airports. International flights from Europe usually make a stop in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Taipei, Bangkok or Singapore. If you are traveling from the U.S. or Canada a stop-over in Hong Kong, Taipei or Seoul is very common. However there are also some direct flight connections to Honolulu, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto. Travelers from Australia can fly directly from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. There are also more than enough flight connections to the Philippines from many cities throughout Southeast Asia. Best place to compare ticket prices for flights to Manila is the flight search engine Airguru.

By land, a number of bus lines run to and from Manila to all parts of Luzon. Ferries also depart directly from the port of Manila and head for a number of islands in the south of the Philippines. Manila is the hub of the Philippines and accessible from anywhere. If you would like to book bus or ferry tickets in the Philippines, then we recommend the 12go.asia platform – there you will not only find a good overview of all connections, but you can also reserve the tickets inexpensively and easily in advance, which is on well-frequented routes definitely not a mistake.

Getting around Manila

In Manila itself, there are a number of options for getting from A to B. From taxis and pedicabs to jeepneys, buses and trains, the means of transport in Manila are diverse. All options here at a glance.

Airport Transfer: The best way to get from the airport to the city center is by Coupon Taxi. Coupon Taxi sells taxis at fixed prices at official counters, so you are protected from rip-offs. Unfortunately, the coupon taxis are very popular and we sometimes had to wait 1 hour for a ticket. At GetTransfer.com you can reserve your driver in advance, and other routes to all possible destinations on Luzon can also be booked there easily.

Taxi: Taxi service is available throughout the city. It is important that you only drive with official providers. The meters are often manipulated or the drivers refuse to turn them on. Then negotiating skills are required. A good alternative is the Grab app, where you can book your taxi at transparent prices. Grab is widely used in the Philippines and is the better alternative to the regular taxi. Just give it a try if you have internet on your cell phone!

LRT/MRT: The whole city of Manila is criss-crossed by a relatively well-developed rail service running north-south and east-west. The rides are not expensive, but the metro can get very crowded at peak times. Beware of pickpockets. If you get off at the wrong station and end up in the middle of a slum, you can easily become a victim of a robbery – especially at night!

Jeepney: These vehicles are converted jeeps that act as shared taxis, transporting people on the back of the vehicle along the specified route. The destination is usually written on the jeepney, payment is made on the back of the truck. The jeepney is the means of transport for many locals and also the cheapest in Manila. At night jeepneys are often robbed.

Tricycle: Pedicabs or trikes are three-wheeled mopeds with seating for up to 2 passengers. These can be found on every corner in Manila and are a cheap means of transport. A ride on the tricycle is definitely an experience. The prices are negotiable! The pedicab is said to gradually disappear from the cityscape of Manila, and the authorities are said to have already issued a corresponding order.

Bus: There are a number of private company buses operating throughout Manila. In addition, there are a large number of bus terminals spread throughout the city, from where long-distance journeys to destinations on Luzon start. From our point of view, the bus is not the best way to get around in Manila. But for traveling to other places, it is a really good option. You can book bus tickets throughout the Philippines here…

From our point of view, getting around with Grab is the safest and best option for tourists. In addition, you will not be ripped off and you will be sitting closed and air-conditioned car.

Jeepney Manila Philippinen - Onyourpath

Hotels in Manila

There is a wide variety of accommodation and hotels in Manila. Unfortunately, these are not nearly as cheap as in Thailand. There are generally only 2 areas recommended for tourists: Makati, the modern city center and Ermita/Malate, where many of Manila’s attractions are in close proximity.

In terms of security, Makati and the area around the Green Belt is clearly ahead, the financial center is the model district. We have stayed in various hotels and areas during our many stays in Manila. The following hotels are recommended from personal experience in terms of location and facilities:

JMM Grand Suites Serviced Residences – This accommodation offers small but clean and modernly furnished private apartments as well as a magnificent view of the skyline of Makati City. A swimming pool and a fitness center can also be found in the condominium. The JMM Grand Suites is also suitable for longer stays.

St Giles Makati – The St Giles Makati is a very clean city hotel in a good and safe location at a reasonable price. The rooms are well equipped and the nightlife area “P Burgos Street” is only a stone’s throw away. From here you can also easily reach the shopping malls in Makati.

I’M Hotel Makati – Located directly across the street from St Giles, the I’M is a very good 5 star hotel. A special feature, however, is the glass infinity pool, which juts out over the street. In any case, the I’M Makati has already achieved fame on Instagram. The rooms are very nicely and clean, so this hotel is really a cool spot in Manila.

Belmont Hotel Manila – For those who want to stay close to the airport, the Belmont Hotel in Newport World Resorts is a real top choice. Manila Airport Terminal 3 can be reached on foot from here via the pedestrian bridge. In addition, the many shopping and nightlife options of Newport Mall are just around the corner. Newport World Resorts is a fully gated area and 100% security is guaranteed at all times of the day.

Things To Do in Manila – the best places to visit in Manila

Due to Manila’s unpopularity, few people know that Manila has a slew of great attractions to offer. In addition to modern shopping malls, churches, markets and buildings from Spanish colonial times are particularly attractive. In the following section we will introduce you to some of the best places to visit in Manila.

Manila Baywalk

The Manila Baywalk is considered a Manila landmark and is located in the Ermita neighborhood along Manila Bay. What to do there? Take a walk, look at the sea and relax. Unfortunately, during my visit in 2015, the bay was quite dirty and there were a number of homeless and drug junkies hanging around.

Update 2022: The government has completely renewed the Manila Baywalk, the once littered stone beach is no longer recognizable. Manila Baywalk is now a man-made sandy beach, which actually invites you to relax. However, we strongly advise against swimming in Manila Bay.

Manila Baywalk 2022 - Onyourpath

Intramuros

The Intramuros district near Ermita is one of the most beautiful and important sights in Manila. In addition to the Manila Cathedral, you will also find the historic Fort Santiago and many other old buildings in the Spanish colonial style. I can only recommend everyone to visit the Intramuros district in Manila and to stroll through the streets.

Cathedral of Manila & San Augustin

Manila Cathedral is located in the Spanish city fortress of Intramuros and is one of the most magnificent and important churches in Manila. A few hundred meters away is the Church of San Agustin, which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1993 along with the baroque churches of Santa Maria, Paoay and Miag-ao.

Kathedrale Manila Intramuros - Onyourpath

Fuerza Santiago

Fort Santiago belongs on every visitor’s bucket list to Manila. The iconic site is an old Spanish fortress that has withstood several attacks and was built in 1571. The fortress has walls 22 meters high and eight meters thick. The entrance is 12 meters high. Located on the Pasig River, the fort was the Spanish government’s main defensive structure in the Philippines.

Santiago quickly became the main hub for the spice trade between Europe and the Americas for the next 333 years. Incidentally, the development of the Philippines goes back to the Portuguese seafarer Magellan, who opened up the spice routes to the west under the flag of the Spanish crown. The famous Manila galleons then regularly shuttled between Acapulco in Mexico and Santiago.

Fort Santiago has been the scene of fierce battles over the centuries. For example with the Chinese, the British and in World War II with the Japanese, who caused a terrible bloodbath.

The view of the Pasig River from Fort Santiago is beautiful, the houses have been painstakingly restored and the dungeons can still be seen in their original form. The Fuerza Santiago is a very historic place in Manila and definitely worth seeing!

Rizal Park

Named after national hero Jose Rizal, Rizal Park is the largest park in Manila. The park itself features food stalls, statues and a pond, as well as the Jose Rizal Monument. In addition, a huge replica of the Philippines map can be admired in the park.

Rizal Park Manila - Onyourpath

Chinatown Manila

Although Chinatown in Manila can’t compete with that in Bangkok or other Asian metropolises, a short walk in the atmospheric district is definitely an experience. Chinatown in the Binondo district can be combined with a visit to the Divisoria Market and the Binondo Church. The Lucky 99 Mall is also not a bad place in Chinatown to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the city.

Divisoria Market

The Divisoria Market is another highlight that Manila has to offer. Hardly any other market in Southeast Asia has fascinated and surprised me as much as this one. In addition to a number of street stalls and rows of shops in the market buildings, there are also many shopping malls in the area, which flow smoothly into the market. The rush is enormous, but you will hardly meet any tourists. Actually everything can be bought. From clothing and everyday objects to religious souvenirs and food. If you are in Manila, you must definitely visit the Divisoria Market, it is an amazing experience!

Binondo Church

Binondo Church in Manila is a very beautiful church located just a stone’s throw from Chinatown. The church is Basilica for Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Our Lady of the most holy Rosary. Many locals come here to pray.

Binondo Kirche Manila - Onyourpath

Quiapo Church & Quiapo Market

The area around Quiapo is known all over the Philippines. This is due to the Quiapo Church, which houses the statue of the Black Nazarene, and the infamous Quiapo Market just beyond.

But first things first: The Festival of the Black Nazarene is a major religious festival in Manila, with a grand procession held annually on January 9th. During the procession, which lasts many hours, a black statue of Christ is carried through the streets of the Quiapo district from starting from Quiapo church. Hundreds of thousands to over a million barefoot worshipers take part in the procession. Many people hope that touching the statue will cure illnesses.

The Quiapo Market, on the other hand, is notorious for offering abortifacients to unintended pregnant women. Around the church there are also “service providers” who carry out abortions in backyards for little money and with questionable methods. The delicate thing about it: Abortions are illegal in the Philippines and, above all, not tolerated by the Catholic Church. Dead babies and fetuses are regularly placed in front of the church or in the square behind it.

We ourselves found it extremely interesting to get a glimpse into the sanctuary of the Quiapo Church in Manila and to see how much the Filipinos worship the black statue of Jesus. Even if the chilling stories of abortions stay in your head while strolling through the Quiapo Market, it is still a special experience!

SM Mall Asia

Located right on Manila Bay, SM Mall Asia is the city’s largest mall. There you will find several big brands, restaurants and everything you would expect from a modern mall. There’s even a full-size ice rink if you fancy skating in the tropics.

Mall of Asia Manila - Onyourpath

Resorts World Manila & Casino

Resorts World Manila is a hotel and resort complex with an attached casino. The complex also includes a number of condominiums and a shopping mall. Resorts World Manila offers a safe environment for dining and shopping. The site is right by Terminal 3 of Manila Airport, making it a good place to stay for the last (or first) 1-2 days in the Philippines. The Belmont Hotel mentioned above is also located here.

City of Dreams Casino

City of Dreams is also a casino and event center in Manila. So if you want to try your luck a bit, then you should do it here. Major events and concerts also regularly take place in the City of Dreams. You can find many luxury hotels and numerous opportunities for going out and shopping there as well.

Manila bei Nacht - Onyourpath

Malacanan Palast

The Malacañan Palace is the official residence of the President of the Philippines. The palace is located on the northern bank of the Pasig River in the state capital of Manila and can also be visited as part of a guided tour. The Malacañan is the “White House” of the Philippines.

Malacanan Palace Manila - Onyourpath

Escolta Street

Escolta Street is an old row of streets, which is often referred to as the oldest street in Manila. The houses are strongly reminiscent of the colonial style and so the area makes a good spot for Instagram. Chinatown and Binondo Church are also just around the corner.

Manila Ocean Park

Manila Ocean Park is a world-class aquarium in Manila and a good place to visit on a rainy day. The well-kept complex offers a variety of attractions such as an oceanarium, a shark tank, a sea lion show and much more. We haven’t visited the aquarium ourselves, but have only heard good things about it.

Manila Ocean Park - Onyourpath

Greenbelt Park & Shopping Malls

Greenbelt Park is a recreation center in the heart of the financial and commercial district of Makati. Tens of posh hotels and shopping malls have settled around the green spots. The district is considered the safest and cleanest in the city and is practically THE shopping center in the entire Philippines. If you want to do some real shopping in the Philippines, then there is definitely no way around the mega malls on the Green Belt.

Ayala Mall Greenbelt Manila - Onyourpath

Manila Nightlife

Manila is a great place to party in the Philippines. The city is home to a number of good and hip nightclubs and discotheques, which cater to a diverse clientele of locals, holidaymakers and expats. The following discotheques in Manila are recommended and will still be open in 2022 after Covid-19:

  • Royal Club Makati ( Makati daily 22:00-5:00h)
  • ZZYZX (Ermita / Malate daily 22:00-6:00h)
  • XYLO at the Palace (former Valkyrie Taguig Wed-Sat 22:00-4:00h)
  • Topic Poblacion (Makati Wed-Sun 22:00h-5:00h)
Nachtleben Club in Manila - Onyourpath

P. Burgos Street: There is no tourist spot in Manila such as Khao San Road in Bangkok or Bui Vien Street in Saigon. P Burgos Street in Makati comes closest to the aforementioned locations. There is hardly any traffic along the small street and a number of restaurants and bars have settled here. At the same time, P. Burgos Street is also considered a red light district, but don’t worry, even if you are not looking for such offers, you will find more than enough serious options in this small street full of bars. By the way, P. Burgos Street is very safe because it is in the middle of the financial center of Makati.

Food & Drink in Manila

Finding something to eat 24 hours a day is no problem in Manila. There are restaurants, fast food chains and street food stands. Even if the street food culture in the Philippines is not nearly as well developed as in Thailand, there are always smaller stands with snacks on the roadside. But you shouldn’t expect elaborate cuisine.

The large fast-food chains are particularly popular among Filipinos. Jollibee, McDonalds, BurgerKing, Pizzahut, Army and Navy, Chowking and many other restaurants have branches in almost every major city. The offer ranges from burgers to pizza and pasta to Chinese-style cuisine and classic fried chicken. Among the fast food chains, we like Mang Inasal and Andoks the most as they offer solid Filipino cuisine.

On the streets of Manila there are also a number of smaller classic Filipino fast food restaurants and cafes as well as restaurants with foreign cuisine such as pizza and pasta. If you are a gourmet, you will also get your money’s worth in Manila, as there are several posh restaurants in Manila.

The shopping malls also offer large food courts where you can get everything your heart desires. In general, we think that the type of diet in the Philippines is quite unhealthy and in no way comparable to that in Thailand. But you definitely won’t starve.

Manila Bar Tip: Located on the 34th floor of the Pacific Skyloft in Sampaloc, the beauty of the view over Manila at the Roof Manila Bar is undeniable! The doors to the hip Skybar open at 8 p.m. every day except Sundays and Mondays. There are delicious drinks, finger food, good music, a hip atmosphere and an excellent view. What more do you want!?

Is Manila safe?

Safety is an extremely important issue for many travelers. Again and again one hears that the Philippines and especially Manila are very unsafe. Of course there are also dangerous districts in Manila, but they are in almost every major metropolis…

Nothing ever happened to us during our stays in Manila and the Philippines. Those who act with care and don’t show off are usually of no interest to thieves and robbers. As a precaution, it is advisable to leave the most important things in the hotel room. Walking alone through lonely alleys in Manila at night is not a good idea even then. Arguably, the greatest threat to security comes from theft and robbery. But that’s actually in every big city, be it Paris, Barcelona, ​​Berlin, Los Angeles or Manila.

The area around the Green Belt / Makati is generally very safe, you usually have nothing to fear here even at night and alone. The only important thing is that you don’t let yourself be unsettled and still enjoy the city confidently and carefree. Manila is definitely not a dangerous place, but in our opinion not as safe as Bangkok or Singapore, for example.

Manila Map

Attached you will find our constantly updated map with all places to visit in Manila at a glance.

Ideas for a perfect day in Manila

Here we have put together for you a day program with the best places to visit in Manila. The best way to get to the sights is by taxi or on foot. The starting point of the sightseeing tour is the JMM Grand Suites Hotel in Ermita.

Itinerary: Breakfast at a Cafe – Short walk along the Baywalk – Visit Intramuros + Sightseeing – Visit Divisoria Market + Chinatown – Quiapo Church – Shopping & Dinner in Makati.

Have you been to Manila yet? What are you favorite things to do in Manila? Please leave us a comment below!

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OYP-Team

OYP-Team

At OnYourPath is all about travel. Find out everything about the most beautiful travel destinations around the world and get valuable tips about hotels, travel preparation, food & drink and many other topics. OnYourPath is your authentic adventure blog by travelers, for travelers!

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