6 Best Things to Do in Manila, Philippines

Manila, capital of the Philippines, is on the Luzon island in Manila Bay, in the South China Sea. Pasig River flows through the city. Metro Manila is the metropolitan area with the most population in the Philippines, placing in the tenth position in the world ranking.

Little bamboo cycles, a ruined fort, a hidden city, fields of grass and a bustling town centre - all of this makes Manila as beautiful as it is. The city of Manila is in the Philippines and has become a popular vacation spot. Many Asian cities have been called Paris of the East but none more so than Manila.

Also called the Pearl of the Orient because of the country’s collection of islands that resembled precious stones, Manila was the envy of neighboring Asian countries because of its European-inspired structures.

things to do in Manila

Whether it's because of its aesthetic locales, or for its buzzing nightlife, there are places you need to head out to. Read below to know more about the historic city of Manila and plan your trip to Philippines.

1. Intramuros

For history lovers, for the first time the famous walled city of Intramuros in Manila has also been named as the World's Leading Tourist Attraction. This follows extensive renovation work to the site, including colourful murals and lamps as a tribute to the country’s historic Hispanic period.

As the capital city of the Philippines, Manila is the perfect spot to finish your trip and enjoy delicious street food and discover its old Spanish colonial architecture mixed with modern buildings.

Rich in cultural delights, including the walled city of Intramurous in Manila, which was awarded the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction, and the ruins of Negros Occidental, the Philippines is home to a number of excellent museums and galleries should you want to delve deeper into its history.

One of the tourist enclaves of the capital is Intramuros, a popular walled and restored area, which clearly combines this fusion of the classic and the modern. In its gastronomy it is remarkable the great variety of fruits and also the Filipino food. The street food of Philippines cuisine is a great mix of Spanish, Malay, Chinese, Japanese and American food so do not miss trying its culinary riches.

2. Makati

Within Metro Manila, Makati stands out. Manila is a huge city and you are likely to be a bit lost with the area to choose to sleep. In general, the best area to stay in Manila is Makati, which is a very safe neighborhood, comfortable to move around, with many restaurants and shops and some bars to get to know a little bit of ManileƱo nightlife and enjoy a San Miguel.

From Manila airport to Makati, the time required is (without traffic) about 20 minutes. From Makati you can visit Intramuros. So it is a comfortable area to spend a morning or an afternoon seeing the historical area and return to do some shopping, have a massage, have dinner and have a drink. Drink in the trendy area contemplating the city skyline. In addition, there is a huge offer of hostels, and hotels where you can stay in Manila without paying a lot, but also hotels with swimming pools with views to enjoy a soaking sunset.

3. SM Mall of Asia

The Malls in Manila are unmatched, far better than any western mall or even malls in other south East Asian countries. SM Supermalls have everything you would ever want to do for a half the price you'd expect to pay. They have cheap clothes, endless supplies of restaurants, movie theatres, arcades, grocery stores, internet gaming cafes etc all in one building. Manila has mastered the mall game.

4. Eating Out in Baclaran Market

Manila has a ton of really cool markets, each catering to whatever need you may have. Here in the Philippines, common food are quick, cheap, tasty and most importantly heavy on the stomach, perfect for who are always on the go and are on a tight budget. They are easy to find because they are sold mostly in streets. Since rice is a staple in most South East Asian countries, almost all food here is paired with a cup of rice.

Borrowed from the Chinese are all sorts of congee type of dishes called lugaw or goto. Its basically a gruel made of rice, meat (either chicken or beef tripe), hard-boiled egg, seasoned with a dash of lemon, and sprinkled with fried crunchy pork bits and saffron threads on top. A bowl costs about P200. Another variation of this is called mami which is like a ramen dish with beef brisket, and also costs the same amount.

Meat dimsums served with rice is a quick fix for all. The price range of Siomai with rice is around P40-P50. Hard boiled eggs coated in batter and then deep fried. Together with a vinegar dip with onions, chili and other citrus, you can get Tokneneng at around P10–20. The smaller ones made from quail eggs (called Kwek Kwek) are priced at P5.

Marinated meat in sticks and then grilled can be paired with rice, it varies from pork cubes, pork blood, chicken feet or chicken innards. Commonly sold at night time, Beef Pares consist of braised beef stew paired with garlic rice. Can be topped with chives, extra fried garlic and a dash of calamansi, the rice can also be swapped with a bowl of noodles. Priced at around P35–P40.

At sit down meals you will see baskets of little chilis and calamansi (they look like small key limes) grab some and a small bowl or plate. The idea here is to smash the chili with a little salt using the back of a spoon, then pour a little soy sauce and some vinegar then squeeze the calamansi into it. You can usually break the skin with your fingernail. You spoon this mixture over your food.

Banana Que has plantain Bananas fried and sprinkled with brown sugar and served on a skewer. Banana covered in spring roll wrappers coated with a little bit of sugar and then deep fried. Other variations of this would be sweet potatoes called Camote Que that is basically prepared the same way.

Crisp when newly cooked, special turons has an added jack fruit strips inside for an extra sweet fruity taste. Sold at P20 per piece. Almost the same with Turon but bananas are sprinkled with sugar, deep fried and then put on sticks. Perfect for sweet tooths and a quick energy boost. You can buy Bananacue for P15.

One of the front face of Filipino street food, for P5 you can have 10 pieces of Fishball/Squidball, complete with a sweet sauce or a sweet vinegar. Fishballs has filleted fish, formed into balls, seasoned and deep-fried and served with a tangy sauce on top. This has other seafood variations too, like squid or lobster.

For the non-carb conscious, they have a ton of sweet desserts made usually with glutinous rice and coconut, like the sweet snack called palitaw. Its made of milled glutinous rice, sugar and coconut milk, steamed, and served on banana leaves with a sprinkling of grated coconuts and sesame seeds on top.

The Philippines is known for its blending of East and West, but after looking at many of the dishes of the Philippines, you can see so many equivalents throughout Southeast Asia. Let’s start with a giant communal feast. The boodle fight. A way of eating involving banana leaves and an assortment of rice, fruits, lumpia, and other foods. Eating with hands is a must when partaking, as eating kamayan style is a traditional way to eat.

Much like the rest of Southeast Asia, rice is a part of every meal! The Philippines has numerous rice based dishes, such as sinangag which is fried rice with garlic. Other rice based dishes that usually include meat can include the various Silog in the Philippines. Pancit refers to the various noodle based dishes of the Philippines.

Banana leaf is a popular wrapping in the Philippines, and is seen in puso from Cebu, patupat in Ilocos, pastil in Mindanao, and suman. Galapong is an example of a slightly fermented rice cake in the Philippines. Coconut milk is used in many dishes in the Philippines, and is also present in the cuisines of many Southeast Asian nations.

Whole roasted pig is known as lechon in the Philippines. Calamansi is a popular citrus fruit in the Philippines. Curry based dishes even exist in the Philippines, with kare-kare as the most known curry dish from the country. Fermented fish paste is a popular dipping condiment in the Philippines, as Bagoong is often eaten alongside chilis or mangoes.

Chinese influence is present in the cuisine of the Philippines, with examples such as lumpia, pancit, siopao, butsi, taho, and hopia. Shaved ice desserts are very popular in Southeast Asia, with halo-halo as the most famous of these desserts from the Philippines. Dessert soups in the Philippines include things like ginataang bilo-bilo which uses coconut milk, sago, glutinous rice and tapioca.

Rice cakes are a popular dessert in the Philippines, and they all fall under the umbrella term kakanin, including puto, biko, sapin-sapin, kutsinta, puto bumbong, suman, bibingka, and palitaw.

5. Quezon Memorial

Just an hour away from the country’s now-capital city - Manila, Quezon City was the Philippines’ official capital until 1976. Before Manila was designated capital, Quezon had been capital of the Philippines from 1948 to 1976. Founded in the early 20th century, this busy city was founded by the 2nd President of the Philippines, Manuel L. Quezon.

The Quezon Memorial Circle is another must-see sight while in Quezon, very representative of the city’s past. This shrine was built when Quezon was still the capital of the Philippines and holds the remains of former president, Manuel L. Quezon, and First Lady Aurora Quezon.

As the most populous city in the Philippines, Quezon City is a highly urbanized city in the northeast of Manila. Filled with entertainment, shopping, art, business, and nightlife venues and ventures, Quezon City has become a major metropolitan area in the Philippines.

This bustling city offers a nice balance of city life, wildlife, and marine life all within easy reach. The city’s epicenter is Eastwood city, a residential and commercial complex filled with business facilities and entertainment establishments for shopping, dining and other types of recreation for families, professionals and urbanites alike.

Popular as a top-employer and leading dollar-earner complex in the Philippines, Eastwood City is growing and gaining distinction as a tourist destination.

Its commercial center Araneta City is a continuously flourishing hub of retail, entertainment, residential, hospitality, and office developments with over a million visitors daily. Additionally, the SM City North EDSA shopping complex is one of the Philippines’ largest commercial centers with hundreds of shops and entertainment options.

Whether you’re visiting Quezon business or leisure, the Park Inn by Radisson North EDSA is within walking distance from this shopping complex and it is an ideal accommodation option in Quezon City. The hotel’s prime location is also within walking distance of a metro rail station so you can wander the rest of the city sites, tour Manila and easily access the Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL).

For a break from the Quezon city life and transport to the tropical life only a few kilometres away, you can visit La Mesa Dam and Reservoir. Also known as La Mesa Eco Park, this protected watershed is thought to be the last remaining part of the rain forest in Metro Manila.

Here, you can find a koi pond full of colorful fish, a Butterfly Haven, an Orchidarium, an archery station, a swimming pool, a flower terrace, and even a spot for fishing.

6. Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center

At the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon, you can also enjoy 22.7 hectares of zoological and botanical gardens in the middle of the city.

Quezon City is the site of several government offices, including the Quezon City Reception House - the current seat of the Vice President of the Philippines, and the Batasang Pambansa Complex - the seat of the House of Representatives and the lower chamber of the Filipino Congress.

Quezon City has also gained recognition for being home to two of the country’s most renowned national universities - University of the Philippines Diliman and Ateneo de Manila University - and for being the birthplace to some of the country’s major broadcasting networks. Television companies, such as ABS-CBN, RPN, GMA Network, PTV, and IBC, all have their headquarters in Quezon City.
Kalyan Panja