A buzzing blend of commercial hub, heritage centre and culinary wonderland
Manila thrums with history, from its Spanish colonial architecture to the wide boulevards left by the Americans at the turn of the century. This long legacy has given rise to a thoroughly 21st century city, a bustling, 24-7 sprawl of culture, food and entertainment, with ceaseless crowds providing a pulsing backbeat.
Take a walking tour around some of the city’s most famous neighbourhoods like Intramuros or Binondo, making sure to sample the local cuisine as you go. Immerse yourself in Filipino culture and art at one of the many museums, shop up a storm at some of the world’s largest shopping malls, or just soak up the atmosphere in one of Manila’s green spaces.
Things to do: Manila
Explore the old city of Intramuros
Intramuros is the oldest district in Manila, and with its cobblestone streets and Spanish colonial architecture, it’s not hard to tell. Join a walking tour and learn about the history at spots like Fort Santiago, a 16th century citadel at the entrance to the Pasig River, and San Agustin Church, a spectacular Baroque church that is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Sample the cuisine in Chinatown
The neighbourhood of Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the world, having been home to Chinese traders for more than 1000 years. Today, it’s a bustling multi-cultural hub, filled with temples, churches, markets and of course, some of the most delicious Chinese food in Manila. Make the best of the many hole-in-the-wall restaurants and traditional bakeries on a culinary walking tour.
Grab some culture at the National Museum
Manila’s National Museum is more of a complex than a single museum. Explore notable Filipino art at the Museum of Fine Arts, take a fascinating dive into the pre-history of the Philippines at the Museum of Anthropology and soak up the incredible architecture at the Museum of Natural History. After you’re done feeding your brain, take a relaxed wander around the lush grounds of nearby Rizal Park.
Shop till you drop at markets and malls
There’s a market somewhere in Manila to satisfy all your shopping needs. Grab a bargain at the Divisoria Market in Chinatown, catch a feast at Pasay Seaside Market, or simply get lost in the air-conditioned luxury of a mega mall. If vintage shopping is more your scene, spend an afternoon exploring Cubao Expo, before grabbing a drink in one of the area’s effortlessly cool bars.
Go upmarket at Bonifacio Global City
This upscale neighbourhood lies southeast of Manila’s city centre, and boasts a whole host of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shops. Spend the afternoon exploring the streets, malls and parks and enjoying the buzzing atmosphere, then stick around as Bonifacio Global City comes alive in the evening.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport opens in new window (MNL)
Distance to city centre 7km
Taxi There are no direct public transport routes from the airport, so taxi is by far the easiest option. You’ll be approached in the arrivals hall by touts selling coupons for white pre-paid taxis, but these charge a very high set rate. Instead, go to the stand and take a metered taxi, which should cost PHP ₱200-450 and take 30-60 minutes, depending on your destination (and traffic).Back to top
When to go
Manila is at its most pleasant from late November until February, when it’s dry and the temperatures are relatively mild (although it can get nippy at night). It gets scorching hot from March to May, with temperatures reaching as much as 38°C. There’ll still be hot, sunny days during the rainy season from May to October, although the weather can be unpredictable.Back to top
The elevated LRT (Light Rail Transit) and MRT (Metro Rail Transit) are great ways to avoid traffic snarls, but they don’t cover the city comprehensively. Avoid them at rush hours and be careful: pickpockets are common.
Taxis are cheap and plentiful. If the driver refuses to use the meter, wait for another cab. You may need to pay extra on top of the metered rate during rush hours.Back to top