A buzzing blend of commercial hub, heritage centre and culinary wonderland
Manila started out as a port town during the years of the Galleon Trade before evolving into an American project paved with wide boulevards. Present day Manila is a bustling, 24-7 sprawl of dining, entertainment and cultural hubs, with ceaseless crowds providing a pulsing backbeat.
Manila can be a lot to take in, but innovative and self-styled spokespersons for the city have found and organised ways to better appreciate pockets of the city: on foot. Dynamic tour guides have opened the city up for visitors, offering great insights into the evolution of this charismatic and captivating city.
Things to do: Manila
Art to remember
Contemporary art has been experiencing a rebirth in Metro Manila, and you can view some of the most exciting works by new and established visual artists in large art galleries along Pasong Tamo Road in Makati. Some of the most exciting ones on the strip include Silverlens opens in new window, Manila Contemporary opens in new window and Finale Art File opens in new window.
Just next door to Intramuros, Binondo grew and prospered as the main trading hub for intrepid merchants, many of them Chinese or of Chinese descent. This is Manila’s Chinatown, and you can get inside it with a culinary walking tour by Old Manila Walks opens in new window – just one of the walks offered by this fantastic outfit. Eat your way around this interesting enclave, sampling specialities based on recipes handed from one generation to the next, while getting a history lesson at the same time.
Feed your mind
Travelling with kids? Geek out and spend the afternoon in the Mind Museum opens in new window at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. Science and technology take the spotlight in this state-of-the-art museum where exhibits are designed by Filipino artists and fabricators.
Shop the markets
Weekends in the central business district of Makati City bustle with a different kind of trade. The Salcedo Weekend Market in Salcedo Village on Saturdays and the Legazpi Weekend Market on Sundays are a showcase of gourmet cuisine, homemade treats, organic produce and artisan crafts.
Step back in time
The old walled city of Intramuros was a Spanish fort that once kept everyone not a member of the elite outside its gates. Take a tour of it with personality and performance artist Carlos Celdran opens in new window, who’ll show you around its cobblestoned lanes with insightful and witty anecdotes that make the history lesson as exciting as gossip. The tours are popular and often booked out, so it’s best to secure a spot well in advance.
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 ₱200-300 and take 30-60 minutes, depending on your destination (and traffic).Back to top
When to go
The best beach weather comes to most of the Philippines in late November until February, when the temperature is mild during the day and can get nippy at night (you might need a light sweater), as well as the summer months of March to April. It gets scorching hot in summer – as high as 38°C.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
The Manila bars you should definitely try
The vibrant capital of the Philippines is buzzing with trendy drinking dens serving everything from local beers to unusual cocktails with a Filipino twist.
Hit the sweet spot in Manila
Time for dessert? Here are the best cafes and restaurants to get a sugar fix in the capital of the Philippines.
Hungry? These are the best all-you-can-eat feasts in Manila
Taste the most tempting Filipino food all in one place at these top buffet restaurants in the capital.
Where to go for the best local eats in Manila
Taste-test the most popular foods in the buzzing capital city of the Philippines.