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Home Travel Guide Philippines Travel Guide Manila, Philippines Travel Guide for 2023-2024

Manila, Philippines Travel Guide for 2023-2024

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In this comprehensive Manila travel guide, we’ll take you on a captivating journey through Manila’s cultural tapestry, culinary delights, accommodation options, and the best ways to explore this bustling metropolis. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or returning to uncover hidden gems, our guide will provide insights into the top attractions, local cuisine, ideal places to stay, tips for planning your stay, insights into the city’s weather, and a detailed look at transportation to and around Manila. Prepare to embark on an adventure that encompasses the very essence of Manila, a city that beautifully blends rich history with a contemporary urban landscape.

Manila Overview

Manila, the capital and largest city of the Philippines, is a dynamic metropolis nestled on the eastern shores of Manila Bay. It’s a gateway for international travelers and a city brimming with historical landmarks, cultural attractions, shopping centers, and vibrant nightlife. If you’re a first-time visitor, start your exploration in Intramuros, a walled city bearing the imprints of Spanish colonial power. Here, you can uncover historical treasures like Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church, and Manila Cathedral.

Rizal Park is another must-visit, where national hero Jose Rizal met his fate at the hands of the Spanish in 1896. For a taste of Filipino culture, delve into Binondo, the world’s oldest Chinatown, or venture into Quiapo, known for its lively street vendors, fortune tellers, and the famous Black Nazarene statue. If you seek modern entertainment and leisure, head to Makati, Quezon City, or Taguig, where you’ll find modern skyscrapers, upscale malls, as well as a plethora of dining, bars, and clubs. Manila offers a captivating blend of the past and present, ensuring a memorable experience for all who visit.

Manila

Top Things to Do in Manila

Discovering the vibrant tapestry of Manila is a delight, and here are some fantastic activities you can’t miss while traveling in Manila:

  • Explore Historic Intramuros: Step back in time in Intramuros, the city’s oldest district and once the heart of Spanish colonial rule. This walled citadel is teeming with historical and cultural gems, including the awe-inspiring San Agustin Church and Museum, the majestic Manila Cathedral, the formidable Fort Santiago, and the grand Ayuntamiento building. You can meander through its historic streets on foot, in a traditional calesa (horse-drawn carriage), or by zipping around on a motorized tricycle.
  • Marvel at Manila Ocean Park: Dive into the aquatic wonders at Manila Ocean Park, a marine-themed attraction that offers an oceanarium, captivating sea lion shows, a charming penguin exhibit, and a mesmerizing jellyfish display. Besides, indulge in a range of activities like fish spa treatments, aquanaut voyages, glass-bottom boat rides, and even an enchanting mermaid swim experience.
  • Relax in Rizal Park: Stroll through the expansive Rizal Park, one of Asia’s largest urban green spaces, and a cherished symbol of national pride. This is where the national hero, Jose Rizal, met his fate at the hands of the Spanish in 1896. The park is adorned with numerous monuments, lush gardens, engaging museums, and recreational amenities.
  • Savor Manila Bay’s Splendid Views: Catch the breathtaking sunset views from Manila Bay, a natural harbor that provides a picturesque backdrop. Consider a bay cruise or ferry ride for a different perspective. Along the baywalk, a multitude of restaurants, bars, and entertainment spots await.
  • Unearth Filipino Heritage at the National Museum: Dive into Filipino history and culture at the National Museum of the Philippines. This complex of museums showcases the country’s artistic, cultural, and natural heritage. The National Museum of Fine Arts exhibits masterful paintings and sculptures by Filipino artists, while the National Museum of Anthropology houses an extensive collection of artifacts and ethnographic materials from diverse indigenous groups.
  • Culinary Adventure in Binondo: Embark on a mouthwatering food trip in Binondo, where you can savor authentic Chinese cuisine in the world’s oldest Chinatown. This bustling cultural and culinary hub is home to numerous restaurants and food stalls offering delectable and budget-friendly dishes such as dumplings, noodles, hearty rice meals, and much more.
Intramuros in Manila
Intramuros in Manila

What to Eat in Manila

Here are some of the most renowned and delectable dishes you must savor in Manila:

  • Adobo: A Filipino favorite, Adobo is a savory stew made with chicken or pork, simmered in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and spices. It’s a must-try dish, easily found throughout Manila.
  • Lechon: A festive treat, Lechon is whole roasted pig with a crispy skin and succulent meat. Often served with liver sauce, it’s a celebratory dish in Manila.
  • Sisig:Sisig is a sizzling dish made from chopped pig’s head, onions, chili, calamansi, and egg. It’s spicy, sour, and crunchy, and pairs perfectly with a cold beer.
  • Halo-halo: A refreshing dessert, Halo-halo is a mix of shaved ice, milk, and a variety of toppings like sweet beans, fruits, jelly, and ube (purple yam). Stir it all together for a delightful treat.
  • Balut: A unique Filipino delicacy, Balut is a boiled duck egg with a partially developed embryo. Found on Manila’s streets at night, it’s a protein source often seasoned with salt, vinegar, or chili sauce.
Adobo - Philippines food
Adobo

Where to Stay in Manila

Makati: 

As Manila’s bustling business district, Makati is an excellent choice, especially for first-time visitors. It’s known for its cleanliness, safety, and modern amenities, offering an array of shopping malls, dining establishments, and cultural attractions. What’s more, it’s conveniently located near the airport and the upscale Bonifacio Global City. Top hotels in Makati include:

  • The Peninsula Manila, a four-star hotel featuring a pool, sauna, and spa bath for a luxurious stay.
  • For the budget-conscious, there’s Manila-Z-Hostel, a backpacker’s haven with a roof bar and social events to connect with fellow travelers.

Malate & Ermita:

These neighboring southern neighborhoods are a treasure trove of tourist attractions, such as Rizal Park, Manila Ocean Park, and the National Museum. They are also renowned for their vibrant nightlife scene, replete with bars, clubs, live music venues, and karaoke spots. In these districts, you can consider accommodations like:

  • Red Planet Manila Bay, a budget-friendly hotel offering comfy rooms and free wifi.
  • Citadines Bay City Manilais a mid-range choice with a pool, gym, and kitchenette for a more extended stay.

Quezon City:

As Metro Manila’s largest and most populous city, Quezon City is a trendy hub for entertainment, shopping, and dining. It boasts numerous malls, cinemas, restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs catering to various tastes and budgets. Additionally, you’ll find cultural and historical gems like the Quezon Memorial Circle, Art in Island Museum, and Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center. To rest your head in style, consider:

  • Seda Vertis North, a four-star hotel equipped with a pool, spa, and fitness center.
  • The hip Z Hosteloffers a hostel experience with a rooftop bar and live music.

Intramuros:

For history and culture enthusiasts, Intramuros, the historic heart of Manila, beckons. This district preserves remnants from the Spanish colonial era, enclosed by walls and moats. It hosts a wealth of historical landmarks, including Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church, Manila Cathedral, and Casa Manila. To fully immerse yourself in this historic ambiance, you can choose accommodations like:

  • The Bayleaf Intramuros, a three-star hotel boasting a rooftop restaurant with stunning panoramic views.
  • White Knight Hotel Intramuros, a budget-friendly option, offers colonial-style rooms for a unique stay.

How Many Days to Stay in Manila

A 3-day sojourn in Manila offers an ideal window to immerse yourself in the city’s splendid attractions. Within this time, you can relish the finest-preserved Spanish colonial architecture showcased in iconic places like Intramuros and Fort Santiago. Delve into the rich tapestry of museums, relish delectable dining experiences, and unwind at local bars.

For those yearning for a countryside escape and eager to explore the neighboring provinces of Manila, like Tagaytay and Pagsanjan, consider extending your Manila itinerary by an additional 1 or 2 days. Within this extra time, you’ll be able to soak in the breathtaking vistas of Taal Volcano and its tranquil Lake, experience the exhilarating rapids of Pagsanjan Falls, and tantalize your taste buds with the local culinary specialties of these enchanting regions.

Manila Bay
Manila Bay

Manila Weather & Best Time to Visit Manila

Manila experiences a tropical monsoon climate characterized by two distinct seasons: the dry season and the wet season. The dry season spans from December to May, while the wet season takes its course from June to November. On average, Manila maintains a yearly temperature of approximately 27°C, with an annual rainfall average of around 2,000 mm.

For an optimal visit to Manila, plan your trip between January and April, during the dry season. These months offer pleasant weather with average temperatures hovering around 27°C and minimal precipitation. It’s also the peak tourist season, ensuring that you can fully relish the city’s attractions, festivities, and vibrant nightlife. However, keep in mind that you might encounter higher prices and larger crowds during this popular period.

Conversely, the wet season in Manila, which runs from June to November, isn’t the most favorable time for a visit. It often brings high humidity, frequent rainfall, and the looming possibility of typhoons and flooding, with August and September being the wettest months when rain is nearly a daily occurrence. Nevertheless, if you’re unperturbed by the weather conditions, the low season does come with some perks, including lower prices, fewer tourists, and more agreeable temperatures.

Manila Transportation: How to Get to and Travel around

How to Get to

  • By Air:Manila boasts two international airports, namely the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the Clark International Airport (CRK). NAIA serves as the primary gateway to Manila and the Philippines, connecting with numerous destinations across Asia, Europe, North America, and Australia. In contrast, CRK, located approximately 100 km north of Manila, primarily caters to low-cost carriers operating routes from neighboring Asian locations.
  • By Bus: Travelers journeying from nearby provinces in Luzon, including Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, or Baguio, can conveniently opt for bus transport to Manila. These provinces maintain bus lines that either stop in or traverse Manila. Bus travel can offer a more budget-friendly alternative to flying, although it may take longer and is susceptible to traffic conditions.
  • By Ferry:If your travels lead you from other Philippine islands, such as Visayas or Mindanao, ferries provide a practical mode of transport to reach Manila. The central port, Manila North Harbor, serves as the primary hub, connecting you to domestic routes encompassing destinations like Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, and many more. Ferry travel can often be a cost-effective choice in comparison to air travel, though it may entail a longer journey and is influenced by prevailing weather conditions.
Philippines Plane
Jeepney in Manila

How to Travel around

1. Grab – Your Convenient Ride: For seamless and hassle-free transportation, consider utilizing Grab, a ride-hailing app akin to Uber or Lyft. Via the app, you can book a car, bike, or taxi, and conveniently settle your fare with cash or credit card. Grab often presents a cost-effective and secure alternative to traditional taxis, with the added benefit of estimating your fare and travel time prior to booking.

2. Embrace the Iconic Jeepney: To immerse yourself in local transport and save some cash, embark on a journey with the Jeepney, an iconic Filipino mini-bus capable of accommodating up to 20 passengers. These vibrant vehicles are adorned with an array of symbols and slogans and operate along predefined routes throughout the city. For a minimal fare of PHP 9 (roughly US$0.18), you can hop on and off at your convenience.

Jeepney in Manila
Jeepney in Manila

3. Opt for the MRT/LRT Commuter Train: For a swift and budget-friendly public transit option, consider the MRT/LRT commuter train system that serves certain parts of Manila. Fares typically range from PHP 15 to PHP 30 (around US$0.30 to US$0.60), contingent on your journey’s distance. Keep in mind that these trains can get remarkably crowded, particularly during peak hours, and station locations might not always align seamlessly with your itinerary. You can procure a single-journey ticket or a stored-value card at the station and rely on the i-Metro Manila app to verify train schedules and access maps.

4. Explore With Guided Tours: For a more immersive exploration of Manila’s historical and cultural treasures, consider participating in walking or biking tours. These guided excursions can lead you to captivating destinations such as Intramuros, Binondo, Rizal Park, and more, providing an enriched understanding of the city’s heritage and allure.

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