Explore a metropolitan melting pot that has lots to offer, from a 400-year-old walled city to three of the world's biggest shopping malls.
The capital of the Philippines is at once a global megacity and a smattering of neighborhood localities. It is composed of 16 cities, with three main hubs: Manila, recently considered the most densely populated city center in the world; Quezon City, the government center and home to some of the country’s world-class universities; and Makati, the business district.
Created by the Spanish colonial government in the 16th century, Manila was governed by Madrid through Mexico, prompting historians to declare these three cities as the original Global Cities. What remains of the original walled city of Intramuros is today a popular tourism draw. But not far away are contemporary entertainment enclaves built on reclaimed land at the Manila Bay.
The Philippine metropolis offers top-notch shopping, performing and visual arts, cultural immersion, and rest and recreation. It is also a convenient jump-off point to nearby destinations — such as the lakeshore towns of Laguna de Bai known for their exquisite arts and crafts — and, as the country’s transport hub, to the rest of the archipelago.
A modern-day metro rail system still cannot cope with the mass of people, so it is best to be ready to take the colorful and noisy jeepneys, a Philippine reinvention of the World War II jeep surplus left behind by the U.S. army.
The main highway — the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, or Edsa, where the People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos regime took place — is traversed by passenger buses.
A somewhat more comfortable alternative public transport is the Toyota FX.
Within local districts, you may try riding motorcabs. Be sure to bring change.
And, yes, your ride-sharing apps work here!
Try the bamboo bike tours or ride the calesa (horse-drawn carriage) within the walled city of Intramuros.
Hop on and off double-decker jeepneys with Jeepney Tours.
Join one of the walking food tours, such as the Binondo Food Wok in Manila’s Chinatown and the Makati Food Walking Tour.
Have your fill of Filipino food: lechon (roasted pig), adobo (meats stewed in vinegar and spices), and sinigang (sour soup) are favorite delicacies with countless variations throughout the country.
Dive into Metro Manila’s vibrant nightlife. Some of its clubs and bars have been recognized in the Top 100 Clubs List in the past years.
Go bar-hopping in very happening bars and clubs in Greenbelt, Makati and at the Bonifacio Global City.
Visit Bonifacio High Street, the kilometer-long retail playground in Bonifacio Global City and discover one-of-a-kind diners, gallery-designed offices, fashionable boutiques, chef-owned restaurants, a talk-of-the-town urban amphitheater, interactive art pieces, and many more.
Enjoy the Kultura Filipino Dinner and Cultural show at Barbara’s over wine and craft beer paired with legendary Filipino street food: balut (duck embryo), fishballs, and isaw (grilled chicken innards).
The walled city of Intramuros, where the UNESCO World Heritage site of San Agustin Church is located.
The historic Rizal Park and the nearby Manila Ocean Park.
Chinatown in Manila’s Binondo district, said to be the oldest Chinese settlement in the world.
The National Museum of the Philippines, the Museum of the Filipino People, Ayala Museum, Metropolitan Art Museum. Interactive museums include The Mind Museum, a science museum with interactive displays; the Quezon City Experience, or QCX, a social history museum; and Art in Island, a 3D art museum that allows visitors to be part of the artwork and take photos.
The Cultural Center of The Philippines (CCP), which has a year-round calendar of music, theater, and dance.
Visit the integrated resorts complex in Manila Bay known for premium entertainment and other offerings: Resorts World Manila, Okada Manila, Solaire Resorts and Casino Manila, and City of Dreams Manila.
Metro Manila’s 16 supermalls offering a variety of both local and international brands. The malls house grocery stores, cinemas, bowling alleys, clinics, gyms, karaoke bars, and even chapels.
For premium shopping, spend the day at Greenbelt in Makati and Bonifacio Highstreet in Bonifacio Global City.
For bargains and unique crafts finds, try the Greenhills Shopping Center, Tiendesitas, and Market! Market! Mall.
Be on the lookout for seasonal grand bazaars at the World Trade Center and the SMX Convention Center, both at the CCP Complex off Roxas Blvd. in Pasay City.
Try the weekend markets in various neighborhoods for homegrown produce and homemade delicacies. On Saturdays, go to Salcedo Village; on Sundays, check out Legazpi Village — both are in Makati.
HOW TO GET HERE
Fly from the US (Nonstop from LAX, SFO, HNL, GUM, SPN) to Manila (MNL)
Fly from Canada (Nonstop from YVR and YYZ) to Manila (MNL)
LAX starting at $601
SFO starting at $653
JFK starting at $645
*Subject to space and availability. Fare Rules apply.
Greenbelt and Bonifacio Global City for Speakeasy bars
Must Try Activity:
Bamboo bike tours in Intramuros
Must Try Food/Drinks:
Wine pairing with Filipino street food at Planet Grapes
Download Uber or GrabCar to get around; when the taxi lines at the airport is long, you can take the Resorts World shuttle bus at any of the 3 airport terminals, get off in Resorts World (which is right across NAIA Terminal 3). You can easily take a cab to your hotel or resort from there.
Where To Go:
Greenhills Shopping Center for all shopping needs
Must Try Activity:
Archery range inside Makati City Cinema Square
Must Try Food/Drinks:
Adobo ni Jake Espesyal from KKK
Use mobile applications (GrabTaxi or Uber) for easy and convenient rides to your destinations.