A trip to Manila won't be complete without a visit to Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world, established in 1594, and the best place for delicious, authentic Chinese food.
Book The Big Binondo Food Wok tour.Visit Dong Bei Dumpling for fresh dumplings and Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli for such Chinese snacks as hopia and tikoy. Dong Bei Dumpling is located in Yuchengco St., tel +632 241 8912. Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli is located in Ongpin St., tel +632 288 8888.
For more on Binondo, read A tour guides' Manila: Top 5 places to visit.
Explore the Walled City of Intramuros, one of the remaining vestiges of Spanish colonial rule in the country, built in 1571. The best way to see the sights is by Kalesa or horse-drawn carriage, or by foot, or tour by segway personal transporter. Allot about half a day to tour the 64-hectare city and stop for lunch or a snack at Ilustrado, a 19th century house converted into a cafe and restaurant, located on Calle Real, inside Intramuros (tel +632 527 3674 or +632 527 3675).
For a new way to tour Intramuros on a segway, read Old meets new in Intramuros. Book Carlos Celdran's Intramuros Tour, or join a Bambike Ecotour and visit different locations around the city. Tel +632 525 8289.
For more on Intramuros, read 48 hours in Manila and A tour guides' Manila: top 5 places to visit.
The National Museum of the Philippines houses some of the country's national treasures, including Filipino painter Juan Luna's Spoliarium and artifacts from the stone and metal age. The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am to 5pm. It is located in Padre Burgos Drive, tel +632 527 6621.
Located at the heart of Makati City, The Ayala Museum houses archaeological artifacts, including pre-colonial gold of the Philippines, an impressive collection of trade ceramics, and traditional craft. Also showcases contemporary art, music, and design. For inquries, call +632 759 8288 or email [email protected]
4 Barbara’s Heritage restaurant
Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant regularly stages Kultura Filipina, a cultural performance showcasing Filipino folk dances like Tinikling, Pandango sa ilaw, and Carinosa. The performers, dressed in elaborate Filipino costumes, entertain guests as they dine. The restaurant has become a regular stop for city tours.
Barbara's Heritage restaurant is located at Plaza San Luis, General Luna Street, Intramuros, tel +632 5273893.
5 Hotel stops
The 570-room Manila Hotel is the Philippines' grand old dame, built in 1909, and the scene of many a political and social gathering. Military advisor to the Philippine Commonwealth Douglas MacArthur made the hotel's penthouse his residence. Famous people who've stayed here include Ernest Hemingway, Sammy Davis, Jr., Michael Jackson, the Beatles and John F. Kennedy. Come not just to enjoy its old world Filipino charm, but to have a taste of local food, from bibingka to a full course Filipino dinner.`
Located at One Rizal Park. For inquiries and reservations, call +632 527 0011.
The Lobby of the Peninsula Manila is a great place to see and be seen, drinking tea or coffee with friends while watching the world go by. When it's scorching hot outside, cool off at the hotel's lobby lounge and try its award-winning Halo-Halo Harana, a local dessert made with shaved ice and fruits topped with ice cream.
Located at the corner of Ayala and Makati Avenue. For inquiries and reservations, call +632 887 2888.
Sofitel Philippine Plaza
Visit the Spiral restaurant at Sofitel Philippine Plaza for a delicious buffet meal with the family while watching the stunning sunset over Manila Bay.
Located at the CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City. For inquiries and reservations, call +632 551-5555.
Read a restaurant review of Spiral.
The Bayleaf Intramuros
Visit The Bayleaf Hotel, a boutique hotel located in Intramuros, for some of the best views of the city. Go to Skydeck for happy hour drinks from 5:30pm to catch the sunset and see the sun go down on Manila.
Located in Muralla corner Victoria Streets, tel +632 318 5000.
6 Dine at Aracama Restaurant
Aracama, owned by Chef Fernando Aracama, is one of the finest Filipino restaurants in the city. Try their beef kare-kare or bulalo (beef shank soup), and the chocnut ice cream for dessert.
For dining reservations, call +63917 874 7738.
Read Chefs' top 10 Filipino restaurants in Manila.
7 Malacanang Tour
Malacaññang Palace, located on the banks of the Pasig River in Metro Manila, is the official residence and office of the President of the Philippines. Official tours of select areas of the palace are now available, taking you to the Malacañang Park near the river, inside the Presidential Museum and Library to view its old halls and rooms exhibiting various memorabilia from past Philippine Presidents.
Visit Wow Philippines Travel Agency to book your Malacañang Tour, tel +632 470 9631.
8 Stop and watch the sunset
Book a Manila Bay sunset dinner cruise
Book a Manila Bay sunset cruise with Sun Cruises, a great way to spend the early evening, enjoying a spectacular sunset view, while dining and listening to live music.
The Manila Bay cruise is P550 (about US$12) per person. For inquiries and reservations, call +632 834 6857.
Also read Travel Photo of the Day: Manila Bay
Or watch the sun go down at WhiteMoon Bar at the Manila Ocean Park
9 Live music and club scene
12 Monkeys Music Hall and Pub
12 Monkeys Music Hall and Pub is the place to go for good food and to listen to local bands like Hale and Parokya ni Edgar.
Located at the top floor of Century City Mall in Makati, tel +63917 570 3222.
Valkyrie Nightclub at The Palace
Valkyrie Nightclub at The Palace, located in Uptown Bonifacio, Bonifacio Global City, caters to young and hip party goers. Tel +63917 680 8888.
Also read, Live in Manila: the city's top music venues.
10 Health and wellness stops
Olympia Spa in Somerset Olympia Makati, near the Manila Peninsula Hotel is one of the best no-frills places for a massage treatment, whether you prefer reflexology or a relaxing Swedish massage.
For inquiries, call +632 750 0323.
Greenhills Shopping Mall
Greenhills Shopping Center is a great place to buy Southeast Asian pearls and gemstones, and other items such as designer-inspired bags, clothes and shoes, all at rock-bottom prices. When going on pearl buying, you need to know your pearls and haggle hard.
Located in Ortigas Avenue, San Juan, tel +632 721 0572.
Rustan’s is Manila's equivalent of a John Lewis, selling local and international designer brands, from Cartier to Prada. It also has a supermarket located in Glorietta, Makati. Tel +632 899 1055.
Balikbayan Handicrafts is your one-stop shop for all Philippine handicraft and souvenirs at tourist prices. Tel +632 893 0775.
12 Marikina Shoe Museum
The Marikina Shoe Museum houses the infamous shoe collection of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, and other former Philippine Presidents and politicians.
The museum is located in San Roque, Marikina. Entrance fee, P50. Tel +632 430 9735.
13 Rizal Park
Rizal Park, also known as Luneta National Park, is a historical monument to Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. It was where Rizal was executed in 1896 by order of the Spanish colonizers for advocating political reforms. The park, at 58 hectares, is one of Asia's largest urban parks.
Located along Roxas Boulevard, Manila.
Also read, Top free things to do in Metro Manila.
14 Cultural Center of the Philippines
Enjoy a play, ballet or concert at The Cultural Center of the Philippines a government-owned institution for culture and the arts. It features both local and foreign artists.
Located at Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, tel +632 832 1125.
The Grand Tour
Shroff Travel has a whole day tour of Intramuros for P4,950/3 pax. For inquiries and reservations, call +632 524 2222.
Carlos Celdran’s Walk this way tour of Intramuros is P1,100 per person. For inquiries and reservations, call +632 484 4945 or email [email protected]
Old Manila Walk’s Binondo Food Trip and Walking Tour is P1,300 per person. For inquiries and reservations, call +632 711 3823.
Wow Philippines Travel Agency’s Malacanang Tour is P1,699 for two persons. For inquiries and reservations, call +632 470 9631.
Good to know
Getting around Metro Manila has become easier with Uber and Grab online taxi services. There are also designated taxi stops outside malls. The flag down rate is P40.
The latest exchange rate for US Dollar to Philippine Peso is US$1 = P46.44. For the latest exchange rates, visit XE.
Foreign exchange centers
Sanry’s Money Changer at Greenbelt 1
Czarina in Glorietta 3
IFX Foreign Exchange at Power Plant Mall
SM Business Service Center in SM Makati
Sun Foreign Exchange Center and Sanry’s Moneychanger in Robinson’s Manila
For grocery shopping
SM Supermarkets or Hypermarts
Department of Tourism helpdesk
For any inquiries and concerns, call the Department of Tourism trunkline +632 459 5200 to 5230.
Next time, try these stops near Manila
Tour Taal Lake in Batangas and stop by for lunch at Antonio's
One of the things not to miss in Metro Manila is a tour of Taal Volcano, the second most active volcano in the Philippines. The volcano is located on Volcano Island, an island near the center of Taal Lake in Batangas, south of Manila. There are several guided tours to the volcano which offers you the choice of going on a trek or on horseback to get to the crater. If you have time after the tour, stop by Antonio’s restaurant in Tagaytay for lunch or dinner.
Book your Taal Volcano tour at Taal Lake Yacht Club. To book a table at Antonio's, call +63917 899 2866. The restaurant is located at Purok 138, Barangay Neogan, Tagaytay City.
Also read Somewhere for Holy Week: top 5 short breaks for more about the Taal Volcano tour. And 13 best restaurants in the Philippines.
The Farm at San Benito for a wellness stay
The Farm at San Benito in Lipa City, Batangas, just 90 minutes away from Manila, offers not just your usual relaxing wellness stay, but the option to try its various detox and health treatments in a hard-to-beat setting.
Located in Barangay Tipakan, Lipa City, Batangas, tel +632 884 8074.
Published May 2016