15 Best Places to Visit in Manila, Philippines

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15 Best Places to Visit in Manila, Philippines

Discover the best places to visit in Manila, Philippines. Explore historical landmarks, cultural hubs, and modern attractions in Manila’s vibrant cityscape.

Manila, a bustling metropolis and the capital city of the Philippines, is a blend of vibrant culture, rich history, and modern urban dynamics. It serves as the heart and soul of this archipelagic nation, offering a unique tapestry of experiences that range from historical exploration to contemporary pleasures.

This city, where East meets West, is a place where centuries-old churches stand alongside towering skyscrapers, and where traditional markets buzz just streets away from modern shopping malls.

As a travel destination, Manila is often regarded as a gateway to the many islands and beaches of the Philippines, but it holds its own as a place worth exploring. The city tells stories of a colonial past, wartime resilience, and the unwavering spirit of its people.

From the ancient walls of Intramuros to the bustling streets of Makati, Manila offers a journey through time, showcasing a history that has shaped not only the city but the entire nation.

In this article, we will explore the best 15 places to visit in Manila, each offering a unique glimpse into the city’s soul. From historical landmarks and cultural centers to modern attractions and natural wonders, Manila has something to offer for every type of traveler.

1. Intramuros – The Walled City

Intramuros, often referred to as the “Walled City,” is a historical fortress and one of the most significant landmarks in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. This iconic area, rich in history and culture, stands as a testament to Manila’s colonial past under Spanish rule.

History and Significance

Intramuros was established by the Spanish in the late 16th century, serving as the center of political, military, and religious power during the period of Spanish colonization in the Philippines.

The name “Intramuros” itself means “within the walls” in Latin, aptly describing this fortified city. The massive stone walls, which encircle the district, were built to protect the city from foreign invasions and are remarkably well-preserved to this day.

Key Attractions

  • Fort Santiago: One of the most important historical sites in Manila, Fort Santiago served as a defensive fortress and was a significant location during the Spanish colonial period. It has a museum dedicated to Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, who was imprisoned here before his execution in 1896.
  • Manila Cathedral: This grand cathedral has undergone several reconstructions due to damage from wars and earthquakes. It is a prime example of Romanesque Revival architecture and is an active place of worship, as well as a popular tourist attraction.
  • San Agustin Church and Museum: As the oldest stone church in the Philippines, San Agustin Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features Baroque architecture, with intricate designs and a stunning interior. The adjoining museum showcases religious art and artifacts.
  • Casa Manila: A museum depicting colonial lifestyle during Spanish rule, Casa Manila is a replica of a 19th-century house filled with period furniture and décor, offering a glimpse into the life of the upper class during that era.
  • The Walls of Intramuros: Walking along the walls of Intramuros provides a panoramic view of the city and the Manila Bay. The walls also feature bastions, gates, and other fortifications.

Location: Intramuros, Manila, 1002 Metro Manila, Filipina.

2. Rizal Park – A Tribute to a National Hero

Rizal Park
Photo: Google Maps/Peter Brann

Rizal Park, also known as Luneta Park, stands as one of the most iconic and meaningful public spaces in Manila. It’s a tribute to Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero, and embodies much more than just a recreational area; it’s a symbol of the nation’s rich history and the pursuit of freedom.

Covering around 60 hectares, Rizal Park is among the largest urban parks in Asia, featuring beautifully manicured gardens, open lawns, and decorative ponds that provide a peaceful retreat in the bustling city.

The park is equipped with an array of facilities, including an open-air auditorium, a planetarium, and a collection of national museums, surrounded by picturesque gardens ideal for family outings and leisurely walks.

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The centerpiece of the park is the Rizal Monument, which holds the remains of Dr. Rizal. This monument, a prominent symbol of Filipino pride and patriotism, stands as a focal point for significant national events, particularly those commemorating the nation’s independence.

Location: Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila, Filipina

3. Manila Ocean Park – Marine Adventure

Manila Ocean Park, situated near Manila Bay in the Philippines, is a top-tier marine-themed park that seamlessly combines entertainment, education, and excitement. It’s a favorite destination for families, tourists, and anyone fascinated by marine life, offering a captivating dive into the aquatic world.

The park’s standout feature, the Oceanarium, is home to thousands of sea creatures from about 300 species indigenous to the Philippines and Southeast Asia. Its underwater tunnel, providing a 220-degree view, offers visitors an extraordinary sensation of walking beneath the ocean.

A key highlight of Manila Ocean Park is the Jellies Exhibit, which focuses on the beauty and diversity of jellyfish, displayed in vibrant, multi-colored setups that are both mesmerizing and informative.

The park goes beyond mere observation, engaging visitors with interactive experiences. The Sea Lion Show, a major attraction, showcases the intelligence and agility of these animals through entertaining performances.

Location: Quirino Grandstand, 666 Behind, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila, Filipina.

4. Binondo – The World’s Oldest Chinatown

Binondo
Photo: Facebook/FEB IN-SHOT

Binondo, established in 1594 in Manila, Philippines, is renowned as the world’s oldest Chinatown, offering a rich tapestry of cultural heritage, culinary experiences, and vibrant commerce.

This historic district, originally founded by the Spanish as a settlement for Chinese converts to Christianity, has evolved into a dynamic fusion of Filipino and Chinese cultures. Its streets, adorned with centuries-old churches, traditional Chinese temples, and historic buildings, narrate the colorful history of the area.

The cultural and culinary landscape of Binondo is particularly noteworthy. It boasts a thriving food scene, renowned for authentic Chinese cuisine, with an abundance of restaurants and food stalls serving a variety of dishes like dim sum, roast duck, hopia, and Binondo pancit.

The district is also a hub for shopping, offering a range of affordable goods and unique finds, especially along Ongpin Street, known for its jewelry shops.

Location: Binondo, Manila, 1006 Metro Manila, Filipina.

5. National Museum Complex – A Dive into History

The National Museum Complex in Manila is a prominent symbol of the Philippines’ heritage and history. Situated in the city’s heart, it transcends being merely a collection of artifacts, embodying the rich narrative of the Philippines from pre-colonial times to contemporary days. It’s a dynamic space where the nation’s historical and cultural legacy is vividly brought to life for visitors.

Key components of the complex include:

  • The National Museum of Fine Arts: This museum is renowned for its extensive collection of Philippine art, spanning classical to modern styles. It is especially famous for Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium,” a powerful painting symbolizing the Filipino struggle for freedom.
  • The National Museum of Anthropology: Dedicated to the ethnographic, archaeological, and anthropological dimensions of Filipino culture, this museum presents a diverse array of artifacts, including traditional costumes, ancient scripts, and items from various indigenous communities, offering insights into the multifaceted cultural heritage of the Filipino people.
  • The National Museum of Natural History: Showcasing the Philippines’ vast biodiversity, this museum covers topics ranging from geology and paleontology to the diverse flora and fauna of the archipelago. The architecture of the museum, including the striking DNA helix structure and the Tree of Life exhibit, adds to its allure.
  • The Planetarium: As an integral part of the complex, the National Planetarium offers educational and entertaining explorations of the universe. Its shows and exhibits are designed to captivate both children and adults, deepening the understanding of the cosmos.

Location: Padre Burgos Ave, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila, Filipina.

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6. Ayala Museum – Modern Art and History

Ayala Museum
Photo: Google Maps/Tae-young Jang

The Ayala Museum, situated in the bustling heart of Makati, Manila, is a modern-day sanctuary showcasing the rich tapestry of Philippine history, art, and culture. It stands out as a premier destination for both art lovers and history enthusiasts, thanks to its unique combination of historical artifacts and contemporary art.

The museum’s extensive collection of contemporary art features works from a wide array of Filipino artists, ranging from well-established names to emerging talents.

Among its notable exhibits is the Diorama Experience, which visually narrates Philippine history through intricate, handcrafted dioramas depicting key historical events.

The museum also houses a remarkable collection of pre-colonial gold artifacts, illustrating the advanced craftsmanship of ancient Filipinos and the sophisticated societies that flourished in the Philippines before Spanish colonization.

Another highlight is the gallery dedicated to Fernando Zóbel, a prominent Filipino-Spanish artist known for his abstract works, which significantly contributed to Philippine modern art.

Location: Greenbelt Park, Makati Avenue, Corner Dela Rosa Street, Ayala Center, Makati, Metro Manila, Filipina.

7. Makati – The Modern Face of Manila

Makati, often hailed as the financial hub of the Philippines, epitomizes the modern essence of Manila. It’s a dynamic district, distinguished by its skyline of towering skyscrapers and vibrant urban life.

The district also boasts a sophisticated shopping and dining scene. Shopping centers like Greenbelt and Glorietta offer a variety of high-end stores and trendy boutiques, alongside a diverse range of dining options that cater to both local and international tastes.

Makati’s nightlife is equally vibrant, with a plethora of chic bars, clubs, and lounges, particularly in areas like Poblacion, which have become hotspots for both locals and expatriates.

Location:

8. Malate – A Blend of Culture and Nightlife

Malate
Photo: Google Maps/Michal DefendoGym

Malate, a vibrant district in Manila, Philippines, is celebrated for its exceptional combination of culture and nightlife. The area is distinguished by its historical landmarks, lively streets, and an energetic entertainment scene, reflecting Manila’s diverse personality. Malate Church, also known as Our Lady of Remedies Parish, is a key historical site in the area.

When night falls, Malate emerges as a bustling hub of nightlife in Manila. The district is peppered with a variety of bars, clubs, and restaurants that attract a wide-ranging audience, from local residents to international visitors.

Complementing its lively nightlife, Malate’s culinary landscape is equally dynamic. The district is home to a diverse array of dining options, showcasing both traditional Filipino dishes and international fare. Adriatico Street and nearby areas are lined with a variety of eateries, providing a rich and varied culinary experience.

Location: Malate, Manila, 1004 Metro Manila, Filipina.

9. San Agustin Church – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

San Agustin Church, nestled in the historic Intramuros of Manila, Philippines, stands as a significant emblem of the country’s colonial past and architectural splendor.

Honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is much more than a religious landmark; it’s a symbol of the Philippines’ rich cultural and historical legacy. The church, famed for its exquisite Baroque architecture, features a façade with intricate carvings and ornamental designs.

Inside, it houses a remarkable trompe-l’oeil ceiling and is adorned with a wealth of religious art, including historic altarpieces, paintings, and statues.

Constructed in 1587, San Agustin Church holds the title of the oldest stone church in the Philippines, having endured numerous natural and man-made calamities, including the ravages of World War II.

The church’s storied past is deeply entwined with the nation’s history, echoing significant events from the Spanish colonial era to contemporary times.

Location: General Luna St, Intramuros, Manila, 1002 Metro Manila, Filipina.

10. Quiapo Market – The Local Experience

Quiapo Market
Photo: Google Maps/YC L

Quiapo Market, situated in the bustling heart of Manila, Philippines, is a dynamic center of local life and culture, offering an authentic window into the daily lives of Filipinos.

This market is much more than a shopping spot; it’s a vivid sensory journey that captures the essence of Manila’s vibrant local scene.

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A labyrinth of narrow lanes and alleys, Quiapo Market is lined with a plethora of stalls where vendors sell an array of items, ranging from fresh produce and delectable street food to clothing and household goods.

Known for its reasonable pricing and culture of bargaining, Quiapo Market is a favored spot among both locals and tourists.

Unique to this market is its array of herbal medicines and traditional Filipino remedies, as well as vendors selling religious artifacts and antiques, reflecting the rich cultural and religious heritage of the Philippines.

Location: 1001 Palma St, Quiapo, Manila, 1001 Metro Manila, Filipina.

11. Manila Baywalk – Scenic Views and Sunsets

Manila Baywalk, a scenic gem in Manila, Philippines, is celebrated for its stunning waterfront and spectacular sunsets. Along Roxas Boulevard, this charming promenade provides a peaceful respite from the urban hustle, offering captivating views of Manila Bay.

Renowned for its glorious sunsets, the Baywalk is a prime spot for experiencing the bay’s golden-hued evenings, drawing both locals and tourists alike.

More than just a picturesque location, Manila Baywalk buzzes with a variety of activities. Lined with outdoor cafes, restaurants, and bars, it’s a delightful place for al fresco dining, complemented by the gentle sea breeze.

The lively atmosphere is further enhanced by street performers, musicians, and artists who entertain along the walkway.

Location: Manila, Metro Manila, Filipina.

12. Star City Amusement Park – The Adventurous Rides

Star City Amusement Park
Photo: Facebook/Analava Majumdar

For those seeking thrills and family fun, Star City Amusement Park is the perfect destination. This popular amusement park in Pasay City offers a variety of rides and attractions for all ages.

From exhilarating roller coasters to kid-friendly rides, there’s something for everyone. The park also features seasonal events and shows, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline rush or a day of leisurely entertainment, Star City provides a memorable experience.

Location: Star City, Roxas Blvd, CCP, Pasay, Metro Manila, Filipina.

13. Greenbelt – A Shopping and Dining Haven

Greenbelt, located in the heart of Makati, is more than just a shopping mall; it’s a lush, eco-friendly complex that combines shopping, dining, and entertainment.

Surrounded by a scenic park and a small pond, Greenbelt offers a unique shopping experience amidst nature. The complex houses high-end boutiques, international brands, and an array of restaurants and cafes.

After a day of shopping, visitors can relax in the tranquil gardens or catch a movie in one of the complex’s modern cinemas.

Location:

14. Manila Zoo – Watch The Wildlife

Manila Zoo, one of the oldest zoological and botanical gardens in Asia, is a haven for animal lovers and families. Spanning over 5.5 hectares, the zoo is home to a variety of animal species, both local and exotic.

Visitors can see a range of animals, including tigers, lions, and the famous Philippine eagle. The zoo also focuses on animal conservation and education, making it a great place for children to learn about wildlife and the importance of preserving natural habitats.

Location: Adriatico St, Malate, Manila, 1004 Metro Manila, Filipina.

15. Bonifacio Global City – Entertaining Fusion

Bonifacio Global City (BGC), a modern financial and lifestyle district in Metro Manila, is known for its cosmopolitan vibe. With its high-rise buildings, upscale shopping centers, and wide array of dining options, BGC is the epitome of urban living.

Art enthusiasts will enjoy the district’s vibrant art scene, including public art installations and world-class galleries. BGC also hosts various cultural and social events throughout the year, making it a lively spot for both locals and tourists.

Location: Bonifacio Global City, Kota Taguig, Metro Manila, Filipina.

Conclusion

Manila is a city with a rich history and a vibrant present. From the historical streets of Intramuros to the modern skyscrapers of Makati, it offers a diverse range of attractions. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, food, or shopping, Manila has something for everyone.

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