Metro Manila is the capital city of the Philippines located in the island of Luzon. For some, it is a concrete jungle that plays host to the country’s financial, cultural and government centers. True, but Manila is so much more than that.
People who travel to Manila find the city quite exciting and engaging. The sights, sounds and tastes of Manila are as diverse as its people and there’s no limit to what you can experience in the city. Perhaps the only impediment is the Manila Philippines weather but even rains and raging storms cannot stop the city from being interesting.
If you’re planning to visit the city, understand first that it is a huge place to explore. Give it at least a week to experience everything that it has to offer or stay longer so that you can explore nearby towns and provinces that add more color to your Philippine adventure.
Flying to Manila is the easiest and most practical way of getting into the Philippines. The Ninoy Aquino International Airport is located fairly close to hotels and tourist centers in the city. Add to that is the ease of access to airlines that will connect you to other destinations within the country.
What to Do in Manila
Visitors to Manila will find a lot of worthy activities to keep themselves occupied. Whatever your interests are, you are sure to have exciting things to do. Museums, parks, recreation centers, shopping malls and historical landmarks make the city a fantastic playground for all sorts of travelers.
The city boasts of a good number of museums for those who would like to stay indoors whiles exploring the city’s offerings on art, culture, literature, sciences and even architecture. There are also children’s museums where you can find interactive displays that will surely ensnare every child and child-at-heart.
Also, those who wish to see a little history can visit the landmarks, ruins and churches liberally scattered all over the metro. Taking a history tour is one of the best things to do in Manila, along with idle walks along the bay while sampling the many street food offerings available. There are also numerous huge shopping malls where you can do and buy anything that strikes your fancy.
Manila Tourist Attractions
Understand that there are plenty of attractions in Manila and there are still more that are being developed. To explore all of them would require quite a considerable amount of time so here are some of the best and most popular of all Manila tourist attractions:
Intramuros – Called the “walled city” during the Spanish colonial period, Intramuros is a cornucopia of historical and religious landmarks that helped build the country to what it is today. It is Manila’s oldest district and contains some of the most important historical landmarks in the country including the Manila Cathedral and Fort Santiago.
Rizal Park or Luneta – Located just outside Intramuros, the park is a tourist magnet as well as a popular hang out for locals. The park is home to al fresco restaurants, theaters, gardens, museums, and wide open spaces. The park is crowded especially during weekends when local families bring their children to enjoy the sights and sounds of the bustling city.
Manila Ocean Park – Those interested in marine life can visit this attraction located in the vicinity of Luneta. Children and adults alike will enjoy the thrill of walking through the underwater tunnel while watching fishes, sharks and other marine creatures swim about. The oceanarium is said to be bigger than Singapore’s Sentosa Underwater World.
SM Mall of Asia – This fairly new integrated shopping center is the fourth largest in the world and the second largest in the Philippines. The ultra-modern shopping mall attracts more than 200,000 shoppers and visitors daily, making it one of the busiest areas in the city. There’s an IMAX theater, an ice skating rink, a music hall, concert grounds, a huge indoor arena where international stars like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj entertained the Filipino crowds. Outside the mall is a gigantic ferris wheel, the Mall of Asia Eye, which provides fantastic views of Manila Bay and the cityscape.
Quiapo Church – For Catholic visitors or even those who are just curious about the Filipino faith, the Quiapo Church is one of the tourist attractions that should not be missed. The old church is home to the Black Nazarene that is said to give blessings and miracles to its devotees. Outside the church are women selling amulets, herbal medicine and statues of saints. It’s also not uncommon to find a “gypsy” carrying a deck of tarot cards offering to tell your fortune.
Manila City Tour
The city is big and crowded so it is easy to get lost in its streets and alleys. It is possible to have a self-guided Manila city tour but it is not recommended for first time visitors. Tourists are highly encouraged to have a guide to assist them in transportation, dining and choosing their itinerary. There are numerous groups that provide assistance to tourists but if you’d like more reign on your tour, you may hire a friendly cab driver to take you around the key destinations in the city with him as your guide. In places like Binondo, Intramuros and Ermita, you can hire a calesa (horse-drawn carriage). Remember to negotiate the price and keep close attention to your personal belongings. Most drivers are trustworthy but one can never be too careful when traveling.
Manila Tour Package
There are several companies that offer a Manila tour package that suits your interests and budget. Depending on what you want to see and do, you can choose from a number of packages available through agencies stationed at the airport, in malls and near hotels. Some providers offer an all-inclusive Manila tour package that already covers airfare, hotel accommodations and entrance to key attractions within the city. These packages can be booked online or in person through several agencies. Cebu Pacific Air has some tour packages being offered on their site.
A typical tour package includes a visit though Binondo (Chinatown), Quiapo, Manila Bay, Luneta and other key points in the city. These tours may take all day so best be prepared with necessities like bottled water, snacks and comfortable shoes. Some tour packages might also include meals in famous restaurants that offer traditional Filipino cuisine. It all depends on the tour providers and the Manila tour package you take advantage of.
In choosing your tour package, consider the amount of time you’re willing to spend on sightseeing, your budget and the attractions that you’d like to see. Some agencies may be able to tailor-fit your tour according to your preferences but this might require a certain number of people in your group and it can be pricier than the regular tours.
Where to Stay
There’s so shortage of hotels in Manila and it’s up to you to decide which type of accommodations you would like to call your home during your visit. From five-star resorts and boutique hotels to homey bed and breakfasts to budget inns, there’s something for every travel style and budget. Most lodging options are located in the tourist areas of Malate, Ermita and Roxas Boulevard which provides stunning views of Manila Bay.
Hotel prices vary a lot depending on the type, location and amenities available for guests. It is not impossible to find a room that costs P500 (about 12 USD) per night if you’re on a tight budget. But there are also a good number of luxury hotels that offer top notch accommodations and world-class services. These expectedly cost a lot more than the regular rates but are still quite affordable in western standards. We recommend looking at the list of hotels in Manila Philippines in HotelsCombined.com.
Tourists are advised to book a room ahead of time when visiting Manila. This will save you the hassle and frustration of hopping from one place to another right after an exhausting flight searching for a place to stay. Most hotels also offer airport transfers which add more convenience to your stay. Remember to inquire about extra services offered like shuttle services, tour packages and meal plans as well. Most hotels have websites through which you may contact them for rates, availability of guestrooms and anything related to your stay.