Metro Manila is the capital city of the Philippines located on 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. There’s no limit to what you can experience in the city. Perhaps the only impediment is the weather but even rains and raging storms cannot stop the city from being interesting.
If you’re planning to travel to Manila, 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 perhaps you canstay longer to 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
Tourists who travel 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 has a good number of museums for those who would like to explore the city’s 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, you 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. It’s second only to 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:
Called the “walled city” during the Spanish colonial period, Intramuros is a cornucopia of historical and religious landmarks. It is Manila’s oldest district and houses important historical landmarks like 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 hangout for locals. The park is home to al fresco restaurants, theaters, gardens, museums, and wide open spaces. The park is crowded especially during weekends. 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 marine creatures swim about. The oceanarium is said to be bigger than Singapore’s Sentosa Underwater World.
SM Mall of Asia
This 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. It is one of the busiest areas in the city. There’s an IMAX theater, an ice skating rink, a music hall and concert grounds. The mall also features a huge indoor arena where stars like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj entertained the Filipino crowds. Outside the mall is the Mall of Asia Eye, which provides fantastic views of Manila Bay and the cityscape.
Catholic visitors or even those who are simply curious about the Filipino faith should not miss Quiapo Church. 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. However, if you’d like more reign on your tour, hire a friendly cab driver to take you around instead. 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. Agencies are stationed at the airport, in malls, and close to hotels. Some providers offer an all-inclusive Manila tour package that already covers airfare, hotel accommodations, and entrance to key attractions within the city. You can book these online or in person through several agencies. Cebu Pacific Air offers tour packages on their site.
A typical tour package includes Binondo (Chinatown), Quiapo, Manila Bay, Luneta and other key points in the city. Prepare necessities like bottled water, snacks, and comfortable shoes. These tours may take all day. 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 three things: time, budget and attractions that you’d like to see. Some agencies may be able to tailor-fit your tour according to your preferences. 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!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 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. Some provide stunning views of Manila Bay.
Hotel prices vary a lot depending on the type, location and amenities available for guests. It is possible to find a room for P500 (about 10 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 by western standards. We recommend looking at the list of hotels in Manila Philippines on HotelsCombined.com.
Tourists shoukd 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. 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 so you may contact them for rates, availability of guestrooms, and anything related to your stay.