Top Ten Things to do in Manila

by Rissa Gatdula-Lumontad /
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Jan 27, 2012 / 0 comments

The convergence of migrants not only from different parts of the Philippines, but also from different parts of the world truly makes Manila a most exciting city to visit.


This vibrant Philippine capital offers a magnificent mix of the old and the new and an appealing myriad of attractions for different interests, such that anyone of any race and leaning will find it not wanting in things to do.


For those on a short visit, here is a list of the top 10 things to do in Manila.


1.  Visit Intramuros. This “Walled City” is the oldest district of the city of Manila, Philippines, and was the seat of the Spanish colonial government during the 16th century. Within its walls are Fort Santiago, the bastion of the city, the Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Church, the oldest building in Manila. A number of educational institutions, business and dining establishments are also located within Intramuros. You can opt to walk the walls or take the tranvia or “calesa” (horse-driven carriage) tours being offered from Fort Santiago, for a glimpse of the Spanish-era influences still evident in the area. Nearby is Rizal Park, also known as Luneta Park, where you will find the Monument of Jose Rizal, the national hero. If you are so inclined, you may follow the steps of Rizal, ingrained in bronze on the cobblestone streets, from Intramuros to this place where he was executed. It is also fascinating to watch the ceremonial soldiers who stand guard over the monument.

2.  View Manila’s sunset. Stroll along the bay with your camera and capture the breathtaking Manila sunset, known as one of the world’s best.

3.  Ride the jeepney. Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the city and are often used as a symbol of Philippine culture. They are notable for their bright decoration and for the nifty drivers who can collect fare and give change while driving!  

4.  Take a cruise to Corregidor.  Called “The Rock”, Corregidor is a small rocky island fortress which stands as a memorial for the heroism of the Filipino and American defenders who stood ground against Japanese invaders during World War II. Book the tour with a local cruise company that offers daily trips with guided island tour and lunch.


5.  Indulge in “halo-halo”. From the Tagalog word which means “mix”, this popular Philippine refreshment is perfect for cooling off on a warm day in Manila. It is a concoction of preserved fruits, beans and other sweets, topped with shaved ice, milk and a scoop of ice cream. It goes best with the purple-colored ice cream called “ube” made from purple yam.

6.  Eat at a seafood restaurant. Feast on fresh seafood at the bayside restaurants. You can pick from the live or fresh display and have it cooked according to your liking.

7.  Visit the Mall of Asia (MOA). At 407,000 square meters, SM Mall of Asia is the Philippines’ largest and the world’s third largest mall. It has raised the standard of shopping and entertainment in the country and is now a tourist destination in its own right.

8.  Shop at Divisoria. If you are the adventurous shopper, hone your haggling skills at 168 Mall in Divisoria, where everything, from souvenirs to ready-to-wear items to household necessities, is a bargain. Stock up on your holiday gifts at unbelievably low prices. Be ready to get squeezed though as the mall can be overcrowded, and, as in other downtown areas around the globe, watch out for your personal belongings. If you prefer a less crowded environment, you can go to the Ortigas area, east of the Metropolis, and check out the bazaars at Greenhills Shopping Center or go to Tiendesitas instead. The latter is a little classier than the first two but you can find good bargains as well plus it offers nice dining choices and live entertainment in the evenings.

9.  Explore Greenbelt. In stark contrast to the Divisoria shopping scene is the Greenbelt area which is located in the business district of Makati City. World famous name brands and high end dining and entertainment establishments are housed in five mall buildings surrounding a park that is like an oasis within the hustle and bustle of the city.

10.  Take a day trip to Tagaytay. Drive through the suburbs on your way to the favorite upland retreat of Tagaytay City. The place is known for its cool climate and a majestic view of Taal Volcano, the world’s smallest that is a volcano within a lake. You can have lunch at a homey garden/spa with an organic menu, or at one of the many restaurants serving international cuisine around the area. For the adventurous, the Picnic Grove offers cable car rides and zip line facilities. Children will enjoy horseback riding in the park as well. On the way back to Manila, pass by the fresh fruit stands for Tagaytay’s sweet pineapples, bananas and other Philippine fruits, and try “buko pie” (coconut meat pie) and other delicacies sold at pastry shops. You may also drop by a café that offers tours to its organic farm and take home some of its organic produce like Philippine coffee and delicious salad dressings.