The Best Things to Do in Manila: A Helpful Guide to Planning Your Manila Trip

Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is a bustling city filled with history, culture, and entertainment. With so many things to see and do, it can be overwhelming for first-time visitors to know where to start. Don’t worry, because we’ve got this comprehensive guide to the best things to do in Manila, from historical landmarks to modern attractions.

One of the top attractions in Manila is Intramuros, the walled city that dates back to the Spanish colonial period. Visitors can explore the cobblestone streets, ancient walls, and historic buildings such as the San Agustin Church, one of the oldest stone churches in the country.

Another must-see landmark is Rizal Park, a 58-hectare park that honors the national hero, Jose Rizal. The park features beautiful gardens, museums, and monuments, including the iconic Rizal Monument.

For those interested in shopping and entertainment, Manila has plenty of options as well. From high-end malls like Greenbelt and SM Mall of Asia to street markets like Divisoria and Quiapo, there’s something for everyone. Visitors can also catch a show or concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines or the Mall of Asia Arena.

With so many options, Manila is truly a city that never sleeps and has something to offer for every traveler.

Historic Intramuros

Intramuros, also known as the Walled City, is a historic district in Manila built during the Spanish colonial period in the 16th century. It is home to some of the country’s most significant cultural and historical landmarks. Here are some of the must-visit places in Intramuros:

Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago is a citadel that served as a defense fortress during the Spanish colonial period. It was also used for political prisoners during the American occupation and World War II. Today, it’s a popular tourist destination that offers a glimpse of the country’s rich history. Visitors can explore the fort’s dungeons and ramparts, as well as the Rizal Shrine, which houses memorabilia of the national hero, Jose Rizal.

San Agustin Church

San Agustin Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was built in 1589. It is the oldest stone church in the country and is considered one of the best-preserved examples of Spanish colonial architecture in Asia. The church features a Baroque-style facade, intricate carvings, and a collection of religious artifacts. Visitors can also explore the attached museum that showcases the church’s history and artifacts.

Manila Cathedral

The Manila Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, is a Roman Catholic cathedral that was built in 1581. It has undergone several reconstructions due to natural disasters and wars, but it remains one of the most iconic landmarks in the country. The cathedral features a Neo-Romanesque facade, stained glass windows, and a pipe organ. Visitors can attend mass or explore the cathedral’s museum that showcases religious artifacts and memorabilia.

Intramuros is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the country’s rich history and culture. A visit to these landmarks will provide a glimpse of the Philippines’ colonial past and its influence on the country’s identity.

Rizal Park

Rizal Park, also known as Luneta Park, is a historical urban park located in the heart of Manila. It’s one of the most famous landmarks in the city and a must-visit for locals and tourists alike. The park is named after Dr. Jose Rizal, a national hero of the Philippines who was executed by the Spanish colonial authorities in 1896.

Rizal Park is a sprawling green space, home to several attractions, including the Rizal Monument, a bronze statue of Dr. Jose Rizal, which stands at the center of the park. The monument is surrounded by a large fountain and gardens, making it a popular spot for taking photos.

Visitors to Rizal Park can also explore the park’s many other attractions, including the National Museum of Anthropology and the National Museum of Natural History. In addition to its museums, you’ll also find the Open-Air Auditorium, dancing fountain, Central Lagoon, and more.

The park also has several restaurants and food stalls, making it a great place to grab a bite to eat while enjoying the park’s beautiful surroundings.

Overall, Rizal Park is a must-visit for anyone traveling to Manila. Its rich history, beautiful gardens, and many attractions make it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

Manila Baywalk

Manila Baywalk is a popular leisure center and favorite sunset location for city dwellers. The 2-km stretch of coastline runs alongside Roxas Boulevard, past Manila Yacht Club, and is bordered by the US Embassy and Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Visitors can enjoy a stroll along the promenade, which offers a stunning view of Manila Bay. There are also plenty of outdoor activities to do here, such as biking, jogging, and rollerblading.

Aside from the scenic view and outdoor activities, Manila Baywalk also offers a variety of dining options. Visitors can indulge in Filipino cuisine at the many restaurants and food stalls located along the promenade.

One of the best times to visit Manila Baywalk is during sunset when the sky turns into a beautiful mix of colors. The view of the sun setting over the bay is truly breathtaking and makes for a perfect photo opportunity.

Overall, Manila Baywalk is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Manila. It offers a perfect combination of outdoor activities, scenic views, and delicious food options.

Cultural Experiences

Manila is a city rich in culture and history, with a wide variety of cultural experiences to offer. Here are a few of the top cultural experiences to explore:

Cultural Center of the Philippines

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) is a hub for the arts in Manila, showcasing a wide variety of performances and exhibitions. The center features several venues, including a theater, a concert hall, and an art gallery. Visitors can enjoy performances ranging from ballet and opera to contemporary dance and theater.

In addition to performances, the CCP also hosts workshops, lectures, and exhibits. Visitors can learn about Philippine culture and history through the center’s exhibits, which feature art, artifacts, and other cultural items.

National Museum of the Philippines

The National Museum of the Philippines is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Philippine history and culture. The museum features a wide variety of exhibits, including prehistoric artifacts, colonial-era art, and contemporary works.

One of the museum’s most popular exhibits is the Spoliarium, a massive painting by Filipino artist Juan Luna. The painting depicts a scene from ancient Rome and is known for its impressive size and dramatic composition.

Visitors can also explore the museum’s other exhibits, which cover topics ranging from natural history to contemporary art. The museum is a great place to learn about Philippine culture and history.

Shopping and Dining

When it comes to shopping and dining in Manila, visitors have plenty of options to choose from. Whether you’re looking for high-end luxury shopping or budget-friendly street food, Manila has it all.

Greenbelt Mall

Greenbelt Mall is a popular shopping destination in Manila. It’s a sprawling complex of five interconnected malls that offer a mix of high-end luxury brands, local boutiques, and international chains. The mall is also home to a variety of restaurants and cafes that cater to all tastes and budgets. Visitors can enjoy anything from fast food to fine dining, and everything in between.


Binondo is foodie central and a historic area in Manila. Take a Binondo food tour where you’ll go on a culinary adventure through Manila’s Chinatown. The tour is led by a knowledgeable guide who takes visitors to some of the best food spots in the area. Visitors can sample a variety of Chinese and Filipino dishes, including dumplings, noodles, and roasted meats.

One of the highlights of the tour is the visit to Eng Bee Tin, a popular bakery that sells hopia, a traditional Chinese pastry filled with sweet or savory fillings. Visitors can also try the famous siopao, a steamed bun filled with meat and vegetables.

Overall, shopping and dining in Manila is a great way to experience the city’s vibrant culture and unique flavors. Whether you’re a foodie or a shopaholic, there’s something for everyone in Manila.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Manila is known for its vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene. From live music performances to casinos, there is something for everyone. Here are a few places to check out:

Resorts World Manila

Resorts World Manila is a popular destination for those looking for a night of entertainment. It’s a large complex that includes a casino, hotels, shopping, dining, and more. The casino offers a variety of games, including slot machines, table games, and poker. The complex also hosts live performances, with local and international acts taking the stage.

Manila Ocean Park

Manila Ocean Park is a great place to visit for families and couples alike. It’s an oceanarium that features a variety of marine life, including sharks, rays, and penguins. In addition to the aquarium, there are also other attractions, such as a birdhouse, a jellyfish exhibit, and a sea lion show. At night, the park transforms into a magical underwater world with a stunning light and sound show.

Overall, there are plenty of options for those looking for a night out in Manila. Whether you want to dance the night away or enjoy a relaxing evening with marine life, there is something for everyone.