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12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Manila

Written by Anietra Hamper
Mar 10, 2020

The busy city of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is an exciting and energetic metropolis. Hop on board any of the colorful and kitschy jeepneys to get from one place to another around town. The iconic buses that usually pack in more people than they can hold are the main form of transportation and worth at least one ride during your visit, just for the experience.

Manila is an eclectic mix of modern attractions and rich history, as evidenced by the many cathedrals and tributes to the city's 16th-century establishment and modern-day malls and amenities. The city sits on the shorefront of Manila Bay, making it a regular target for typhoons, so it is best to plan your visit outside of the rainy season (May-November).

Some of the best places to visit in Manila are the prominent churches and monuments and the impeccably landscaped public parks. Manila is full of restaurants that serve up local fare, including fresh seafood.

For other sightseeing ideas, read our list of the top attractions and things to do in Manila.

1. Rizal Park

Rizal Park

One of your first stops in Manila should be Rizal Park. Sometimes referred to as Luneta Park, this is a peaceful and manicured outdoor garden located in the heart of the city. Throughout the park. you will see statues and monuments paying tribute to Manila's history.

Of note is the century-old Monument of Rizal, which houses the remains of one of the Philippines' most celebrated heroes, Dr. Jose Rizal. Be sure to stroll through the park to take in the local flora and fauna. Keep your eyes open for the Narra tree, the national tree of the Philippines, and the small lake with the artistically raised archipelago structure in the middle.

2. Quiapo Church

Quiapo Church

The Quiapo Church is one of the oldest and most admired Catholic Churches in Manila. The more formal name of the church is the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. Depending on the time of day, the plaza surrounding the century-old church can be quite congested, which makes it an interesting place to visit to admire the devotion of the Filipino people.

Fridays are the busiest days, when thousands of people pile into the square and pray at the church for novena. Despite the large gatherings of church devotees, this is one of the top attractions in the city.

Take time to see the inside of the church, and stroll through the market stands outside to buy fresh peanuts, mangoes, or necklaces from local vendors.

Address: Plaza Miranda & Quezon Blvd., Quiapo, Manila, Luzon

3. Intramuros

Walls of the Intramuros, Manila

You will likely pass through the Intramuros whether you know it or not as you explore Manila. It is the oldest section of the city and characterized by its walled fortress. This section of Manila was once a walled city during Spanish Colonial times in the 1500s to the 1800s.

Walk around inside the three-mile-long stone wall that surrounds the district. While you can walk the grounds on your own, you might want to take a guided walking tour to learn more about the walled city and its significance to Manila.

Address: Bonifacio Dr & Padre Burgos St, Manila, Luzon

4. Manila Ocean Park

Manila Ocean Park

The Manila Ocean Park is one of the most unique adventures in the city and one of the top things to do for families visiting the city. Get interactive with marine life with the Sharks and Rays Encounter, Trails to Antarctica, or the fish spa where fish clean your feet in a small pool of water. The park easily fills several hours depending on how many encounters you try. In addition to the state-of-the-art aquatic facility, you will see exhibits of birds and other animals.

Address: Manila Ocean Park Luneta, Manila
Official site: https://www.manilaoceanpark.com/

5. San Agustin Church and Museum

San Agustin Church and Museum | Shubert Ciencia / photo modified

As a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, the San Agustin Church is a national treasure in the Philippines. The Catholic Church has a unique history that is reflected in the details of the building. If you look closely, you will see both Chinese and Spanish influences in the design. The church has been rebuilt several times after battles and natural disasters.

Pay close attention to the carvings on the large wooden doors that open to the chapel. If you have an interest in history or architecture, it would be worth your time to hire a local guide who can take you on a walking tour of the area and describe intricate details of the church that you may not notice on your own.

Address: Gen Luna & Real Streets, Intramuros, Manila, Luzon 1002

6. National Museum of the Philippines

National Museum of the Philippines

For a true exploration into the culture of the country, the National Museum of the Philippines is one of the best places to visit. The museum has four main complexes and extensive collections and artifacts relating to art, archaeology, anthropology, zoology, biology, and natural history. The museum galleries help offer a sense of place, telling the cultural story beyond what you will find on your own visiting the city's many historical attractions.

Address: Padre Burgos Street, Manila, Luzon 2004
Official site: http://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph

7. Bambike Ecotours

Bambike Ecotours | Photo Copyright: Bambike

Manila is a pedestrian-friendly city, but if you want to explore the culture and history more efficiently, consider the Bambike Ecotours. The tours provide a unique, eco-friendly way to see urban Manila. By taking an ecotour, you are also supporting environmental sustainability efforts of local businesses.

Bambikes are locally hand-made bicycles custom-built from bamboo. The company has a social welfare initiative that employs villagers for the production of the bikes. Depending on your interests, you can select a tour that involves history, art, or city life.

Address: Real Street, corner General Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila
Official site: https://www.bambike.com/ecotours

8. Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago

The site of Fort Santiago is an impressive stop if you are visiting the city and it is one of the most important historical sites in Manila. The 16th-century fortress was key in protecting the Intramuros, which is the oldest district in Manila, known historically as the Walled City.

You can explore the grounds at a leisurely pace. Be sure to take note of bullet markings that are still visible in the fortress walls and stop by the visitor center for more detailed information about the fort.

Address: Gen Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila, Luzon

9. Robinsons Place Mall

Robinsons Place Mall | Deortiz / photo modified

While a mall might not be on the top of your list for exploring the culture of Manila, Robinsons Place Mall has a surprising number of unique stores where you can find local items. While locals shop here, it's also a popular spot for tourists.

Be on the lookout for clothing, cosmetics, bags, and food that are unique to the Philippines. The mall is extensive, so plan time to walk the interior and explore the stores. The mall's modern building is a stark contrast to the rustic and historic landmarks that surround it.

Address: Pedro Gil Corner Adriatico Street, Manila, Luzon

10. Money Museum

Philippine Currency

Tucked away inside the Philippine central banking authority, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, is a fascinating money museum. The galleries showcase Philippine money over several decades. There are artifacts, old coins, and various currencies on display that illustrate the changes in money over time. For the Philippine people, this collection represents economic stability in the country, but for visitors, it's a fun tourist attraction.

Address: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, A. Mabini St & P. Ocampo Street, Manila, Luzon
Official site: http://www.bsp.gov.ph/about/facilities_money.asp

11. Divisoria Market

Divisoria Market | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

If you are in the mood to bargain shop, head to the lively Divisoria Market in Manila. It is located in the heart of Chinatown where you will discover overflowing vendor stalls selling everything from fruit and spices to flip-flops and beads.

This is the best place to people-watch and take in the local flavor. The bustling atmosphere is like a flea market, and bargaining is the name of the game. You should only pay about 50 percent of the price of an item, and often you can get souvenirs for much lower.

Address: Claro M. Recto Avenue, Divisoria, Manila, Luzon

12. Manila Super Mall

There's no shortage of places to shop in Manila, so if you want to fill your suitcase with treasures, then you will want to plan a half day or full day at the Super Mall in Manila. It is like one-stop shopping for something to do in the city because the huge complex has retail stores, restaurants, and entertainment.

The Super Mall is easy to spot. It has a mega globe structure on the grounds, which makes for a great selfie spot. This retail complex is popular with the locals, so it can get quite crowded.

If you are looking for more unique souvenirs, you might want to hit the smaller local markets but if you are after mainstream items, you are sure to find them at the Super Mall.

Address: San Marcelino St, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila

Where to Stay for Sightseeing in Manila

Manila hotels are quite affordable, even the high-end hotels. You will have no problem finding something in your budget on any side of town.

  • Luxury Hotels: One of the top luxury hotels in Manila is the Sheraton Manila Bay, which even provides all guests with butler service. It is a preferred choice for business travelers, but if you want a little extra pampering during your visit, the hotel offers top-of-the-line amenities. The luxury New World Manila Bay Hotel sits on Manila Bay, so you have some of the best views in the city, and it is centrally located for easy walking downtown and to local restaurants.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: One of the most unique lodging experiences in Manila is Hotel H20 located at the Manila Ocean Park. Go to sleep in an aquarium-walled room and wake up next to marine life. The historic Manila Hotel is another mid-range lodging situated on Manila Bay close to many of Manila's attractions.
  • Budget Hotels: The affordable Red Planet Manila Binondo is highly rated and located close to Chinatown in Manila. The hotel is just a few blocks from several historic churches and the Divisoria Market. For a centrally located budget hotel the Ramada by Wyndham Manila Central is a good option. The Ramada is located close to many of the cultural sites and local transportation access points.

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