10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Manila
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 things to do in Manila involve exploring the prominent churches and monuments and walking through the impeccably landscaped public parks. Manila is full of restaurants that serve up local fare, including fresh seafood.
1 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.
Address: Manila, Luzon 1000
2 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 Manila Ocean Park
The Manila Ocean Park is one of the most unique adventures in 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. If you plan to make several days out of it, you can stay on-site at the Hotel H20 and admire the large fish tanks in your room.
Address: Manila Ocean Park Luneta, Manila
4 San Agustin Church and Museum
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
5 National Museum of the Philippines
For a true exploration into the culture of the country, a visit to the National Museum of the Philippines is in order. 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
6 Bambike Ecotours
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
7 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: Santa Clara Street, Manila
8 Robinsons Place Mall
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. 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
9 Money Museum
Tucked away inside the Philippine central banking authority, Banko 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
10 Divisoria Market
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