Manila is generally the first destination of tourists who travel the Philippines to see beautiful tropical islands in the country. It is like a transfer center for flights to the other islands. When you come to the Philippines, your path probably will cross with Metro Manila. When you arrive in the city, you should definitely see the beautiful and historical places to visit in Manila and the best tourist attractions in Intramuros. Also, you should experience Manila nightlife. For you to have a pleasant trip, I am going to answer some questions such as ‘where to go, what places to see in Manila, how safe is it, how many days to stay?’ etc. On this Manila Travel Guide, you will get the top 15 things to do in the capital of the Philippines.
I have been to the Philippines for 5 times. At my first trip, I lived in Manila for 2 months. Unlike most people, ‘the Dark City’ has become one of the places where I feel very comfortable. So I recommend you to see Manila tourist attractions.
Manila Travel Guide
Actually, people do not prefer to stay in Manila, because there are much better places to visit and travel in the Philippines. Wonderful tropical islands like Boracay, El Nido, Coron, Palawan, Cebu, Siargao, Siquijor, and Bohol are really worth to see. But I still suggest you see Manila tourist destinations and enjoy the nightlife in this ‘city of sins’.
There are many famous tourist spots to see in the Intramuros district, which is known as the Walled City. You can see the rich history of Manila in Intramuros. Here are my recommendations about top things to do in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines;
1- Rizal Park
Rizal Park, where is located in Ermita District, has a fairly large area. This area is also known as Luneta Park. The park has an important place in the struggle for freedom of the Filipino people. The declaration of independence was made in Rizal Park in 1946. The Park takes its name from Dr. Jose Rizal who is the symbol of independence of the Philippines.
There are the Rizal Monument and a Chinese garden in the park. Also if you like museums, you can visit the ‘National Museum of Anthropology’ and the National Museum of Natural History in Rizal Park. I have not visited those places, but if you have time you can enter the museums. Frankly, the park is not that very beautiful, but it is still at the top of the list of places to visit in Manila because it is a very special area.
2- Intramuros District (The Walled City)
Intramuros is the ‘Old Town’ of Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. When you leave Rizal Park, Likely tricycle drivers will intercept you and try to sell you the Intramuros Manila tour or ask you if you need a travel guide. Since I had a lot of time, I preferred to walk and visited the Intramuros region alone. If you ask me if it is safe to walk alone around, I had no any trouble.
There are old historical houses, city walls, churches, and cathedrals in Intramuros, which is built by the Spanish. You will witness Spanish culture too in this region. So Intramuros is one of the best places to visit in Manila with Rizal Park. By the way, there is a Bureau of Immigration in Intramuros if you want to extend your visa.
How to go to Intramuros from Cubao or Makati? You can ride a jeepney, bus or LRT train.
3- Fort Santiago
The Spanish built For Santiago in the late 1500s. The castle was damaged during World War II, but it was restored. It used to be a prison where political criminals went to. Dr. Jose Rizal was also in this prison before being executed. Fort Santiago is one of the historical places to visit and go in the Philippines’ capital Manila.
4- San Agustin Church And Museum
San Agustin Church is the oldest stone-built church in the county. San Agustin is one of the baroque style churches in the Philippines. It is also a special church because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its construction was completed in 1606. Despite typhoons, earthquakes, invasions, and even World War II, it is a very historic place that still stands.
The monastery part of the church was damaged in World War II, and then It was renovated in 1973 and opened as a museum. Historical artifacts such as religious artifacts, art objects, and treasures are what tourists can see here. So Fort Santiago is one of the beautiful places to visit in Manila.
5- Casa Manila – Places To Visit In Intramuros
Casa Manila is a museum house just near San Agustin Church. It has also a good courtyard you can visit. The architecture of Casa Manila makes you feel like you are in another country, not in the Philippines. So it is another historical place where to go in Manila. There is also a restaurant cafe here, so if you can not decide where to eat in Intramuros, you can choose here for that.
6- Manila Cathedral – Places To Visit In Intramuros
The cathedral is another symbol structure of Metro Manila tourist attractions. The cathedral was built in Intramuros District in 1571. Although It was destroyed several times, at last, it was rebuilt in 1958 after World War II. Manila Cathedral is just walking distance to San Agustin Church. As it is one of the symbols of the city, this place should be one of the top places to visit and things to do in Manila.
When I went to the cathedral, there was a wedding ceremony. I watched it a little to experience Filipino culture. I guess Filipino couples are waiting in line to have a ceremony here for a long time because the cathedral is really so special to them.
7- Baluarte de San Diego
Baluarte de San Diego is a historic castle in Intramuros Manila. They started to build it in 1586, but they were not able to finish the construction due to some conditions. There is also a golf course next to Balurte San Diego. So Baluarte de San Diego is one of the places where to go in Manila.
8- Chinatown – Places To Visit In Manila
Like every Asian country, there is Chinatown in the Philippines too. But Chinatown in Manila is special because it is the first Chinatown established outside of China. It is too noisy and seems like an unreliable place. You can also see some Buddha Temples here. If you want to rest or eat something, there is a shopping mall in Chinatown. If you do a Manila tour, Chinatown is one of the interesting places to visit and fun things to do in the city.
9- Quiapo Church
Quiapo Church is a famous church with Black Jesus Statue. If you want to see this church, transportation is so easy to get there. You can ride a jeepney, bus or Grab taxi. Actually aside from Black Jesus Statue, there is nothing to see special things here. But you can witness Filipino people’s life here as well, so that would be a very good experience for your cultural trips.
10- Corregidor Island
Corregidor Island is a small island in Manila Bay. Although it is a small island, it has a great history. It is one of the historical places where to go in Manila for backpackers, tourists, couples, and Filipinos. What is the history of Corregidor Island?
When the Americans took the island from the Spanish, this place became the base of the Unites States. During World War II, the Japanese took the island from America, but the US became the ruler of the island again in 1945. So now you can see some ruins of it.
How to go to Corregidor Island in Manila Bay? It takes around 1 hour by ferry from the capital city of the Philippines. Ferries depart from at the port near Mall of Asia (MOA) in Pasay City. If you have more time during your Philippines tour, you should definitely go to this Island. Because it is one of the historical places and tourist attractions to visit in Manila. It is worth to see.
11- Manila Bay – Places To Visit In the Philippines
There is no beach to swim in Metro Manila, although the city has a seaside. But still, you can walk along the seaside at the seaside near Mall of Asia to have a good time. Also, the best thing to do here is watching a beautiful sunset. Moreover, you can do a boat tour in Manila Bay during sunset. You will witness the best sunset in the city. If you want to do a boat tour for sunset, you should be ready there around 6 pm. The tour takes around 45 minutes. I highly recommend it as where to go in Manila.
12- Mall Of Asia
There are many shopping malls in Metro Manila. Filipino people like to go to malls. Because the weather is too hot and people prefer to hang out in air-conditioned shopping malls. The biggest mall is Mall of Asia in Pasay City. You can find every brand and quality restaurants in this huge mall.
The other side of the mall is the seaside as I mentioned before. How to go to MOA? You can take public transportations like jeepney and bus. Also, you can ride the Grab Taxi application.
13- Red Light District (P. Burgos Street)
One of the famous places to visit in Makati City, Manila is P. Burgos Street. It is known as Red Light District because along the street you can see many sex workers and ladyboys. Many foreigners, especially old men, visit here for sex tourism. Aside from that, there are many good clubs, bars, restaurants, and rooftop bars around Burgos Street. Here is the heart of Manila nightlife.
You can enjoy Manila nightlife around Red Light Street. They also call the area Poblacion. For you to enjoy Manila nightlife, I can recommend you Firefly Roofdeck, Antidote Rooftop Bar, H&J Sports Bar, Howzat, Makati Sports Bar, and Pasha Restaurant.
14- Ayala Triangle Park Makati
Ayala Triangle Park is one of the big and green parks in Makati City. Many Filipinos come to the park to do exercise, work out, walk, and run in the evenings after work. So if you like to do some exercise or walk for a while in the city, you should visit Ayala Triangle Park
15- Divisoria – Places To Visit in Manila For Shopping
Divisoria is the cheapest place in Manila shopping spots. You can buy cheap clothes, food, other stuff, etc. Especially many Filipinos go to Divisoria for cheap shopping. Some of them buy stuff from Divisoria and resell it in other provinces in the Philippines. So cheap shopping is the one of things to do in Manila.
Places To Visit in Manila For Nightlife
Manila Nightlife is very energetic. There are 3 safe and dynamic places to visit in Manila Nightlife. Those districts are Makati City, Malate, and BGC. The famous night clubs in Manila are Exklusiv, Makati Royal, Black Market, XYLO at the Place, and TIME.
Actually, Manila nightlife is famous for P. Burgos Street in Makati City, which is known as Red Light District. There are many Filipina young girls, sex workers, and ladyboys around there. But you can still find good bars near that district. I suggest you H&J Sports Bar, Makati Sports Bar, and Howzat. Also on Makati Avenue, there are two amazing rooftop bars with very beautiful city views, especially evenings. Firefly Roofdeck and Antidote Rooftop Bar.
Where To Stay in Manila
According to some people, Metro Manila is very dangerous to stay in and travel to. But for me, I stayed there many times and I have not had any problem, because I always stayed in safe places in the city. So I am going to tell you the safest places to stay in Manila. For detailed information, you should check my ‘where to stay in Manila‘ article.
According to my experience, there are 3 safest places to stay in Metro Manila. They are Makati City, Bonifacio Global City (BGC in Taguig), and Malate. Makati and BGC are really safe and have high standards to live and work. Many rich people stay there. But you can still find affordable accommodations there. Especially in Makati City, there are good, affordable, and safe hostels for backpackers.
Malate is also safe for tourists. Because it is close to the best attractions in Intramuros, foreigners choose this area to stay. There are good hotels and residences for good accommodation.
You can search for good and cheap hotels or hostels by using Booking and Agoda websites. Also, you can find safe, luxurious, and comfortable residences by Airbnb. If you register for Airbnb by using this link, you will get around a 29 USD discount when you book.
That is all I say about the most beautiful tourist attractions and places to visit, to go, and the best things to do in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. I wish you have a wonderful trip to Manila. By the way, If you want to visit Batad Rice Terraces after Manila, you should read this article. If you have any questions, you can ask me below or contact me.