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When you first arrive in the Philippines, most probably you’re going to land in Manila, a megacity full of attractions to all kinds of people, romantic couples, adventurers, families with children, history lovers, shoppers, foodies, nature lovers, you name it. Don’t be baffled because of the hectic nature of the city. Many people choose to leave the city as soon as they can and head straight to other destinations, but it’s only because there are misinformed. Read on to discover the action Metro Manila has to offer.
Sightseeing in Manila
The city is unique for its multiculturalism, being a Spanish colony for centuries you will witness very strong Spanish influences, as well as Chinese, and indigenous Filipino.
Intramuros: the name translated from Spanish to inside the walls is the old Spanish district, founded at 1571. There are many historic sites like Casa Manila, San Agustin Church.
Binondo: the oldest China Town in the world, also located in Manila City. It is a place that showcases the Filipino Chinese cultural mix. Notable sites are the Chinese Cemetery, Bahay Tsinoy Museum, and Binondo Church.
You can easily tour the city on your own, or take guided tours to both neighborhoods. In Intramuros Kalesa (a horse drawn carriage) is a very fun way to tour all of the major sites, suitable for couple ad children.
For the Adventurers
Manila is a gateway to many close by guided tours to the Philippines. Many of those can be made into day trips, but you should also consider staying a night in some of the destinations.
Tagaytay is a very famous spot 2.5 hours from Manila. It is most known for its small lake inside a volcano inside of a lake. It’s good for trekking and the scenery is wonderful.
Mt. Pinatubo is the site of the second largest eruption in the 20th century. Trekking to the summit you will pass through a moon-like terrain, just to reach the top and find a peaceful lake surrounded by cliffs and green as a contrast.
If you want to try a bit of diving, Subic Bay is one of the best spots to do so, and only 3.5 hours away. It is also home to Ocean Adventure, where you have the chance to swim with dolphins and watch aquatic shows, and Zoobic Safari where you get to see tigers as well as other animals.
Shopping in Manila
Manila is home to 3 of the world’s 10 biggest malls: SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia, and SM City North EDSA. You can find all of the international fashion brands, electronics, and whatever it is you can think of. Greenbelt Mall in Makati City is the place to do all of your high-end boutique shopping like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo and such.
Greenhills in San Juan city is known for many electronics shops which offer reasonable prices, but mainly for the very high-quality knockoffs. You can buy many clothes and accessories that look almost the same as the original brands! Whether you in the need for designer’s clothes, or you like to save up but to look good as well, this place really deserves a visit. There is virtually everything you can think of in this mall.
What and where to eat?
You can try local Filipino food in restaurants like Abe, Sarsa Kitchen + Bar, Romulo Café, found in many of the malls mentioned above and elsewhere. There are plenty of local fast food chains as well as western ones, also found in the malls. Filipinos love food, and you’ll be surprised to find good quality American, Japanese, Vietnamese, and many foreign cuisines around. Go to BGC (Taguig), Greenbelt (Makati) or Eastwood (Quezon City) for dinner, as there are plenty of high-quality bars and restaurants of any kind.
For a Chinese food experience, Binondo China Town that was mentioned above is the place to go. Homemade dim sum restaurants, noodle houses with their own pulled noodles, and many authentic Chinese dishes. A real Chinese feast is waiting for you in the world’s oldest china town.
Nightlife in Manila
The nightlife scene in Manila is one of the best in Asia, with bars and clubs open every night of the week. The prices are also pretty cheap (alcohol and entrance fee) and people are English speaking and welcoming. There are so many places to choose from.
The best night clubs are found in Makati Ave, Bonifacio Global City (the Fort Strip), and you will find very good bars in them too. Quezon City is also a place you will find nice bars and night clubs, around Cubao, Timog Ave, and Thomas Morato Ave. The crowd here is mainly local.
Bars: Gramercy 71, Today X Future, B-side Reggae Bar, Hooch.
Night clubs: Club Haze (Mix), Prime Upscale Club (EDM R’nB), Privé (Music Changes, posh crowd) Pangaea (Rn’B), Chaos (EDM/House), Valkyrie (EDM), XX XX (techno).
These are just some of the names you can look up and update before you go out, to check any promotions and events.
Manila for children and children at heart
This city is great if you are traveling with your kids. There is so much fun stuff waiting for your kids that you’d actually enjoy too. Virtually all of the malls mentioned above in the shopping section have state of the art cinemas, arcades, and food courts. If you get the chance, it is highly advised to take your kid to Mall of Asia, as there is a small amusement park in the complex, where the best attraction is the MOA Eye (Ferris wheel). Inside the mall, there is an ice skating ring which is fun for the whole family.
Intramuros – the historical part of Manila is a great location for your family. Not only that you can have a horse drawn carriage tour, or a bamboo bicycle tour in the compound (both are a great way to have fun with the children), there are also many sites nearby that really worth a visit. Rizal Park is such a lovely place to go for a walk and it is actually on the way to Manila Ocean Park, an impressive aquarium with many kinds of marine life. Museo Pambata will tell the story of old Manila among other stories through the eyes of kids.
The Mind Museum is a world class science museum. A planetarium, fossils, dinosaur’s models, robots and many interactive exhibitions. At a walking distance from it is the Flying Trapeze, for a quick adrenalin rush, good for all ages. Kidzania is a cool and educational theme park where kids get can be a reporter, a pilot, a fashion model and many other jobs for the day. DreamPlay is an indoors interactive theme park from the makers of Shrek and Madagascar. Similarly, Art in Island is a 3D museum where walls come to life, located in Cubao, Quezon City.