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Top 8 Things to Do in Manila, Philippines

As the capital of the Philippines, many travelers in this part of Asia find themselves in the capital city of Manila as part of their transportation route and to do some sightseeing. Fortunately, there is no shortage of exciting things to see and do in this top destination in the Philippines! Whether you choose to hire a local guide to join a tour or explore the city on your own, here are some of the top things to do in Manila.

Tour Fort Santiago Fort Santiago, Intramuros district of Manila
Credit: Fort Santiago, Intramuros district of Manila by © Vassiliy Kochetkov - Dreamstime.com

Tour Fort Santiago

What Is It?: This fort was built in the 1500s as a Spanish military base and has played an important role in the city’s history. Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi built the fort, which is a favorite tourist spot for photography.

Why Do It?: Fort Santiago is one of the most famous attractions in all of Manila and a must-visit spot to learn about the history of the city and the Philippines more generally.

Good to Know: Consider visiting Fort Santiago as part of a guided tour of multiple historic sites to explore the city on foot or by bicycle.

Visit a Local Museum The Museum of the Filipino People, at Rizal Park
Credit: The Museum of the Filipino People, at Rizal Park by © Jon Bilous - Dreamstime.com

Visit a Local Museum

What Is It?: There are many museums worth visiting in Manila, including the Ayala Museum that covers Filipino art and culture. The National Museum of the Philippines is actually free of charge to visit of all visitors and houses the National Art Gallery and the Museum of the Filipino People.

Why Do It?: Manila’s museums offer travelers a great way to learn about the city’s history and get indoors if the weather isn’t cooperating.

Good to Know: Many city tours include guided museum experiences. Choose just a couple of museums to visit during your trip so you don’t become overwhelmed with information.

Enjoy the Baywalk Ship docking at Manila Bay near Manila Yacht Club
Credit: Ship docking at Manila Bay near Manila Yacht Club by © Michael Wels - Dreamstime.com

Enjoy the Baywalk

What Is It?: Manila is a city by the bay, and it has a nice baywalk area where visitors can take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the sights.

Why Do It?: You’ll love soaking up the culture of Manila while you watch the boats, sunset, food vendors and street performers when you spend some time along the Manila Bay.

Good to Know: The sunsets along Manila Bay area absolutely stunning. Take a walk here at sunset and stop at a local bar with views or outside seating to really soak in the scenery.

See the Iconic Churches and Cathedrals San Agustin Church in Intramuros Manila
Credit: San Agustin Church in Intramuros Manila by © Leonid Andronov - Dreamstime.com

See the Iconic Churches and Cathedrals

What Is It?: San Agustin Church is an example of a Manila church that is a UNESCO site and the oldest stone church in the Philippines. It has a baroque style and lovely paintings and décor to see inside. There is also a museum by the church that once served as a monastery and includes statutes, antiques, and altars. Also, see the Manila Cathedral that dates back to the 1500s and is another popular place to visit.

Why Do It?: Manila is filled with beautiful churches and cathedrals that tell stories about the city’s history and culture.

Good to Know: It’s typically free to visit churches and cathedrals, but be mindful about when services are taking place in active houses of worship.

Relax in Rizal Park People relaxing in Rizal park, Manila
Credit: People relaxing in Rizal park, Manila by © John Deeks - Dreamstime.com

Relax in Rizal Park

What Is It?: This park was where Philippine independence was declared and where the country’s revolution began after the execution of José Rizal. There is a monument in the park dedicated to him. In addition to paying tribute to a national hero, Rizal Park is also a welcome retreat if you’re looking for some peace and quiet from Manila’s busy city streets.

Why Do It?: Rizal Park is a beautiful public park that plays an important role in Philippine history. The park is free to visit and family-friendly.

Good to Know: Rizal Park has a couple of lovely gardens to experience. Guided walking tours of the city often include a stop at Rizal Park to provide more details about its historical significance.

Walk Around Chinatown The largest Chinatown Arch in the world in Manila
Credit: The largest Chinatown Arch in the world in Manila by © Junel Garcia - Dreamstime.com

Walk Around Chinatown

What Is It?: Manila has a historic Chinatown that is reminiscent of the area’s trade with China over hundreds of years. Known as Binondo, this is the oldest Chinatown in the world. You can get around Chinatown on foot or on a kalesa, which is a horse-drawn carriage.

Why Do It?: Chinatown in Manila offers opportunities to learn about local history while also enjoying some delicious food and seeing the temples and herbal shops.

Good to Know: The restaurants here are affordably priced, quaint, and authentic. To learn about the best spots, consider joining a guided food tour. Dumplings and dim sum are essential parts of any foodie experience in Chinatown.

Check Out Manila Ocean Park Sharks, fish and coral at the Ocean Park in Manila Philippines
Credit: Sharks, fish and coral at the Ocean Park in Manila Philippines by © Dndavis - Dreamstime.com

Check Out Manila Ocean Park

What Is It?: This is a marine park that offers opportunities to learn about sea creatures and keep travelers entertained. There is also a hotel here and a spa where fish can nibble at your feet.

Why Do It?: The Manila Ocean Park is a must-visit destination for families with kids, but it’s also a fun place to bring a date.

Good to Know: This ocean theme park is divided into multiple sections that offer various experiences that have their own fees. Consider buying bundle packages early in the day before they sell out to see a couple of different things at the park that interests you.

Day Trip to Pagsanjan Falls Pagsanjan falls river tour
Credit: Pagsanjan falls river tour by © Simon Gurney - Dreamstime.com

Day Trip to Pagsanjan Falls

What Is It?: Pagsanjan Falls is a stunning natural area known for its iconic waterfalls. It is in Laguna and about 2.5 hours from Manila. Boating, trekking, and rappelling are popular activities here.

Why Do It?: You can take a day trip here from Manila to get outside of the city and explore the nature of the region.

Good to Know: This is an ideal day trip for adventure-seekers because guided trips can include paddling a boat, riding a bamboo raft, and racing down rapids. The falls area tends to get very crowded on weekends. The early wet season between August to October is the best time to visit, especially compared to the very busy Easter holiday time.

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