Manila travel guide

Manila Tourism | Manila Guide

You're Going to Love Manila

The capital of the Philippines is a busy mass of energy and industry, and there are many reasons why it deserved its nickname "the Pearl of the Orient".

You can witness colonial sights like Casa Manila or Fort Santiago, or get a taste for how the city has thrived in an independent Philippines at the Museum of the Filipino People. Tuck into a freshly made lumpia wrapper, before heading to watch international music acts at the SM Mall of Asia Concert Grounds, or dance all night long to the rhythms of the city at clubs like Revel or Valkyrie.

Modern Manila is a heady mix of grand colonial churches, hyper-malls, museums, and street life that all combines to create a wonderful vacation destination.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Manila

1. Stunning Architecture

Manila was the capital of the Spanish Philippines for hundreds of years, and became one of the richest cities in the empire. Nowadays, visitors can explore this rich heritage at reconstructed colonial homes like Casa Manila, the ramparts of Fort Santiago, and lavish palaces like Malacañang (now the seat of the national government).

2. Superb Filipino Cuisine

Try lumpia (spring roll wraps) or adobo (chicken or lamb cooked in a rich garlic sauce) at restaurants like Sentro 1771 or Cafe Juanita.

3. Some of the Best Museums in Southeast Asia

Manila has all of the museums and galleries you could hope for from a national capital, and a few more besides. The largest is the National Museum, closely followed by the Museum of the Filipino People, but you might also head to more offbeat museums like the Museo Pambata (dedicated to children) and the science-oriented Mind Museum.

4. A Thriving Local Art Scene

Art is one of Manila's great passions, and with galleries like the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, the Yuchengco Museum, and contemporary exhibition spaces like 1335Mabini or Artinformal, visitors who share the city's love of painting and sculpture will be spoiled for choice.

5. Easy Day Trips to Beaches and Volcanos

Manila has plenty to offer on its own, but there are some superb attractions a few hours away. For instance, you could join tours to the peak of Mount Pinatubo or head to Tagaytay City, with its beautiful volcanic lagoon. You could also head to beaches like Calatagan and Zambales in no time at all.

Where to Eat in Manila

If you want to try Filipino dishes, superb dining options include Sentro 1771, Kabila, and Wooden Spoon. However, there are also world-class Chinese restaurants like Tim Ho Wan, great Indian eateries like New Bombay, and European options like Caruso Ristorante Italiano. Manila has a massive range of dining options thanks to its multicultural nature, and gourmet food fans can dine very well for very little money. Expect high-quality meals to cost as little as ₱500.

When to visit Manila

Manila in September
Estimated hotel price
£31
1 night at 3-star hotel
Manila in September
Estimated hotel price
£31
1 night at 3-star hotel

The best time to visit Manila is during the country's dry season, which usually runs from around November to April. The city is a magical Christmas destination, and the weather will be ideal for sunbathing or sightseeing, so a festive break is an excellent idea. January is another option, with the added bonus of spectacular festivals like the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Celcius (°C)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Manila

Plane

Most travelers from North America will arrive at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL), which has good connections to all major American cities. When you arrive, the cheapest route into town is via the special Express Bus Service, which costs ₱300. If you choose to take a taxi, expect to pay around ₱700, and try to negotiate a fare before you leave the airport.

Car

There are a number of car rental outlets at Manila Airport, including branches of Avis and TransAvia. If you are driving into the city, it's around eight miles to Intramuros (the center of town). Take the R-1 coastal road and it should lead you directly into the city.

Bus

If you are coming from provincial cities elsewhere in Luzon, Manila is well connected by bus, but every company will have its own drop-off point, so check the arrangements before you travel. Manila is a sprawling city, and it is not advisable to be dropped off in a distant suburb.

Airports near Manila

Airlines serving Manila

United Airlines
Good (69,511 reviews)
KLM
Good (3,808 reviews)
Air France
Good (4,367 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (23,623 reviews)
SWISS
Excellent (9,191 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Excellent (11,549 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (25,055 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (15,780 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (6,765 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Excellent (3,958 reviews)
Malaysia Airlines
Good (1,543 reviews)
ANA
Excellent (4,705 reviews)
Thai Airways
Excellent (2,381 reviews)
Japan Airlines
Excellent (4,647 reviews)
Gulf Air
Good (872 reviews)
Oman Air
Good (669 reviews)
Qantas Airways
Good (4,907 reviews)
SAUDIA
Good (2,633 reviews)
Korean Air
Excellent (4,989 reviews)
Asiana Airlines
Excellent (4,299 reviews)
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Where to stay in Manila

Those who need to be close to the sights in Intramuros could go for the comfortable Bayleaf Hotel, which has a rooftop restaurant. Other city center highlights include the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Raffles Makati (which is very handy for the main business district), and Nobu Hotel, which has a huge on-site pool. Budget travelers could also have a look at Z Hostel in Makati, which is a modern, well-located but cheaper accommodation provider.

Popular neighbourhoods in Manila

Intramuros - literally "inside the walls", Intramuros is Manila's historical heart. Here you'll find almost all of the colonial-era attractions like the city ramparts, the church of San Agustín, Manila's splendid cathedral, and Casa Manila, a recreated colonial home.

Ermita - famous for its nightlife and restaurants, Ermita is where most tourists gravitate to at the end of a day of sightseeing, and with good reason. Ermita has plenty of family attractions like the Ocean Park Aquarium and the Museo Pambata, while eateries like Kamayan are a wonderful place to sample Filipino delicacies.

Sampaloc - home to most of Manila's higher education institutions, Sampaloc has a student vibe about it, but is also famous for its stunning Dangwa Flower Market. It's a good place to party and relax, while the many lechon (roasted pig) restaurants are excellent places to fill up at the end of the day.

Most popular hotel in Manila by neighbourhood

Where to stay in popular areas of Manila

Most booked hotels in Manila

The Peninsula Manila
Excellent (9.2, Excellent reviews)
£88+
Conrad Manila
Excellent (8.9, Excellent reviews)
£158+
Novotel Manila Araneta Center
Excellent (8.9, Excellent reviews)
£66+
Seda NUVALI
Excellent (8.6, Excellent reviews)
£61+
The Manila Hotel
Excellent (8.3, Excellent reviews)
£80+
Jen Manila By Shangri-La
Excellent (8.2, Excellent reviews)
£45+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Manila

Public Transportation

Manila is criss-crossed by three rail lines (colored yellow, purple, and orange), which provide good coverage of the major neighborhoods. Basic fares on the yellow and purple lines are ₱22 (for four stops), while the orange line is cheaper at ₱10. A good idea is to pick up a prepaid ticket with enough charge on it to cover your vacation travel, and you can do so at all major stations. Buses are also available and charge ₱10 for the cheapest fares.

Taxi

There are a number of different types of taxi in Manila. The most fun is definitely a "calesa", which is a horse-drawn carriage; these only operate in the center of town. Calesas cost around ₱70 for an hour, so they aren't a budget option. Other than that, standard taxis are fairly cheap. Rates are metered (or should be) and start with a ₱40 flag drop, then ₱3.50 for every 300 meters, with a ₱3.50 charge for every two minutes of waiting time.

Car

If you want to venture out of the city, renting a car in Manila is a must, and it shouldn't be hard thanks to local branches of Avis and Budget as well as local companies like Avalon. Expect a vehicle to cost about ₱300 per day. Inner city driving can be stressful thanks to chaotic traffic and driving, but rural highways are easy to use and make it much easier to get to sights like Tagaytay.

Car hire agencies in Manila

National

National
Find car hire in Manila

The Cost of Living in Manila

Shopping Streets

If you are looking for vintage clothing and designer gear from local talents, check out the Collective, a design community on Malugay Street. If you just want to wander endlessly from shop to shop, visiting SM Megamall - the fourth largest mall in the world - is essential. At the other end of the scale, diving into Ukay Ukay, mammoth used-clothes stores where you can rummage for anything from cheap finds to designer sunglasses.

Groceries and Other

The best places to shop for groceries in the Philippine capital are supermarkets like Rustan's, Puregold, and Walter Mart. Expect a gallon of milk to cost around ₱280 and 12 eggs to come to about ₱70.

Cheap meal
£2.42
A pair of jeans
£35.63
Single public transport ticket
£0.29
Cappuccino
£1.83
Other popular cities in Metro Manila