Manila, the bustling capital of the Philippines, is a city that effortlessly combines tradition and modernity. With its rich history, diverse culture, and vibrant atmosphere, Manila offers travelers a captivating experience like no other. From exploring historical sites and indulging in delicious local cuisine to enjoying the bustling nightlife, there is something for everyone in this vibrant metropolis. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the history of Manila, provide a full itinerary for three days of exploration, share tips on getting around the city, suggest accommodation options, highlight must-try dishes, and even delve into the city’s coworking opportunities. So, pack your bags and get ready to immerse yourself in the wonders of Manila!
1. The History of the City
Before diving into the present-day marvels of Manila, it’s essential to understand its rich historical background. Founded in 1571 by Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi, Manila has since undergone significant transformations. The Spanish colonial era left an indelible mark on the city, with architectural influences still evident in the historic district of Intramuros.
Intramuros, meaning “within the walls,” is a captivating enclave that reflects Manila’s Spanish colonial past. The district is home to notable landmarks such as Fort Santiago, a citadel that witnessed various historical events. As you explore its ancient walls and walk through the cobblestone streets, you’ll feel transported back in time.
The city’s history took a turn during World War II when it was heavily bombed, resulting in significant destruction. However, Manila has since risen from the ashes and undergone extensive rebuilding, resulting in a unique blend of old and new. Today, Manila stands as a testament to the resilience and spirit of its people.
2. What to Do if You Have 3 Days in the City – Full Itinerary
With just three days to explore Manila, it’s important to plan your itinerary strategically to make the most of your time. Here’s a day-by-day breakdown of the must-visit attractions in the city:
Day 1: Historical Exploration
Start your journey in Intramuros, where you can immerse yourself in the city’s rich history. Begin at Fort Santiago, where you can explore its storied dungeons, walk along the impressive walls, and learn about the national hero, José Rizal, who was imprisoned here. Afterward, visit Casa Manila, a beautifully reconstructed Spanish colonial house that provides a glimpse into the lifestyle of the era.
Continue your historical adventure by visiting San Agustin Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its stunning Baroque architecture and religious artifacts. Take a stroll through the adjacent museum to discover more about the city’s past.
To end the day on a high note, catch a traditional performance at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. From ballet to theater, the center showcases the country’s rich cultural heritage.
Day 2: Cultural Immersion
Kickstart your second day with a visit to the National Museum of the Philippines. Here, you’ll find an impressive collection of art, archaeological artifacts, and ethnographic exhibits that tell the story of the country’s diverse heritage.
Next, head to Rizal Park, a vast green space dedicated to the national hero, José Rizal. Take a leisurely stroll, enjoy a picnic, or rent a bike to explore this peaceful oasis in the heart of Manila.
As the day progresses, make your way to the vibrant district of Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown. Immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of this cultural enclave, where you can savor delectable Chinese cuisine, shop for unique goods, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere.
In the evening, visit the Manila Ocean Park, a marine-themed park that offers exciting exhibits and shows. From interactive touch pools to stunning underwater tunnels, this attraction provides an immersive experience for visitors of all ages.
Day 3: Modern Manila
On your final day, venture outside the historical core of the city to explore its modern side. Start with a visit to the Ayala Museum, which showcases the country’s art, history, and culture through a variety of exhibits and interactive displays.
For a shopping spree, head to Makati, Manila’s central business district. Here, you’ll find upscale malls like Greenbelt and Glorietta, where you can shop for international brands, indulge in gourmet cuisine, and unwind at trendy cafes.
In the evening, make your way to Bonifacio Global City (BGC), a thriving district known for its vibrant nightlife and entertainment options. From rooftop bars to live music venues, BGC offers a variety of options for a memorable night out.
3. How to Get There and How to Get Around
Manila is well-connected to international destinations through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Numerous airlines operate flights to and from Manila, making it easily accessible for travelers from around the world.
Once you’ve arrived in Manila, there are several transportation options to get around the city. Taxis and ride-hailing services like Grab are readily available and offer a convenient way to travel between attractions. However, be sure to use reputable taxi companies and insist on using the meter.
Another popular mode of transportation is the jeepney, an iconic vehicle in the Philippines. These colorful and uniquely designed jeeps serve as a budget-friendly way to navigate the city, although they can be crowded during peak hours.
For a more immersive experience, consider renting a bicycle or taking a guided walking tour. Exploring Manila on foot or two wheels allows you to soak up the city’s vibrant atmosphere while discovering hidden gems along the way.
4. Where to Stay – Examples
Manila offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs and budget. Here are a few examples of recommended hotels in different price ranges:
- Z Hostel – Located in the heart of Makati, Z Hostel offers affordable dormitory and private room options. The rooftop bar provides stunning views of the city skyline.
- Tambayan Capsule Hostel – Situated in Malate, this trendy hostel offers unique capsule-style beds and a vibrant social atmosphere.
- The Henry Hotel – Nestled in Pasay City, this boutique hotel combines modern design with a touch of nostalgia. The lush gardens and stylish interiors create a tranquil oasis in the midst of the city.
- Hotel H2O – Perfectly situated beside Manila Ocean Park, Hotel H2O offers stylish rooms with stunning views of the marine-themed park.
- The Peninsula Manila – This iconic five-star hotel in Makati is renowned for its elegant accommodations, exceptional service, and luxurious amenities.
- Shangri-La at the Fort – Located in Bonifacio Global City, this upscale hotel boasts spacious rooms, multiple dining options, and a world-class spa.
5. Where and What to Eat
Manila’s culinary scene is a delightful fusion of flavors, drawing inspiration from various cultures and traditions. Here are some must-visit places and dishes to savor during your stay:
Street Food Adventure:
Explore the vibrant street food scene in Manila and sample local favorites such as:
- Balut: A fertilized duck embryo, often boiled and eaten with salt and vinegar.
- Isaw: Grilled chicken or pork intestines on skewers, often marinated and served with spicy vinegar.
- Halo-Halo: A refreshing dessert made with crushed ice, sweet beans, fruits, jellies, and topped with leche flan and ube (purple yam) ice cream.
Traditional Filipino Cuisine:
Indulge in traditional Filipino dishes at these renowned restaurants:
- Aristocrat Restaurant: Known for its famous chicken barbecue and other classic Filipino dishes, this restaurant has been a favorite for decades.
- Café Adriatico: Located in Malate, this cozy restaurant serves Filipino comfort food and offers a nostalgic ambiance.
Fusion and International Cuisine:
For a taste of global flavors, try these popular dining establishments:
- Purple Yam: Experience modern Filipino cuisine with a twist, showcasing innovative dishes made with local ingredients.
- Blackbird: Housed in a beautifully restored art-deco building, Blackbird offers a fusion of European and Asian flavors, complemented by stunning views of the city.
6. Coworking Opportunities
If you’re a digital nomad or need a workspace during your visit to Manila, the city offers a variety of coworking spaces with excellent amenities. Here are a few noteworthy options:
With multiple locations across the city, Acceler8 provides stylish workspaces, meeting rooms, and networking opportunities. They offer flexible membership options to suit various needs.
Situated in key business districts, Common Ground offers a collaborative environment, state-of-the-art facilities, and regular community events. Their spaces are designed to foster productivity and innovation.
Clock In provides coworking spaces in convenient locations, equipped with high-speed internet, meeting rooms, and 24/7 access. They offer both hot desk and dedicated desk options.
Manila, with its rich history, cultural diversity, and exciting attractions, is a city that truly captivates the senses. From exploring historical landmarks in Intramuros to immersing oneself in the bustling Chinatown of Binondo, Manila offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity. With this comprehensive guide, you’re now equipped to embark on an unforgettable journey through the vibrant streets of Manila. So, pack your bags, embrace the energy of the city, and get ready to create lasting memories in the Philippines’ captivating capital.