Things to Do in the Philippines

15 Fun & Unique Things to Do in Manila

Manila, do you keep coming back to Manila? Before we break into song and dance, Manila has developed a reputation for being a city that’s a host to a lot of activities. Being the capital of the 7,641 island archipelago of the Philippines, it always has something up its sleeve.

Check out these top activities to do when in Manila:

For those who like to chill
For those who have no chill
For those who want to relive history
For those interested in a food trip

Note: For those who didn’t get the reference in the first line, kindly look for Gary Valenciano’s song entitled “Manila.” In fact, we suggest you to listen to it while browsing through this article.

For those who like to chill

1. Take a Cruise

manila_bay_cruise

photo via Sun Cruises Facebook

Take in the red and orange hues of the Manila sunset while aboard a dinner cruise. Enjoy live entertainment and a dinner buffet or set dinner while taking in the most stunning view that Manila Bay has to offer.

For an hour and a half, you can enjoy the calming waves and beautiful skies as you sail away from the hustle and bustle of bayside vendors, restaurants, and more.

  • Location: Esplanade Seaside Park, Seaside Blvd., MOA Complex (View Map)
  • Cost(s): P650/person Dinner buffet (Fridays to Sundays), P550/person Set dinner (Mondays to Thursdays)
  • Operation hours: 10am-10pm (Fridays to Sundays), 8am-10pm (Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays)
  • Highlight: The magnificent view of the famous golden sunset.
  • Insider info: Make sure to arrive one hour prior to your schedule. Latecomers will not be accommodated.
  • Contact details:
  • Phone numbers: (02) 354-7005, 628-9751, 628-9752/0998-9683256, 0998-9683056, 0917-5132625
    Website: www.corregidorphilippines.com
    Facebook: @Sun Cruises

2. Go to the Park

With the famous Jose Rizal monument standing at its forefront, Luneta or Rizal Park is a 59-hectare national park that family, friends, and couples enjoy visiting.

It is home to the country’s tallest flagpole, to statues of heroes who fought for Philippines Independence and is where several martyr’s and Jose Rizal were executed.

History lovers or those feeling a bit nostalgic has ample time to take in the history and to enjoy the beautiful venue it has become today.

  • Location: Roxas Blvd., Ermita (View Map)
  • Fee(s): Free in most areas except for the Chinese Garden (P10), Japanese Garden (P10), and The Martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal (P20)
  • Operation hours: 5am-9pm (Mondays to Sundays)
  • Contact details:
  • Phone numbers: (02) 302-7381
    Website: www.npdc.gov.ph
    Facebook: @NPDC.PH

3. Have Coffee at the Red Light District

cafe_adriatico

photo via LJC Restaurant Group Facebook

If you feel like “people-watching” in Manila’s red light district, then head over to Cafe Adriatico in Malate. It offers delicious, Spanish-Filipino dishes and coffee to satisfy your cravings.

It’s a surprisingly cozy cafe in the middle of a busy area – a nice getaway two steps away from hectic city life.

We recommend you try the Grilled Tanguingue with Onions and their Bearnaise sauce isn’t too shabby at all on their steaks. It costs roughly P800-1,200 for two.

  • Location: 1790 Adriatico Street, Remedios Circle, Malate
  • Operation hours: 7am-3am (Sundays to Mondays), 7am-5am (Tuesdays to Wednesdays), 7am-6pm (Thursdays to Saturdays)
  • Highlight(s): Get Instagram-worthy snaps of the interiors, food, and yourself.
  • Contact details:
  • Phone numbers: (02) 738-8220
    Website: Cafe-Adriatico
    Facebook: @LJCRestaurantGroup

4. Watch the Sunset

If you like long walks and street food, then visit Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard. Make sure you start walking from north to south, grabbing snacks along the way – be it boiled peanuts, corn on the cob, and other yummy street food.

Manila Bay is a natural harbor which serves the Port of Manila (Luzon), in the Philippines. It is situated in the western part of Luzon and is bounded by Cavite and Metro Manila on the east, Bulacan and Pampanga on the north, and Bataan on the west and northwest.

The strip is open anytime, though we advise you begin your stroll in the late afternoon so that you enjoy the cooler weather and can watch the sunset.

  • Location: Manila Bay, Roxas Boulevard (View Map)
  • Fee(s): FREE
  • Operation hours: 24/7
  • Highlight(s): Excellent place to view the famous golden sunset of Manila.
  • Contact details:
  • Website: themanilabay.denr.gov.ph/

  • Activity tips:
    – While you are around in Manila, try to enjoy the variety of food restaurant and street shops.

5. Visit an Oceanarium

manila_ocean_park

photo via Manila Ocean Park Facebook

Located behind the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park, the Manila Ocean Park is the country’s biggest oceanarium.

Home to about 14,000 sea creatures including Humboldt penguins, jellyfish and more, it is the perfect place to bring your family, especially the kids.

Open daily, ticket prices vary depending on the attractions you’d want to visit: there’s a shark and ray encounter, mermaid swim experience, a chance for you to feed penguins and an underwater diving experience designed to introduce you to the park’s marine life.

  • Location: Behind Quirino Grandstand Luneta (View Map)
  • Fee(s): Ticket prices vary depending on the attractions, visit the online ticketing for more details.
  • Operation hours: 10am-8pm (Mondays to Fridays), 9am-8pm (Saturdays to Sundays)
  • Highlight(s): Enjoy day and night fun and excitement with attractions and shows at Manila Ocean Park.
  • Insider info: Experience the ultimate Manila Ocean Park adventure as it levels up with Ocean’s Sky Wonder, which features 10-in-1 attractions for the whole family to enjoy.
  • Contact details:
  • Phone numbers: (02) 567-7777 local 118, 119, and 123
    Website: www.manilaoceanpark.com
    Facebook: @manilaoceanparkofficial

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For those who have no chill

6. Join the Procession of the Black Nazarene

Every January 9, millions of Black Nazarene devotees gather in Manila to commemorate the transferring of a beloved statue of Jesus Christ from a church in Intramuros to Quiapo Church, back in 1767.

As many as 15 million Catholics partake in the modern-day procession from Quirino grandstand to Quiapo church, which may take more than 8 hours – since the roads are jam-packed with devotees.

The procession is a means for Filipinos to manifest their faith and resiliency and can be overwhelming. This is definitely not for the faint of heart.

  • Location: Quiapo (View Map)
  • Fee(s): FREE
  • Insider info: This feast has been declared a holiday in Manila due to the expectation of traffic and millions of people participate in the procession.
  • Activity tips:
  • – Bring bottled water, a face towel, and snacks.
    – Wear sunscreen and hats.
    – Dress simply and don’t bring expensive stuff.

7. Shopping and More Shopping

divisoria

Divisoria is a one-stop shop for anything and everything: spare trolley wheels, clothes, fine china, toys, shoes, kitchenware and more.

With prices dramatically lower than those you’d find in shopping malls – the real icing on the cake is the fact that you can still haggle for a much lower price.

Though there are malls within the area that provide air-conditioning and that are much more organized, that takes away from the experience of shopping in Divisoria.

So put your sneakers on, dress down, avoid wearing jewelry or anything flashy and head off to shop until you drop.

  • Location: Located between Tabora and Sto. Cristo streets of Binondo area. (View Map)
  • Operation hours: 8am-10pm (Mondays to Sundays)
  • Highlight(s): Getting huge savings!
  • Insider info: Check out every alley, if you have time to spare, as there are many hidden stores selling great stuff.
  • Activity tips:
  • – Set your budget.
    – Make a list to save time.

8. Visit and Meet the People of Manila’s Poorest Slums

If you’re looking for something to do that’s truly off the beaten path, then head over to Manila’s slums, cemetery and markets.

Smokey Tours guides interested individuals through the nittiest and grittiest places that Manila has to offer. Even better though is that it shines the spotlight on Manila’s poorest citizens – revealing their hopes and fears, what life is like, their cost of living and more.

Participants get to interact with the people and later on get to try different Filipino delicacies at the market.

  • Location: Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, Kaybagal South
  • Fee(s): Depends on the reservation of tours. Go to the booking form on the website for more details.
  • Operation hours: Office hours are from 10am-6pm (Mondays to Fridays)
  • Highlight(s): Experience a different side of Manila and get a humbling eye-opener.
  • Insider info: You need to book and confirm in advance.
  • Contact details:
  • Phone numbers: 0917-5785398, (02) 622-1325
    Website: www.smokeytours.com
    Facebook: @smokeytours

  • Activity tip:
  • – Wear rubber, covered shoes.
    – Dress comfortably and modestly.
    – The best time to do the activity is during the summer season.

9. Help Search for a Missing Actress in Escolta

Manila Who is a story-driven walk meant to encourage millennials to detach from their devices and usual hangouts and to check out Old Manila.

Basically, you and your friends have two mysteries that you can solve. The indoor option costs P450 and is entitled, The Tale of the Cursed Painting.

The more popular option though, is the outdoor mystery which costs P800 and leads participants from one building to another in a bid to find missing actress, Rose Abad.

The latter option may take up 3 hours with participants dressing up in costume to fit into the 1950’s theme, and of course, they are accompanied by guides who are acting and are part of the mystery, as well.

  • Location: Manila (View Map)
  • Fee(s): Tour packages vary.
  • Operation hours: 11am, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm (Tuesdays to Sundays)
  • Highlight(s): Solving the mystery.
  • Contact details:
  • Phone numbers: (02) 244-3166, 975-8886/0917-8688872
    Website: manilawho.wixsite.com/manilawho
    Facebook: @ManilaWho

  • Activity tips:
  • – Wear comfortable clothing and footwear.
    – Avoid scheduling the Escolta Experience tour during the rainy season since the activity is outdoors.

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For those who want to relive history

10. Walk Down Historical Streets in Intramuros

intramuros

Built by the Spanish in 1571, Intramuros spans 64 hectares and is enclosed by stone walls to protect its then high-society inhabitants from foreign invaders.

Despite several wars and natural disasters, plenty of colonial houses and structures have remained standing – including UNESCO world heritage site, the San Agustin church.

There are several tours that you can avail of: bamboo bike, pedicab, on a horse-drawn carriage or a walking tour.

If you get hungry, you can enjoy native dishes and traditional Filipino dances at Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant located in Plaza San Luis. Pro tip: start your journey at the beautiful Manila Cathedral and work your way inside the compound.

  • Location: Intramuros City (View Map)
  • Fee(s): FREE
  • Operation hours: Open daily
  • Highlight(s): Walk down memory lane and discover Manila’s glorious past.
  • Insider info: Check tour packages online.
  • Contact details:
  • Website: www.intramuros.gov.ph

  • Activity tips:
  • – Slather on sunscreen especially when the heat reaches scorching temperatures.
    – Wear hats, caps, or scarves and don’t forget to bring an umbrella.

11. Visit An Art Museum

The National Museum of Fine Arts is home to the Spolarium – a gigantic painting more than four metres high and seven-and-a-half metres wide.

Visit the galleries of Amorsolo and marvel at the works of Rizal. Don’t forget to admire the neoclassical building itself, which was built in 1921.

Also, make sure you don’t skip the top floors where the collection of Filipino contemporary art is.

  • Location: Padre Burgos Ave., Ermita (View Map)
  • Fee(s): FREE
  • Operation hours: 10am-5pm (Tuesdays to Sundays)
  • Adventure level: Mild
  • Highlight(s): See the history pieces such as the art galleries, grand Old Session Hall of the Philippine Senate and other hand crafts.
  • Insider info: If you’re going as a group, take note that it is not allowed on Sundays.
  • Contact details:
  • Phone numbers: (02) 527-7889
    Website: www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph
    Facebook: @nationalmuseumofthephilippines

  • Activity tips:
  • – Take note of the things not allowed inside the Museum including art materials other tan pencils, bags, tripods, long umbrellas to name a few.

12. Visit Old and Historical Churches

quiapo_church

A trip to Manila is never complete without visiting a church. First stop is the home of the Black Nazarene, Quiapo Church.

Next, you should visit Manila Cathedral. Established in 1571, the church was destroyed several times by earthquakes and once by allied bombings.

The present cathedral took four years to construct, but was well worth the effort – since then, Manila Cathedral has been merited a papal endorsement from Pope Gregory XIII and has hosted three apostolic visits from Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis.

  • Location: 910 Plaza Miranda, Quiapo (View Map)
  • Operation hours: Open daily
  • Highlight(s): Seeing the famed Black Nazarene.
  • Insider info: The church never closes.
  • Website: www.quiapochurch.com
    Facebook: @quiapochurch

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For those interested in a food trip

13. Have Coffee Next to the President

casa_roces

photo via Casa Roces Facebook

Formerly an ancestral home, Casa Roces is an elegantly decorated Spanish-inspired restaurant that sits right across Malacanang Palace.

On the ground floor, patrons can enjoy a cup of coffee during the day and cocktails, wine and liquor at night at the outdoor wooden deck. They can also go through the gift shop for memorabilia and other little trinkets.

But if you’re hungry, and looking for more than just a drink, then head on up to the second floor where the bistro is. Estimated budget for two is at P2,000. There’s also an art and family heritage gallery for patrons who want to delve a little more into the history of the house.

  • Location: 1153 JP Laurel cor Aguado St., San Miguel (View Map)
  • Operation hours: 8am-10pm (Mondays to Fridays), 10am-10pm (Saturdays to Sundays)
  • Contact details:
  • Phone numbers: (02) 735-5896, 488-1929/0917-550743
    Website: www.casaroces.com
    Facebook: @casarocesphils

  • Activity tips:
  • – Reserve a table in advance.

14. Go to China!

lucky_chinatown

Founded in 1594, the Spanish had “Binondo” put up near Intramuros so that they could keep a watchful eye on the Chinese Catholics.

Today, Binondo is known as the world’s oldest Chinatown and is still as busy and lively now, as it was then.

We recommend that you visit Wai Ying, this is a just a hole in the wall restaurant that has become the go-to place for people craving for old-fashioned dimsum. Their costs are also as minimal as they get, about PHP 70 for a dimsum basket.

Another place that you can check out is, Quik Snack which has been around since 1968 and features dishes such as crispy tofu and camaron rebusado. Their pancit is also considered one of the best in the area.

  • Location: 810 Benavidez Street, Binondo (View Map)
  • Highlight(s): Amazing food finds and historic architecture.

15. Eat at the Hepa-Lane

R. Papa Street in Morayta is famous for two things: it’s incredibly cheap street food and it’s shortened nickname: “Hepa Lane” or Hepatitis Lane. You can get a meal for two for less than a dollar and in all honesty, they’re pretty good.

Although its infamous nickname comes from doubtful stories of people getting hepatitis here due to the cheap food, many university students continue to take their meals here. Have dimsum, bacon, hotdogs, chicken, and burger steak meals here – all for about the fraction of the price in other places.

It costs less than P25 for a rice meal and we recommend that you look around before deciding on a place to eat.

  • Location: R.Papa Street Manila, it’s in between the Lepanto Gate of UE and FEU Gymnasium (View Map)
  • Cost(s): Food ranges from P10 to P50 pesos
  • Highlight(s): Known for the cheapest and variety of street foods.
  • Activity tips:
  • – Keep an eye on your personal belongings especially if dining out.

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