Metro ManilaMetro Manila is the country’s economic, political and cultural capital. And it’s chaotic in the best way possible. From the colourful, roaring jeepneys to the dancing traffic enforcers, to the karaoke machines blasting 80s ballads in the streets, everywhere you go is teeming with life. Top 10 Activities
All you need to know about Manila
Metro Manila is one of Asia’s premier regions composed of 16 cities and 1 municipality, with major central business districts in the capital Manila, Makati, Quezon City, Parañaque, Pasay, Muntinlupa and Taguig City with its Bonifacio Global City dubbed the Metro’s lifestyle hub.
Blending charming Spanish colonial architecture, world-class museums and galleries and the world’s oldest Chinatown with some of the biggest and best shopping malls on Earth. The vibrant bay side Filipino capital Manila is also a foodie paradise that was much revered by celebrity chef, author and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain.
Why it’s more fun in Manila
From bamboo-bike tours to artisan shopping, and from contemporary art venues to casinos, the Philippine capital is a world in itself, with something to appeal to all ages and tastes when it comes to things to see and do.
Culture & Food
Manila packs a lot of culture into a small space – many of its major sites are in the walled Intramuros, including the Spanish-era Fort Santiago with its shrine-museum to José Rizal, Manila Cathedral, UNESCO-listed San Agustin Church (the Philippines’ oldest), Casa Manila museum of Spanish colonial furniture and art, and Rizal Bagumbayan Light and Sound Museum of colonial and modern history. Other venues in which to learn about Filipino history and culture and art are the Bahay Tsinoy museum of Chinese history, Ayala Museum of Filipino history and artifacts, National Museum of Anthropology, Malacañang Palace presidential museum, and National Museum of Fine Arts, while for kids there’s the Exploreum science museum, Museo Pambata children’s museum and the National Museum of Natural History.
A densely populated city melding many different cultures and influences, Manila is unsurprisingly lively all-year-round, with religious processions, live music, theatre, famous drag shows or plenty of speakeasies and videoke/karaoke bars.
Traditional and new-wave Filipino, Spanish and Chinese fare lead the eclectic dining scene in Manila, but locals are also mad about Japanese food, American diner classics and global food in general – meaning everyone will find something to please and new flavours to experience, all of it stunningly great value. Don’t miss seafood made to your taste at a dampa such as Pasay, where you buy ingredients to be cooked at an on-site restaurant.
FIlipino Seafood Paella
Top Events & Festivals
- Black Nazarene Procession – 9 January and Good Friday
The carrying of the life-sized image of a dark-skinned Jesus Christ, housed in the city’s Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene.
- Bamboo Organ Festival – Late February
Global musicians paying homage to Las Piñas’ iconic organ.
- Fringe Manila – February and March
Two to three-week event showcasing local artists and performers in the city’s galleries and theatres.
- Aliwan Fiesta – April and May
Dance parades and float competitions in Pasay City.
- Philippine Independence Day – 12 June
Celebrations and a parade in Rizal Park to mark independence from Spain.
- Fête de la Musique – Mid-June
Celebration of music organised by the Alliance Française, with two main stages and 30+ themed stages hosting reggae, blues, punk and more.
- Philippine Travel Mart – September
Annual event showcasing Philippines destinations
- Christmas celebrations – From 1 September
Tropical Manila is hot and humid year-round, with daytime temperatures averaging 19-39°C.
The coolest months are January to February and the hottest are March to May.
The dry season lasts from late November to early March; the wet season the rest of the year features short intense spells of rainfall.
Check out the weather today in Manila
Top 10 things to do in Manila
Gate of Fort Santiago Intramuros
1. Walled City of Intramuros
Tour the Walled City of Intramuros (the colonial walled city) by horse-drawn carriage or eco-friendly bamboo bicycle.
2. Street food
Sample the city’s famous street food at venues including Shipyard in Malate, discover the authentic hole-in-the-wall restaurants of Binondo Chinatown, or go on a food and pub crawl of the trendy Poblacion neighbourhood in Makati. Another foodie hotspot is the Mercato Centrale in BGC, Taguig.
3. Sunset view
Stroll the waterfront Baywalk for its sunset views over Manila Bay and openair cafés and food stalls.
Manila Bay Sunset
4. Discover old Manila
Take a Pasig River tour or Manila Bay cruise for a different view of Old Manila and Makati.
5. Foam Rizal Park
Roam Rizal Park (‘Luneta’) with its open-air chess, monument to national hero José Rizal and National Museum of Natural History Philippines.
6. Filipino Art
Soak up contemporary Filipino art and the Philippine Gold Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, and at 1335 Mabini Art Gallery located in Makati City.
Shop ’till you drop, whether at the vast Bayfront SM Mall of Asia or the many artisan outlets.
National Museum of Natural History Rey Melvin Caraan
Explore quirky architecture ranging from the Coconut Palace (by prior booking only) to the Art Deco First United Building.
9. Expos, museums & casinos
Discover Cubao Expo, an alternative village with boutiques, bars and cheap eats. Let off steam at the Upside Down Museum of Illusions, Art In Island museum and the casinos.
10. Day trips
Take a day-trip to Corregidor Island; Tagaytay Ridge, People’s Park in the Sky and Taal Volcano; or Mount Pinatubo crater lake.
Where to stay in Manila
Makati: The centrally located financial district but also a cultural and entertainment hub, home to Raffles and Fairmont hotels but catering to a variety of budgets.
Ortigas: Manila’s second Central Business District, with two of the city’s biggest malls and mainly upscale hotels.
Malate and Ermita: Handy Manila Bay districts just south of Intramuros, with popular attractions, lively nightlife scenes and plenty of options for budget travellers.
Pasay: The closest area to the airport, home to SM Mall of Asia, Baywalk, a vast array of dining and nightlife and a wide choice of accommodation for all budgets.
New World Makati Hotel
Getting there & away
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are the premier international gateways. More than 30 airlines fly to Manila through here, from different cities around the world.
Manila is also accessible from the international airports of Cebu, Clark, Davao, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Laoag, Puerto Princesa, and Zamboanga; as well as the other domestic airports throughout the Philippines.
All major provincial cities would have bus a service to Manila. Inquire at your local terminal for schedules and ticketing.
You can take a passenger ferry from major ports around the Philippines to the port city of Manila. Inquire at your local port for schedules and ticketing.
It is also possible to travel from Sandakan, Malaysia to Zamboanga City, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi via Weesam Express. Then take a flight, boat ride or series of bus rides to Manila.
More travel info
For more general information on travel to and around the Philippine Islands, visit our travel information section:
Maps, travel tips, information on visas, working holidays and health and safety.
Wake up in Metro Manila
As we wait for the day to travel once again, discover the wonders that await you in our 7,641 islands from the comfort of your home. Stay at home, dream, and wake up in the Philippines.
Download our Manila brochure here
Find out more information about the destination. Maps, attractions, shopping, activities, eating out, nightlife, accommodation and other useful links and contacts.
Book a holiday
Dreaming of heading to the Philippines? Plan your next adventure and book your ultimate Philippines holiday today. Check out some of the great packages that are currently on offer from tour operators below.
Grand Tour of the Philippines
Grand tour of the Philippines’ is a comprehensive 23-day exploration of the most important islands in the Philippine archipelago. Visit the famous rice terraces, picturesque Negos, Bohol and Cebu islands taking in both history and pristine beaches.
23 days from £4,785pp
Classic Tour of the Philippines
Culturally and geographically removed from the rest of Southeast Asia, this green archipelago is best known for its pristine beaches. Spend time in the capital city of Manila, trek to an Ifugao village or visit the stunning rice terraces of Banaue.
15 days from £3,725pp
Philippines Northern Explorer & Beach Escape
Explore the majestic scenery of the north and gain a real insight into the traditional cultures and warm hospitality of the Philippines. Tour highlights include the stunning Banaue rice terraces, Sagada’s ‘hanging coffins’ and Boracay’s white-sand beaches
13 days from £1,879pp
Travel inspiration via Instagram
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