The ancient walled district of Intramuros is always a good place to start exploring. Stop by San Agustin Church and Museum, the only building in town that survived World War II. Pretty impressive!
For a quiet walk beside Manila’s modern skyline, escape to Fort Santiago, a Spanish citadel in Intramuros. Today it’s a peaceful retreat and museum, but back in the 16th century, Fort Santiago protected Manila from numerous enemies. You can’t call it a day without an arvo at the National Museum, where you’ll trace Filipino history through art and cultural exhibitions.
If you’re thinking, “Enough with the old stuff, I wanna go shopping!” Manila hotels near Divisoria Market, an open-air, covered collection of vendors, are your best bet. Be prepared for a sensory overload of treats and souvenirs to take home. If the words “bargain shopping” don’t stop you in your tracks, first of all, try it, you might like it! Second of all, you probably want accommodation near Bonifacio Global City, with its upscale shops, restaurants and shiny new buildings.
When you want to appeal to your sense of taste, eat your heart out in the square around the Andres Bonifacio Monument. Take your pick from international chains, lovely little bistros and cocktail bars…or EAT ALL THE FOOD. With a belly full of camaron rebosado—battered prawns—head back to hotels in Manila to dream of tomorrow’s adventures or stay out all night dancing in the clubs on Roxas Boulevard.
Flights to Manila touch down at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, about 12km south of downtown. If you stick to busier neighbourhoods, you can easily navigate the city with the metro system. Unique to the Pacific Islands, jeepneys offer transit to many popular sights, but these renovated Jeeps are not as well-regulated as the rail lines. When in doubt, take a taxi.
Manila loves a good parade, festival and feast! There is typically at least one festival per month, so you’ve got a good chance of seeing a statue of some sort leading a parade, followed by lots and lots of food. In September, the Kalesa Festival celebrates the love-hate relationship between Filipinos and this version of a horse-drawn carriage with music, dance and of course…rides in horse-drawn carriages!
If you like a party, December is your new favourite month. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on the first Sunday of the month, is a Virgin Mary extravaganza, with more than 80 icons paraded through the streets. If you prefer sparkly things and food, Christmas festivals throughout the city are ready to please your palate with some of the best food in Manila—and make your holiday truly “explosive” with fireworks displays.
For the adventurous, the Feast of the Black Nazarene in January is fascinating. The streets will be packed as the Black Nazarene statue is pushed, pulled and lifted through town; this parade is tumultuous, to say the least. Pro tip: It’s wise to book accommodation in Manila near Quiapo Church, make sure you’ve got a good zoom lens and then watch from afar.
When the sun is shining on Manila holidays, it’s time to hit the parks. The best is Ninoy Aquino Park and Wildlife Center in Quezon City, where you can see the largest eagle in the world. It eats monkeys! Small monkeys, but still. It’s also got snakes, tigers and bearcats—yes, that’s a thing, and they are either super cute or terrifying, depending on who you ask.
More into relaxing sunsets than eagles who eat small mammals? Well, we don’t blame you. Take a stroll along San Miguel by the Bay and take your pick of waterfront patio dining establishments. Better yet, grab some grub from a vendor and enjoy the soothing sounds of the fountain as you watch the sun go down.
If you’ve been itching to climb Taal Volcano since you saw it out your airplane window, now’s your chance. Hike up to the main crater for strangely satisfying snaps of sulphurous pools and dramatic landscapes that will get you plenty of comments on Facebook. If you’re not into hiking active volcanoes, book the Tagaytay Ridge & Manila City Tour and see it from afar, then get an afternoon tour of the capital with some sweet insider info.
This city is a popular stopover point, so spending just one day in Manila isn’t too unusual…although we still think you should give it more time. You could spend a whole day just exploring Intramuros, which is home to tons of history. Three popes have visited the Manila Cathedral, and you can definitely trust their opinions! In the Plaza de Armas, check out the shrine to Jose Rizal, which houses one of his vertebrae, among other, less creepy relics.
Did we mention the sunset? Oh yeah, we did, because it’s that important. Gorgeous fiery sunsets and halo-halo are two of the Philippine’s biggest claims to fame, and you can combine them both on the San Miguel by the Bay promenade. What’s halo-halo? It literally translates to “jumble-jumble”, which is accurate, but not very helpful. It’s sort of a drink/ice cream/leche combination, with too many ingredients to list here. Just try it.
Manila’s eclectic blend of history, nightlife and delicious food entices enterprising travellers from the world over. And Wotif’s diverse selection of places to stay in Manila is ready for them—and for you. Book today and hop across the South Pacific to adventure!
Hotels in Manila start at NZ$39 per night. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.