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Architect's Travel Bucket List Series: Philippines (The City of Manila)

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

The capital of the Philippines; the "Pearl of the Orient," is Manila. This thriving historic city is filled with attractions. There are numerous dining alternatives as well as museums, parks, theaters, shopping malls, and other attractions.

Manila is frequently the starting point for excursions to numerous provinces that are home to picturesque islands, breathtaking beaches, and a variety of natural wonders. Manila, on the other hand, is very diverse. This lovely city provides a wide range of great adventures.


The historical and cultural legacy of the Philippines is reflected in its architecture. The most significant historical buildings in the country were influenced by the architecture of China, Spain, Austronesia and the United States.

Spanish architecture predominated since Spain colonized the Philippines during a protracted 330-year period. Cathedrals and churches were constructed all over the nation during Spanish colonial rule. This was aslo the beginning of the traditional Bahay na bató in the Philippines.

When the Philippines were governed by the US, American architecture was reflected in local architecture. The City of Manila was developed during this time, with renowned American and Filipino architects serving as the majority of the designers. Many neoclassical and art-deco buildings were started. During WWII, several of these were destroyed.

The Marcos era saw the start of modern architecture, however many structures deteriorated as a result of Martial Law. Modern architectural development picked up after 1986. Early in the twenty-first century, designs included traditional Filipino architectural elements.


Visit the National Museum of the Philippines

The National Museum of the Philippines can be of interest to you if you enjoy learning about arts, history, culture, and other things. There are many intriguing things to discover, and it is affordable. Choose from one of its four complexes, or better yet, check them all out:

The National Museum of Fine Arts

Here, you can see artwork and constructions created in both the classical and modern periods in Filipino history. Here, Juan Luna's "Spoliarium" is on display.

The rich diversity of the Philippine environment is highlighted by the National Museum of Natural History. Don't forget to take pictures in the Instagram-worthy exhibits like the skeleton of Lolong (the largest crocodile in captivity), the Tree of Life, the glass elevator, and the roof with the canopy-inspired design.

Collections of anthropological and archaeological artifacts can be found at the National Museum of Anthropology. This is where you can find the renowned "Baybayin" script that our ancestors used.

The National Planetarium uses a variety of mediums and technology to present astronomical knowledge, including lectures, full-dome digital and mobile planetarium performances, exhibitions, demonstrations, and actual celestial observations.

Visit the Lakbay Museo

The Lakbay Museo interactive museum in Pasay City has Instagram-worthy displays and interactive stations that promote the best of the Philippines. Presently, it allows visitors to experience the rich history and wonderful food of the country. It is exactly like taking a quick tour of the Philippines.

Take the opportunity to enter the museum in a jeep, a vinta, or an airplane that represent the three primary modes of transportation available in the Philippines. You will then have the opportunity to dress in authentic hand-woven patterns and materials similar to what the locals wear in the various provinces.

Go to Intramuros

Because of its historic walls, fortresses, gates, and buildings that represent Manila's illustrious history, Intramuros is regarded as the city's premier tourist attraction. The following highlights can be included in your itinerary:

  • Fort Santiago is a historical site because it served as Dr. Jose Rizal's detention facility before he was executed at Luneta. Take a photo, of course. During the Spanish American War, Filipino soldiers used the dungeons in this fort as hiding places. Explore it.

  • Manila Cathedral houses the administrative headquarters for the Manila Archdiocese and is renowned for its ornate interior decor.

  • San Agustin Church is the Philippines' oldest stone church and a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its exquisitely detailed interiors and ceiling construction.

  • Casa Manila, located across from the San Agustin Church, is a recreation of a nineteenth-century Spanish colonial home.

HOT TIP: While inside the Intramuros, ride a kalesa or calesa (two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage) or try the newest Bambike (bamboo bicycles) Ecotours!

Explore famous malls / districts

If you don't want to drive to neighboring towns, there are several fantastic mall complexes that can provide you with the entertainment you seek:

  • The fourth-largest mall in the nation is SM Mall of Asia, usually referred to as SM MOA. It is made up of four enormous structures that contain a range of shops, eateries, an IMAX cinema, an ice rink, and other attractions. Enjoy the boardwalk's sea breeze and the amusement park's pleasure.

  • If you enjoy shopping and exploring new places, you can visit Taguig's Bonifacio High Street. You can choose from a wide variety of stores and Instagram-worthy locations.

  • Greenbelt: This is the place to go if you want luxury shopping. Here you can find high-end brands. Additionally, there are other well-known retail malls in the area, including Landmark, Glorietta, and SM Makati. The entire day won't be sufficient.

  • Greenhills Shopping Center is the best place to find fantastic prices and even knockoffs of well-known brands if you have a limited budget. The mall also has a top-notch theater and cinemas.

Go to neighboring tourist destinations / attractions

Day Trip Excursions to neighboring towns or cities are possible from Manila. With one to two hour drive, you can reach famous attractions nearby.

  • Asylum Manila – A spine-tingling attraction was created from this old psychiatric hospital. Moving through creepy laboratories, cemeteries, operating rooms, crypts, and small, dark corridors will take you at least an hour. You best be on the lookout because monsters are nearby and ready to attack.

  • Ocean Park – The first and biggest oceanarium in the Philippines, Manila Ocean Park, is a great place to spend the day. View a range of aquatic animals, including sharks, fish, birds, and even penguins.

  • Who would want to miss the Enchanted Kingdom? It's sort of like a Disney version of the Philippines! There are fun rides that the whole family may enjoy.


In Manila, lodging is easy to come by. All you need to do is decide where you want to stay while keeping your planned activities in mind. Intramuros is the best site to experience old Manila, although Makati and Taguig are the best areas to visit if you want to be in the commercial district.

If you're looking for accommodations in the five-star range, click on the link below:

Visit the below site for affordable yet comfortable lodging options:


Jeepneys! A Philippine trademark by itself. You can find them anywhere, passing through the major roads and minor streets and alleys.

Bus - We have ordinary (non-airconditioned) and air-conditioned ones who has generous routes going through the major roads in Metro Manila, as well as regional buses going outside the city.

Train lines - LRT & MRT, although stations are limited within the main city, is a great way to avoid traffic ( but take note to avoid peak hours in the morning and in the afternoon!)

The Kalesa and Bambike EcoTours, as mentioned earlier on this post, to wander inside Intramuros, or Binondo (The Philippines's Chinatown)

Taxis, jeepneys, ride-hailing services, buses, the Light Rail Transit (LRT), the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), and hired automobiles are just a few of the numerous transportation options available in Manila. Walking is another option for short distances, however due to the humid climate taking the public transportation is preferred.

Metro Manila's main routes are served by both non-airconditioned and airconditioned buses. Locals commuting to work mostly use these. Shared vans are also used; simply ask ahead of time where you can find them. Jeepneys and tricycles are also options.

Trains are the most efficient mode of transportation. The Manila Metro Rail Transit, the Light Rail Transit 1, and the Light Rail Transit 2 are the three rail network systems in use in Manila.

If you want to travel in comfort, Grab, taxis and hotel limousines are also available, though they are more expensive.


Filipinos love eating. We have a wide variety of food options, including street foods, buffets, and fine dining, which is why the culinary industry is thriving. Visiting Manila will provide you with a culinary adventure ranging from inexpensive local cafeterias / restaurants to fine dining experiences. I love buffets, so here are some options to consider:

  • Buffet 101 is known as the Philippines' largest buffet and serves Western, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Filipino cuisines. Salmon sashimi, tempura, garlic buttered shrimp, sisig, roast beef, and pork belly are among the menu favorites. They have 4 branches in Metro Manila.

  • Cabalen is famous for its Kapampangan cuisine, but they also serve popular Filipino dishes like lechong kawali, pritchon, kare-kare, ginataang tilapia, dinuguan, bringhe, and pinakbet. Filipino desserts such as halo halo and kakanins are also among the best choices. It is budget friendly too.

  • Dad's World Buffet is now one of Manila's most popular buffet restaurants. Crispy pata, grilled salmon belly, and bulalo are popular dishes. There are 70 sushi creations, fresh and marinated sashimi, and other items in the Japanese section. The carving station, where you can find various premium meats from around the world, is a crowd favorite.

  • Marriott Café is one of the best buffet restaurants in Manila in terms of quality and variety. It offers both local and international cuisine. They are well-known for their seafood section, from which you can select and have it prepared to your liking.

  • The Medley Buffet at the Okada Hotel offers a variety of different cuisines, including Western, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Filipino dishes. Crabs, shrimp, and clams are on show at their wonderful seafood buffet. You can ask that it be made and brought to your table by the staff.

Other famous restaurants as per the locals are:

  • Manam

  • Wildflour Cafe + Bakery

  • La Cathedral Cafe

  • Rustic Mornings by Isabelo

  • Blackbird

  • Barbara's Heritage Restaurant

  • Lemuria Gourmet Restaurant

  • Shanghai Fried Siopao


Along with food "pasalubong," people frequently bring the following items back from Manila:

  1. Philippine pearls

  2. Mother-of-pearl plates, capiz shell boxes, and tableware

  3. Native bags, pouches, and accessories

  4. Patterned mats, baskets, and home décor

  5. Dreamcatchers

TIP: Plan your trips and make sure to provide extra time for travel because there may be traffic on your route at times. Additionally, always bring cash (only a limited number of shops are accepting electronic payments; cash is still widely used in the Philippines) and change.

Useful Links and credits to: | | | | | |'Spoliarium'_by_Juan_Luna.jpg | | | | | | | | | | | | |,_Metro_Manila.jpg | |,_Santa_Rosa,_Laguna)(2018-08-26).jpg | | | |


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