A city guide to Manila, Philippines
The constant traveller: Manila
Words— Kaitlyn McInnis
Hailed the ‘Pearl of the Orient Seas,’ Manila is quickly becoming a destination city in Southeast Asia. With a population of just under 13 million, the coastal city is brimming with life. From edgy art exhibits and a food scene with serious culinary shops, to more traditional cultural gems like jeepneys and open-air markets, the capital of the Philippines has something to offer all kinds of travellers.
Like fellow commuter cities like LA or Toronto, getting around Manila can be challenging. You’ll want to skip driving as much as possible and get around on foot or by the city’s public transit. To get you started, we’ve pulled together a list of everything you’ll need to spend an unforgettable vacation in Manila, most of which can be found in the three most distinct neighbourhoods: Makati, Bonifacio Global City, and Metro Manila.
Where to Eat
The shopping mall and outdoor market culture in Manila is undeniable—and an ideal place to get a ton of different food items forcheap. Head to Market! Market! In the BGC (it’s easily accessible by Jeepney), which touts handfuls of indoor and outdoor food stalls, boasting everything from fried chicken to savoury tofu steak.
Okay, we usually wouldn’t recommend going to a fast food joint while abroad, but hear us out. Jollibee is a Filipnio fried chicken chain—and the only fast food chain in the world that locally boasts more customers than McDonald’s. Even the late Anthony Bourdain himself said the first thing he does upon touching down in the Philippines is head to the nearest Jollibee. Get the spicy chicken joy with a side of spaghetti—you’ll be ruined for McDonald’s for life.
An abbreviation of a Japanese saying that means ‘absurdly delicious’, this twenty-seat Japanese restaurant in BDC is one of the best in the world (it has recently landed on the World’s 50 Best list). The brain child of chef Bruce Ricketts, the eight-course menu takes guests through market fresh seafood and seasonal veggies, including striped mackerel sashimi, wagyu with charred eggplant puree and miso butter-soaked potato bread toast. Be sure to make a reservation— spots fill up fast.
Where to Drink
The Peak by Grand Hyatt Manila
If drinks al fresco and sweeping skylines are your thing, head to The Peak bar at the Grand Hyatt Manila. Combining a grill restaurant, speakeasy, whisky bar, music lounge, and rooftop terrasse, this 60th floor bar is unbeatable in terms of views, vibes, and drink options.
Run Rabbit Run
Nestled into the up and coming Poblacion neighbourhood, Run Rabbit Run is one of the best cocktail bars in the city. The Run Rabbit Run experience is more than just cocktails, though, here, you’ll also find local art on the walls by both established and emerging local artists, guest DJs, and a floor to ceiling garden upstairs.
Quite possibly the coolest speakeasy in Southeast Asia, Bank Bar is a sophisticated ‘drinking den’ located in The Fort. To get it? Patrons have to enter into a real 7-Eleven corner store and pass through a back door. From there, it’s all high vibe music and craft cocktails set against contemporary art and velvet booths.
Museums & Galleries
National Museum of Fine Arts
The National Museum of Fine Arts of the Philippines takes visitors through ethnographic, anthropological, archaeological and visual arts collections. It’s a must-visit for art and culture enthusiasts alike and quickly shows the effect of the Mexican, Spanish and American influence on Philippine identity, and how it still prevails to this day.
The Mind Museum
The Mind Museum is a science museum nestled into the Taguig neighborhood. It touts a 1.2 hectare lot in the J. Y. Campos Park and includes a large variety of science and natural history exhibits, including over 250 interactive exhibits that take visitors through astronomy, wildlife conservation, fine art, and a fully intact t-rex skeleton.
Things to See and Do
Quinta Market and Fishport
Also known as Quiapo Market, but officially called the Quinta Market since 2017, this local market on Carlos Palanca Street in Quiapo is where to go to see the true beating heart of the city. Here you’ll find everything from traditional street food, to old-world architecture—and it’s one of the best places in the city to pick up Philippine souvenirs, which are otherwise surprisingly hard to come by.
Walled City of Intramuros
Walking the streets of Manila, you’ll notice how new the city feels… but as soon as you enter the walled city of Intramuros, you’ll be transported back to the old world Spanish era. Throughout the cobblestone streets, you’ll find landmarks like Fort Santiago, a shrine to national hero José Rizal, the Manila Cathedral, the San Agustin Church museum and more.
The shopping mall culture in the Philippines is huge—it’s where families and friends go to hang out, shop, eat, and waste away the day, so it only makes sense that the shopping malls in town are out of this world. Greenbelt is an unmissable destination located at Ayala Center in Makati that seamlessly integrates both an indoor experience with lush outdoor space, including centuries-old tropical foliage, a koi pond, and outdoor dining spaces.
Venice Grand Canal Mall
Inspired by the Venice canals, or perhaps by the Las Vegas interpretation of it, Venice Grand Canal Mall is exactly what it sounds like: a mall built on two sides of an artificial canal that snakes around the shops. The indoor-outdoor shopping experience is equally kitschy and charming. We recommend stopping in between shops for a cocktail on the water, where you can watch patrons hop in and out of full-size gondolas that float up and down the mall.