11 Best Things to Do in Manila – Tourist Attractions and Fun Activities!

11 Best Things to Do in Manila | Budget Itinerary

Also called the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Manila is the capital city of the Philippines and the gateway to the country! It’s a bustling city where Filipinos go to work, explore, and enjoy!

Although, it does not bring a good taste to some due to the heavy traffic and underwhelming airport situation, beyond these lie a colorful culture that has gone through so much to survive.

Manila is chaotic and energetic with busy streets, iconic jeepneys, and a plethora of cuisines that you’ll never find in other places in the Philippines. This is where international meets local and all the well-known come to play! And with that being said, Manila is the best place to experience the vibrant nightlife in the Philippines!

For today’s blog, however, we’re going to talk about the places you need to visit in order for you to understand where Manila came from. Here are 11 things you can do and attractions you must see in Manila!

1. Rizal Park

In the country’s capital is a park that holds a special place in the country’s history. Rizal Park got its name from the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal who was a key element in the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish colonizers who colonized the country for 333 years.

The monument where Rizal was executed was erected on his 17th death anniversary in 1913. 33 years after, the Philippines declared its independence.

The historic monument of Jose Rizal
The historic monument of Jose Rizal, credit: Rappler

The Rizal Park holds the remains of the Rizal and is quite well-guarded by the Marine Corps. The park, also known as Luneta Park, is a popular place to visit by locals and tourists because of the open-air concerts and chess matches that are held there.

The 140-acre park also has a garden that is home to various flora native to the Philippines as well as a lake that features an artificial archipelago. You can also find the nation’s national tree, ‘Narra’, which is known for being a hard wood tree that is one of the strongest trees in the world and is naturally resistant to pests.

Location:  Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila

Entrance Fee: FREE!

Opening Hours: 5-10 AM, 11 AM-8 PM.

2. Intramuros

Intramuros is always the recommended place to visit if you ever ask locals for their opinion. It’s the oldest part of Manila and quite possibly the most interesting because of its historical relevance in the country.

Aerial shot of the walled city Intramuros
Aerial shot of the walled city Intramuros, credit: culturetrip.com

Intramuros was the center of Spanish rule in the Philippines back in the 1500s to 1800s. It was built with a 3-mile-long stone wall surrounding it and it had a city of its own within. During the Spanish era, only the wealthy and the elites were able to enter the walled city. It’s complete with churches, courtyard palaces, and administrative buildings with European architectural designs.

Coming to Intramuros will make you feel like you’re not in the Philippines because of the ambiance that is different than that of the world outside of it. This is the only place you’ll ever find complete and well-preserved structures from the Spanish colonial era. You’ll even find the Kalesa which is an old mode of transportation that is similar to that of the horse-driven wagon.


Fort Santiago

Within the Intramuros is the Spanish Government’s former military base which was built in 1571. It was vital to the protection of the walled city and its main gate still holds the Spanish coat of arms.

Before his execution, Jose Rizal spent his time at Fort Santiago imprisoned for 56 days, from November 3 to December 29, 1896. That is why you’ll also find the Rizal Shrine dedicated to him at Fort Santiago which resembles his childhood home.

Entrance to Fort Santiago
Entrance to Fort Santiago, credit: visitfortsantiago.com

Unfortunately, the wars that took place in the city took a toll on Fort Santiago, and some parts of the structure got destroyed but most of it went into restoration after the war.

Intramuros is definitely a great place to wander around. You can book a tour to know more about the historical significance of the citadel or simply find your way around the area!

Location: Intramuros, Manila

Entrance Fee: Intramuros is open for FREE! [For Fort Santiago: Php75 or $1.50]

Book Fort Santiago tickets in advance below.


Opening Hours: 5-10 AM, 11 AM-8 PM.

3. San Agustin Church

This UNESCO World Heritage Site church in Manila is the oldest stone-built church in the Philippines built between 1586 to 1606. San Agustine Church, with its Baroque-style architecture, is absolutely stunning, to say the least.

The church’s interior is what made it quite popular for spectators as well as couples. Intricate carvings on the entrance doors, moldings of native plants on its walls, as well as paintings on the ceilings are perfect for a picturesque church wedding!

The Baroque-style exterior of San Agustin Church
The Baroque-style exterior of San Agustin Church, credit: guidetothephilippines.com

The San Agustin Church today is already the third one that stands. It has overcome all the battles and wars, and also 7 major earthquakes! You can visit the church on your own to pay respect or you can take a tour to know more about it!

Location: General Luna St, Intramuros, Manila, 1002 Metro Manila

Entrance Fee: Php200 or $4, includes access to the San Agustin Museum

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 8 AM to 5 PM

4. Manila Bay and Baywalk

Manila Baywalk may seem bland at first but it actually holds a piece of history that is vital to the Philippines’ independence!

Sunset turns the building gold at the Manila Bay
Sunset turns the building gold at the Manila Bay, credit: Hotels.com

The Manila Bay, to which the bay walk faces, was the very site where the 333-year Spanish rule in the Philippines finally came to an end when the Americans defeated the Spanish Armada in the Battle of Manila Bay!

Today, Manila Bay has one of the most beautiful views in the Philippines especially when the sun sets and the waters turn a golden color, the waters gleam and shine! It’s now a peaceful place where people come to enjoy a relaxing walk or wonder at the yachts and small boats anchored by the bay. And the best part about this is that it does not cost even a single peso to enjoy the beauty of it!

A Kalesa parked at Manila Baywalk
A Kalesa parked at Manila Baywalk, credit: greatruns.com

Though Manila Bay is popular amongst joggers and wanderers, you can also go on a dinner cruise which will take you on a ride past other landmarks in the city. And while you’re eating your delicious dinner, you will also be able to enjoy the towering buildings and city lights of Manila!

Location: Roxas Blvd, Malate, Manila, 1004 Metro Manila

Entrance Fee: FREE

Opening Hours: Friday to Wednesday – 6 AM to 6 PM

6. Divisoria Market

The Philippines is not so well-known for its public markets unlike other countries in Asia but one particular market in Manila is popular all over the Philippines! The Divisoria Market or Divisoria is a famous market because of the extremely inexpensive products sold here.

This is the go-to market especially during Christmas time, Valentine’s, and other special occasions because goods here cater to any special events. That being said, there are many that you can choose from here in Divisoria like clothes, accessories, handmade products, and even fresh produce. And it is also popular because of the variety of street foods found here that you can try!

People shop at a street market in Divisoria, Manila
People shop at a street market in Divisoria, Manila. (REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

A warning, however, is that because of the number of people who come here on a daily, there are a lot of pickpockets that occur here. Everyone, not just tourists, is advised to be extra careful and mindful of their belongings since pickpocketers can get extremely creative with how they do their pickpocketing!

Location: 557 M. De Santos St, San Nicolas, Manila, 1010 Metro Manila

Entrance Fee: FREE

Opening Hours: 5:25 AM to 11 PM, daily.

7. Manila Cathedral

There are more than 30 historic churches in the Philippines and another one on our list is found in the heart of Manila.

Dating back to 1571, the Manila Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. It is formally called as the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica and is the official seat of the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila. Its location sits right inside of Intramuros so visiting the Cathedral will be quite easy to do so if you’re going on a trip to the walled city.

The Manila Cathedral in Intramuros
The Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, credit: Wikimedia Commons (Kuranges)

Manila Cathedral is better known for its architectural design which reflects the Romanesque Revival Architectural style. Architecture lovers all over the world admire its beauty but apart from that, you can also find the amazing Bamboo Pipe Organ which is quite a sight in itself!

Behind the grandeur of what it is today, Manila Cathedral actually suffered fire, war, and natural disasters. It has undergone over 8 renovations since it got built, the last was back in 2015 when shortly after, Pope Francis held a sacred mass!

Location: Cabildo, 132 Beaterio St, Intramuros, Manila

Entrance Fee: FREE

Opening Hours: 7 AM to 5 PM, daily.

8. National Museum Complex

Originally called ‘Museo-Biblioteca de Filipinas’, the National Museum of the Philippines houses different collections that represent various dimensions of the culture, arts, and history of the Philippines.

The National Museum of the Philippines (Pambansang Museo ng Pilipinas) exterior
The National Museum of the Philippines (Pambansang Museo ng Pilipinas) exterior, credit: nolisoli.com

This 122-year-old Museum is home to all the books, published works, paintings, and many more that were used as propaganda against the Spanish colony during the Philippine Revolution. Here you’ll find works of famous painters like the Spoliarium by Juan Luna – a renowned Filipino painter – as well as works by other renowned painters like Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Fernando Amorsolo, etc.

'Spoliarium' by Juan Luna at the National Museum of Fine Arts Philippines
‘Spoliarium’ by Juan Luna at the National Museum of Fine Arts Philippines, credit: INQUIRER.net

The Museum is divided into 4 parts: the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Anthropology, the Museum of Natural History, and the National Planetarium.

National Museum of Fine Arts

This section of the museum is where you’ll find the works of the painters mentioned above. Aside from famous paintings, the Museum of Fine Arts also showcases the different sculptures by prominent 19th and 20th-century Filipino artists.

Make sure to get a picture of the Spoliarium as it is considered to be the largest and the most important national painting in the Philippines!

National Museum of Anthropology

The National Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology features 1000 collections of artifacts from the Pre-colonial era up to the present. One particular display that you might find interesting is the “Baybayin”, an old Philippine scripture. Other artifacts in the museum are weapons, textiles, agricultural tools, instruments, and many more.

National Museum of Natural History

If you like to marvel at the skeletons of animals, then you should really visit the National Museum of Natural History. You’ll find the remains of the world’s largest caught crocodile held in captivity as well as a glass elevator that runs from the ground floor to the fifth floor called, ‘Tree of Life’.

National Planetarium

The National Planetarium displays real-life projections of celestial bodies as well as models, displays, demonstrations, and presentations of actual celestial observations. It’s simply a fun experience that kids and adults will enjoy!

Location: Padre Burgos Ave, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila

Entrance Fee: FREE

Opening Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM, Tuesday to Sunday.

9. Manila Ocean Park

A local favorite, the Manila Ocean Park offers a unique experience in the heart of Manila! Ocean Park is an interactive experience that is perfect for families on a day trip or couples on a date.

The Philippines is one of the 18 mega-biodiverse countries which comprises two-thirds of the earth’s biodiversity, so the aquatic animals you’ll find here are truly one of a kind and might not be found anywhere else in the world. In fact, the Manila Ocean Park contains over 13,000 marine animals from over 277 species native to Southeast Asia.

Shark-filled aquariums at the Manila Ocean Park
Shark-filled aquariums at the Manila Ocean Park, credit: escapemanila.com

Make sure to pass by the Sharks and Rays Encounter and the Trails to Antarctica Exhibit as these are some of the most mind-blowing experiences you’ll get to try!

You can also find exhibits of land animals like native Philippine birds and others and when you feel tired or exhausted, you can dine in at the Makan-Makan which offers over 150 pan-Asian dishes! You can also book a room at the HOTEL H2O where you get to be surrounded by an aquarium while you sleep!

Location: Quirino Grandstand, 666 Behind, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila

Entrance Fee: Ranges from Php400 to Php1000 or $8 to 20 depending on the set attractions you want to see. You can book tickets by clicking the below link to get the best prices.


Opening Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM, Tuesday to Sunday.

10. Binondo – Chinatown

Established in 1594, Binondo was originally designated for Chinese merchants, traders, and immigrants who converted to Catholicism. The origin of its name was derived from the Filipino word ‘binundok’ meaning ‘mountainous’.

Today, Binondo is a well-loved neighborhood comprised of descendants of oppressed Hokkien Chinese immigrants. The area is not your typical touristy area because of the total chaos that occurs here on a daily!

The icon entrance to Manila's Chinatown Binondo
The icon entrance to Manila’s Chinatown Binondo, credit: Emirates

Perhaps, this is where you’ll find the well-preserved Chinese culture in all of the Philippines. You can visit the Kuang Kong Temple and the Seng Guan Buddhist Temple and go through the stores and vendors that have been here for 400 years!

Chinese-Filipino foods in Binondo
Chinese-Filipino foods in Binondo, credit: TripZilla Philippines

Binondo is also known for the food scene where you can find the most popular Filipino dish which is the lumpiang shanghai as well as noodle mami, hopia, buchi, and many more!

You can pass by the Binondo Church, a Catholic church built in 1596 by the Dominican priests but was burned down in 1762 during the British invasion.

Location: Chinatown, Binondo, Manila, Metro Manila

Entrance Fee: FREE

Opening Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM, Tuesday to Sunday.

11. Casa Manila

Casa Manila, a.k.a ‘Manila House’, is actually a museum that was built by the former first lady Imelda Marcos in the 1980s. So, this is actually a fairly new structure in the Philippines however, its old-fashioned look can be attributed to the fact that it was modeled off of old Spanish architecture.

The exterior of Casa Manila, modeled after San Nicolas House
The exterior of Casa Manila, modeled after San Nicolas House, credit: Expedia Philippines

The Casa Manila is a replica of the San Nicolas House which is the epitome of the grand lifestyle of affluent Filipino families during the Spanish colonial era.

One of the first things you’ll see on the premise is the big fountain in the middle of the granite pavement surrounded by beautiful flowers. You will also see an area which is where carriages owned by the owner of the house are supposed to be parked.

The Spanish-style Sala at Casa Manila
The Spanish-style Sala at Casa Manila, credit: Intramuros Administration

Inside Casa Manila, ancient-style wooden pieces of furnitures are placed all over the house, bedrooms, lounges, kitchen, and even the bathrooms are richly and intricately decorated. The house is extremely beautiful and elegant and is truly worth a visit!

Location: HXQG+V52 plaza sans luis complex, General Luna St, Intramuros, Manila, 1002 Metro Manila

Entrance Fee: Php75 or $1.50 per person. Book from the below link for cheap tickets in advance. Reserve tickets in advance below.


Opening Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM, Tuesday to Sunday.

What is the best way to get around Manila?

The city of Manila can be confusing even for locals. And even though you can go around Manila on a D.I.Y. tour, it might not be the best if it’s your first time.

Getting around Manila is easier if you book a guided tour! There are tons of guided tours that will bring you to all the key attractions in the city. Most of them are quite inexpensive since the majority of the attractions do not require you to pay entrance fees like the National Museum of the Philippines.

How many days should I spend in Manila?

A day in Manila may not be enough for you to spend. It usually takes three days to sufficiently tour the major sites and attractions in Manila, so we recommend you to allot three days on your itinerary.

There are a lot more things to discover in this city and you might even end up spending a week or two here. With that amount of time, lodging and accommodations might take up too much of your budget. Luckily, we’ve gathered the best hotels to book accommodations so that you don’t have to scour all over the internet! Deals here are cheap and you can even get more discounts on top of the already inexpensive prices!

Manila Prince Hotel

Manila Prince Hotel Rooms Manila

This hotel is located right in the middle of Manila and convenience is what is great about this hotel. It is only 1km from Rizal Park and 1.1 km away from Robinsons Place Manila. Guests can relax at the hotels outdoor swimming pool or order a cup of coffee at their on-site coffee shop.

The rooms are fully furnished with air conditioning, work desk, and a wardrobe. Each unit also comes with a flat-screen TV with cable channels to watch shows if you like. The ensuite bathrooms are also fitted with shampoo or body wash and free toiletries. Don’t worry if you have any questions about the hotel or Manila, the hotel’s friendly 24-hour front desk can assist you with tips and guidance.

Red Planet Manila Binondo

Red Planet Manila Binondo hotel

Another really convenient hotel at a further cheaper rate. Get fully furnished facilities like 24-hour front desk, free WiFi, flat-screen cable TV and a safety deposit box. The room also comes with a small desk which you can use to do work. The toilet is also fitted with a bidet, shower, hairdryer and toiletries so you don’t have to bring your own. Similar to other hotels, you can check for travel information if required at the front desk. It is also a short 12km distance from Manila International Airport.

These are the distance from the attractions

  • 2km away from Intramuros
  • 3km from Manila Ocean Park
  • 6 km from the Cultural Centre of the Philippines
  • 7km from World Trade Center Manila

You can also search for more hotels at the best deals here.

Thoughts on Manila!

Being the gateway to the Philippines, Manila should not be disregarded because it’s one of the most historically beautiful places in the country. Sure, it can get chaotic and the traffic might get unbearable, but looking past that, you’ll see that Manila is truly a gem beyond its negative reputation!

Check out the official website of the city government of Manila to know about the latest updates on COVID-19 Regulations and other happenings!

Want to know more about the Philippines? Read our blogs on all the different places you should discover in the Pearl of the Orient Seas! Follow us on @budgetitinerary across all social media sites for fun content about travel!

Budget Itinerary Logo

Budget Itinerary Blog

We aim to bring you the best content for travel in Asia. We provide tips on how to travel cheaper and better. Our team is made up of budget travellers with years of travel experience. We write the best content for you to plan your trip. Follow us now and happy travelling!

Follow Us


budget itinerary accommodation booking

Related Posts

13 Best Things To Do In Makati, Philippines

13 Best Things To Do In Makati, Philippines

Makati, the financial heart of the Philippines, is a city of ceaseless energy, modernity, and cultural richness. Nestled within the sprawling metropolis of Manila, Makati stands as a testament to the country's dynamic growth and cosmopolitan charm. But beyond its...

14 Best Things To Do In Siquijor, Philippines

14 Best Things To Do In Siquijor, Philippines

Siquijor, a hidden gem in the Philippines, is a captivating island that offers a wealth of experiences for travelers seeking both natural beauty and cultural immersion. This enchanting island, known for its mystical charm and pristine landscapes, has emerged as an...

10 Best Things To Do In Cagayan De Oro, Philippines

10 Best Things To Do In Cagayan De Oro, Philippines

Cagayan de Oro, fondly known as the "City of Golden Friendship," is a captivating destination in the Philippines that beckons travellers with its diverse array of attractions. Nestled in the heart of Mindanao, this city offers an enchanting blend of adventure,...

17 Best Things To Do In Camiguin Island, Philippines

17 Best Things To Do In Camiguin Island, Philippines

Nestled in the heart of the Philippines, Camiguin Island is a well-kept secret waiting to be explored. This tiny paradise, known as the "Island Born of Fire," boasts an array of natural wonders that rival those of larger and more famous destinations. From volcanic...

14 Best Things To Do In Damaguete, Philippines

14 Best Things To Do In Damaguete, Philippines

Dumaguete, often referred to as the "City of Gentle People," is a charming coastal city on Negros Island in the Philippines. Beyond its friendly and welcoming atmosphere, Dumaguete is a treasure trove of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and exciting adventures. With...

13 Best Things To Do In Zamboanga City, Philippines

13 Best Things To Do In Zamboanga City, Philippines

Zamboanga City, located on the southernmost tip of the Philippines' Mindanao region, is a destination that harmoniously blends vibrant culture, rich history, and natural beauty. With a unique blend of indigenous traditions, Spanish heritage, and Muslim influences,...



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest