This blog post was updated on April 16, 2020.

The capital of the Philippines and the Pearl of the Orient, Manila is an excellent place to visit … and a destination that’s way too underrated. If you love exploring vibrant and dynamic cities and filling your itinerary with a mix of activities, then make sure to keep an eye open for cheap international flights to Manila so you can have a one-of-a-kind vacation.

Need proof you’ll have plenty of things to do in Manila? Here are just seven (of the many) experiences that will make the city #1 on your travel bucket list!

Learn about its fascinating colonial history

Woman with red umbrella stay at entrance gate in Fort Santiago, Intramuros city in Manila, Philippines

The city of Manila was founded in 1571 as a colonial outpost by the Spanish. Many of modern-day Manila’s most interesting places to see date back to this colonial period. The best place to pick up on Old World vibes is in the Intramuros. This walled off area of Manila is the oldest part of the city and is home to important and historic landmarks such as the ornate San Agustin Church and Fort Santiago with its many gardens, fountains and plazas, and colonial-era architecture.

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Dig into its delicious food scene

Mixed Philippine street foods

From budget-friendly street food to lavish Michelin-starred tasting menus, Manila’s dining scene is one of the most delectable in the whole of Southeast Asia. With influences from across Asia and the Pacific as well as Spain and the United States, types of dishes and cooking styles vary but there’s always a focus on flavor. Must-try treats include halo-halo (shaved ice with evaporated milk and all sorts of other yummy toppings), fresh lumpia (kind of like a cross between a spring roll and a burrito), lomi (egg noodles in an egg sauce), pork adobo (the national dish), and so much more! Great places for street food are Quiapo Market, Concepcion Public Market, and the market near Boni MRT Station. For exceptional fine dining experiences, look into upscale restaurants in Bonifacio Global City and Makati.

Shop (or haggle) till you drop

woman shopping at a market

Whether heading to one of Manila’s many mega malls or prowling the open-air markets, you’re sure to find a bargain and have a great time shopping. Among the city’s most noteworthy retail havens are SM Megamall and SM Mall of Asia — two of the biggest malls in the world with all sorts of opportunities to spend money and people watch. Browse fashionable boutiques in and around the famed Greenbelt shopping in Makati. For flea market finds and haggle-heavy price negotiations, hit the streets to shop at Legazpi Sunday Market, Carriedo Flea Market, and Divisoria.

Be entertained or get schooled

Ferry wheel on sunset sky

For family fun and all ages thrills, there’s Manila Ocean Park — an oceanarium with more than 14,000 aquatic animals to see and some you can even interact with. Fans of amusement parks should venture to Star City. One of Asia’s biggest theme parks, it features lots of extreme rides and roller coasters, plenty of ones for small children too and 60 meters high Ferris wheel — the tallest in the Philippines!

Manila’s museums are definitely worth a look as well. For the young at heart, there’s Yexel’s Toy Museum with a smartly curated collection of toys and childhood memorabilia. Phenomenal art and history exhibits can be viewed at the National Museum of the Filipino People and the Ayala Museum. Got a shoe fetish? Then you have to check out the Marikina Shoe museum with 800 pairs of footwear from the infamous collection of Imelda Marcos.

Enjoy some sensational sunsets

Manila bay sunsets

Be sure to spend at least one evening taking in a sunset over Manila Bay. An ideal place to do this is Manila Baywalk — a mile-long stretch of pedestrian paths lined with palm trees and teeming with performers and vendors, as well as local folks out for an amble. Other panoramic options include enjoying the view with a drink in hand at one of the city’s famed rooftop bars or timing things just right for a spin on the giant Ferris wheel at Star City.

Keep up with its fast-paced nightlife

People in night club. Dancing, drinking and having fun

When the sun goes down, the party starts up in Manila! Rooftop bars such as the Z Hostel Rooftop Bar, The Nest, and Buddha-Bar guarantee you’ll start and end your outing on a high. For connoisseurs, the cocktails crafted at ABV and The Curator will be something exquisite to sip while plotting your next moves. Clubbing is a big deal here with venues like Valkyrie, Chaos, 71 Gramercy, and Black Market designed to blow your mind (but not your budget) while dancing the night away.

Hop from one beautiful island to the next

Filipino boat in the sea, Coron island, Philippines

As the capital and best-connected city in the Philippines, Manila is a great base for exploring the country’s 7,000 islands or venturing onward to other nearby nations. You’ll find plentiful flights taking off from Ninoy Aquino International Airport and ample rooms in quality hotels close to it.

Planning a trip to the Philippines? Start looking for cheap international flights to get there!

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About The Author

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, curator, and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world. He's called London home since 2001.