More than a decade ago, I decided to call Manila my home. As the capital city of the Philippines, Manila welcomes you with open arms and the signature warmth of Filipino hospitality. Its hustle and bustle keeps you on your toes and makes you feel more alive than ever. It’s a city that never sleeps, with an energy so contagious it makes you want to embrace every ounce of life.
Manila has weathered many challenges but the city continues to stand strong, adapting to change with grace. From its historic sites to its delectable cuisine, there’s so much to check out in my hometown.
A Historic City
Much of the Philippines’ rich history is mirrored in Manila itself. The city is dotted with architectural wonders — Baroque churches, Spanish-era universities, Art Deco style theaters, and neoclassical buildings — that provide a remarkable backdrop to urban life.
Intramuros is a classic example of Manila’s lasting heritage. Built in 1571, it’s considered Manila’s historic core and has endured colonial invasion, wars, and natural disasters. A horse-drawn kalesa ride around the walled city will uncover several other extraordinary sites. You can also do like the locals do and ride a jeepney, the most common form of public transport in the country.
Manila is a haven for shoppers, where you can haggle in markets or stroll around air-conditioned malls. There are department stores and mid-range outlets with an assortment of shoes, bags, clothes, and other wares at affordable prices. Fancy labels and premium brands can be found at upscale retailers while modern shops are your go-to for hip and trendy clothing and accessories.
There are also specialty shops showcasing home-grown artistry with their selection of native crafts and novelty décor. These are the quintessential pasalubong (souvenirs) to carry home and serve as memories of your Manila travels.
Manila is filled with restaurants to suit every palate, from carinderia (eateries) serving local dishes to restaurants offering international fare. Filipinos are passionate about their traditional cuisine, and this passion translates to scrumptious and hearty home-cooked meals.
You can have tapsilog, cured beef slices with garlic rice and fried egg, for breakfast; adobo, chicken or pork boiled in a marinade of soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and garlic, for lunch; sticky rice cakes for merienda (snacks); and sisig, a sizzling delicacy made of sliced pig’s head and liver, paired with a bottle of San Miguel beer to cap off the night.
Manila after dark is a perfect complement to the lively daytime of the city, drawing a mixed crowd of the young and young-at-heart, expats and locals. Manila’s dynamic nightlife starts at 6 p.m. and continues well into the early hours of dawn. The city has it all — rock bars and dance clubs, karaoke bars and comedy bars, exclusive bars and glamorous nightclubs.
The city’s vibrant nightlife can also be attributed to its diverse music scene which caters to differing genres and tastes. Established musicians and up-and-coming bands fill the night with live music, from pop and rock to reggae and jazz.
Where to Eat and Meet the Locals
- Ilustrado is a quaint restaurant with a must-try signature paella dish.
- Razon’s halo-halo is a refreshing combination of shaved ice and evaporated milk topped with sweetened macapuno (coconut sport), sweetened saba (banana), and a slice of leche flan (milk flan) to beat the sweltering heat.
- Max’s Restaurant serves the best chicken in town and other scrumptious local dishes.
Where to Dance the Night Away
- Chaos, a nightclub in the City of Dreams complex in Manila, hosts top international DJs.
- Valkyrie Nightclub is a premier nightclub playing electronic dance music, house, R&B, hip-hop, and top 40s.
- Saguijo Café + Bar is famous for hosting alternative, rock, and indie artists.
Where the Best Views Are
- The iconic sunsets of Manila Bay are some of the best in the world.
- The fine art collections, paintings, and sculptures in the National Museum of the Philippines showcase the creativity and talent of Filipino artists.
- Luneta Park is home to the monument of Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero. Also found here is the kilometer zero marker, a focal point used to measure all road distances from Manila.
Top Ways to Get Around the City
- Walk This Way Tours takes you around Intramuros, providing an overview of Filipino history, architecture, and culture mixed with performance art, wit, and humor.
- Old Manila Walks has different walking tours, including its famous Chinatown food tour.
- Sun Cruises offers sunset and dinner cruises around Manila Bay.
Ready to make merry in Manila? Plan your trip there now!