Surprisingly, the capital of the Philippines is a city that not many take the time to explore. If you go beyond the noisy, busy vibe of Manila, you’ll discover that the city has a lot to offer—from museums you can visit for free and pockets of greenery, to minimalist cafes and colorful art centers.
Check out this list of the things you can do in the nation’s capital the next time you’re back in town.
Explore Intramuros using a bamboo bike.
Combine your love for history and cycling with Bambike’s bike tours around Intramuros. It’s a new and eco-friendly way of exploring the old city. You can choose from a variety of Bambike designs like their Ligtasin Cove beach cruisers or Victoria city bikes—all their bamboo bikes are handmade so no two are alike! You can book your tour through their website.
Go museum hopping.
Manila is home to a lot of museums that cover a wide range of topics—the good news is most of them are totally free! Start your museum tour at the National Museum complex: You’ve most likely seen National Museum of Natural History’s “Tree of Life” elevator on your IG feed, which is just one reason to give it a visit. Don’t forget to also drop by the Spolarium at National Museum of Fine Arts. Kids and kids-at-heart, meanwhile, will always love Museo Pambata, while modern art enthusiasts should check out Museum of Contemporary Art and Design inside the Benilde School of Design and Arts Campus in Malate.Continue reading below ↓Continue reading below ↓Recommended Videos
Go on a Binondo food trip.
Did you know Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the world? This just means that when it comes to Chinese food, no one else has this vibrant district beat. A lot of the eateries here aren’t exactly the paragon of, ahem, cleanliness but that’s just part of the charm. Must-stops on your food trip are Dong Bei for their handmade dumplings, Wai Ying Fast Food for asado and HK milk tea, and Ying Ying Tea House for dimsum.Continue reading below ↓
Pretend to be a mermaid at Manila Ocean Park.
Have you always dreamt of being Ariel or Aquamarine? You can live out your fantasies, even if just for a day, with Manila Ocean Park’s Mermaid Swim Experience. For P350/head, Manila Ocean Park will provide you with elastic mermaid tails (that are surprisingly easy to wear!) and a trainer who will teach you to swim like a mermaid. You might not want to go back to land after this.Continue reading below ↓
Visit the last lung of Manila.
Called “the last lung of Manila,” Arroceros Forest Park is a riverside park along Antonio Villegas Street in Ermita. The park is constantly under the threat of demolition, which makes visiting it all the more necessary. Plus, the pocket of greenery feels like an oasis away from the bustle of Manila, with paved walkways and is also home to native trees like red balete, bagras, bitaog, narra, and molave.Continue reading below ↓
Go back in time with a staycation at The Manila Hotel.
Built in 1909, The Manila Hotel still retains its old-world charm, from its lobby lit with glittering chandeliers to its Filipiniana-themed suites. Treat yourself with a vacation at their Sunrise/Sunset Suite—you can choose one that faces the Manila Bay, Intramuros, or Manila’s breathtaking sunset. Don’t miss the dinner buffet at Café Ilang-Ilang, where each day features a different theme like International Buffet on Mondays and Sundays, Tuesday Mediterranean Nights, and Wednesday Asian NightsContinue reading below ↓
Watch a play at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Whether you’re a longtime theater enthusiast or new to the scene, the Cultural Center of the Philippines is always a great place to check out for new shows. It doesn’t even have to be a play—CCP also hosts other activities like ballet performances, art festivals, film screenings, and concerts. Just make sure to check out their official website to see what they have in store.Continue reading below ↓
Have a cuppa at Blocleaf Café.
Hidden in Malate is one of the most aesthetic neighborhood cafés in the Metro—Blocleaf Café’s owners also own design studio The Public School Manila so we’re not really that surprised. Aside from the straight-out-of-Kinfolk interiors, Blocleaf Café also offers all the classic coffee drinks like Latte and Americano, using local beans from Kalsada Coffee.Continue reading below ↓
Go on a shopping trip at Hub: Make Lab.
Escolta has become one of Manila’s coolest districts, thanks to its neo-classical and Art Deco buildings, and vibrant art scene. For unique finds, check out Hub: Make Lab inside First United Building. Local artists test-run their merchandise for three months at the incubation space, which means you never quite know what you’ll get the next time you drop by. Some of those who have sold at the bazaar are Simoy ng Haraya, who offer a unique line of scents with names like "Dalisay," "Kilig," and "Lambing;” Kariton by 1372 Designs who offer handmade journals and stationery, and The Heritage Collective, who offer hoodies with barong-like prints, postcards, and trinkets that scream Pinoy Pride.Continue reading below ↓
Watch a movie at Cinematique Centre Manila.
For film buffs, a visit to the Cinematique Centre Manila is a must. The complex is not only home to a theater but also a café, a souvenir shop, and the Museo ng Pelikulang Pilipino. You can always check out their official Facebook page for what festivals they are currently hosting—a really cool event the Cinematique regularly hosts is Home Movie Day, where you can bring your old VHS and VCR tapes and have Philippine Film Archive archivists screen and restore them for you. Maybe the next time you're in town, you'll be lucky enough to catch this event.Continue reading below ↓
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