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19 Places To Explore In Manila This 2019

A list of must-try hangouts, OOTD spots, and food trip choices in the city.
PHOTO: (LEFT) Instagram/katrinanobs, (RIGHT) Instagram/mrscheng20

There are several phrases that can describe Manila as a hangout spot: easily accessible, full of hidden gems, and sometimes taken for granted. Did you know that there are 16 huge cities comprising Metro Manila? While it's almost impossible to encapsulate the best spots in one list, here’s a sneak peek of places you’ve got to explore.

  1. Little Tokyo

    If you’re looking for a taste of Tokyo and the big ramen chains or commercialized Japanese restaurants around the metro just wouldn’t cut it, find this hidden gem in Legaspi Village, Makati. From the red tori gates that welcome you at the entrances to the lanterns lining the wooden structures of the restaurants, the Little Tokyo compound just transports you to a tiny piece of the Land of the Rising Sun. The must-trys? Takoyaki from Ha Na, okonomiyaki from Kagura, yakiniku from Yamazaki, and sushi or sashimi from Seryna.

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  2. Kapitolyo

    This village in Pasig City offers something for everyone—whatever cuisine or comfort food you’re looking for, it’s possibly here. Looking for Mexican food fix? Get burritos or nachos at Silanto. Craving for spicy and savory Middle Eastern meals? Order a shawarma (or two) at Uncle Moe’s (or try their flavorful Moussaka Melt). Visit Three Sisters for Pinoy food faves, munch on baskets of Frankie’s New York Buffalo chicken wings, or book a karaoke room and enjoy cold beers and bar chow at Juanito’s Bistro.

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  3. Poblacion

    Another great spot to explore in Makati is Poblacion. You’ll find lively hole-in-the-wall bars or pubs around the area where you can just chill out with friends after-hours, such as Polilya, The Workshop, and the laid-back Dr. Wine. If you’re looking for an effortless IG feed booster, though, head to P. Burgos street and have fun taking tons of photos in Filling Station. Aside from its colorful interiors similar to Riverdale’s famous diner Pop’s Chock’lit Shop, the bar and cafe offers tasty American food like their bestselling Eggs Benedict Burger and their all-day breakfast menu (go for a place of the waffle and chicken combo).

  4. Washington SyCip Park

    If you’re craving for nature sights but don’t have the time to leave the city, take a stroll in Washington SyCip Park. There are gazebos and stone benches around the area, plus a tranquil pond, which make for perfect spots to just ~*breathe*~ and reflect. Near Greenbelt mall, the park is also the perfect quick escape when you’re working in the CBD and you just want a little peace and quiet while taking your lunch break.

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  5. Uptown Bonifacio

    There are too many areas in Bonifacio Global City that you have to explore at least once, especially if you’re working there or if you’re near the big financial district. One of them is Uptown Bonifacio, a township developed with a “live-work-play” concept. Just a few steps away from the condos and offices are malls, cinemas, and trendy bars like XYLO at The Palace, BAD Late Night Breakfast Bar, Salvatore Cuomo & Bar, and The Island.

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  6. Mang Tootz

    Mang Tootz is one of those humble-looking joints around the University of Santo Tomas campus that you just have to try, whether you’re a Thomasian or not. It’s named after the owner who was a chef at hotels and cruise ships abroad. Aside from crowd favorite chicken kebab and cordon bleu, the bestseller you can’t miss is their signature dessert, the Banana Rhum-a. It’s a creative and tasty take on the classic Pinoy snack turon. (Aside from the original eatery along P. Noval street, it now has a new branch in Valero St. Makati, too!)

  7. Rizal Park

    This one’s a classic “touristy” spot that never gets old. Rizal Park, a.k.a. Luneta, has always been a hangout that’s loved by Pinoys for its airy lawns and diverse facilities. Aside from the paved walkways lined with flags beside Dr. Jose Rizal’s monument, there are five gardens, three event venues, four museums, and several artworks and monuments for you to marvel at. Oh, and just a few minutes walk away would be Intramuros, the walled city, which you can explore for historic sights, too.

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  8. Father Blanco's Garden, Intramuros

    Speaking of Intramuros, check out Father Blanco’s Garden. It’s just behind the stunning San Agustin Church and in front of the Manila Cathedral (which is why it has become one of the favorite outdoor wedding reception venues in the area). The restored garden serves as a sanctuary among the ruins of World War II. The lush greens plus the moody walls make it a perfect place for strolling and snapping pics.

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  9. National Museum of the Philippines

    You don’t need to go as far as Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo City for a little art appreciation excursion. Just head to the National Museum in Rizal Park along Padre Burgos Ave., Ermita, Manila. Check out the museums for Fine Arts, Anthropology, and Natural History or the National Planetarium. You can marvel at epic artifacts and pieces like Juan Luna’s Spoliarium and Carlos “Botong” Francisco’s The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines. The gallery is open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and admission is now “permanently free of charge for all visitors, Filipino or foreign.” There are also free concerts and workshops you can participate in from time to time.

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  10. Paco Park

    “Ancient cemetery-turned-recreational park” might not sound alluring for most people, but that’s the quirky charm of Paco Park. The circular space filled with greenery with the fountain and the chapel as central attractions make it a unique place to just kick back and reflect. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous or patriotic, you can roam around the place and try to trace back where notable figures in Philippine history (like Dr. Jose RIzal and Fathers Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomes, and Jacinto Zamora) were interred.

  11. Binondo

    If you’re in the mood for Chinese food, get your fix in Binondo. As the oldest Chinatown in the world, the hub is your destination for authentic dishes from the East Asian country. It’s easy to get lost while appreciating the distinct red-laden decor or while ogling at the impressive buildings of Escolta Street. But once you focus on navigating toward where your appetite takes you, you’ll find mouthwatering treats like Shanghai Fried Siopao along Ongpin, hakaw and roast duck mami in Wai Ying (Benavidez Street), and roasted pork asado from The Original SaLido Restaurant (also in Ongpin).

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  12. RAP Steaks and Cakes

    Now here’s a fave of LaSallians. RAP Steaks and Cakes might sound fancy for some, but their meals are actually more affordable compared to other steak restaurants. Order a porterhouse or a T-Bone steak with rice or mashed potatoes on the side, and make sure you try their [unlimited] signature buttery gravy and special sauce. When you want something sweet to cap off your meal, try their cheesecakes and other pastries.

  13. Timog Avenue and Tomas Morato

    Here are two other very accessible streets in Quezon City where you can find virtually all kinds of local and international cuisines. You’ll especially find it so easy to get a table at the Korean restaurants here, such as Romantic Baboy, Leeann’s Tea House, Seoul Train, and Premier the Samgyupsal. When you find yourself craving for Filipino comfort food, though, try Concha's Garden Cafe. The nook right across Il Terrazzo offers a relaxed ambience as you chew on (and can’t get enough of) their crunchy okoy and flavorful laoya.

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  14. Kalayaan Avenue

    If you’re planning a staycation, one of the best areas to explore is Kalayaan Avenue, specifically the area near Makati Avenue. It’s home to several boutique hotels with affordable staycation packages and several restaurants or bars you can chill at. One place you’ll love going back to is I’M Hotel. Aside from the cozy rooms, a jellyfish rooftop bar, and an acrylic bottomed swimming pool, you can soothe your aching muscles and soak away your worries at the I’M Onsen Spa. After a round at the steam or sauna room and the relaxing thermal pool (and maybe a massage), fill your belly with their sumptuous buffet of invigorating food.

  15. Commune Hall

    It’s a food hall you’ve probably heard of if you’re from the South. Situated in the Evia Lifestyle Center, Commune Hall’s graphic wall art and hip ambience are just irresistible for selfies and OOTDs. Of course, it’s not just a visually appealing hangout. You can feast on yummy snacks, sinful food, and refreshing drinks, too, at the stalls like Shrimp Hut, The RIb Shack, and The Commune Bar.

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  16. La Mesa Eco Park

    This one’s a bit farther from the CBDs, but it’s a trip worth taking especially if you just want to get away from the usual sight of skyscrapers. La Mesa Eco Park features nature sights and areas for recreation that individuals of any age would love. With just a P50 entrance fee (P40 if you’re a QC resident), you can explore the gardens and take in the views. You can also go horseback riding, swimming, biking, butterfly trailing, and more for an additional fee.

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  17. UP Diliman

    The UP Diliman campus has become a favorite weekend leisure spot for alumni and non-alumni alike. Have a picnic, jog, ride a bike, or just laze your Sunday away at the UP Sunken Garden. Check out the murals on the walls of the College of Fine Arts building and the creative structures of the College of Architecture, too. P.S.A. If you want to see those gorgeous sunflower blooms, visit the campus during graduation season in June and find your way to the University Avenue.

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  18. Mang Larry's Isawan

    While you’re already in the UP campus, don’t miss out on your favorite street food at Mang Larry’s. The main stall has been relocated multiple times, and the latest location is near the College of Fine Arts along Jacinto Street. The bestseller? Mang Larry’s isaw baboy. Unlike several neighborhood barbecue grills, the isaw here holds its own and does not need much sawsawan to please your taste buds. If that’s not your thing, you can also try their siomai and other grilled choices.

  19. Maginhawa Street

    Since we’re talking about Diliman, we can’t skip mentioning the Maginhawa street. Every now and then since it became a popular food crawl area, restaurants and food parks would pop up and serve all kinds of dishes. Among those that have stood the test of time and continue to satisfy cravings are Van Gogh is Bipolar (sip on their mood-setting Mood Tea and enjoy the Pescatarian meal) and Crazy Katsu (try their famous chicken katsu). There’s also the StrEAT: Maginhawa Food Park, where you can try an #EpicPail of specialty cocktails from Epicure, Hong Kong-style salted egg chicken from Taste 360, and the famous Giant Butterfly Squid from Above Sea Level.

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We're betting you can add 19 more destinations to this Manila itinerary. What other places should we explore this year?

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