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10 Museums To Visit If You Want To Know More About Manila

Learn something new about Manila.
PHOTO: (LEFT) Instagram/dailoloko, (RIGHT) Instagram/haymeferrer

One beautiful thing about the Philippines’ colorful history is that you’ll never run out of something new to learn. If you’ve been away from the country for a long time, we know you’ve been dying to rediscover Manila again. Why not learn something new in the process? Manila is home to lots of museums that cover a wide range of topics—there’s sure to be one for every kind of special interest.

  1. National Museum of the Philippines

    When you think "National Museum," you most likely think of the Spoliarium. But the museum is actually a complex that offers more than just paintings. There’s the National Museum of Fine Arts, which houses art from the 18th century to present time—some of the artists featured in their collection include Juan Luna, Vincente Manansala, Fernando Amorsolo, and Ang Kiokok. Archaeology enthusiasts should visit the Museum of the Filipino People, where you can find artifacts from pre-colonial times exhibited. The National Museum of Natural History, meanwhile, isn’t just gorgeous architecturally; it also houses the largest national plant collection in the country and a vast collection of animal specimens from around the country. Don’t forget to drop by the National Planetarium, home to a full-dome planetarium projector.

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  2. Casa Manila

    If you’ve ever wondered how the high society lived during Spanish colonial times, then Casa Manila is a must-visit. The museum is housed in a beautiful reproduction of a Spanish colonial house so if you love antiques and anything vintage, you’re in for a field day. 

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  3. Museum of Contemporary Art and Design

    According to their official website, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (or MCAD, for short) is “a non-collecting institution.” This simply means that the MCAD doesn’t have a permanent collection—instead, expect rotating exhibits by contemporary artists whose art can range from “traditional” painting to video and sound, mixed media, installation art and more.

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  4. Destileria Limtuaco Museum

    The Destileria Limtuaco may be the Philippines’ oldest and largest distillery, but expect more than just alcohol at this museum. For one, this museum is located inside a bahay-na-bato in Intramuros, effectively bringing you back in time to around 160 years ago, when the distillery was first established. Aside from a walk-through of their distillation process, you can also view the founders’ personal items, and taste-test drinks at the bar for P100. If liquor is your special interest, you’ll especially get a kick out of the shelves of the distillery’s brands throughout the times, while those interested in typography can leaf through booklets that chronicle how their labels have changed throughout time.

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  5. Museo Pambata

    No grade-school experience was complete without going on a field trip to Museo Pambata at least once. Just because you’re all grown-up now doesn’t mean you can’t come back for a visit. Bring your pamangkins and fellow kids-at-heart for a fun romp through the museum’s hands-on exhibits that teach everything from history, the environment to anatomy, career options, and human rights.

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  6. Museum of a History of Ideas

    For proud Iskos and Iskas, a visit to UP Manila’s Museum of a History of Ideas is a must. The museum chronicles the way the University of the Philippines helped in the Philippines’ nation-building since its establishment during the American occupation. Divided into six themes (or “ideas”), the museum retells our history and UP’s involvement through archival documents, photographs, video walls, items, and more. Plus, the museum’s architecture itself is stunning—at the lobby, you can view a wall with images of the cholera bacteria (the disease was a significant part of American times) that looks strangely beautiful, you’ll want to take photos for the ‘gram.

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  7. Museo ng Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

    Beyond payday and our struggle to budget, we barely think of money as a concept. But, like everything else, our currency has a rich history—all of which you can learn about at Museo ng Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas or The Money Museum. At the museum, you can view all the evolutions of our coins and bills—it’s especially interesting to see what kind of flora and fauna, as well as personalities, have been featured on our currency all these years. You won’t look at your sweldo in the same way after a visit.

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  8. Museo de Intramuros

    A visit to the Walled City always feels like a trip back in time—take the experience even further by dropping by Museo de Intramuros. Located inside the San Ignacio Church, the museum is home to around 500 religious artifacts from the old churches within and around Intramuros.

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  9. Chinatown Museum

    We daresay that Binondo is now best-known for all the tasty Chinese eats you can get in the district but after your next food crawl, why not spend time getting to know the history behind the world’s oldest Chinatown, too? Chinatown Museum, located inside Lucky Chinatown Mall, is dedicated to telling the story of Binondo. Inside, you’ll find replicas of Binondo’s landmarks like Binondo Church, traditional shophouses, a tranvia, and more. The museum also hosts rotating exhibits regularly so you can come back again and again.

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  10. Metropolitan Museum of Manila

    Manila’s own “The Met” is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. The Metropolitan Museum of Manila showcases the evolution of Filipino art, from early, pre-colonial times to today. Aside from their permanent collection that includes Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ pre-colonial gold collection and religious art collection, The Met also regularly hosts exhibits by local and international artists and guided tours.

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