Manila is the Philippines’ main international gateway. But, let me tell you, Manila is more than just a jumpoff point to the Philippines’s vast tourist destinations. As the country’s capital city, it is a bustling, bayside metropolis filled with modern-day attractions for all ages and interests. Manila’s cityscape is also perfectly blended with heritage sites from the Spanish colonial period, including the famous walled city of Intramuros, and the iconic citadel of Fort San Pedro. There is so much to experience in Manila, and exploring it may seem a bit overwhelming, especially for first-time travelers, but with a well-planned itinerary, there is so much you can discover that you’ll love traveling here over and over again. There’s a lot of interesting spots you can visit near the airport as well as places near Manila for day trips. So whether you’re in for just a short layover or have a few days to spare, there’s definitely something for you in the list I’ve compiled below.

1. Intramuros

Location: Near Central LRT Station. Taft Avenue/Bonifacio Drive, Manila City, Metro Manila. Save on Google Maps.

A welcome sight against peaking skyscrapers, Intramuros is a walled city that is often dubbed as the heart of Old Manila. It’s the oldest part of the city and dates back to the Spanish colonization period. Its thick walls have stood through time and entering them will take you on a trip back in history.

Intramuros was the seat of political power during the Spanish regime and its churches, courtyards, and buildings boast of the era’s finest architecture. You can easily enjoy the picturesque sites strolling throughout the area or while riding a “bambike” through a bamboo bike tour. You can even experience the scenic routes while riding a horse-driven carriage called a “kalesa”. The kalesa guided tour is a cultural immersion through the past as you pass by the beautiful and iconic historical sites such as Manila Cathedral, Palacio del Gobernador, Casa Manila, and the baroque-styled San Agustin Church, the Philippines’ oldest stone-built church and a UNESCO World Heritage Site

When in Intramuros, do not forget to visit Fort San Pedro. It’s one of the country’s oldest stone citadel and a historic national monument that has been preserved through time. Other places to see in Intramuros include the Baluarte de San Diego, Plaza de Roma, Bahay Tsinoy, and the Ayuntamiento building. Intramuros is also packed with historic sculptures and statues, and you can easily spend a day reveling in its beauty. If you’re a bit pressed on time though, there are numerous tours you can choose from that will take you through the walled city’s cultural highlights.

Intramuros Travel Essentials

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Manila Travel Essentials:

Where to stay in Manila (click below to see rates and book online)
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Manila Fares & Transport

Manila Tours & Discounts

See also: Best Places to Visit in the Philippines | Top Philippine Beaches | The Philippines’ Most Beautiful Waterfalls.

To help with your trip planning, I’ve added links to the locations on Google Maps. Feel free to click/tap on the links posted. Then, use the “save” feature on the Google Maps app for easy reference.

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2. Binondo (Manila Chinatown)

Location: Near Carriedo LRT Station. Manila City. Save on Google Maps.

You might not think that Binondo is a tourist destination because of its tight streets and old buildings, but it’s a cultural hotspot and one of the best places for a gastronomic adventure. The dim sum here is one you wouldn’t want to miss. There’s even a guided food tour that showcases Binondo’s best dishes and iconic churches.

Binondo or Manila’s Chinatown is buzzing with vibrant streetside shops that sell just about everything. It was established in 1594 and is considered the oldest Chinatown in the world. When in Binondo, you should visit Binondo Church (also known as the San Lorenzo Ruiz Basilica Minor). Built in 1596, the church is an iconic landmark that was built for Chinese traders that were converted to Christianism during the Spanish rule. The church holds masses in English, Filipino and Chinese. Aside from it, Binondo’s main streets, Escolta and Ongpin Street are other places you will enjoy exploring.

Binondo Travel Essentials

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The Big Binondo Food Wok

3. National Museum of Natural History & the National Museum Complex

Location: Teodoro F. Valencia Circle, Ermita, Manila City. Save on Google Maps.

If you love the arts or prefer a relaxed trip exploring history and heritage, then the National Museum Complex is for you. You can even take a private museum tour that’s tailored to your interests. The museum houses collections in archaeology, natural history, ethnography, and fine arts that showcase the Filipino’s artistry and talents throughout time.

The complex includes four sections – natural history, fine arts, anthropology, and the planetarium. The National Museum of Natural History displays the biodiversity of the Philippines’ ecosystem with over 10 galleries on plants and animals. You can check out the actual skeletal remains and a real-life replica of Lolong — previously the world’s largest saltwater crocodile held in captivity. The “tree of life” is also a popular attraction. It’s a glass elevator with an intricate canopy that offers a bird’s eye view of the museum. The museum encourages interaction through hands-on activities, like drawing tables for children.

Another section is the National Museum of Fine Arts houses different works of national artists, including the famous Spoliarium by Juan Luna. It’s the largest painting in the Philippines. The National Museum of Anthropology features collections in anthropology and archeology. Here you can learn more about the culture of native people throughout time along with the Philippines’ ancient script – the “Baybayin”. The last section is the National Planetarium, where you can view real-life projections of celestial bodies. They also have different shows featuring wonders of astronomy through a full-dome Planetarium projector.

4. Makati

Location: Metro Manila. Save on Google Maps.

Makati is the financial capital of the Philippines, and one of the countries’ biggest business districts. If you’re looking for a world-class hotel, then there’s no better place than its central business district located along Ayala Avenue. Makati is also famous for its shopping hub – Ayala Center. If you’re into shopping then you wouldn’t want to miss Greenbelt Mall which houses many international brands, luxurious boutiques, restaurants, and entertainment amenities. Jumping from one mall to the next is also quite easy on foot.

Another great place to stay and visit is Makati Poblacion. It’s known for its upbeat nightlife and is one of the best places for dining, drinking, and shopping. The area around Kalayaan Avenue is packed with dive-bars, street foods, and live music events. Makati Poblacion is also home to the high-end lifestyle hub, Rockwell Center, and avant-garde art galleries like the Pineapple Lab. What’s even better is that there are accommodations available for any budget – from backpacker hostels to lucrative hotels.

If you’re in Makati on a Saturday, a visit to the Salcedo Market is a great way to kill some time. They open from 7:00 AM and close at noon, and if you want to get first dibs on the best local produce, then I suggest you go there early. Aside from fresh fruits and vegetables, you can also get beverages, cooked foods, delicacies, and other interesting finds.

Makati Travel Essentials

Where to stayTours + discounts

5. Bonifacio Global City

Location: Metro Manila. Save on Google Maps.

Commonly called as BGC by locals, Bonifacio Global City is a financial and lifestyle hub in the city of Taguig. It is also often referred to as The Fort or simply Global City. This area teeming with multinational corporations, malls, luxury hotels, and high-end residential buildings. BGC is also quite popular for its nightlife as it is also home to the hottest clubs, bars, and restaurants.

A visit to BGC is also never complete without stopping over at Bonifacio High Street. Boasting of open-air, high-end stores, and diverse restaurants in the numerous shopping blocks, Bonifacio High Street is BGC’s retail and entertainment core. Also, if you want to shop with an interesting twist, I suggest you try the Venice Grand Canal Mall, where you can relax on a gondola ride on open canals and enjoy a great view of Venetian-inspired architecture. Other malls in BGC include SM Aura, Uptown Mall, and Market! Market!.

Bonifacio Global City is also a cultural hotspot. Colorful and gigantic murals painted by international and local artists line BGC, making the area a popular site for a leisurely walk or bike ride. Here, you can also visit the Mind Museum, a world-class museum of science that has over 250 collections that range from interactive exhibits, experiment demonstrations, exciting and unique programs, planetarium shows, and so much more. The Manila American Cemetery & Memorial is also located in Bonifacio Global City. It comprises 152 acres of land and is the largest US military cemetery. It was built to honor American and Filipino WWII soldiers and houses more than 17 thousand gravestones that are perfectly aligned in 11 plots to form a circular pattern. A white chapel stands on the cemetery’s far end, and on each side stands a hemicycle whose tablet walls are inscribed with the names of the missing. The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is open to the public and provides a tranquil escape from the bustling city.

BGC Travel Essentials

Where to stayTours + discounts

6. Newport City & Resorts Word Manila

Location: In front of NAIA-Manila Airport Terminal 3. Newport Blvd, Pasay City. Save on Google Maps.

Just on the outskirts of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and Villamor Golf Club, Newport City is a well-developed township complete with ritzy hotels, upscale residential condos, and business establishments. All these are integrated with the impressive Resorts World Manila and is a short walking distance from the NAIA Airport Terminal 3 via the Runway Manila FootBridge.

Aside from its proximity to the airport, Newport Mall is another reason that makes Newport City the best spot to kill time if you’re in for a layover. The mall is a four-story commercial center that includes luxury shops, a wide range of dining options, salons, a full-service spa, a play center, and a 3D cinema. Traveling with your family? A trip to the GameZoo will keep the kids entertained with arcades and thrilling 6D rides. You can also watch a live stage show in the Newport Performing Arts Theater here.

Spend a night (or more) & enjoy Newport City and Resorts World Manila’s many world-class entertainment & dining options. With world-class hotels, such as Marriott Hotel, Sheraton Manila, Maxims Hotel, Hilton Hotel Hotel, Belmont Hotel, Savoy Hotel & Holiday Inn Express integrated within the resort, you will want to stay here.

Resorts Word Manila Travel Essentials

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7. Okada Manila & Manila Bay Entertainment City

Location: New Seaside Dr, Tambo, Parañaque City. Save on Google Maps.

Okada Manila, formerly named as Manila Bay Resorts, is one of the premier destinations in Manila Bay Entertainment City. Its crowning jewel and Manila’s modern-day icon is The Fountain – an expansive multi-colored dancing fountain rivaling that of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and Vegas’ Bellagio. The fountain show starts at 6 PM and is free for public viewing.

Aside from The Foundation, Okada Manila’s unique architecture and picturesque interiors is also a sight to behold. The complex’s five-star hotel has 993 lavish suites and villas that have spectacular views of either The Fountain or of Manila Bay’s spectacular sunset. Another sought-after attraction here is Cove Manila – an indoor beach club that turns into a nightclub at night. It is equipped with highly advanced climate control, visual, sound, and lighting tech that provides perfect summer weather all year long, and an unparalleled multisensory nightclub experience. This day-to-night party experience is unique to Cove Manila in the metro.

Okada Manila is part of the Manila Bay Entertainment City project, an ongoing Vegas-inspired gaming strip that stretches up to 8 km along the famed Manila Bay. The project’s official name is the “Bagong Nayong Pilipino-Entertainment City” but is more commonly referred to as Entertainment City Manila. It includes integrated resorts that feature upscale hotels, casinos, dining, and entertainment centers including Okada Manila, Solaire Resort & Casino, City of Dreams & more

Okada Manila Room Rates

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Manila Bay Travel Essentials

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8. SM Mall of Asia

Location: 123 Seaside Blvd, Pasay City. Save on Google Maps.

The SM Mall of Asia, often dubbed by locals as SM MoA or simply MoA, is not your average mall. It is one of the largest malls in the world, and aside from shopping, dining, and the usual amenities, it has a whole host of entertainment features that include an Olympic-sized skating rink, an amusement park, concert grounds, the Science Center, and the SMX Convention Center. The 65th Miss Universe was even held at the Mall of Asia Arena that can hold up to 20,000 guests.

The bayside grounds and amusement park cooled by the sea breeze, together with the mall’s extensive dining options make SM Mall of Asia a great place to visit over and over again. You can even enjoy a fireworks show on weekends. But it can get pretty crowded since SM Mall of Asia is extremely popular among locals and tourists. If you’re not into crowds, try visiting during weekdays during office hours.

Where to go near Manila

9. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, Bataan

Location: Bagac, Bataan province. Save on Google Maps.

A historical and heritage haven, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan is a complex of beautifully restored Spanish-Filipino ancestral houses. The resort’s intricate architecture, landscape, and immersive tours will take you back to the glory days of Old Manila. Whether you take the Tramvia or a kalesa through its cobblestone roads or ride a balsa along the waterway, you will fall in love with the resort’s unique appeal. Stay a night in their Spanish styled, upscale hotel rooms or in your very own lucrative private casa that perfectly blends old world charm with modern amenities, and you’ll feel like you’re living in the shoes of the country’s elites during the colonial era.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Travel Essentials

Where to stayTours + discounts

10. Tagaytay & Taal Lake

Location: Cavite-Batangas province. Save on Google Maps.

Tagaytay’s cool weather, good food, outdoor parks, and family-friendly attractions make it a favorite weekend getaway from Manila’s busy and fast-paced lifestyle. Tagaytay is most known for its scenic view of the world-famous Taal Lake. The lake, or caldera to be more accurate, holds the iconic Taal Volcano – the smallest active volcano in the world. It’s a rare wonder, with the confusing description “a lake within an island on a lake on an island within a lake” that you would have to see for yourself. You will enjoy this view from different angles all over Tagaytay Ridge. What’s even better is that the ridge is speckled with numerous outdoor attractions such as People’s Park in the Sky, Tagaytay Picnic Grove, Sky Ranch, and many more.

When it comes to good food, Tagaytay won’t disappoint. For early travelers, you can enjoy a hearty breakfast at Antonio’s Garden or at the restaurants and cafes along Tagaytay ridge. You can also check out Sonya’s Secret Garden on the outskirts of the city for a great meal and for photo-ops. Tagaytay is also popular for their steaming bowl of “bulalo” or beef marrow stew – a perfect meal for the cool weather. Try getting some at Bulalo Point, Balay Dako, Leslies, and in the stalls of Mahogany Market.

Tagaytay Travel Essentials

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11. Cavinti Falls (Pagsanjan Falls)

Location: Cavinti, Laguna. Save on Google Maps.

Pagsanjan Falls is one of the Philippines’ most well-known waterfalls and Laguna’s major tourist attractions. It’s a majestic three-drop wonder that can be reached via an exhilarating banca ride, popularly known as Shooting the Rapids. You can also reach the falls by hiking Pueblo El Salvador Nature’s Park and Picnic Grove. They also have view decks that allow you to see the fall’s different levels. But if you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience I highly suggest the banca ride. It’s a thrilling and scenic adventure where skilled boatmen navigate through turbulent crystal clear waters as you pass by magnificent greenery, rock formations, gorges, and smaller waterfalls. Once at the base of Pagsanjan Falls, you can also ride a bamboo raft that will take you behind its rushing waters towards Devil’s cave. Don’t forget to bring some extra clothes!

Laguna Travel Essentials

Tours + discounts

12. Villa Escudero

Location: Tiaong, Quezon province. Save on Google Maps.

Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and experience a relaxing time at Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort with its alluring blend of nature with rustic country life appeal. The place was founded in 1880 as a sugarcane plantation and was converted to a coconut plantation in the early 1900s. It houses the country’s first-ever hydroelectric power plant. Both the powerplant and the plantation are running smoothly to this day.

Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort is perfect for a day trip, or even an overnight stay. Eating at their world-renowned Labasin Waterfalls Restaurant is a must-try experience. Other activities here include exploring the Escudero’s private museum which houses one of the Philippines’ largest private collection of antiquities, bamboo rafting, and touring the resort on a carabao cart ride. They also have cultural shows and other recreational amenities.

Villa Escudero Travel Essentials

Tours + discounts

See prices & book online

Villa Escudero Tour from Manila

13. Enchanted Kingdom

Location: Santa Rosa, Laguna. Save on Google Maps.

Located in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Enchanted Kingdom is the Philippines’ first and only theme park. With seven themed zones, the park boasts of 20 major attractions that range from thrilling rides like the Space Shuttle and Disk O Magic to interactive 7D and 4D motion theaters, live attractions, and family-friendly activities. Their newest attraction, Agila: EKsperience is unique to the Philippines and showcases the country’s wonders through a flight simulation ride.

The park can also cater to up to 25,000 guests and accommodates in-group reservations. It’s a choice venue for events including birthdays, weddings, conferences, corporate team building activities, school programs, and even more. The park’s magical appeal continues to enchant visitors of all ages to keep coming back, that they even offer an “EKsperience the Magic Card” – a one-time purchase card that allows unlimited admissions for an entire year.

See prices & book online

Enchanted Kingdom Admission Ticket

14. Mount Pinatubo Crater Lake

Location: Botolan, Zambales. Save on Google Maps.

Despite the tragedy brought upon its eruption in 1991, Mount Pinatubo continues to attract more and more people. The turquoise waters of its massive crater is a marvelous sight to behold, and trekking towards it is a scenic adventure that also involves 4×4 rides on lahar fields. You can DIY a day trip for it from Capas, Tarlac or Botolan, Zambales. You can also get a hassle-free package tour in Manila. If you are doing a DIY trip, you have to be at Sta. Juliana Tourism by 10 AM to book a 4×4 ride. Traveling through the mountain beyond that time is not allowed, because it takes about an hour for the 4×4 ride and at least 2 more for the trek on foot.

A trip to Mount Pinatubo can easily be done in a day, but since you have to travel very early to get there, staying near the area is also a great option. There are plenty of hotels and inns here, plus there are fun activities you can try before or after your trek to the volcano. You can try the relaxing volcanic ash massage at Pinatubo Spa Town, or bask in the rejuvenating Dolores and Bueno Hot Springs. You can also visit historical sites such as Campo Santo Município, O’Donnell Church, and Capas Shrine, or see some of the Japanese war tunnels and caves.

15. Hundred Islands & Pangasinan

Location: Alaminos Pangasinan. Save on Google Maps.

If you love beaches and tropical islands, then a trip to the Hundred Island is just what you’re looking for. Located in Alaminos, Pangasinan, it’s a national park that totals to over a hundred islands flowing with white sand beaches, caves, rock cliffs, and diverse marine life. Four of these islands have been developed for tourism – Children’s Island, Governor Island, Marcos Island, and Quezon Island.

There are tons to do in the Hundred Islands – from zip-lining and climbing the view deck in Governor Island, snorkeling in Quezon Island to cliff diving at Marcos Island. You can also go cave exploring, fishing, or try your hand at the numerous watersports available. If you have kids, they have plenty of family-friendly activities at Children Island as well.

There’s so much to do in the Hundred Islands that you will want to spend more than just a day here, and fortunately, there are several resorts on the island that you can stay at. You can even go camping for free along the beautiful beaches of the islands. If you’re planning a day trip, you will have to leave Manila by 2:00 AM because the Hundred Island National Park is about five hours from Manila so that you can maximize your time here. I suggest you get a tour so that you won’t have to worry about transport, and you can catch up on some sleep while you travel.

Pangasinan Travel Essentials

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Hundred Islands Day Trip from Manila

16. Corregidor Island

Location: Cavite City. Save on Google Maps.

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Clark & Angeles City

Location: Clark Freeport, Angeles City, Pampanga province. Save on Google Maps.

Clark Travel Essentials

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Baguio

Location: Benguet province. Save on Google Maps.

Baguio Travel Essentials

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San Juan, La Union

Location: La Union province, Ilocos region. Save on Google Maps.

San Juan Travel Essentials

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Puerto Galera

Location: Oriental Mindoro province. Save on Google Maps.

Puerto Galera Travel Essentials

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Baler

Location: Aurora province. Save on Google Maps.

Baler Travel Essentials

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Anawangin & Nagsasa Cove, Zambales

Location: San Antonio, Zambales province. Save on Google Maps.

Hulugan Falls & Laguna Province

Location: Luisiana, Laguna. Save on Google Maps.

What places have you added to your bucketlist? Have you been to beautiful places in Manila that should be on this list? Feel free to share your thoughts!

Places to visit in Manila

Manila tourist spots, things to do in Manila, where to go in Manila & more.

Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

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Where to Stay in Manila

Click below & search recommended Manila hotels/hostels/home rentals within your budget. Remember to set your min/max price, travel dates, and sort by review ratings. I often book online with these trusted booking sites below for rock-bottom prices & convenient bookings.

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Book sooner rather than later if you already have your dates set. Cheaper-priced rooms and hotels with high reviews tend to get fully booked faster, especially during busy days like weekends, holidays & peak tourist seasons.

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