Manila may be both chaotic and congested, but it’s never dull. New shopping malls rise next to the slum areas, the poverty and the luxury coexist just next to each other. Manila may not be famous for its beauty, but its magnetic energy gives you a special feel. Diverse and lively in so many ways, it’s a great city to explore even if you only have one day to do it.
What’s the best time to visit Manila?
The best time to visit Manila would be in December and January. Both months offer nice and dry weather and the lowest average temperature. Dry season continues until April, while the wet season starts in May and lasts until November. If possible, skip July and August because there is too much rain at that time and May because of the unbearable heat.
Search here for the best flight deals
A few facts about Metro Manila
Metro Manila is the capital region of the Philippines composed of 16 cities and home to 12 million citizens. One of the cities inside the region is Manila, the capital city of the country, while the most populous city is Quezon City. In pre-Hispanic time, the province known as Manila encompassed kingdoms of Tondo and Maynila. At the time of the Spanish occupation, the city inside the walls (Intramuros) became the capital of the country. Today, Metro Manila region is the cultural, economical and governmental center of the Philippines.
One day in Manila itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Manila.
Start your day at Intramuros
Intramuros or ‘within the wall’ represents the oldest district of Metro Manila, built during the Spanish occupation. It’s the best place to start your day and to soak in the rich history of the Philippines. A part of the boundary walls is still well preserved, even though a huge part was destroyed in WWII, during the Japanese-American battle for Manila. Still, lots of historical buildings, museums and even two churches can be found inside the area. For those who want to know more about this place and the Filipino history in general, it’s recommended to book an Intramuros walking tour.
Stop at the Fort Santiago
Stop at one of the famous sights inside Intramuros – Fort Santiago. As a defense fortress, this citadel played a very important role in the history of Manila. Today, it’s still very well preserved and together with lovely gardens and plazas makes a perfect oasis in the center of the city, perfect to enjoy on hot sunny days.
If you’re interested, visit the Museum of Dr José Rizal, Philippines’ national hero and one of the most important figures in their history.
Visit the Cathedral of Manila and San Agustin Church
Not far from the Fort stands the Cathedral of Manila, a Roman Catholic basilica, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was heavily damaged several times, but it has now been restored to its full glory. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll have a chance to see a Filipino wedding ceremony on weekends.
The San Agustin Church, the other church inside Intramuros, was constructed during the Spanish colonial period as one of four churches. This Baroque church was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and named a National Historical Landmark.
Check out the National Museum
To continue your Filipino culture and history lesson, head to the National Museum. It houses the nation’s heritage and greatest artwork. The exhibits are divided between two separate buildings, one with the historical artifacts and one with the artwork. The best part of it is that the museum is admission free, so it’s really open for everyone to enjoy it.
Have a break at Rizal Park
You’re probably a bit tired by now. Adjacent to Intramuros, Rizal Park is the best place to relax a bit and escape Manila’s heavy traffic. It’s a favorite outdoor spot for both tourists and locals. On weekends, it’s usually packed with people. There are numerous statues in the park, so make sure to capture a few photos while there.
Take a jeepney ride
Taxis in Manila are very affordable and pretty convenient, but not as exciting as jeepneys. This cheapest public transportation in the Philippines costs less than a quarter of a dollar, which is nothing compared to the fun it offers you. All of that, if you manage to fit inside. You should stop a jeepney at a random place, since there are no actual stops.
Visit the Chinatown and try the best dumplings in the Philippines
Binondo may be the oldest Chinatown outside the territory of China, but it’s actually not that different from any other. Still, it’s worth a visit for several reasons. The place Lan Zhou La Mien serves the best dumpling in all the Philippines. You need to try them even if it means waiting in line for 15 minutes. Not just is the food super delicious, but it’s also super cheap.
It’s shopping time!
One more reason to visit Binondo is the shopping. This is the area where several markets and malls are located, but the most famous ones are Divisoria Market and 168 Shopping Mall, located just next to each other. Clothes, accessories, souvenirs and many other items can be purchased there at very cheap prices. Just don’t forget to bargain.
Watch the sunset from the rooftop of Bayleaf Hotel
After a long day of walking, it’s time for some drinks and relaxation. Sky Deck View Bar at the top of the Bayleaf Hotel offers both hot drinks and cocktails, but it’s also the best place in the city to enjoy Manila’s magical sunset. Watch the amazing colors of the skyline as the sun covers all of the Manila Bay in an orange glow.
Have a dinner at Makati
Makati is the financial center of the Philippines, another city and the central business district of Metro Manila. It’s where all the exclusive bars, hotels and restaurants are located, and it looks nothing like other cities within Metro Manila.
You can find a variety of nice restaurants at the Greenbelt, Ayala Center that surroundings the beautiful Greenbelt Park. Nice atmosphere, many different cuisines to choose from and amazing food are pretty good reasons to visit this place.
Enjoy Makati’s nightlife
Makati may be a bit pricey compared to other Manila’s districts, but it’s without a doubt the best place for a night out. For those who love the red light district atmosphere, head to the P Burgos Street. If clubbing is your thing, Royal Club may be a great place for you. Those who love deep house and techno should definitely visit Time club.
Where to stay in Manila?
City of Dreams Manila – Nüwa
City of Dreams Manila – Nüwa is definitely one of the top hotels in the whole city. It has a wide range of amenities and facilities like pool and fitness area, a great selection of restaurants to choose from as well as a casino.
Raffles Makati situated in the heart of Makati central business district features an outdoor swimming pool, a gym and a business center. Spectrum restaurant serves a wide variety of international cuisines, and Café Macaron has tasty pastries. Cocktails are available at the Raffles Long Bar, and room service is provided.
Rizal Park Hotel
Located just next to the Rizal Park, the Rizal Park Hotel is an excellent choice for those who are limited by time. The hotel is newly renovated from 1911 old navy and army club and nicely decorated – the whole interior feels pretty classy and luxurious. The food, served at an all-day-dining restaurant, comes in many varieties.
Element Boutique Hotel
Element Boutique Hotel is a cozy, very well furnished hotel with a cool flair. The rooms are modern and stylish, the staff is friendly and wonderful, and the quality of the food and wine list is high. The location is pretty central, close to many restaurants and bars, although quiet.
day trips from manila
If you have more than one day in Manila, investing time in a day trip is an excellent idea. There are plenty of historical and nature sights to see if you head out of town a bit, so you will surely not be disappointed. If you can’t decide which day trip you should book, our Day trips from Manila article might help you with that.
Corregidor Island is the site of one of the biggest battles of World War II – Americans and Filipinos took on the Japanese army. You can still see the ruins of the building used by the defending soldiers there, and you will hear detailed stories of the events that unfolded here. For all of you who enjoy history, this is a place you simply cannot afford to miss.
Pagsanjan Gorge National Park
Now this is something truly special. Pagsanjan Gorge National Park is a pristine strip of land with loads of vegetation and a crystal-clear Pagsanjan river. It is this river that hides the true gem of this day trip because, with the help of local guides, you can easily reach the magnificent Pagsanjan Falls. There is even a cave nearby where you swim and relax, so prepare yourself for a truly magical experience.
A trip to Subic Bay promises to be a memorable adventure. The place has thick jungle, and you can learn the survival skills you need from the Aetas, native people of the Philippines. Furthermore, there is also the option to embark on a safari if you want to see the tigers of the area, but you can choose to stay in one of the towns around the bay too if you prefer.
Taal Volcano is another place that combines nature and adventure. It contains a small but beautiful lake surrounded with lush vegetation. Keep in mind that you will be hiking here, so appropriate footwear is a must. The best thing about this day trip is that the volcano is still active, plus you can rent boats or even horses to explore everything.
Hidden Valley Springs
If you’re simply looking for some good-quality relaxation, Hidden Valley Springs is the perfect destination for you. Soak in the hot springs, relax in the midst of a thick forest and enjoy the incredibly clear water. This resort is placed perfectly between magnificent mountains and has absolutely everything you need to unwind and recharge your batteries, including a soda pool for you to enjoy.
Extra tips for visiting Metro Manila
– The heat in the city can be unbearable. Wear lighter clothes and bring a bottle of water with you.
– It’s pretty common to experience the stare of the locals, especially if you’re tall or white-skinned. They may also stop you in the street and ask for a photo.
– Be careful with your belongings, as there are occasional pickpockets, especially on the touristy sights.
Pin for later!
If you have any other propositions for this One Day in Manila Itinerary feel free to share it in the comments below!