Manila Visitor Guide 2023: Everything You Need To Know
Manila, capital of the Philippines, is a city that's languished for a long time off the list of tourist destinations. Often, travelers anxious to see some of the spectacular scenery and fascinating culture of the Philippines only pass through Manila on their way to somewhere else. But this sprawling city of 12 million residents has a lot to offer. And recently, more and more people have been discovering the charm of Manila for themselves.
As well as being the political and economic hub of the country, Manila is also the Philippines’ cultural capital. Many of the country's most important cultural institutions are here. And if you can handle the chaos and hectic pace of the city, Manila offers a vacation like no other. Drop off your bags at a Manila luggage storage locker to make things easier and enjoy a visit to one of the world's most up-and-coming cities.
A weekend in Manila
A weekend in Manila doesn’t really scratch the surface of what the city has to offer. But it should be just enough to see at least some of the major sites. Drop your bags off at a Manila suitcase storage and immerse yourself in the vibrant life of the city.
- Explore Manila's colonial past at Intramuros. Established by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, Manila didn't outgrow its old center until the twentieth century. You can feel the Spanish influence everywhere as you explore this charming neighborhood.
- See the center of Spanish military power at Fort Santiago. This 16th-century fort explains not only the legacy of Spanish rule in the Philippines, but also the Philippine independence movement of the late nineteenth century. This well-preserved fort is a fascinating place to explore the forces that have shaped the modern Philippines.
- Ayala Museum is the place to learn more about Filipino history and culture from the earliest times up until the present. The stunning exhibits here tell the story of the Philippines before, during, and after colonization, and explain the fascinating culture of the people through the artifacts they left behind.
With its crazy traffic, noise, and crowds, Manila is no place to carry heavy bags. Make your trip easier on yourself by dropping off your unneeded luggage at a Manila luggage storage service. Knowing your bags are being safely looked after will be a load off your mind as well as your back. And traveling light will make it much easier to navigate Manila's often crowded but always entertaining streets.
Off the beaten path in Manila
Manila has been underappreciated for a long time. And even now that more tourists are discovering the city's top attractions, there are plenty of lesser-known gems that are still worth exploring. Leave your bags behind at a Manila suitcase storage and see some of these hidden treasures.
- Stretch your legs at Rizal Park. This grassy oasis is a peaceful break from being surrounded by some of the world's most congested streets. It's also the place where Philippine independence was officially declared, making it somewhere you can peer into history while taking a much-needed break from the chaos of the city.
- Manila has been home to a sizable population of Chinese immigrants since before the Spanish ever arrived. Learn more about this history at Bahay Tsinoy, a museum dedicated to the history of the Chinese in Manila.
- Visit Destileria Limtauco to see a museum dedicated to liquor. Opened by the Philippines' main alcohol brand, this museum explores the history and culture of alcohol in the Philippines. And yes, you can taste some of the liquor for yourself.
What to do alone in Manila
Experienced solo travelers know that often, large and chaotic cities are the best places to be alone. Manila certainly fits the bill. In the busy streets and hectic marketplaces, you'll never be lonely. Exploring by yourself makes it easy to navigate this bustling place.
- Take a stroll along the Manila Baywalk at sunset. The tranquility of the ocean setting makes it hard to imagine this was once the scene of a battle between the US and Spain which ended Spanish rule of the Philippines. There's often musicians and street performers in the area, and you'll find plenty of bars and restaurants where you can get refreshments.
- See the work of some of the Philippines' most prominent artists at the National Museum of Fine Arts. This museum gives you a deeper appreciation for the artistic achievements of Filipinos, and you may come away with some new favorite artists.
- San Agustin church and museum are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The church's interior is stunning with its trompe l'oeil paintings and impressive architecture. Meanwhile, the museum explores the history of religion in the Philippines from the Spanish missionaries' arrival onwards.
The best souvenirs in Manila
Giftgiving is a big part of Filipino culture, and so Manila is a great place to shop for souvenirs. Hit the many markets of the city for a kubing, or jaw harp, or some Filipino sweets such as polvoron and pastillas de leche. You could also celebrate the Jeepney, the iconic Filipino mode of transport with a toy Jeepney from Tesoro's Handicrafts. Banig products, made from woven grass and decorated with vibrant patterns, also make a great souvenir. You can pick up mats, bags, and other items from Balikbayan Handicrafts.