As the capital center of the Philippines, Manila is a mix of urban development and historical nostalgia. It’s one of the busiest and most diverse cities in the world, and there’s always something new to do in its sprawling metropolis.
From historical museums and Spanish colonial architecture to an exciting nightlife, Manila has everything that every traveler is looking for. If you only have 24 hours to explore Manila, what would you do? Below are some of my recommended activities for you to make the most out of your short trip in Manila:
1.) Experience Pinoy breakfast: Tapsilog + Kapeng Barako (7:00 AM – 8:00 AM)
The best way to truly immerse yourself in a country’s culture is to try their food. Skip your usual bacon and eggs in the morning and have some of our Filipino breakfast instead.
I suggest that you try “tapsilog,” which is a combination of tapa (cured beef), sinangag (fried rice), and itlog (egg), then partner this with Kapeng Barako, a strong variation of coffee from Batangas and Cavite. This meal is served almost everywhere—may it be in the hotel that you’re staying in, restaurants, or at a nearby carinderia (small eatery).
2.) Get to know Manila’s History in Intramuros (7:00 AM – 10:00 AM)
Discover Manila’s history and culture by wandering in the ancient walled city of Intramuros. Walking around the cobbled-stoned streets and Spanish colonial houses will bring you back in time, complete with guards wearing the traditional Guardia Civil uniform and horse-drawn carriages (famously known as Calesa).
Here, you will see the Philippine President’s Gallery, Plaza de Roma, and Fort Santiago. Pinay Nomad made a short video about Intramuros, you can watch it here.
3.) Visit century old churches (10:00 AM – 12:00 NN)
Catholicism is a huge influence in the Philippine culture after being colonized by the Spaniards for 300 years, so it’s no wonder that there are a lot of century-old churches in the country. In fact, in Intramuros alone, you can visit two churches.
Marvel at the beauty of the architecture of San Agustin Church, one of the oldest standing churches in the Philippines, and Manila Cathedral, one of the most famous churches in Manila because of its relevance in Philippine history.
4.) Chicken Adobo for Lunch (11:00 AM- 12 NN)
Time to replenish your stomach after a morning of exploration in Manila! If you’re looking for Filipino food to add to your historical tour, I recommend eating at Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant right in front of San Agustin Church.
It’s the perfect place to go if you want to try Filipino dishes. A recommended Pinoy lunch for you to try would be Rice + Chicken Adobo, a Filipino classic dish cooked in soy sauce, vinegar and garlic.
5.) Visit the National Museum (12:00 NN-2:00 PM)
The National Museum, which was the Legislative Hall before World War II, houses a vast collection of anthropological, ethnographic, and visual (paintings, sculptures, and religious art) collections.
Learn more about Philippine’s history and culture by looking through paintings and artifacts displayed in each gallery. I recommend looking for Juan Luna’s larger than life Spolarium painting and be amazed at its beauty.
What’s more is that admission to the National Museum is now permanently free!
6.) Rizal Park (2:00 PM-3:00PM)
Your trip to Manila wouldn’t be complete without visiting Rizal Park or also known as Luneta Park. Formerly known as the “bagumbayan” during the Spanish Era, the Rizal Park is known in Philippine History as the execution site of Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s National Hero.
Aside from Rizal’s monument, you can also visit the Japanese garden, gallery of heroes, Chinese garden, and other stunning artworks by artists in the Philippines.
7.) Pinoy Merienda (3:00 PM -4:00 PM)
Take a break by eating snacks, also known as merienda in Filipino. You can try eating street food such as fish balls, kwek-kwek (deep fried quail eggs in orange batter, trust me it’s good), kikiam, and squid balls.
You can also try eating halo-halo, a famous Filipino dessert and snack. It is a mixture of ice, milk, and various ingredients such as beans, corn, crisped rice, coconut gelatin, pearls, and purple yam.
8.) Watch the sunset at Manila Bay (5:00 PM-6:30 PM)
One of the best spots to watch the sunset in Manila is in Manila Bay since it has one of the most breathtaking views of sunsets in the city.
Take a walk along Roxas Boulevard and watch as the sun kisses the sea, and the sky changes color from blue to orange, and finally to a deep purple, as the sun finally sets and the moon shows up.
9.) Shopping (7:00 PM – 9:00 PM)
The Philippines is known to have a lot of huge malls. Shopping in the Philippines is cheap and very convenient. Some of the malls I recommend for some shopping is Landmark, SM, Robinsons, and Greenhills. I highly recommend going to Divisoria, where you can buy clothes, shoes, and pasalubong (local product as a gift) for a very low price.
10.) City nightlife (9:00 PM- 12:00 MN)
Manila is also known to have great nightlife! Filipinos know how to party, so before leaving Manila, make sure to grab a few drinks.
If you want a more affordable night life activity, sing at a karaoke bar with Filipinos! You’ll soon realize that almost every Filipino can sing really well.
I hope you enjoy Manila with this itinerary. Aside from touring the city, you’ll also get to reap all the health benefits that come with spending time outdoors instead of locking yourselves in your hotels.
See, feel, and taste the best of Manila by marveling through its history and enjoying its nightlife. Manila has a lot to offer, you just need to know where to go.