Like all big, crazy Asian cities, Manila can be intimidating for first-timers. Yet there is much to like in this massive metropolis, if you know where to look. From enduring pockets of history, to gleaming futuristic malls and countless pockets of art and music, here are 10 Manila experiences that will give you a new appreciation for the Philippine capital.
Eat your way through the Salcedo Morning Market – Home cooks, new restaurant owners and a slew of other culinary enthusiasts gather to present their talents at this cheerful weekend get-together in Makati. Aside from authentic dishes such as pancit palabok, traditional sweets like bibingka and all those shots of smooth barako coffee, you can also find handmade bags and crafts from local entrepreneurs.
Taste test at Sentro 1771 – After many years, Filipino food is having a culinary renaissance in the capital city. Lighter, healthier, but still just as flavourful, modern Filipino cuisine is a treat for the tastebuds. Sample delicious dishes such as tilapia fillet with coconut milk and spinach, corned beef sinigang, and tofu and green mango salad at Sentro 1771.
‘Walk This Way’ with Carlos Celdran – Fort Santiago is one of Manila’s finest historical relics, and Carlos Celdran is one of its most fascinating performers. Put the two together an you have an unforgettable tour that walks you through the Manila’s colorful history, shedding light on little-known events, making you laugh — and possibly cry — along the way.
Take a nature stroll at Quezon Memorial Circle – Aside from fresh air and green space, Quezon Memorial Circle offers a mix of health and history attractions. A collection of stalls on the park’s fringes offer all-natural health products and blind massage. Visit the shrine in the center of the park, before taking a free guided walk through the Quezon Ancestral House.
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Mix n’ mingle at Greenbelt 3 – Manila knows a thing or two about malls. The best example of the capital’s all-in approach to mall culture is Greenbelt 3 – an outdoor mall/nightlife spot/garden/café circle… you get the picture. Greenbelt’s central open-air ring is a fantastic spot to grab a table, order a crepe or caffe latte, and watch the world go by.
Soak up colonial nostalgia in Intramuros – There are so many nooks and crannies to explore in this 400-year-old medieval fort city, you could easily spend a full day and not exhaust Intramuros’ treasures. Ride a horse-drawn carriage or calesa over the cobbled streets, walk the aisle at the elaborate San Agustin Church or browse any of the charming shops like the Manila Collectible for homegrown souvenirs.
Catch the last light over Manila Bay – The guidebooks will tell you to do this one along the sea wall at Roxas Boulevard or the Baywalk at Mall of Asia, but we can recommend a better spot for this lingering light show. Ride up to the Sky Deck Bar at the Bayleaf Hotel for a spectacular 360-degree view of the harbour and Old Manila, not to mention a well-mixed cocktail.
Make it a live music night – Filipinos are famously musical, and the capital is the best place to get your live music fix. Rockers may like to check out SaGuijo in Makati, or the more classic acts on stage at 70s Bistro. Bar 1951 draws an eclectic mix to its cozy haunt in Malate, while B-side at the Collective is popular with the young, hipster crowd.
Art appreciation at Jorge B. Vargas Museum – If you’re an art lover, you’re in for a treat at this well-run museum in the University of the Philippines. Pieces are catalogued chronologically, so you can easily see the events of each period reflected in the art of the time. All the great Filipino masters are represented here, and friendly, knowledgeable guides add to the experience.
Hunt for vintage finds at Cubao Expo – If you can find your way to Cubao Expo, you’ll be rewarded with rows of original retailers selling everything from cigars and surf fins to classic watches and fine jewelry. Come late in the afternoon to browse and look around, and stay for the welcoming vibe that arrives after dark when the poetry bars and board game cafes open their doors.
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