Mini-Guide Manila – Why you should go, where to stay, things to see & do, how to get around and more!

Updated 2019: I have traveled to more than 60 countries preparing my trips with guides and online. Yet since making my home in Manila and traveling around the Philippines a bit, I have not found a good, up-to-date guide for this fast-changing city. So, here is my Mini-Guide Manila with reasons why you should go, where to stay, eat or party and what to see & do, as well as practical tips how to get from the airport to the city and around – and even where else to go around Manila!

Why you should go? Manila is the booming and bustling capital of the Philippines with a population of more than 12 million people. And just like Paris in France or London in the UK, it is the beating heart of the country that shapes the life and sets the pace of the country. If you want to understand the country and its people, you can best do that in Manila by visiting its historic sights to see where it came from and it’s vibrant streets and malls to see what it is today! You can read more about why I call Manila – the Gateway to Paradise in that destination post!

SanAgustin6Where to stay? Manila is a huge city and known for it’s bad traffic, so it pays to pick your accommodation in Manila wisely. The top areas to stay in are Makati, the financial center; Bonifacio Global City, the new center; or Manila Bay, with the convention center, gaming and the historic Intramuros with key tourist sights! Alternatives are the Ortigas Business district or near the airport. You can find some of my favorite hotels in each area in the table below:

HotelCategoryLocationChain/RewardsGreat for
Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila5*Manila BayAccor LeClubLocation, Luxury, Rewards, Pool, Restaurant
Hyatt City of Dreams5*Manila BayWorld of HyattEntertainment
Shangri-La at the Fort Manila5*Bonifacio Global CityShangri La Golden CircleLocation, Luxury, Service
Fairmont Makati5*Makati CityAccor LeClubLocation, Service, Luxury
Holiday Inn & Suites Makati4*Makati CityIHG RewardsLocation, Value
Manila Marriott5*AirportMarriott BonvoyLocation, Entertainment, Rewards
Holiday Inn Express Manila3*AirportIHG RewardsLocation, Entertainment, Value, Rewards
Mercure Ortigas4*OrtigasAccor LeClubBusiness
Ramada Manila Central3*ChinatownWyndham RewardsValue
Microtel Mall of Asia3*Manila BayWyndham RewardsShopping, Value

 I do receive a small fee, if you decide to book through the link, at no cost to you – thank you for supporting my blog!

Read my post Travel Made Easy – Where to Stay in Manila? to find out what works best for you! You’ll also find detailed reviews with photos of a number of the hotels to help you choose!

MNL Hyatt COD PoolHow to get around? The first question for any visitor is how to get from the airport to the hotel and it can be overwhelming to arrive in Manila. The easiest (and most expensive) choice is to ask your hotel to arrange pick-up and have you met at the airport exit.
You can arrange transport yourself for a fraction of the cost and you have plenty of options. Firs,t ignore any touts approaching you for transport – most of them are overpriced scams. You can hail a ride with your smartphone, using grab Philippines. There are also metered, yellow airport taxis, regular, white metered taxis and fixed-fare coupon taxis as alternatives.
Neet more information – read How to get around Manila? If you are adventurous, you should try the iconic Jeepney – it’s neither comfortable nor very safe, but it is cheap and the way the majority of locals get around!

NAIA TaxiTop Things to See & Do: If you want to understand how history shaped the Manila of today, a visit to the Ayala Museum will give you a short and fun overview and a visit to Intramuros, the historic heart of Manila, will bring it alive. To experience life in Manila as it is today, a visit to one of the many malls is a fun way to see it – and Makati’s Greenbelt & Glorietta and Bonifacio’s HighStreet are top of the list. Read my Top Things to See & Do in Manila or, if you only have one day to do it, my Perfect Day: Manila to find out more!

HighStreet1Best Places to Eat: Filipinos love to eat, no LOVE to eat. No gathering of family or friends or business meeting can happen without food, and there are lots of choices. From Filipino favorites like Beef Tadyang or Pork Adobo at Cafe Romulo to the best pizza in town at Motorino, from an endless choice of coffee at Single Origin to happy hour at the rooftop bar at Seda Hotel, you don’t want to be calorie counting when in Manila. Enjoy the experience and find out more about the Best Places to Eat in Manila!

mnl-caferomulo-food-1Escape from Manila: It’s worth spending time in Manila to get to know the city, the country and its people. Yet I called Manila the Gateway to Paradise, because there are more than 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines and there is much to see outside the city. If you want to get away for a few days, you can see Taal Lake & Volcano or head to nearby Anilao or Club Punta Fuego for some beach time! If you are planning a longer trip to the Philippines, you should take a closer look at what’s been called the most beautiful islands in the world, Palawan & Coron, or popular Boracay! The photo at the header of my blog is from Cebu, the Queen of the South, also worth visiting!

Pearl Farm Beach

Explore More: To get a “lay of the land” and see where all the hotels, restaurants and sights are, check out my map below and plan your visit to Manila! Click on the box in the upper right corner for a full map! Where are you going to stay? What’s your number one thing to do? Or have questions – feel free to comment below and I’ll help with your trip! 



Mini-Guide Manila – Why you should go, where to stay, things to see & do, how to get around and more! — 4 Comments

    • Sorry John, just switched the blog to https for secure browsing – fixed the links on this post and working on others…

  1. Hi so grateful to have found your blog, your link to the perfect day in Manila isn’t working, I have a 16 hour layover so would love to read this, thanks

    • Thanks for letting me know. It’s fixed now.
      For a 16h layover, a visit to Intramuros and some time at the spa to make up for the long flights sounds like a good option! Enjoy your time in Manila, feel free to ask questions in the comments or by contact form, happy to help!
      I updated my “Destination Guides” frequently and sometimes I mess up technically – sorry about that!

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