Things to do in Manila, Philippines

manila things to do cover imageImage adapted from: @apartelph

With its reputation as a congested concrete jungle, Manila is often passed over as a potential destination for holidaying. Yet this is not necessarily true, for dotting its sprawling urban landscape are gems that are well worth checking out.

Apart from its bustling night markets bursting with cheap buys and street food, Manila also boasts a replica of Venice Grand Canal, along with a GoT-themed cafe, and Batman-themed hotel rooms.

Below is a list of activities you can add to your Manila itinerary.

1. Stay in a space-themed room at Astrotel from just $25/night

astrohotel 1VIP room in the Avenida branch, which has a mock window featuring a postmodern city
Image credit: Expedia

From just S$25/night, Astrotel brings you to outer space through its quirky collection of spaceship-themed rooms. There are various branches within Manila – such as Avenida, Monumento, and Cubao – but all of them come outfitted with more or less the same futuristic theme.

astrohotel 2Space Room at the Avenida branch
Image credit: Expedia

astrohotel 3VIP Room at the Monumento branch
Image credit: Expedia

Find their list of branches here.


2. Snap photos at The Dessert Museum

dessert museum lollipopsCome crashing in like a wrecking ball with life-sized lollipops in the Cake Pops room
Image credit: @nkayuutami_

If you consider yourself to be a) a sweet tooth, b) attracted to explosions of colours, and c) an IG addict, step right up to The Dessert Museum, Manila’s version of New York’s Museum of Ice Cream, filled to the brim with 8 rooms of dessert-themed goodness.

donut roomThe Donut Room, where whorls upon whorls of donuts are suspended from the ceiling
Image adapted from: @curlyafff

naughty roomPastel pink shelves lined with multi-coloured gumballs
Image credit: @raqsbaby

marshmallows let it snowSnap a “let it snow” photo among these streams of cotton marshmallows
Image credit: @giieann_

Tours through the museum last 2 hours and are priced from PHP699 (~S$18.20), and you’ll get to enjoy 5-6 free desserts to boot.

P.S.: Check out our article on KL’s Selfie Museum, Malaysia’s rendition of this place.

The Dessert Museum
Address: Unit 124, 126, 127a, S Maison, Coral Way, Conrad Hotel Manila, Mall of Asia Complex, Barangay 76, Pasay, 1300 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 10AM-10PM daily
Prices: PHP699 ~S$18.20 (online rate) | PHP799 ~S$20.81 (walk-in rate)

3. Visit Manila Cathedral and take a horse carriage ride at Intramuros

Also known as Old Manila, Intramuros is a site that preserves the legacy of Manila’s Spanish colonial history through a collection of cathedrals, forts, and other war-related structures.

manila cathedral

Keep your eyes peeled for Manila Cathedral, which boasts an impressive level of detail with its intricate carvings and statues of saints decorating its arches, along with its beautiful domed towers.

horse drawn carriageYou can hire a horse-drawn carriage to bring you around Intramuros.

japanese cannon wwiiJapanese Cannon – the only surviving WWII cannon in the area. 

Address: Manila, 1002 Metro Manila, Philippines

4. Knock back with some alcohol at Manila’s best bars

Antidote – rooftop bar with 15m jellyfish tank

antidote jellyfish tankImage credit: Spot

Antidote is a bar with a truly unique concept, where an enormous jellyfish aquarium spans 15m across the entire length of the bar space. The aquarium is outfitted with neon lighting, imbuing each translucent jellyfish with hues of red, blue, purple, and green.

antidote jellyfish tank closeupImage adapted from: @haroldizer

Outdoor seating is also available here, which affords you stunning views of the surrounding cityscape.

manila skylineImage credit: @vinnychon

Antidote also offers some unorthodox concoctions on their menu, such as the Tokyo Sojourn (PHP390 ~S$10.13), a mezcal mixed with nordic spices, cucumber, pandan syrup, egg, cumin, and togarashi.

tokyo sojourn and miso banana parfaitImage adapted from: @theinsatiablewanderer, @wandergirleats

For dessert, the Miso Banana Parfait (PHP250 ~S$6.49) – a combination of dark chocolate fondant with Hibiki whiskey mousse – comes highly recommended.

Address: Roofdeck, I’M Hotel, 7862 Ave, Makati, 1210, Makati, 1210 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 5PM-2AM (Sun-Thurs) | 6PM-3AM (Fri-Sat)

Early Night? – pastel bar with beer below $2

early night? interiorImage credit: Love of Country

Having an Early Night? That’s no trouble at all, for you can chill under the eaves of this bar’s chic pastel decor from as early as 5PM daily.

early night? plant wallDon’t miss this teal potted plant wall, a favourite photog spot of Early Night?’s patrons
Image credit: @itscamilleco

Calmly beautiful by day, Early Night? becomes lit by night, transforming into a vibrant club decorated by neon lights.

early night? neon letteringImage credit:

Drinks here are very affordable, priced from as low as PHP60 (~S$1.56) for a can of beer. Cocktails are aplenty too, with a glass of Kamikaze at PHP100 (~S$2.60) and Mojitos at PHP120 (~S$3.12).

early night? drinksImage adapted from: @earlynightph

Early Night?
Address: 2nd Floor Fort Strip, BGC, Ave, 5th, Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 5PM-4AM (Sun-Fri) | 5PM-2AM (Sat)

Polilya – beer-infused dishes

polilya interiorImage credit: @polilya.mnl

Polilya may seem like your standard hipster hangout with its island-themed decor at first glance, but it’s more than just that: its food and drinks are largely infused with extracts from Engkanto Brewery, one of the Philippines’ top producers of craft brews.

polilya have you figured out what you want yet?Image credit: Rogue

If you’re in the mood for something fiery, try out their in-house special Polilya Fire (PHP350 ~S$9.09), a classic paloma that comes infused with an Engkanto IPA twist. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, go for Tigrita (PHP295 ~S$7.66), an exotic blend of mezcal, tapache, pineapple juice, and cilantro, with double IPA.

polilya fire and tigritaPolilya Fire and Tigrita
Image credit: Rogue

As for the food, tuck into Polilya’s Gambas Engkantadas (PHP440 ~S$11.43), where the classic Spanish gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) dish is jazzed up with beer.

polilya gambas engkantadasImage credit: @polilya.mnl

Address: 5658 Jacobo Street, Corner Don Pedro, Makati, 1210 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 5:30PM-2AM (Mon-Thurs) | 6:30PM-2AM (Fri-Sat) | Closed on Sundays

5. Teleport to Italy at Venice Grand Canal Mall

venice grand canal mallImage credit: @y__photographs

Save the trip to Italy and head over to Manila’s Venice Grand Canal Mall, where you’ll get to experience the beauty of reconstructions of Venetian architecture and even the Grand Canal.

venice grand canal mall gondola rideEven the mooring poles bear the signature Venetian red-and-white stripes
Image credit: @jepri_m

The Grand Canal isn’t just for show, as you can hitch a ride on a gondola here, priced at PHP500/pax (~S$12.97). Everything about the experience is as close to the original as possible, right down to the design of the boats to the uniforms worn by the boatmen.

Try out Ponte Rialto’s vongole pasta, coming with a generous serving of Manila clams
Image credit: @arte.3

To complete your faux-Venice experience, head over to Ponte Rialto, an Italian fine dining restaurant which uses ingredients imported from Italy itself.

Venice Grand Canal Mall
Address: McKinley Hill Garden Villas, Cluster B, Upper McKinley Rd, Pinagsama, Taguig, Philippines
Opening hours: 11AM-11PM

6. Be transported to outer space at The Mind Museum

Rivalling Singapore’s very own Science Centre is The Mind Museum in Manila. Over 250 interactive exhibits are presented through 5 interconnected galleries here, which are themed Atom, Life, Earth, Universe, and Technology.

mind museum moon lighting sculpture in manila
Image credit: JRA

The Universe Gallery, in particular, will transport you to the mesmerising cosmos of outer space.

the mind museum solar system
Image credit: @andengggay

Bask in the soft, pale glow of the Moon in a dark room lit by stars, or be enchanted by the beautiful colours emitted by the planets of the solar system.

the mind museum light bridge
Image credit: @andywong913

Keep your eyes peeled for the Light Bridge that connects the Atoms Gallery to the Universe Gallery, which is lit up by the different colours of light that fill the universe.

the mind museum t-rex skeleton
Image credit: The Mind Museum

Also head down to the Earth Gallery, featuring an enormous T-rex skeleton exhibit, along with other exhibits that deal with the tectonic movements of the Earth.

The Mind Museum
Address: JY Campos Park, 3rd Ave, Taguig, 1634 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 9AM-6PM (Tue to Sun) | Closed on Mon
Prices: PHP750 (~S$19.45) for an all-day pass

7. Shop at SM Mall of Asia, the 4th largest mall in the Philippines

sm mall of asia
Image credit: Good News Planet TV

Bagging the title of 4th largest mall in the Philippines, SM Mall of Asia carries an enormous range of retail stores that’ll fulfil your shopping needs, including Muji, Nike, and New Era.

sun tea and kissakoImage adapted from: @kainventures, @franklinbanogon

Dining options are aplenty, with Kissako Uji Matcha Cafe, located on the second floor, highly popular for its Matcha Pudding Parfait (PHP150, ~S$3.91). If you need your BBT fix, get it from Sun Tea, which has fruit, milk, and cheese tea.

sm mall of asia skating rinkImage credit: @smskating

The mall also has an indoor skating rink with affordable entrance fees of PHP450 (~S$11.70), and you can either choose to skate or ride in a Santa Claus-like sled, pushed around the rink by a staff member.

SM Mall of Asia
Address: J.W. Diokno Boulevard, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay, Luzon 1300, Philippines
Opening hours: 10AM-10PM

Mall of Asia Skating Rink
Address: SM Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay
Opening hours: 10AM-10PM

8. Grab a bite at Manila’s themed cafes and restaurants

House of Unicorns Cafe – to feed your rainbow obsession

house of unicorns cafe wall muralsImage credit: @houseofunicornscafe

If you’re unicorn-crazy, swing by House of Unicorns Cafe with colourful pastel decor and even unicorn onesies you can wear for free on entry.

house of unicorns cafe onesie and tentImage credit: @paulanejenn_

Even the food follows the theme, with creations like this funky dessert bearing an ice cream cone to resemble a horn.

house of unicorns cafe dessertImage credit: @houseofunicornscafe

house of unicorns cafe interiorImage credit: House of Unicorns Cafe

House of Unicorns Cafe
Address: Lilac St, Marikina, 1800 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 11AM-9PM daily

Filling Station – neon diner with Riverdale vibes

filling station dayImage credit: @heyjudeshoots

The name Filling Station may conjure images of a gas station, but really, it’s a diner that’s retro-themed. The walls and ceilings are plastered with curiosities from the yesteryears: vintage posters, old vinyls, gasoline station signs, and even an entire Cadillac Classic.

filling station nightImage credit: @jelyneestrella

Come nightfall, Filling Station comes to life, illuminated by neon pink and purple lights that are reminiscent of Pop Tate’s diner in Riverdale.

filling station four for all and milkshakeFour for All (PHP 450, ~S$11.67), a platter of buffalo wings, potato skins, fried calamari, and Shanghai rolls
Image credit: @itsme_hanah

Their milkshakes (PHP295 ~S$7.65) are a must-try, made from fresh milk, whipped cream, and ice cream.

filling station pizzaFilling Station Pizza (PHP513, ~S$13.39), topped with a medley of mushroom, chorizo, salami, tuna flakes, and veg
Image credit: @meltinghm

Filling Station
Address: 5012 P Burgos, Makati, 1210 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 24 hours

The Witches Brew – Harry Potter meets Game of Thrones

the witches brew platform 9 3/4“Hurry, Harry, or you’ll really be late!”
Image credit: @iam_ejsajonas1022

Potterheads and Game of Thrones fans, keep The Witches Brew within your sights, for it brings both worlds together in a single cafe.

the witches brew harry potter robes and wandImage credit: @lexiecaboosey

Familiar scenes from both franchises decorate the restaurant, including the enchanted wall entrance of Platform 9 ¾ and the iconic Iron Throne. And to help you get your geek on, the restaurant provides with free use of their robes and wands!

the witches brew iron throneBanners of the Great Houses adorn the backdrop of the Iron Throne.
Image credit: @j.a.r.v.i.s.d

Even the dishes served are given HP and GoT-centric names.

the witches brew alohomora and butterbeerAlohomora and Butterbeer
Image adapted from: The Witchers Brew Diners Philippines, @clairebearlingan

Try out Alohomora (PHP220 ~S$5.71), an egg-and-bacon sandwich with chips served on the side. Butterbeer is also available here, coming in both alcoholic (PHP185 ~S$4.80) and non-alcoholic (PHP155 ~S$4.02) variants.

The Witches Brew
Address: Parañaque, 1700 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 8AM-10PM daily

9. Spend a night in a Batman-themed suite at Victoria Court

victoria court batman room
Image credit: @victoriacourtvc via Instagram

Victoria Court is a hotel chain in Manila that comes with a unique shtick: all 10 of its branches are outfitted with themed suites you can book for parties and staycations.

victoria court batman motorcycle
Image credit: @apartelph via Instagram

Check into the Batcave at the Malate branch in Manila, which comes with a snazzy replica of the motorcycle Batman used in The Dark Knight.

victoria court asgard room odin's throne
Image credit: @victoriacourtvc

The same branch also offers a cool Asgard-themed room, with the bed modelled after the elaborate throne of Odin.

victoria court oval office room
Oval Office-themed suite at the Pasig branch

Image credit: @victoriacourtvc

Victoria Court Malate
Address: 2184 Madre Ignacia St, Malate, Manila, 1004 Metro Manila, Philippines
Telephone: +63 2 521 1084

10. Try Manila’s street food at Quiapo Market

quiapo market

As with every foreign country you visit, you’d want to try out the local cuisine to truly get a taste of culture. Trawling Manila’s night markets is a great starting point – such as Quiapo Market, where food prices begin from as a low as PHP7 (~S$0.18). You’ll be able to load yourself up on a feast armed with as little as S$5 on hand.

Balut – duck embryo with savoury broth

Balut (PHP18 ~S$0.46) is a developing bird embryo – usually from a duck or chicken – that is boiled in a savoury broth and eaten directly from the shell. Paired with either salt or soya sauce, it tastes like a regular hard-boiled egg with a distinctly meatier texture. Be sure to drink the broth, which is reminiscent of boiled chicken soup.

Soup Number Five – bull’s genitals soup

soup number five

If you thought balut is bizarre, wait till you learn of Soup Number Five (PHP20, ~S$0.51). Belying its innocent-sounding name is a soup that is cooked with bull’s genitalia.

Despite the ingredients used, this dish is actually a delicious, flavourful creation, with the meat’s texture markedly springier than your average pork or chicken. The savoury broth with a medley of spices is the main draw, making it ideal for a cold evening.

Green mango with bagoong – unripe mangoes with shrimp paste

green mango with bagoong

Green mango with bagoong (PHP7, ~S$0.18) is basically unripe green mangoes served with shrimp paste – a treat for fans of sour food. The crisp sourness of the mangoes may be sharp on the tongue at first, but this is neutralised by the salty and lightly spicy shrimp paste.

Buko juice – coconut water

buko juice

As coconut (buko) is native to the Philippines, it is no surprise that buko juice (PHP30, ~S$0.77) – freshly extracted from young coconuts – is a common sight on the streets.  Some stalls offer a sweet version of the drink, with condensed milk mixed in.

11. Check out the street art at Bonifacio Global City

bgc wall mural blue-themed womanImage credit: @andiesyyap

Bonifacio Global City (BGC), aka The Fort, is the art hub of Manila. Street art is aplenty here, and you can find murals practically everywhere you go in the city.

bgc wall mural sleeping dogImage credit: @andiesyyap

It’s not just alley walls that are coated in graffiti art – even office buildings are not spared, with the larger surface areas able to accommodate more elaborate designs.

bgc wall mural red and white stripesImage credit: @andiesyyap

Bonifacio Global City
Address: Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines

12. Play carnival games and catch the sunset at SM By The Bay Amusement Park

mall of asia eyeImage credit:

Located just outside SM Mall of Asia is SM by the Bay. The park comes with over 17 rides, and the Mall of Asia Eye, a 55-meter tall Ferris wheel stands out as the star attraction.

drop towerImage credit: @jayepineda

If you’re game for something for more thrilling, go for the Drop Tower, where you’ll be strapped to a gondola that goes up a tower before being released to free-fall.

carnival gamesImage credit: @wreckitme

While you’re here, try your hand at the carnival games, which include classic favourites like ring toss, rebound, and short shot. Stand a chance to bring home a plushie if you win!

sunsetImage credit: @pinay.backpacker

Like its name suggests, SM by the Bay is located right by the sea – swing by in the evening and you’ll be blessed by spectacular views of the glowing sunset.

SM by the Bay Amusement Park
Address: Seaside Boulevard Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay, 1300 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 3PM-12AM (Mon-Thur) | 3PM-1AM (Fri) | 10AM-1AM (Sat) | 10AM-12AM (Sun)

Food, bars, and activities in Manila

With all these things you can do, planning an itinerary for a holiday in Manila shouldn’t be a problem. From chilling at the city’s unique bars to checking into otherworldly space-themed hotels, there’s so much more to Manila than we would’ve thought.

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