The best things to see, do and eat in Manila, Philippines

Manila is shunning its reputation as a stopover city, thanks to vibrant nightlife, food and an eclectic hotel mix, writes Tamara Hinson.

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We love… The history

Whether it’s Intramuros, the cannon-topped walled city built by the Spanish in 1571, or Binondo, the world’s oldest Chinatown, reminders of Manila’s colourful history are everywhere. Highlights include Binondo’s 16th-century, rust-red Minor Basilica of St Lorenzo Ruiz (Binondo was set aside for Chinese immigrants who converted to Catholicism) and the Ayala Museum, where 1,000 gold artefacts provide an insight into the cultures which existed before Western colonisation.


Make time for… The nightlife

Start with The Curator Coffee and Cocktails – a coffee-shop-cum-cocktail bar listed in Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2019 awards. Also worth a visit is The Peninsula Manila’s Salon de Ning, where Rico Deang whips up potent tipples made with local ingredient. For something more casual, head to Poblacion, a former red light district now known for its breweries and backpacker bars.

Where to shop… Retail therapy

Manila is a place to shop until you drop, and most of its malls are spread across several buildings. The SM Mall of Asia has four buildings connected via walkways, and at Makati’s high-end Greenbelt Mall, you’ll find parks, a church and a cinema dotted between five interconnected shopping centres.


Star attraction… The Ortigas Foundation Library

As much as we love the Ayla Museum, this is the standout cultural gem. Created by the Ortigas Foundation to help promote the country’s history, art and culture, it’s packed with more than 20,000 books, images and documents relating to the Philippines’ history.

Getting there… Fly to Manila

A return fare from London to Kuala Lumpur with British Airways starts from £453 return. Connecting flights stop at hubs including Hong Kong, Dubai or Kuala Lumpur. Flights from Kuala Lumpur to Manila with Air Asia start from £60 one-way.


Book it

Premier Holidays offers seven nights in a Grand Deluxe room at The Manila Hotel from £999 per person. The price includes Etihad flights from Heathrow via Abu Dhabi, return transfers and daily breakfast, based on two sharing in June 2020.

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