What to do in 1 day in Manila

Just like Boracay, Manila also wasn’t in our first itinerary, but the evening before we entered the Philippines we discovered we have to have an exit ticket. So we spontaneously booked a flight out from Manila, because you can get cheap flights to the capital from almost anywhere in the Philippines

It turned out, we would spend 18 hours in this crazy city, which for a lot of visitors is a no-no. We decided to visit just the old part of the city called Intramorus. This is the oldest part of Manila and for long time (around 300 years) this walled city was considered as “Manila” – until the US took over the Philippines from the Spanish.

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Streets of Manila

Immediately after arriving we had a strange feeling that it reminds us of somewhere. After some time Jure asked: “What does Manila remind you of?” At first I didn´t know what he meant, but then I suddenly realized. It felt exactly the same as Lima, Peru. Same notorious reputation, size, chaos, and constant warnings of how we should take care, not trust anyone, etc.

If you don’t like all the fuss with taxis in Manila, download the app Grab (similar to Uber), where you can order a taxi and pay with cash (no credit card like with Uber).  You should also know that taxis will say NO to taximeter, because the traffic is horrible and they waste just too much time. If they give you an offer Meter +50 pesos you should take it. It least that´s what we found out.

Once in the old city centre, we visited:

San Agustín Museum is next to the San Agustín Church and offers impressive collection on display – manuscripts, religious artwork, fashion …

San Agustín Church is a beautiful spanish church in baroque style. Important is the fact, that it’s the oldest stone church in the Philippines! It’s been part of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1993.

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San Agustín Church

Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Manila Cathedral) is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila. Because of wars and earthquakes it was destroyed and rebuilt many times, mainly because it’s one of the most important churches in the Philippines.

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Manila Cathedral

Fort Santiago is the place where we met most tourists. This is a former prison and military base of the Spanish, where the national hero Jorge Rizal was imprisoned and sentenced to death. We really liked the Rizal Shrine – a restored part of the barracks inside the fort, dedicated to the life and work of Jose Rizal.

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Jose Rizal

Beware that Manila can get very hot – especially the old part, because it’s just stone. That’s why we were searching for aircon. And look what we found – the 4th biggest shopping mall in the world! Mall of Asia surely is every shopaholic´s dream, but offers so much more than just shops: ice skating hall, giant wheel, concert hall and a huge cinema. You need more than a day to explore everything 😉

And at the end something for the gamblers and posh visitors to the city: City of dreams is a new entertainment centre featuring a casino, a Michelin star restaurant, high end accommodation, designer brands and posh night life.

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City of Dreams


I’m sure there are many more things to do and explore in Manila, but I think we made the most of our hours there. And we had to leave something for our next visit to the Philippines 😉

Before coming to Manila, we visited:

* 10 days for Cebu + Bohol + Panglao and Apo *
* Boracay – heaven or hell? *
* Palawan, the real beach from the movie THE BEACH *

2 thoughts on “What to do in 1 day in Manila

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