8 Best Things To Do On A Day Trip To Manila: A City Rich In History

best day trips from manila
Kate
Kate 
Updated
| 4 min read
Lara Razo
Endorsed by a Manila Local Expert
|
Lara Razo
Angelica Denise Burlaza
Endorsed by a Manila Local Expert
|
Angelica Denise Burlaza

Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is the most urbanized city in the country. There is a lot to see and a lot to eat while in the city. Home to some of the largest malls in the country and delicious delicacies not only with home grown roots but also fused with Spanish, American, and Japanese influences, this city is a reflection of each Filipino. As the city continues to grow and develop, venture into its history to learn more about the Philippines. Here, we’ve curated a list of scenic and educational things to do in Manila.

1. Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila

Fort santiago 3,itramuros
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Leoviernes1 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Fort Santiago is a historical landmark of the Philippines. It was built during the Spanish Inquisition in 1590, and completed three years later. It is a defense fortress so you know that this is one big and mighty wall. Not only that, within its walls there are stories to be unfolded. It also held a prison cell, and Jose Rizal, one of the country’s national heroes, was imprisoned here before his execution. Flags were held up here as a sign of invading the country since these walls were hard to breech. Today, it still stands strong and mighty and several ruins and memorabilia have been well preserved.

Fort Santiago

Address: Intramuros, Manila, Metro Manila

Opening Hours: 8 AM – 6 PM

Tip from Content Creator

Rex

Rex

Fort Santiago

Photo of Fort Santiago shared by content creator from the Philippines, Rex Lim Lim

Tip from Trip101 local expert

Lara

Lara
Manila

I love visiting this part of Manila. This is one of the few areas in the city that still reflect our past as a colonized country, and it naturally has a really interesting history. Fort Santiago is a part of Intramuros, a walled city where the affluent lived in the 1500s. When you visit the area, you should definitely try riding a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage). There are plenty of buildings and structures that still retain that old-world charm here, and if you look at it from a certain angle, you might even feel like you're in Europe. 

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2. Historical churches in Manila

When the Spaniards were in Manila, they spread Christianity like wildfire. With that, beautiful churches with breathtaking architecture arose in different parts of the city. The San Agustin Church and Museum is more than 440 years old and is still standing strong. It was denoted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. The Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica is just a few meters away from the San Agustin Church and Museum. It is also around 430 years old, and despite being destroyed several times in the past, it has been renovated and is still standing strong with its alluring multi-layered arches. Other churches around Manila are Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned or Sta. Ana Church, Our Lady of Remedies Parish Church or Malate Church, Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz or Binondo Church, and Santo Niño de Tondo Parish, among many others.

San Agustin Church

Address: General Luna St., Intramuros, Manila

Opening Hours: 8 am – 12 pm /1 pm – 6 pm

Contact: (02) 527 2746

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A lot of churches in Manila were established during the Spanish colonization period, so you can see a lot of its influences in their rich architecture. One of my favorite churches I visited was the esteemed Quiapo Church. I am sure that thousands of people attend mass here every Sunday — including those who attend virtually. A highlight of this historic church is that it celebrates the Feast of the Black Nazarene, which millions of devotees attend to. There are also tons of shops next to the church!

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3. Rizal Park

This is an urbanized park that has witnessed important events in the country’s history. Rizal Park, also known as Luneta National Park or simply Luneta, was where the national hero, Jose Rizal, was executed during the Spanish Regime. To commemorate the patriotic emblem of the country, they have officially renamed the park to Rizal Park. Rizal Monument stands in the middle of the park. Philippine Independence Day and other major events are celebrated here here. On a normal day, locals stroll, jog, or hang out in the area.

Rizal Park

Address: Roxas Blvd Ermita, Barangay 666 Zone 72, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila

Opening Hours: 5 AM – 9 PM

Contact: (63)919 926 4413

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Rex

Rex

Rizal Park

Photo of Rizal Park shared by content creator from the Philippines, Rex Lim Lim

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4. National Museum of the Philippines

04660jfNational Museum of the Philippines Ermita Manilafvf 36
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Judgefloro used under CC0

Located at the heart of Manila, visitors will find the grand building that is the museum of the Filipino people. Peruse through the artifacts and artworks that showcase the cultural heritage of the Filipinos. There are more than 1,000 fine art pieces spread out across the museum spanning from 18th century up to the 21st century. Their collections include fine art, archaeology, ethnography, and natural history. The largest painting in the Philippines, Juan Luna’s Spolarium, can also be found in here. You can see all these beautiful pieces for free! For more information, you can check out their website below.

National Museum of the Philippines

Address: P. Burgos Drive, Rizal Park, Manila

Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Website: National Museum of the Philippines

Traveler's tips

For history enthusiast with a love for the arts, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to explore the National Museum in the Philippines. It features three museums, the National Museum of Fine Arts, National Museum of Anthropology, and National Museum of Natural History.

The highlight of my visit is seeing 'Spoliarium' by Juan Luna, an award winning painting by one of our national heroes. The best part? Entrance to all national museums in the country is free. 

Tip from tour guide

National Museum Cebu National Museum Cebu1 National Museum Cebu2

The National Museum of the Philippines Cebu is the newest tourist site destination in the City that features part of the island's flora and fauna, artifacts that was excavated in different towns, things found in shipwreck in different places in the Philippines and fine arts exhibit made by Filipino artists. It is an interesting site to visit and learn at the same time.

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Manila Tour Guide

Margareth Ng

Margareth Ng

Manila Tour Guide

Jerick Magat

Jerick Magat

5. Museo Pambata

Museo Pambata is also known as the Children’s Museum or Museum for Children. Unlike traditional museums, this interactive and hands-on museum encourages its visitors use all their senses throughout the exhibits. They also have events, learning rooms, and more to be able to provide education and entertainment for children. For more information and discounts on admission fees, browse through their website below.

Museo Pambata

Address: Roxas Boulevard cor. South Drive, Manila, Philippines

Contact: 02-523-1797/98, 02-536-0595

Email: info@museopambata.org

Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays: 8 AM to 5 PM from September to February, 9 AM to 5 PM from March to August, and Sundays: 1 PM to 5 PM

Admission Fees: 250 PHP / 4.95 USD (for children 2 years old and above and adults), Free (for Museum workers and teachers (with valid IDs)), and Free (for Manila residents (with valid IDs) on Tuesdays and 50% discount on other days (not applicable for group tours))

Website: Museo Pambata

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6. Manila Ocean Park

Visit the first marine theme park in the Philippines! They have wide array of attractions from oceanariums to birdhouses. There are exceptional shows in store for visitors as well like the Sea Lion Show, All Star Bird Show, Penguin Talk Show, and the Symphony Evening Show. They also have different kinds of exciting encounters such as being able to train sea lions, having a mermaid swimming experience (yes, they provide the mermaid tails!), sharks and rays encounter, and/or be an aquanaut (aquarium + astronaut)! For different kinds of packages and promos for you and your family and/or friends, check out their website below.

Manila Ocean Park

Address: Manila Ocean Park behind Quirino Grandstand Luneta Manila Philippines 1000

Contact: +6325677777

Email: inquiry@manilaoceanpark.com

Website: Manila Ocean Park

Tip from Trip101 local expert

Manila Ocean Park Manila Ocean Park

For those curious about marine life and other animals, Manila Ocean Park is the place to be. What I love about this park is that it boasts tons of great information about a particular creature so that you learn along the way. Many of the animals are a bit creepy, such as the spider crab, but they are all fascinating. A great section here is the Jellies Exhibit, which boasts a room full of colorful jellyfish as if you are in a club! You can also feel some of the fish in their tanks.

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7. Cultural Center of the Philippines

With its vision that “art matters in the life of every Filipino,” the Cultural Center of the Philippines is that one stop you shouldn’t miss. Built in the 1960s, this structure has stood strong and has held thousands of operas, plays, and any kind of excellent performance. Aiming to preserve, develop, and promote arts, it always has something going on from music, dance, and art, to exhibits, concerts, and competitions. To actually see a list of the things going on, visit CCP’s official website below.

Cultural Center of the Philippines

Address: CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines

Website: Cultural Center of the Philippines

Tip from Trip101 local expert

Lara

Lara
Manila

This is a great place to visit if you want to catch a local performance! The building itself is pretty historic, and though it's a few decades old it's still clean and well-maintained. If you want to know what's on, you can check out the shows on Ticket World. Shows usually range from ballet to classical music concerts, but CCP Little Theater often hosts plays. If you visit and you're planning to be in the area for the whole day, there are plenty of restaurants nearby.

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8. Sunset at Manila Bay

Manila Bay Sunset (2)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Lawrence Ruiz used under CC BY-SA 4.0

End your day in Manila by walking along the Manila Bay to enjoy the wondrous sunset at around 6:30 pm every evening. The orange to gold hues of the sun glow and flow through the water, making this a romantic sight. Along Manila Bay, you will also see locals jogging, visitors riding kalesas (a horse-drawn calash), vendors selling goodies, and others just hanging around. There are also different statues and monuments to see around the area. There are still many landmarks near the bay that you could visit to finish off your day of sightseeing. The peaceful scenery here is good for reflecting on the trip that you’ve just had.

Manila Bay

Address: Roxas Blvd, Manila

Tip from Trip101 local expert

Manila Bay

Wake up early in the morning and head here to witness the sunrise in Manila Bay along with other people. It is a fantastic place to just wind down and reconnect with nature. I would stay here for a while and just take in the beauty that unfolds before me in peace. I also love going here during sunset. I recommend visiting Manila Bay with your loved ones!

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Every spectrum covered

Manila Philippines
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user CEphoto, Uwe Aranas used under CC BY-SA 3.0

A diverse and populated city, Manila is a good preview of the Philippines. From the different sectors of the society, small buildings to towering skyscrapers, peaceful sunsets to party scenes, this city has got it all for you. It has rich history but has kept up to date and has something happening in every corner of the city, so you will never run out of things to do in Manila.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Kate currently resides in the Philippines and has previously lived in Singapore and Thailand. She has also traveled in a few other countries with her family. She has also traveled by herself to...Read more

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