Most people spend a day or, two days at the most, in Manila before moving on to the provinces or islands. Some say there isn’t much to do in this city. On the contrary, there are a couple of things one can do and see in Manila, given the notorious traffic in the city. There are interesting sights to visit, and places to eat and shop within two days; enough to let you have a feel of what the capital city can offer to a regular tourist and without losing your sanity with the crawling traffic conditions 🙂
Here are some recommendations on how you can spend 48 hours in Manila:
Rizal Park is an urban park situated by Manila Bay, along Roxas Boulevard. The park is one of the largest urban parks in Asia, and has historical significance in the Philippines history as it was the site where their national hero Jose Rizal was executed for spreading the flames of uprising and revolution against Spain in 1896.
A monument and a statue of Rizal were made in his honour, and his remains are also enshrined in the monument. Locals like to take a stroll in Rizal Park or have picnics on the green especially in the evenings. Some of the attractions in the park are the Chinese gardens, the fountain park, the National Museum. Many high-profile national events took place in Rizal Park, one of which was the concluding mass of the papal visit of Pope Francis in 2015 where more than 6 million people attended, making it the largest papal gathering in history.
National Art Gallery
If you love art – located on the northeastern side of Rizal Park – is the National Art Gallery. The National Art Gallery is also called the National Museum of Fine Arts and is a branch of the National Museum.
Situated in a neoclassical building which was formerly the home of the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives, the National Art Gallery houses some of Philippines’ classical painting and sculpture collections from the 17th century to avant-garde. The artworks exhibited include the Spoliarium (the largest painting in the Philippines), paintings and sculptures illustrating the history of Philippines from the times of the Spaniard rule, the life and works of Jose Rizal, the persecution suffered during the Japanese Occupation in World War II, and impressive abstract art of present times.
But one must not miss exploring the oldest district of Manila – the Intramuros. Intramuros means “within the walls” in Spanish and it was the centre of government, commerce, education and religion of Manila during the Spanish colonial period.
The walled city is located at the mouth of River Pasig where Fort Santiago was built to guard the old city. And within the protective stone walls was a city of palaces, churches, monasteries, convents, schools and beautiful colonial houses. Intramuros was attacked by the Japanese during World War II and it was massively damaged during the battle to recapture the old city.
Some of the interesting sights in Intramuros are the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church (a baroque church and is the oldest building in Manila since the 1600s) and Casa Manila. Casa Manila is a historical house-cum-museum representing the palatial lifestyle of the gentry during the Spanish colonial period.
Sunset at Manila Bay
If you’re tired from all that walking and exploring the above mentioned sites, how about relaxing by Manila Bay and watch the sunset? Manila Bay is one of the city’s attractions and though it’s not exactly the cleanest area, Manila Bay is still a good place to just watch the time go by and if the weather is good, you may come across a beautiful sunset to end a perfect day of historical sights.
Food Walking Tour in Chinatown
For the foodies, Manila has no shortage of culinary delights. With more than 7,000 islands providing bountiful supplies of seafood and tropical fruits, and combined with a history shaped by Spanish, Chinese and American influence, the Filipino cuisine is based on the confluence of cultures rich in big and mouth-watering flavours.
If you’re interested to learn about the influence of history and culture on food, you can sign up for a food walking tour particularly the Big Binondo Food Wok Tour by Old Manila Walks, a 3.5 hours culinary walking tour around the streets of Chinatown in Binondo. Led by tour leaders who have an in-depth knowledge of Manila and its history and culture, you will be introduced to hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Chinatown and will get the opportunity to eat various types of Filipino-Chinese food and treats that you will be skipping lunch after the tour!
Tip: Skipping breakfast or having a light breakfast prior to the tour is a pre-requisite for this ultimate food experience!
Perhaps you intend to stay away from urban retail commercialisation but it’s worth checking out the shopping malls in Metro Manila that dominate the urban lifestyle of Filipinos. Metro Manila is home of three of the world’s ten largest malls in the world – SM Mall of Asia (locals call it ‘MOA’), SM City North EDSA, SM Megamall – indeed, a shopper’s dream!
Tip: Do bring a light jacket or cardigan to keep you warm in the shopping malls because the air-conditioning is freezing!
However, if luxury stores and high street fashion is not your thing, Market! Market! in Bonifacio Global City might be of an interest to you. Market! Market! is a one-stop shopping haven, attracting many visitors for its Sunday market-themed retail zones (bargaining is allowed here), fruit and flowers markets, and the food court area.
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