Top Things to Do in Manila for the Weekend Warriors

48 Hours in Manila: Top Things to Do for the Weekend Warriors

Manila, Manila. We keep coming back to Manila!

Without a doubt, the go-to destinations in the Philippines are its unique and captivating islands. But if you want to sprinkle your Philippine vacation with even more thrilling city adventures, stop-over and fly to Metro Manila. You can experience so much action and history in just one weekend. Not one to be left out on your bucket list, here are the top things to do in Manila in 48 hours.

Flying to Manila is easy and affordable with Cebu Pacific’s year ‘round low airfares! They offer direct flights from select international destinations such as Bangkok (Thailand), Beijing/Shanghai/Guangzhou/Xiamen (China), Brunei, Dubai, Hong Kong, Incheon (Korea), Jakarta/Bali (Indonesia), Melbourne/Sydney (Australia), Fukuoka/Osaka/Nagoya/Narita (Japan), Siem Reap (Cambodia), Singapore, Taipei (Taiwan), and more.

From Manila, you can even get cheaper flights to Philippine island getaways thanks to Cebu Pacific’s inter-island connectivity. So, fly to Manila ASAP!


Day 1

1.  Try the street food

filipino street food

Image credit: Reuben Montehermoso

Trying the street food in the Philippines should be a traveller’s mission. Not just because you’ll have bragging rights, but because once you taste Philippine street food, you’ll realise that they’re not that bad. In fact, many of them are actually delicious. There’s no better place to try them than in Manila where street food vendors roam both residential and commercial areas. And yes, you’ll even find vendors selling street food on the road while you’re stuck in the infamous Manila traffic!

The most popular street food in the Philippines would be Balut, the best ones reportedly from Pateros. It’s a boiled and fertilised duck egg best eaten when it’s still warm as it’s customary to sip the broth inside before you crack the egg all the way. Kwek-kwek, isaw, taho, and bibingka are also tasty street snacks you should get your hands on. Trust us, you won’t regret it!

Also read: 25 Popular Street Food & Snacks to Try in The Philippines

2.  Take a stroll in Intramuros

top things to do in manila

Image credit: Allan Jay Quesada

If you want to learn about Philippine history, the walled city of Intramuros is the best place to start. The Philippines has a long history of Spanish colonisation. The cobbled streets and preserved Spanish homes alone will take you to another place and time. But you can learn more about their national hero and pivotal events when you tour Fort Santiago. Fort Santiago is the oldest Spanish stone fortress in the Philippines. Here, you’ll find the dungeon where the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal, was kept before his execution. The citadel also houses the Rizal Shrine which features Rizal’s memorabilia such as his old clothes, novels, and last letters. On the ground, you’ll see his replicated shoe prints coming from his cell leading to the exact spot of his execution.

Today, Fort Santiago is a preserved park where tourists can go on kalesa rides while sightseeing. There are also walking tours in Intramuros you can avail of which will take you from Fort Santiago to the San Agustin Museum and Manila Bay. Take the chance to see old town churches such as the San Agustin Church and Manila Cathedral, and learn about the history of the Filipino-Chinese community in the Bahay Tsinoy museum.

3.  Visit the National Museum

National Museum of the Philippines

Image credit: Therese Sta. Maria

Your experience of the Philippines’ history and cultural scene wouldn’t be complete without the National Museum. The National Museum is the country’s cradle of historical artworks and one of their most important heritage exhibits. The local government officially declared the museum permanently free of charge for all visitors nationwide since 2016. It’s truly a visual feast as it holds 1,032 art collections comprising of paintings, sculptures, sketches, and mixed media all by Filipino artists. These artworks, which span from the 18th century until the present time, showcase themes such as the country’s history, natural landscapes, societal issues, and expressions.

The most important artwork you should see in the National Museum is Juan Luna’s painting of the Spoliarium. Huge in pictures, but even bigger in person, the Spoliarium has a size of 4.22 metres x 7.675 metres and is the largest painting in the Philippines. Take note though, that the magnificence of the painting doesn’t come from its size. This oil-on-canvas painting depicts Roman history as you’ll see fallen gladiators being dragged to the dungeons of the Roman Colosseum. Luna finished the Spoliarium in 1884 and won the gold medal with it in the prestigious Madrid Art Exposition in May of the same year. Looks like the Spaniards appreciated Filipino artists, too!

4.  Experience city nightlife in Bonifacio Global City (BGC)

Once you’ve had a culturally enriching day, it’s time to get with what Manila’s nightlife is all about. Bonifacio High Street in BGC is one of the city’s best-maintained malls where there’s an ever-present social scene. It’s where you can enjoy the fresh air and take leisurely walks as you shop in high-end retail stores and pick a classy place to have dinner. If you’d rather go for more affordable dining, BGC has a lot of restaurants and hole-in-the-walls in the area that will also cater to tourists on a budget. But after all that, get the party started at night by hitting the bars and clubs like Early Night?, The Palace Pool Club, The Island, and Tipple & Slaw.

Tip: Interested in spending the day in BGC? Apart from High Street, you can go see The Mind Museum, which is the country’s best interactive science museum everyone can enjoy. It’s a great place to take your kids too since it features various scientific knowledge in wildlife, the Earth’s history, atoms, and technology.

Day 2

5.  Ride a jeepney


Image credit: Jeff Jacinto

Since you’re already in Manila, go all out and experience what it’s like to ride a jeepney! The Philippine jeepney actually goes way back in Philippine history. When the Philippines was colonised by America, the Americans used U.S. military jeepneys as means of transportation during WWII. When the Americans left, they also left the jeepneys in the Philippines. So through the years, Filipinos have continued the use of jeepneys to make a living and as another way of public transportation.

You can hail a jeepney in numerous jeepney terminals and stops around Metro Manila. It’s the most accessible mode in exploring the side streets of Manila. Learning how to ask the driver to stop at your drop off point (“Para po!”) and relying on strangers to pass your change from the driver all the way to your backseat is both a humbling and eye-opening experience. But that level of honesty has always been the norm with jeepney rides in the Philippines, which is why it’s a must-try!

6.  Go food hopping in Quezon City (Q.C.)

food hopping in maginhawa, quezon city

Image credit: Jam A

The popular food hubs in Q.C. are Tomas Morato, Maginhawa, and Katipunan. These food destinations make Q.C. the best place for food hopping in Manila because for one, they’re generally close to each other. Also, many of the eateries found in these hubs are affordable. This is the best time to taste casual Filipino cuisine and experience their version of international dishes from Japanese, Korean, Thai, all the way to Western dishes. Filipinos are known to make their international cuisines tastier or sweeter than the original, but that doesn’t take away from the deliciousness of it all.

Restaurants to try in Tomas Morato are Ariake, H Cuisine, Kandle Cafe, and Romantic Baboy. Maginhawa is mostly known for its food parks, hole-in-the-walls, and board game cafes such as Above Sea Level, Snacks & Ladders, Fat Cousins’, and Lauran Atbp. Cafe. Notable Katipunan restaurants, on the other hand, are Xocolat, Flaming Wings, Roku, and Ababu.

Also read: 10 Cheap and Delicious Restaurants to Try in Metro Manila

7. Have a shopping spree in Greenhills

Filipinos are known to be expert hagglers because they love to stay on a budget. And so it’s only natural that travellers should also try their luck in haggling when they visit the Philippines since it’s already part of the culture. The common place to do this? Greenhills!

Greenhills Shopping Center is a bargain complex where you’ll find a huge tiangge area. In this area, there are multiple kiosks that sell everything from fashion, jewellery, gadgets, and furniture. Many of the clothing stalls actually sell good quality and brandless fashion pieces, while the jewellery stalls sell real pearls at a cheaper price. Don’t be afraid to bargain your way into happiness. Even locals of different social classes aren’t ashamed of flocking to Greenhills when they’re on a tight budget to buy gifts on Christmas. Other Q.C. malls that have occasional bazaars are Eastwood and UP Town Center, both of which also exhibit the city’s nightlife. So if you’ve got the budget, there’s absolutely no reason for you to forgo a shopping spree!

8. Make memories in La Mesa Eco Park

La Mesa Eco Park

Image credit: Jun DU1BA

Do you just want to have a relaxing afternoon in the city? Enjoy a picnic by a lake and savour the gentle breeze kissing your face? All that’s possible in La Mesa Eco Park. The park covers 33 hectares and is filled with lush green plantation. It’s a perfect venue for families or groups of friends who are looking for a sweet and memorable bonding experience. Aside from picnics, La Mesa Eco Park is a place where you can hike, mountain-bike, zip line, fish, canoe, and go horseback riding.

There are even grills situated in different areas if you want to cook and grill your own food. But if you’d just rather sit back in the midst of nature and people-watch, you’re welcome to do so! The park, after all, was built for everyone to have a deeper appreciation of the environment. If you have time, you may also explore other famous Manila parks such as Q.C. Circle, Ayala Triangle Gardens, and the Legazpi Active Park where it’s ideal to stretch your legs for some exercise.

Also read: 5 Perfect One-Week Itineraries for Your Ultimate Vacation in the Philippines

Just because Manila isn’t known for beaches with white sand and rich marine life like other Philippine destinations, it doesn’t mean that it lacks in lustre. As you can see, there are a lot of exciting and valuable activities you can do in the city to enrich your Philippine experience one step at a time. No more excuses, book the flight to Manila now!


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About Author

Therese Sta. Maria
Therese Sta. Maria

Therese's close friends know that if they haven’t seen her around recently, then she’s probably having an adventure with her luggage and camera in hand. Though she loves staying at home and spending lazy afternoons with friends, there are times when she has to be "away from home to feel at home," — that’s when she’s bitten by the travel bug. See her travels on Instagram @reesstamaria.