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Travel Guide

Explore the Filipino capital's complex history, take in its Spanish colonial heritage, or kick back on top of one of the city's many hip new rooftop bars. If you can keep up with the pace of this buzzing Southeast Asian metropolis, you'll soon realise Manila more than just a port of arrival and departure.

Top things to do in Manila

  • Manila's Colonial Past
    Otherwise known as the Walled City, Manila's oldest district was built by the Spanish in the 16th Century. Spend a few hours exploring this crumbling colonial fortress by foot, or by a traditional horse-drawn cart, otherwise known as a Kelesa. Diehard culture vultures can then head on to the Casa Manila museum and Fort Santiago barracks for more.
  • Rizal Park
    Also known as Luneta Park, this 60 hectare stretch of ponds, paved walks, regal statues and woodland is a must for anyone seeking an hour or two of respite from the Manila's busy, traffic-clogged streets. Plus, it's located right next to Intramuros. Post-sightseeing picnic, anyone?
  • Manila's Churches
    You might be surprised when we tell you that 90% of the Philippines' population are Christian or Catholic. Manila's streets are punctuated with interesting, quaint churches. The best, and most popular to visit is the Cathedral, on Sto. Tomas.
  • Chinatown
    Between Santa Cruz and Binondo, you'll find the hub of Manila's extensive Chinese community. Elbow your way through the crowds at teatime to sample authentic dim sum, feast on noodles, or sip on speciality teas in a teahouse. You'll find all sorts here!
  • Manila's Nightlife
    The major nightlife district in Manila is the financial hub of Makati. Here you'll find swanky cocktail joints, good food options and plenty of bright and lively bars. Filipinos will insist that they invented karaoke before the Japanese or Koreans; grab some mates and head to any one of the city's KTV bars to fight for the mic with the locals.
  • Volunteer
    Take a tour or take part in a volunteering programme to learn what life is really like for the million+ residents of Manila that still live in slums.

How to get to Manila

Manila is the port of entry for everyone flying into the Philippines internationally. Flights depart from London Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Edinburgh airports, and major carriers include Cathay Pacific and Turkish Airlines. Flight time can vary between 14 to 20 hours depending on your length of stopover.

Best time to visit Manila

The most comfortable months to explore Manila are between December and February when the sun is shining but it isn't too hot. During April and May, the temperatures build until the monsoons finally hit in June. These rains are the heaviest in July and August, but you may enjoy the welcome respite they provide from the blistering heat!
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Explore Manila with STA Travel

Manila tour
Secrets of Old Manila
Following your airport pickup, spend four days exploring Manila's old colonial heritage and shimmering new skyscrapers. Includes three nights in your choice of accommodation (Rock Solid hotel or Shoestring hostel, three breakfasts, a tour guide, entrance fees and transport.

4 days | From £301

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Volunteering Philippines
Volunteer in the Philippines
Visit locals in a former slum an hour outside of Manila before heading to the GK Enchanted Farm, where you'll spend a week teaching English to 5-11 year olds, experiencing farmhand life and learning to cook local cuisine. Round it off with two days in San Felipe, surfing, snorkelling, island hopping and waterfall chasing!

10 days | From £589

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Manila to Boracay
Manila to Boracay on a Shoestring
Explore Manila before embarking on a journey through the Philippines' beautiful north. Trek through Banaue's amazing rice terraces, discover mysterious 'hanging coffins' in the jungles of Sagada, and spend a night in a local family homestay. Then it's on to the beautiful beaches of Boracay for snorkelling, diving, partying, or simply snoozing before heading back to Manila.

10 days | From £899

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Our favorite Manila hotels

chillout guesthouse
Chill-out Guesthouse
A friendly guesthouse with 12 shared rooms and great food. Based in the district of Malate, you'll be surrounded by bars and restaurants.
From £12
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Junction Hostel
Junction Hostel
Based in a lively part of central Manila, Junction has offers dorm rooms and privates, free WiFi and a laid-back coffee shop downstairs, perfect for making friends.
 From £12
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