People I meet going to the Philippines on their way to the beach ask me what’s worthwhile experiencing in Metro-Manila, where to go, what to eat, where to stay. Metro-Manila often gets put-off by travel websites as a city that’s too miserable to even bother visiting, but indeed, such warnings make the French want to come even more, or so they say. And what’s there not to like about France and the French?
As the densest city in the world (number 1-wiki it), Metro-Manila is very much remarkable. So much that I’ll have to make a two day itinerary restriction.
Don’t have a place to crash and looking for a reliable hostel in the center of one of the most recently gentrified yet resilient up-and-coming neighbourhoods where the who’s who of society comes for a drink? Stay at Z-Hostel .
Grab coffee and a bite at Blocleaf Café.
Go on a bicycle tour of Intramuros in the morning with Bambike , finish the tour with a pint of local craft beer the Bambike Intramuros shop has on tap. Reflect on early days of Globalisation amidst Romanesque architecture. Least we begin to remember that the Philippine islands didn’t just fall to the hands of some colonizers who everybody from the Philippines is named after as many may mistakenly believe when I talk about my mixed heritage. The maternal French/English ‘Litton’ part of my family actually relocated to the Philippines to escape the onset of WWII. Do think twice before you meet somebody of mixed heritage and describe their surname as coming from some ‘colonizer’. The Philippines also hosted a number of Jewish refugees following the Holocaust, and Vietnamese during the Viet Nam war. A little history lesson. My Grandfather could give you a much more expansive one.
12noonish to 2pm
Have lunch at Barbara’s, or skip out on lunch and get churros con chocolaté at the Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros . Check-out the view from the roof-top. Stop for souvenirs at The Manila Collectible in Intramuros. Say hi to Virgie.
Go back to your accommodation. Take a swim and a siesta, a nap.
Or check out the National Museum near intramuros, or the Ayala Museum back in Makati.
If you’re looking for stylish tropical garb stop by Tropa Store.
This should take you to just about sunset time.
Go for sunset cocktails on the rooftop of the Raffles hotel at Mirèo Terrace .
Or if yoga is your thing, take a class at YogaHive in Salcedo Village. Try a class with Chloe or Quino.
Pop by Batala Bar in Makati for another drink and dinner. It’s solar powered and everything’s local, check out their crafty retail space too. Try to get there in time for the complimentary 8:30pm bamboo-infused lambanog shot.
If you’re staying in Fort Bonifacio and don’t want to spend too much time stuck in traffic at this hour, grab dinner at Manam or Abé , and a drink at the recently opened Coconut Club. You could continue barhopping in Fort Bonifacio to Chotto Matte and Las Flores and make your way to Poblacion. But if you’re not feeling the wannabe New York or Singapore vibes of Fort Bonifacio just pop over straight to Poblacion.
If it ends up being 4am and you’re feeling a bit peckish and want legitimate Korean food, eat at Mansun, or get the best rice porridge from Go-To Monster —your stomach will be very happy, your wallet still full too.
8am to 12noonish
If it’s a Saturday, check-out the Salcedo Market for a plethora of local bites.
If it’s Sunday, check-out the Legazpi Sunday Market.
If it’s neither Saturday nor Sunday, check-out Manila’s Chinatown, the first ‘Chinatown’ in the world. Wear a hat. Bring a reusable shopping bag incase you want to buy some local lacatan bananas.
12noonish to dinner
Make your way to the Alley at Karrivin. Check out the well curated contemporary art gallery ArtInformal. Explore the shops at rest of the Alley and have an early dinner at Toyo Eatery (they’re closed on Sunday’s and Monday’s however). You could also try Romulo Cafe. Or if you’re feeling vegetarian, Corner Tree Cafe— Ariana Grande eats there when she’s on tour.
Or if you’re looking for some of the best pasta in South East Asia, have dinner at La Nuova Pasteleria in San Antonio Plaza. Try the spinach ravioli. It hasn’t changed since I was 5 years old.
If it’s Thursday and you want to dance to electronic beats with the fun artsy crowd, check out XXXX on Chino Roces. If you’re feeling gay and pop go to Nectar in Fort Bonifacio.
Otherwise go back to Poblacion or Batala Bar for a pint or two, or stop by a grocery for some local fare and stay in and read a book , and rest + prepare for your travels the next day.
Keep an open mind and enjoy your travels.