10 Unique & Fun Things to Do in Manila

For travelers, backpackers and province-based tourists, Manila is often just thought of as a stopover between flights on the way to another destination. The big city can be overwhelming with the heavy traffic and crowded streets. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much to do except eat out, go shopping in the malls, visit museums or churches. There’s also the gritty and chaotic areas of Quiapo and Divisoria, which have become synonymous with Manila.

I often take the tourist sights in Manila for granted because this is where I live and work. But if I were a first-time tourist in the Philippines, or if I had to take around foreign tourists, balikbayans, expats or province-based friends, what would I do and where would I go? Here are some suggestions of unique and fun activities you can do while in Manila.
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Craft Beers in the Philippines

Updated December 2016

A revolution is definitely brewing in the craft beer scene here in the Philippines. It seems that in the past few years, there’s been a boom in local microbreweries. While guzzling down 99 bottles of beer for a self-imposed sidequest, I was glad to come across some great craft beers which are brewed right here in the country. If you’re a craft beer enthusiast or you want to try something new, here are some homegrown microbreweries and beers that you should look out for when you travel around the Philippines.

philippines-craft-beer

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Art in the City: Murals in BGC

Street art or public art is a big part of urban culture. Unlike art you find in museums, this kind of media staged in the streets, walkways and buildings make art more accessible to the public.

retro mural by faile BGC motorcycle

Certain places around the world like George Town in Penang and Sao Paolo in Brazil are known for their vibrant street art, which is a big tourism draw in itself. Just check out this list of the best cities in the World for Street Art. In the Philippines, one of the best places to see big scale public art is Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig.  Continue reading

Merkanto: International Street Food Park in UP Village

Updated September 2016

There’s a new food park in the neighborhood! Merkanto, located inside 38 Autocare Car wash in UP Village, serves international street fare. I love sampling street food and eating in hawker centers when I travel to other countries. Street food is really big in other countries and it looks like the trend is catching on in the Philippines. Though there are a lot of restaurants and food parks already in the Maginhawa area, I have to say the concepts here are pretty unique. The dishes are affordable, and so far from what we’ve tried, everything tastes delicious.

01 merkanto international street food
Opened in April 2016, Merkanto currently has 6 food cart-type stalls serving a few street eats from Korea, Vietnam, Morocco, Indonesia, Brazil and India plus one beverage stall specializing in craft beer from the Philippines. It’s fairly new, so it doesn’t get as crowded as some of the other food parks even during weekends. However, I’m sure once word gets around, people will start to flock here as well. Below are some sample dishes per stall and the price range so you can get an idea of the offerings. Continue reading

Food Trip: Neighborhood Destinations in Manila

Nowadays, I can’t stand eating in malls and fast food joints. Eating out in big name chains and regular restaurants in commercialized areas just seems so expensive. I always prefer eating in homegrown neighborhood establishments, which are usually family-owned, and offer good and affordable food.food trip neighborhood destinations

Looking for alternative dining destinations instead of malls? Here are some of the best neighborhoods and food streets around Metro Manila with top 5 recommendations per area. Take note that a lot of these places are mainly residential areas, so traffic and parking can be a bit of a problem. To counter this, we usually just walk or bike when we explore other neighborhoods for food-trips.
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10 Things Kids Can Do at KidZania Manila

I’ve been wanting to take my 6-year old nephew Eli to KidZania Manila ever since I heard it opened in Park Triangle Mall in Bonifacio Global City this year. We’ve done the rounds of the kid-friendly establishments in the metro – The Mind Museum, Art in Island, The Manila Oceanarium, Ark Avilon, Fun Ranch, etc., and KidZania Manila sounds like the ultimate kiddie theme park. This unique indoor kid-sized play city currently has 20 locations in 17 countries and is now in the Philippines!

kidzania manila tickets eli

Imagine a huge interactive indoor play city full of kiddie-sized stores, vehicles, shops and dining destinations. KidZania Manila was built to scale for children using recognizable brands to make up a city. It provides a unique and realistic educational environment, where kids between the ages of four and 14 can get hands-on experience on their dream jobs. KidZania aims to spark kids’ imaginations, ignite their minds, nurture creativity, and inspire real-world exploration. It’s the ultimate role-playing environment for kids!  Continue reading

Junction Hostel & Co-Working Space in Makati

Sometimes you don’t have to go far to get that “backpacker travel” experience. While researching for an article assignment on different hostels in the city recently, I got to stay in Junction Hostel, one of the newer hostels in Makati City. Since I didn’t have to worry about going home too late, the staycation was a perfect time to go on an urban adventure to nearby bars and restos. As a long time Quezon City resident, Makati is pretty much foreign territory to me. Exploring the city’s vibrant night life actually kind of felt like being in a backpacker district in Bangkok or Vietnam.

junction hostels makati 01 lobby

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Z Compound on Malingap Street

Updated February 2016

There are now several food parks in the Maginhawa area, but the original one that started the trend back in 2013 is the collective of food stalls known as Z Compound or “The Z”, which can be found in the garden area of an old house on #33A Malingap Street. The Zone has a good mix of budget-friendly and unique quality food, making this one of our favorites in the area. It’s also one of the most bike-friendly places to eat in the area, since you can park your rides inside.

z compound good food signage bikes

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The Escape Hunt Experience Manila

The game is afoot!

Want to practice your detective skills and see if you have what it takes to be a super sleuth like Sherlock Homes? Check out Escape Hunt in Makati, the “ultimate live escape game” where players get one hour to play the part of famous London detectives and figure out classic murder mysteries.

the escape hunt experience manila screenshot from website

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Room Escape Game: Breakout Philippines

I’m a big fan of point and click room escape games online and horror video games with puzzle solving elements like Silent Hill and Resident Evil. But there’s really something different when you get to play these in real life. You can’t just pause the game to check for walkthroughs if you get stumped. The time element and pressure feels so much more real. It’s up to you and your companions to figure out everything. breakout philippines door travelup

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