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Experience the Magic of Manila

This blog post was updated on November 16, 2018.

If you’re lucky enough to spend a long weekend in Manila, capital of the Philippines, there’s no shortage of things to do and sights to see. From adventure tours to historical sites, here are some recommendations to make the most out of your three-day stay.

Day One

wassiliy-architect / Shutterstock

wassiliy-architect / Shutterstock

Get your bearings by taking a tour of Manila, and delight in the beautiful and historic sites of this fascinating city. There are plenty of private tour companies that will show you around or, if you prefer, you can also visit these historical hotspots by yourself.

Intramuros and Fort Santiago

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”20″ bg_color=”#f2ba37″ txt_color=”#000000″]Commonly referred to as The Walled City, Intramuros is the oldest area in Manila and one of the city’s most important tourist destinations. [/mks_pullquote]Located along Manila Bay, south of the Pasig River, it was strategically positioned to serve as the seat of the government during the period of Spanish colonization. Located inside the walled city is Fort Santiago, a massive stone citadel built by Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi, for the newly established city of Manila in 1571. The Spanish architecture and layout of this city within a city is as stunning as it is historically significant.

Malacanang Palace

The palace of the president is located along the northern bank of the Pasig River, and is definitely worth a visit.[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”16″ bg_color=”#f2ba37″ txt_color=”#000000″]The original structure dates back to the 1750 and was originally built as a summer house.[/mks_pullquote]Various parts have been rebuilt over the years, and other buildings have been added, resulting in a fascinating mix of Spanish, American, and Filipino architecture and décor. The adjacent Malacanang Park boasts impressive grounds, including an 18-hole golf course.

Day Two

Sthaporn Kamlanghan / Shutterstock

Sthaporn Kamlanghan / Shutterstock

Take a day trip to Volcano Island (located near the city of Tagaytay about an hour and a half from Manila) and trek the Taal volcano. Highlights include the stunning crater lake (kayaks and banana boats are available to rent), horseback riding among the basalt rocks, and visiting People’s Park in the Sky (formerly known as Palace in the Sky Park when it was originally built for President Marcos). The nearby Tagaytay City offers plenty of sightseeing opportunities, including Calaruega Church, an historic site that’s now a retreat center managed by the Fathers and Brothers of the Dominican Province of the Philippines.

There are several local tour companies that will take you to Tagaytay from Manila, and of course you can also get there yourself, using public transportation.

Day Three

Jomar Aplaon / Shutterstock

Jomar Aplaon / Shutterstock

It would be a shame to leave Manila without experiencing the breathtaking Manila Bay. Take a day trip (by boat) to Corregidor Island located about 48 kilometers from Manila at the entrance of the Bay. On the island there’s a memorial to the Filipino and American soldiers who fought in WWII. In addition to historical significance, the lush island also offers up plenty of natural beauty. You can also take a relaxing evening dinner cruise or boat tour of Manila Bay. Whichever option you choose, make sure you’re near the bay at sunset—it’s one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see.

Have you ever experienced the magic of Manila? Let us know your favorite Manila moment in the comments section below.

About the author

Jen Westmoreland Bouchard

An insatiable foodie, art collector, and international literature aficionado, I have traveled throughout Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Canada. For the past fifteen years, I have written about my adventures for various travel and literary publications. I am the owner of Lucidité Writing ( and Bouchard Design Co. (

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