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Experience the Magic — How to Spend a Long-Weekend in Manila

This blog post was updated on July 19, 2023.

The vibrant capital city of the Philippines, Manila is a destination that truly captivates visitors with its rich history, cultural delights, diverse culinary scene, and bustling urban life. Nestled on the eastern shores of Manila Bay, this cosmopolitan city is a melting pot of tradition and modernity, offering an array of experiences that will leave you spellbound. From exploring historic sites to indulging in mouthwatering cuisine and immersing yourself in the city’s lively nightlife, Manila has something for everyone. 

But what if you only have a long weekend to spend in Manila? Here’s our guide to getting the most out of your visit, even if you can only devote three days to your 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

Commonly referred to as The Walled City, Intramuros is the oldest area in Manila and one of the city’s most important tourist destinations. 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. The original structure dates back to the 1750 and was originally built as a summer house. 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 Ferdinand 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.

Practical Information

Before you embark on your Manila adventure, here are some practical tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. The best time to visit Manila is during the dry season from November to April, when the weather is more pleasant and rain showers are less frequent. 

Getting around Manila is relatively easy, with various transportation options such as taxis, ride-sharing services, and the metro system. However, be prepared for heavy traffic during peak hours. As with any travel destination, it’s important to prioritize your safety. Avoid displaying expensive jewelry or belongings, be cautious in crowded areas, and take necessary precautions to protect your personal belongings. 

Manila offers a captivating blend of history, culture, and modernity, making it an enticing destination for travelers seeking an enriching experience. From exploring centuries-old landmarks and immersing yourself in the vibrant arts scene to indulging in mouthwatering cuisine and experiencing the city’s lively nightlife, Manila has something for everyone.  


Q: What are some must-visit historic sites in Manila?

A: Some must-visit historic sites in Manila include Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church, and the Rizal Shrine in Luneta Park. 

Q: Which festivals should I experience in Manila?

A: You should experience festivals like the Sinulog Festival, Pahiyas Festival, and the Ati-Atihan Festival for a vibrant celebration of Filipino culture. 

Q: What are some popular Filipino dishes to try in Manila?

A: Popular Filipino dishes to try in Manila include adobo, lechon, pancit, and halo-halo. 

Q: Are there any nearby islands worth visiting from Manila?

A: Yes, nearby islands worth visiting from Manila include Batangas, Zambales, and the stunning beaches of Boracay. 

Q: What is the best time of year to visit Manila?

A: The best time to visit Manila is during the dry season from November to April, when the weather is more pleasant and rain showers are less frequent. 


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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