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A 2 Day Cultural and Food Tour of Manila, Philippines

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Getaway Category: Culture & Heritage and Food & DrinkGetaway Tags: adventure, Asia, culture, Food, Manila, Philippines, and weekend

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  • While the busy city of Manila in the Philippines is known for its tall skyscrapers, heavy traffic, and chaos, the city has another completely different side to it, all waiting to be explored. While the crown jewel of the Philippines are its many beaches and islands, Manila is a large hub that is rich in history and culture. If you’re an avid history or art buff, don’t miss out on a quick escape to this metropolitan city to see what it can offer.

    Pre-Booking Your Tours: We recommend that you pre-book your tours ahead of time. On your first day, take the Carlos Celdran Walking Tour of Intramuros. This runs from 3-5pm every day and is a fantastic mix of performing arts, history, and culture. The tour guide, Carlos Celdran, is known for his unique approach to explaining Philippine history. He has a rather colourful personality that will enthrall you for the entire tour. The next day, book the Binondo Food Walking Tour (Chinatown Tour) by Old Manila Walks. The food tour runs for around 4 hours and can be booked in advance to suit your schedule.

    Day 0: Arrival in Manila

    8:55 PM Arrival at Ninoy Aquino International Airport

    While the three-hour direct flight from Singapore is a breeze, the traffic in Manila can get a bit much. However, as you are arriving late at night, the chances of getting stuck in traffic are slim. To get to your hotel, use Uber or Grab Taxi, depending on your preference. Both companies are very reliable and safe and can be used throughout your whole trip. The airport should have free wifi or there is a Grab Taxi booth by where Grab agents would happily call you one of their cars. The Grab booth is located by the main arrival curbside in NAIA terminal 1. This is the best way to get to your hotel as the airport taxis tend to be over priced. While you are in the airport, buy a local SIM from Globe or Smart so you can get data on the go.

    10:00 PM Hotel Check-In

    If you haven’t eaten dinner yet, chances are your hotel might have a nearby restaurant that is open. After checking in, you can wander off for some food or if you feel like having food delivered, you can opt to check your room service or Food Panda Philippines. On the other hand, if you want to venture out, although not a lot of restaurants might be open, you can find a few late night food joints. If you’re staying near the Manila/Makati area, we recommend trying Beni’s Falafel in Makati for some good Middle Eastern fare or The Aristocrat in Manila, a famous Filipino restaurant known for its BBQ chicken and java rice. After you’ve satisfied your food cravings, hit the bed, ready for your tour tomorrow.

    Day 1: Historical Tour of Manila

    9:00 AM Breakfast

    If your hotel doesn’t have breakfast, venture out to Makati City and try out the many delicious “Instagram worthy” breakfast joints in the area. You can use this list and decide if something tickles your fancy. Wildflour and Early Bird Breakfast Club are two favorites!

    11:00 AM National Museum

    After having your fill of coffee, head on over to The National Museum of the Philippines for your first dose of Philippine culture and art. The National Museum is a great place to spend a couple of hours and get to know the country through its art. The museum is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and is located along Taft Ave., Ermita, Manila. From your hotel or your breakfast spot, we recommend using Uber or Grab Taxi as they are the safest and most reliable way to get around and you don’t have to haggle.

    The National Museum is full of many interesting pieces of art. From historical artifacts to modern cubism paintings and world renowned art like The Spoliarium which has won awards in Madrid. You could easily spend a couple of hours getting lost in here as you marvel at the varied types of art available. The art on display gives you a glimpse of Philippine’s rich history and how it has gone through the Spanish, Japanese, and American colonial regimes.

    1:00 PM Lunch

    For lunch, walk on over to Rizal Park where you will find a Filipino restaurant called Recipes. The food is very reasonable and is a good start to trying out Filipino food. Try the famous chicken or pork adobo, the unofficial national dish in the Philippines. Sinigang is also a good option and is essentially the Filipino version of tom yum soup without the spiciness. The restaurant is 10 minutes walking distance from the museum and is within Rizal Park where you can opt to wander around before meeting up with your tour guide in Intramuros.

    3:00 PM Carlos Celdran Intramuros Tour

    When you heard that this was one of the best tours to do in Manila, they weren’t kidding. Walk this way is a great way to understand Manila’s rather complicated and colorful past. The tour guide, Carlos Celdran, takes you through a performance as he retells the story of oppression, freedom and survival.

    5:00-5:15 PM Head Back to Hotel

    After your tour, you can take an Uber or Grab Taxi back to your hotel so you can relax and take a shower before you head out for dinner. As it is rush hour, expect at least an hour to get back to your hotel. Yes, traffic in Manila is that bad.

    8:30 PM Dinner & Drinks

    Hopefully, after a couple of hours of down time and a shower, you will feel refreshed and renewed, ready to paint the town red! Manila is a fun place for drinks and dancing and has something for every type of party goer. For dinner, go to Greenbelt Mall, a popular place where you can find any type of cuisine imaginable. If you want to indulge more in Filipino food, Manam Comfort Food is the place to get a taste of good old Filipino home cooking. If you’re craving for Thai food, People’s Palace is a crowd pleaser that is quite popular, their prawn peanut salad is a must. Cafe M is a trendy spot in front of the Museum in GreenBelt and they even have DJs spinning on the weekend. Have a wander and pick a place.

    For drinks, if you want a more relaxed pub-like atmosphere, you can go to Draft Gastropub Manila which serves a variety of beer on tap. Their bar chow is also rather delicious so make sure you save room for some snacks. If you’re looking for something a little more upper scale for drinks, you can check out Barino, Nuvo or popular speakeasy bar, Prohibition Liquor Lounge. If Karaoke is your thing, there is a place right by Greenbelt called Red Box. On the other hand, if you want to venture further than Greenbelt Mall, a trip to 71 Gramercy is a great option as they have killer rooftop views giving you a perfect lookout to Manila. For those that want to party it up, you can check out popular clubs like Black Market or TIME.


    Day 2: Food Tour & Flight Home

    8:30 AM Breakfast

    Hopefully, you’re ready to take on today as this is one of our favorite parts! You will be indulging yourself in delicious food while understanding how the Chinese have influenced Filipino cuisine. Similar to yesterday, you can opt to either have breakfast in your hotel or eat out. There are so many delicious brunch places in the city that you will be spoilt for choice. Remember that you will be going on a food tour so don’t fill yourself up too much! Unless you have arranged for a late check-out, we recommend that you pack your bags and leave them by the front desk. The food tour will end around 1:00 PM so it’s best to get your things ready in advance. Alternatively, if you’re traveling light, you can coordinate with the Old Manila Walks organizers to see if there is a place where you can leave your belongings so you can go straight to the airport after the tour.

    10:00 AM Binondo Food Tour

    I would arrange for a slightly late food tour which would run from 10:00-1:00 PM. Their usual time slots vary so just make sure to coordinate in advance. This food tour will take you through Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown. Home to many tale old time food spots that have been there since the 80’s. The guides are energetic and very knowledgeable and will really be able to take you around and show you the best places to eat in the area.

    1:00 PM Pick-Up Your Bags and Head to the Airport

    After your tour, head straight to the airport to catch your flight back to Singapore. Hopefully, that quick weekend escape showed you Manila in a different light. Despite being a big bustling city, it has a lot of culture and character and is an interesting city to get to know up and close.

    "botanic, gardens, Singapore"


  • Where to Stay in Manila, Philippines

    Budget:

    For budget travelers, Red Planet Amorsolo is a modern hotel is quite basic but is a great option. The rooms are small but is very clean and is newly furnished. The location of this hotel is also quite ideal as it is only a few kilometers away from all the large malls in the area. Rooms start at $50 SGD a night for a private double room.

    Mid-Range:

    The Picasso Boutique Residence is perfect for travelers who want to stay in the heart of Makati, Manila’s financial district. The hotel itself offers unique themed studios and suites with kitchens, making it your home away from home. The location is very central and the rooms are large, spacious, with well thought of interior decoration. Prices start at $140 SGD a night for two people

    Splurge:

    Located in the heart of Makati, Raffles Makati is a luxurious hotel with 32 large suites offering one bedroom residences. The rooms are lavish, comfortable, and is a great option for those who want to splurge. Prices start at  $523 SGD for a suite and breakfast for two.

    Getting There

    Tiger Air flies to Manila directly from Singapore almost daily at 5:25 PM, landing in Manila at 8:55 PM. For the return flight, we recommend taking Singapore Airlines which flies at 5:05 PM, landing back in Singapore at 8:50 PM. If you want to check other options, consider using Air Asia or Jetstar to find flights that best suit your schedule. There are a few dozen flight options to/from Manila.

    What to Pack:

    You won’t really need much so a light carry-on case would do. Apart from your basic traveling essentials, don’t forget to bring sunblock and a disposable water bottle container. You will be doing a lot of walking (and eating) during your tours so make sure you come prepared.

    Best time to visit:

    Although you can head on over to Manila at any time, the rainy season starts from June-October. While you can still have some hot sunny days, during those times, mosquitos can be a bit ferocious so make sure to pack some mosquito repellent for the evenings.

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