Manila city guide: the best and most complete guide of the Pearl of the Orient.
Hotels, restaurants, secret bars and midget fights.
Like many asian cities, Manila is a capital of strong contrasts: blatant wealth and distressing poverty meet and clash constantly in every corner of this metropolis of a million and a half inhabitants, rapidly growing. From the plane the first thing that marvels the visitor is the vast and seemingly endless plateau of houses, low and attached, they make the suburbs of the city look like a huge carpet of colors. And then the skyscrapers of Makati, the elegant district European-style, the historic streets of Intramuros dating back to 1500, the giant malls, the Rizal Park, 60 hectares of gardens that celebrate the Filipino heroes.
Manila, “Pearl of the Orient” as it was called because of its central position in the Pacific Ocean trades, and Manila, “Phoenix City” as we can call it for always being able to rebuilt itself after the typhoons and the floods that strike constantly this corner of the world. Often ignored by conventional tourism routes, Manila offers a bubbly and fun stay and you can spend here a couple of days before heading to the North of the country with its ancient rice fields, or to the various seaside resorts famous all over the world, like Boracay and El Nido .
MANILA CITY GUIDE : WHEN TO GO
In Manila it’s warm all year round, with peaks in April and May. The rainy season lasts from June to October, while the dry season runs from January to April. The recommended months to visit the city are January and February with temperatures of minimum 20 ° C and maximum 31 ° C.
MANILA CITY GUIDE : WHAT TO DO
Manila can be a dangerous city, it is recommended not to roam on the streets without a guide and not to walk alone at night.
Visit Intramuros with Carlos Celdran (www.carlosceldran.blogspot.com)
Carlos Celdran is not only a guide, but also an artist and a celebrity in the Philippines because of his cultural activism. He organizes tours led by him in the center of Manila with the agency “Walk This Way”. Each tour starts in Fort Santiago and ends in Plaza San Luis, the route is done on foot and covers the highlights of the history of the capital.
Binondo Food Wok
Take a morning or an afternoon to discover the district of Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown, and prepare your stomach to make it through its food. You will taste from the classic dumplings, to the fried crepes, the sea cucumber and the mango tapioca. A fascinating tour not to be missed. The agency Old Manila Walks organizes walking tours of three and a half hours through Binondo and its specialties.
Manila Ocean Park
Manila Ocean Park behind Quirino Grandstand Luneta, Manila, 1000, tel. +6325677777
Within a resort that includes a water park, other attractions and a marine-themed hotel, Hotel H2O, the Manila Ocean Park is the first marine park in the country. You can choose between different paths: the Oceanarium, the paths through the Antarctic, the path about jellyfishes, fishes, sea lions and one on the birds typical of this climate.
Cruise on Manila Bay
A pleasant alternative to having dinner at one of the many restaurants in the city, is the cruise that is done at dusk, early evening or at night in Manila Bay. You can see the skyline of the city while sipping a cocktail and enjoying the last hours of the day aboard a luxury yacht. The tour lasts an hour and you can also dine on board accompanied by an orchestra.
Watch a midget fight at Ringside Bar
4853 Kalayaan Avenue corner Burgos Street, Makati, Manila
Definitely not the typical experience that a person intends to have on vacation in a tropical country, but it has long been a popular attraction among tourists who come to Burgos Street, the red light district of Makati. The Ringside is a seedy and dirty bar but you have to play the game and enjoy the show. If you pay, they also organize matches between tourists and midgets, during which you will be handcuffed and beaten up. Exhilarating.
MANILA CITY GUIDE : WHERE TO SLEEP
City of Dreams
Asean Avenue corner Roxas Boulevard, Entertainment City, Parañaque 1701, Manila
City of Dreams, in Entertainment City in Parañaque, is a huge complex of resorts, shops, casinos and entertainment, strategically located three minutes from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and five minutes from the Mall of Asia, the largest mall in Asia. Inside there are three five-star hotels: Crown Towers, Nobu Hotel, Hyatt City of Dreams. All three have luxury facilities, swimming pools, gym, restaurants and conference center. The most elegant is definitely Crown Towers, which is also the most expensive (about € 250 per night per room).
Edsa Shangri-la Hotel
1 Garden Way, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City 1650, Manila – tel. +63 2 633 8888
This elegant hotel offers 631 rooms and suites located on two different wings: the Tower and the Tropical Garden. All rooms are luxuriously furnished with a touch of Asian taste and enjoy a beautiful view of the garden or the skyline of Manila. The restaurants within the hotel are seven and offer notable dining experiences from Cantonese cuisine to sushi, with the best cocktails and the special effects of the interactive theather-kitchen at the restaurant HEAT.
Double room from € 150.
Makati Shangri-la Hotel
Ayala Avenue corner Makati Avenue, Makati City, 1200, Manila – tel. +63 2 813 8888
The other hotel from the Shangri-la chain is located in the district of Makati, famous for its numerous restaurants, bars and shopping malls. The Makati Shangri-la is the epitome of elegance and has remained for years at the top within the hotels in Manila, also for its convenient location just twenty minutes from the airport. It offers 696 rooms among the largest and most luxurious in the city and eight restaurants offering Asian and Western cuisine.
Double room from € 250.
Corner of Ayala and Makati Avenue, Makati City 1226, Manila – tel. +63 2 887 2888
Luxurious and opulent, the Peninsula has long been a jewel on the scenario of the ultra-luxury hotels in Makati. The triumphal fountain greets the visitor who then immediately falls in love with the rooms, furnished with pieces inspired by the architecture of the Philippines, joined with Peninsula’s timeless elegance. The breakfast buffet is one of the best and most complete ever tried, reason why, along with an excellent value for money, they win our Best Choice. Do not miss a drink at Salon de Ning Bar and Lounge (in the picture), inspired by nightclubs in Shanghai during the ‘30s.
Double room from € 140.
Raffles Makati, Raffles Residences Makati e Fairmont Makati
1 Raffles Drive Makati Avenue, Makati 1224, Manila
Within the same skyscraper there are Raffles Makati, Raffles Residences Makati and Fairmont Makati. Raffles Makati offers 32 suites with windows from floor to ceiling. The Residence proposes instead apartments that have up to four bedrooms. Finally, the Fairmont has 280 deluxe rooms. The complex includes seven restaurants, two outdoor pools, a ballroom, spa, gym, conference center and a beauty salon.
Raffles Makati: double room from € 300.
Fairmont Makati: double room from 200 €.
Sofitel Philippine Plaza
CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City 1300 Manila – tel. +63 2 5515555
The Sofitel is located in a lush tropical garden with breathtaking views of Manila Bay. 609 rooms, some with views of the lagoon-shaped pool, complete with waterfalls. Hotel guests also have access to a 18-holes golf course. This hotel seems to have it all, not least being part of the Planet 21 program that supports sustainable development for the environment.
Double room from € 170.
5660 Don Pedro Street, Makati, Manila – tel. +63 927 965 2692
The first and only luxury hostel in the Philippines. It offers 30 rooms and 128 beds and it is located in the beautiful area of Makati within walking distance of restaurants, bars and shops. In addition to classic dorms, mixed or female only, always clean and ultra-modern, you can rent double rooms with en suite bathroom. There are also two wonderful roof terraces where you can organize a barbecue or just enjoy a drink while watching the skyline of Manila.
Double room from 45 €.
MANILA CITY GUIDE : WHERE TO EAT
19 West Capitol Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig City, Manila – tel. +63 2 632 0357
The decor is nothing but tacky, but the kitchen serves plates that are very similar to those that a Filipino mother would cook for you. A “tavern” Asian-style, with specialties such as pork adobo and taro leaves in coconut milk.
Fely J’s Restaurant
2nd Level, Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati, Manila – tel. +63 2 728 8878
Inside a big mall and always full (it is best to book), this restaurant is dedicated to the mother of the restaurateur called Felicidad de Jesus-Cruz. The cuisine is fresh and natural, inspired by the typical dishes of the Philippines with more general Asian tones. Among the specialties there is the crab with rice.
La Cocina de Tita Moning
315 San Rafael St., San Miguel District, Manila – tel. +63 2 7342146
One can’t help but fall in love with this restaurant, inside a house in Art Deco style, built in 1937 for the Legarda family and the first of its kind in the central district of Metro Manila, once the city’s most elegant. The house is preserved as a museum where you can admire rare artifacts and taste Tita Moning’s recipes, famous throughout the city for her parties and her lavish banquets. The rooms are delightful and the food amazing, without a doubt it won our Best Choice. Open only by reservation.
10 Brixton Street, Barrio Kapitolyo, Pasig City, Manila – tel. +63 2 632 9600
Relaxed and fun (one of the posters of the restaurant says “The more you weigh, the harder you are to kidnap! Stay safe, eat Locavore!”). Everything is grown, produced and cooked locally, and you can choose from tasty sandwiches inspired by Filipino cuisine, dishes, cocktails and homemade beers.
32 Scout Tuason Street (corner Scout Lazcano), Quezon City, Manila – tel. +63 2 332 7273
This restaurant was founded by the grandson of General Carlos P. Romulo, Philippine Ambassador in the US for ten years and in 1949 President of the General Assembly of the United Nations. You can taste local dishes in a peaceful setting, yet sophisticated.
Unit 1-7, Forum Global South, 7th Ave corner 25th Street, Fort Bonifacio, Manila – tel. +63 927 706-0773
The chef of this very trendy restaurant is JP Anglo, judge of Master Chef Pinoy Edition (the Philippine edition) and the kitchen offers typical dishes from the island of Negros, a region south of Manila in the Philippines. Order the Kansi Bulalo (beef).
Bistro du Vin (picture)
Ground Floor, Edades Tower and Garden Villas, Plaza Drive cor Hidalgo Drive, Rockwell, Makati City, Manila – tel. +63 2 9586712
Chain born in Singapore in 2009 and then spread to Hong Kong and Manila,. They offer all the quality French cuisine ingredients, like foie gras, cold meats, snails, in a young and relaxed atmosphere.
Ground Floor, Net One Center, 26th St. corner 3rd Avenue, Bonifacio Global City 1634 Taguig, Manila – tel. +632 815-8801
One of the most authentic restaurants in Manila, belongs to the family of the famous French chef Marc Aubry and managed to maintain an excellent level of quality over the years. Delicious mussels and excellent wine list.
Lemuria Gourmet Restaurant
5 Julieta Circle, Horseshoe Village, New Manila, Quezon City, Manila – tel. +63 2 724 5211
Stylish and romantic, this restaurant boasts a beautiful garden where, on request, you can also organize lunches or private dinners. The dishes are few but carefully selected, all inspired by the French tradition. The refined environment requires a smart casual dress code and the bill will go accordingly.
25th Street, between 5th & 6th Avenue, RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center, Bonifacio South, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, Manila – tel. + 632.801.2770
Innovative restaurant that serves international dishes with a Japanese note. The menu varies according to season and many of the ingredients are sent by air from Japan. Mecha Uma is short for two Japanese expressions meaning “delicious” and “tasty confusion”.
Nobu Restaurant (picture)
Aseana Boulevard corner Macapagal Avenue Brgy. Tambo, Paranaque City, Manila – tel. +632 691 2882
In 1987 the famous chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa opened his first restaurant in West Hollywood with a Japanese and Peruvian fusion cuisine, Matsuhisa. It has since become synonymous with simple and elegante cuisine, and opened 32 restaurants worldwide. He arrives in Manila in December 2014 within the Nobu Hotel Entertainment City. A worldwide classic in Japanese food.
District of Little Tokyo (Makati)
One of the best Japanese cuisine that you will find in Manila is the one of the small family-run restaurants of Little Tokyo, a Japanese district along Pasong Tamo. The most delicious are Seryna and Nodasho. Seryna is considered by many to be the best of Little Tokyo, probably because it gets most of its products via plane from Japan. Nodasho instead, in addition to having an excellent reputation and quality, is known for offering in the month of December, the famous fugu (pufferfish), the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world, from which they remove carefully the toxic parts, otherwise lethal for man.
Seryna: 2277 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City, Manila – tel. +63 2 894 3855
Nodasho: Unit 14 Little Tokyo, 2277 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City, Manila
Level 3, Trinoma Park, corner EDSA, North Avenue, Quezon City – tel. +63 2 901 0813
The name means “golden tempura” from the japanese words kim “gold” and pura “tempura”. It is a chain of restaurants that for forty years in Manila stands for excellent Japanese cuisine. Three outlets in the city: in addition to that of Quezon City, can be found in Makati City and San Juan.
Tsumura Sushi Bar and Restaurant
141 Sedeno Street Salcedo Village, Makati, Manila – tel. +63 2 887 4848
Located in an office building and with no frills, Tsumura is a restaurant for true sushi-fans. The sashimi is delicious and it’s not difficult to find the owner and chef Tsumura preparing the fish behind the counter.
JAPANESE CUISINE (RAMEN)
Ukokkei Ramen Ron
G / F Paseo Tesoro Bldg., 822 A. Arnaiz Avenue, Makati, Manila – tel. +63 2 856 4588
Unknown to the mass, you become aware of this magical place only through word of mouth and it’s worth it since it offers the best ramen in the city. It also has two other locations in Malate and Taguig City.
And Alabang Zapote Road, Muntinlupa, Manila – tel. +63 2 808 7424
Yusho means “champion” and ken means “home”: the recipe used in this restaurant for the ramen is based on the one by Koji Tashiro, a champion of ramen regarded as the son of the god of ramen in Japan, Kazuo Yamagishi.
Ramen Nagi offers a variety of gourmet ramen that was very popular in Tokyo for years, characterized by a much richer and strong taste. It was transported to Hong Kong and finally arrived in Manila with Filipinos queuing for hours just to taste it in eight locations across the city.
210 Nicanor Garcia Street, Bel Air, 1209 Makati, Manila – tel. +63 2 895 8790
Considered year after year as the best Italian restaurant in town, Caruso never ceases to satisfy its customers with its risotto, excellent second dishes and its pizza.
GF Grand Midori, Bolanos St., Legaspi Village, Makati, Manila – tel. +632 519 1088
Allium is the restaurant run by American and Filipino chef Mark Tan and takes its name from the family to which garlic, leek and onion belong. The specialties are dishes of contemporary American cuisine using good imported meat and fresh local ingredients.
Blackbird Restaurant (picture)
Nielson Tower, Ayala Triangle, Makati City, Manila – tel. +632 828 4888
The environment is the old airport terminal and the name comes from a US reconnaissance aircraft which reached the record speed of 3530 km/h at 26000 meters high. Blackbird offers Asian and European cuisine and a good wine list.
6752 Ayala Avenue corner Makati Avenue, Makati, Manila – tel. +632 750 1555
One of the best (and most expensive) restaurants in town. It offers to a select audience of up to 40 guests an excellent menu by European taste, in a modern and elegant ambience. You can also organize private events on the beautiful terrace that can accommodate up to 150 people.
Elbert’s Steak Room (picture)
3 / F Sagittarius Building III, 111 HV de la Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City 1227, Manila – tel. +63 2 519 8665
Restaurant opened in 2007 and has since excelled on the Philippine scene for the great quality of the meat (certified USDA Prime Grade) and for fresh ingredients with which side dishes and sauces are prepared. Although the majority of customers leave the sauce in its place, since the meat is good.
Unit 1C – 15 G / F Serendra, Fort Bonifacio Heights, Manila – tel. +63 2 856 3569
At Mamou you also find excellent and certified meats (USDA Prime Grade), a menu with wider possibilities of Filipino dishes and some Asian and European specialties especially for first courses. It also has another branch in Makati.
Jack Ruby’s Steakhouse & Bar
Unit210, Upper Ground, City of Dreams, Aseana cor. Roxas Boulevard, Parañaque, Manila – tel. +63 2 801 8888
Excellent chain born in Tokyo and recently landed in Manila, specializing in meats of the highest quality and excellent dishes using local produce. The decor is sophisticated and contemporary. For guests, there is also a cigar room offering cigars from Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
MANILA CITY GUIDE : COCKTAILS BARS
Monopole Champagne & Wine Bar
G / F Greenbelt Excelsior Building, 105 C. Palanca St., Legaspi Village, Manila
Chic and refined this champagne and wine bar of Legaspi Village. The wine list is well stocked and chosen by the owners, one of which is part of Premium Wine Exchange.
A’Toda Madre Tequila Bar
GF Sunette Tower, Makati Avenue corner Durban St. Makati City, Manila – tel. +63 998 999 1521
This is the largest tequila bar in the Philippines with over 105 different varieties. Informal yet highly experienced in the liquor, it is the place to enjoy something new. You can also eat a mix of street food from Mexico and California.
5782 Felipe St. cor. Polaris St., Makati City, Manila – tel. +632 895-1919
This very cool taco bar in Makati is often packed with expats. You can drink and eat in a cheerful and colorful ambience, with tables and chairs that often invade the street in front. Excellent margaritas.
4986 P. Guanzon Street, Poblacion, Makati City – tel. +63 2 8941769
From the same owner of El Chupacabra, it’s another informal meeting point in Makati for young expats and where you can taste local dishes and other Asian specialties. Fun and colorful environment.
The Palace, 9th Avenue corner 36th Street, Uptown Bonifacio, Taguig, Manila – tel. +63 917 550 9999
With direct access to the Pool Club disco, this café is perfect for a quick lunch, an aperitif or to satisfy the midnight’s munchies. The menu is inspired by the Mediterranean and North African food and has good drinks prepared with care.
G / F RCBC Corporate Center (inside 7/11), 25th & 26th St., Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, Manila
The nicest part of this secret bar is the access through a 7/11 as if you wanted to buy a Coke. Actually it hides behind this wonderful speakeasy bar offering signature cocktails.
227 Salcedo St., Legaspi Village, Makati, Manila – tel. +63 2 478 6990
Great secret bar: to enter you have to wait to be recognized through a peephole. Inside a fantastic underground bar offering delicious cocktails, prepared by bartender strained at Milk & Honey in New York and London.
Ocean’s Telephone Co.
Forbes Town Center, Burgos Circle, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, Manila – tel. +63 915 459 6020
On the ground floor there is a café, Frank and Dean, which serves American and Italian food. On the upper floor, through a red telephone booth, it leads to a bar where you can order delicious cocktails.
Warehouse 5, La Fuerza Plaza, Chino Roces Avenue corner Sabio St., San Lorenzo, Makati, Manila – tel. +63 2 403 3959
Super chic and trendy, dark, sexy, with a long bar, music, cocktails ad hoc, beers and a wide choice of prestigious spirits. Not to be missed.
Corinthian Plaza, 121 Paseo De Roxas, Legaspi Village, Makati, Manila – tel. +63 2 551 1283
This secret bar is named like this because it is located behind a second exit door from the Plaza Café, famous for its generous sandwiches. It’s the perfect place for a beer or a cocktail after dinner.
ABV and Absynthe Cocktail Bar
Basement Level, Jupiter St. cor. Galaxy, Bel-Air, Makati, Manila – tel. +63 917 520 1608
ABV means “Alcohol By Volume” and it is an underground bar with reminiscences of the 20s. They serve classic or created by them cocktails, using local or imported spirits, all of the highest quality.
Mandalay Whisky & Cigar
100 Don Palanca St., Legaspi Village, Makati, Manila
Inside the restaurant Belle & Dragon, you will find a beautiful wardrobe Narnia-style, through which you can access the beautiful speakeasy style bar Indochina. To enjoy a good whiskey and to smoke a cigar.
MANILA CITY GUIDE : NIGHTLIFE
Gramercy Residences, Kalayaan Avenue, Makati, Manila – tel. +63 917 809 4093
Bar, club, restaurant and lounge on the top floor of the tallest building in Manila, Gramercy Residences. Influenced by the New York-style building, the decor is modern with a subtle touch of Art Deco and Jazz Age atmosphere. Do not miss the two beautiful terraces with breathtaking views of the city.
City of Dreams – Chaos & Pangaea
City of Dreams, Paranaque City, Manila
Chaos: tel. +63 9178863678
Pangaea: tel. +63 917 3813398
International DJs, performances, dancers, tents, an amazing sound system and LED lights ensure the craziest nights in the city. While Pangaea, always within the giant complex of City of Dreams, is a club lounge with exotic and glamorous decor that is built around the DJ booth on a rotating platform in the center of the room.
The Palace, 9th Avenue corner 36th Street, Uptown Bonifacio, Taguig, Manila – tel. +63 917 680 8888
Valkyrie is the biggest club in Manila with a capacity to accommodate over 2,000 people. It is divided on two floors, the ground floor and the first floor overlooking the runway of the ground floor and often hosts internationally renowned DJs.
The Palace, 9th Avenue, corner 36th Street, Uptown Bonifacio, Taguig, Manila – tel. +63 9176898888
Inspired by the Marquee in Las Vegas and Ushuaia in Ibiza, the Pool Club is a real club complete with swimming pools, sun beds, cabanas and famous DJs from around the world.
The Palace, 11th Avenue corner 38th Street, Uptown Bonifacio, Taguig, Manila – tel. +63 9178988181
With direct access to the Pool Club, this club has a reputation for its high-class clientele and the ultra refined environment.
MANILA CITY GUIDE : HOW TO GET
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is 7 km from the city and is served by many companies from Europe such as Emirates and KLM. NAIA is also the main hub of Philippine Airlines with which you can reach the various islands that make up the nation.