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Ultimate Guide to Hidden Gems in Manila

Welcome to Manila, a bustling metropolis that offers much more than the usual tourist spots. This guide will take you through some of the hidden gems that the city has to offer, giving you a unique and unforgettable experience. Let’s dive into the treasures waiting to be discovered in Manila!

Casa Manila, the Philippines

Day 1: Discovering Historical and Cultural Treasures

Your journey begins with a deep dive into Manila’s rich history and culture. The city is brimming with historical sites and cultural spots that often get overshadowed by more popular attractions. Today, we’ll explore some of these hidden gems that will give you an authentic taste of Manila’s past and present.

Morning: Intramuros Hidden Spots

Start your day early by exploring the hidden spots of Intramuros, the historic walled city in the heart of Manila. While most visitors are familiar with Fort Santiago and the Manila Cathedral, there are lesser-known sites within Intramuros that are equally fascinating.

One such spot is the San Agustin Convent Museum. Tucked away next to the famous San Agustin Church, this museum showcases an impressive collection of religious artifacts, historical documents, and colonial-era artworks. Wander through its ancient halls and marvel at the stories of old Manila.

Afterwards, visit the Casa Manila Museum, a reconstruction of a Spanish colonial house. The museum offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of upper-class Filipinos during the colonial period. The lush courtyard and antique furnishings create a charming and historical ambiance.

Lunch: Hidden Food Joints in Intramuros

When lunchtime rolls around, skip the usual restaurants and opt for some hidden food joints within Intramuros. One notable place is Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant which not only offers traditional Filipino dishes but also hosts cultural dance performances that will give you a taste of local heritage in a unique setting.

Another hidden gem is Ilustrado, a restaurant known for its Spanish-Filipino cuisine. Here, you can savor classic dishes with a modern twist, all while enjoying the serene and historical surroundings of Intramuros.

Afternoon: Escolta Street and Its Art Deco Buildings

Post-lunch, head to Escolta Street, once Manila’s premier business district and now a haven for art and history enthusiasts. Wander along this historic street and admire the preserved Art Deco buildings that stand as a testament to Manila’s golden age.

Visit First United Building which houses a range of vintage shops, art spaces, and even a nostalgic cafe. Here, you can find unique pieces of memorabilia and artworks that tell stories of decades past.

Don’t miss the Hub: Make Lab located within First United Building, a creative space where local artists and entrepreneurs sell their crafts and vintage finds. It’s an ideal place to pick up a unique souvenir.

Evening: Secret Cafe Hopping and Sunset at Manila Bay

After witnessing the beautiful arts, embark on a hidden cafe hopping adventure. Explore tucked-away cafes like The Den in Escolta, which offers a cozy and artistic vibe, perfect for relaxing with a cup of local coffee.

Another great spot is Kapetolyo by SGD Coffee located in the newly-revitalized Mehan Garden area. This cafe is a hidden gem offering exquisite coffee made from award-winning Filipino beans and a peaceful ambiance away from the bustling city streets.

As the day winds down, make your way to Manila Bay for one of the city’s legendary sunsets. While the bay itself is a popular spot, there are hidden corners and lesser-known areas where you can enjoy a more secluded and tranquil view of the sunset.

Paco Park, the Philippines

Day 2: Immersing in Nature and Local Culture

On the second day of your adventure, you’ll uncover more of Manila’s hidden natural and cultural treasures. From serene parks to cultural hubs, today promises a blend of relaxation and discovery.

Morning: Peaceful Retreat at Arroceros Forest Park

Begin your morning with a visit to Arroceros Forest Park, often referred to as the “last lung of Manila”. This hidden urban forest offers a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle. Wander through its verdant paths, listen to the chirping of birds, and enjoy the lush greenery.

The park is home to over 60 species of trees and numerous bird species, making it a haven for nature lovers and bird watchers. It’s a perfect spot for a morning walk, meditation, or simply soaking in the natural beauty.

Late Morning: Cultural Immersion at the Cultural Center of the Philippines

After your visit to the park, head to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). This less-visited cultural venue is a treasure trove of Filipino art and heritage. Learn about Philippine culture through various exhibits, art galleries, and occasionally, live performances.

The CCP complex also offers stunning views of Manila Bay, making it a delightful place to spend a late morning. Don’t forget to check out the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo, the main theater known for its architectural beauty and acoustics, hosting performances ranging from ballets to traditional Filipino plays.

Lunch: Authentic Cuisine at Liwasang Bonifacio

Indulge in a hearty Filipino lunch at one of the hidden eateries around Liwasang Bonifacio. Look for small, family-owned establishments that serve authentic and delectable Filipino dishes.

Cafe Ilang-Ilang is a great choice for a diverse array of local and international cuisines, offering a buffet setup that allows you to sample different flavors.

Afternoon: Explore Paco Park

In the afternoon, take a leisurely stroll through Paco Park. This circular park was once a municipal cemetery during the Spanish colonial period and is now a quiet retreat in the heart of the city. The serene atmosphere, beautiful gardens, and historical significance make it a captivating place to visit.

Walk along its pathways, enjoy the tranquil ambiance, and if you time it right, you might even catch a live classical music performance, as the park is a popular venue for such events.

Evening: Night Market at Quiapo and Hidden Food Joints

Conclude your day with a visit to the bustling Quinta Market. This vibrant market offers a myriad of local goods, street food, and unique handcrafted items. It’s a wonderful place to experience the local culture and find hidden food joints that serve some of the best street food in Manila.

Be sure to try Quiapo’s Especial Empanada, a local favorite that has a perfect blend of savory fillings and a crispy crust. Another must-try is the iconic Pares Mami House, known for its delicious beef pares (braised beef stew) served with garlic rice and noodles.

Bonifacio Global City in Manila, the Philippines

Day 3: Art and Local Vibes

Your third day in Manila promises to be a blend of artistic exploration and local experiences. You’ll dive into the city’s vibrant art scene, uncovering hidden galleries and enjoying street art, followed by a visit to some local hotspots to soak up the authentic Manila vibe.

Morning: Hidden Art Galleries and Studios

Start your day with a visit to some of Manila’s hidden art galleries and studios. Begin at Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, which, though slightly outside Manila, offers a vast collection of contemporary Filipino art set in beautiful, scenic surroundings.

Next, head back to the city and visit Vinyl on Vinyl Art Gallery, featuring works by emerging and established local artists, providing a snapshot of Manila’s dynamic art scene.

Don’t miss Finale Art File in Makati, one of the most respected contemporary art spaces in the country, showcasing a wide array of visual masterpieces.

Lunch: Discover Hidden Cafes

For lunch, take a break at one of Manila’s hidden cafes. Yardstick Coffee in Legazpi Village, Makati, is a must-visit for coffee enthusiasts, offering meticulously brewed coffee and delicious light bites.

Another gem is Commune Cafe + Bar, ideal for a relaxed meal amidst cozy interiors. This spot is known for its locally-sourced coffee and hearty Filipino comfort food.

If you’re around the QC area, visit the Cubao Expo. This unconventional destination is home to several indie cafes, antique shops, and art spaces, making it a great place to discover and unwind.

Afternoon: Explore the Street Art Scene

Post-lunch, delve into Manila’s burgeoning street art scene. Begin at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) Art Tour. This area is famed for its stunning murals and public art installations that bring color and creativity to the urban space.

Don’t forget to explore the alleys around Poblacion, Makati, where you’ll find a blend of hip bars, restaurants, and impressive street art that tell stories of Manila’s diverse cultural mix.

Evening: Enjoy Local Nightlife at Poblacion

As the evening sets in, immerse yourself in the vibrant local nightlife of Poblacion. This neighborhood is a hidden gem itself, with a burgeoning nightlife scene that’s popular among locals and expats alike.

Start with a visit to Polilya, a craft beer bar known for its unique brews and vibrant atmosphere. Follow it up with a meal at Tambai Yakitori, a cozy spot offering delicious Japanese skewers and other street food delights.

For a more laid-back evening, head over to Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen. This unique bar offers inventive cocktails using locally-sourced ingredients and provides a whimsical atmosphere that reflects the rich folklore of the Philippines.

Wrap up your day with a leisurely stroll through Poblacion’s streets, taking in the vibrant energy, unique establishments, and the local artistic flair. Manila’s hidden gems have so much to offer, and today’s itinerary will give you a deeper appreciation of the city’s art, culture, and local vibe.

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Ultimate Guide to Hidden Gems in Manila

Last Updated: June 21, 2024

Welcome to Manila, a bustling metropolis that offers much more than the usual tourist spots. This guide will take you through some of the hidden gems that the city has to offer, giving you a unique and unforgettable experience. Let’s dive into the treasures waiting to be discovered in Manila!

Casa Manila, the Philippines

Day 1: Discovering Historical and Cultural Treasures

Your journey begins with a deep dive into Manila’s rich history and culture. The city is brimming with historical sites and cultural spots that often get overshadowed by more popular attractions. Today, we’ll explore some of these hidden gems that will give you an authentic taste of Manila’s past and present.

Morning: Intramuros Hidden Spots

Start your day early by exploring the hidden spots of Intramuros, the historic walled city in the heart of Manila. While most visitors are familiar with Fort Santiago and the Manila Cathedral, there are lesser-known sites within Intramuros that are equally fascinating.

One such spot is the San Agustin Convent Museum. Tucked away next to the famous San Agustin Church, this museum showcases an impressive collection of religious artifacts, historical documents, and colonial-era artworks. Wander through its ancient halls and marvel at the stories of old Manila.

Afterwards, visit the Casa Manila Museum, a reconstruction of a Spanish colonial house. The museum offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of upper-class Filipinos during the colonial period. The lush courtyard and antique furnishings create a charming and historical ambiance.

Lunch: Hidden Food Joints in Intramuros

When lunchtime rolls around, skip the usual restaurants and opt for some hidden food joints within Intramuros. One notable place is Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant which not only offers traditional Filipino dishes but also hosts cultural dance performances that will give you a taste of local heritage in a unique setting.

Another hidden gem is Ilustrado, a restaurant known for its Spanish-Filipino cuisine. Here, you can savor classic dishes with a modern twist, all while enjoying the serene and historical surroundings of Intramuros.

Afternoon: Escolta Street and Its Art Deco Buildings

Post-lunch, head to Escolta Street, once Manila’s premier business district and now a haven for art and history enthusiasts. Wander along this historic street and admire the preserved Art Deco buildings that stand as a testament to Manila’s golden age.

Visit First United Building which houses a range of vintage shops, art spaces, and even a nostalgic cafe. Here, you can find unique pieces of memorabilia and artworks that tell stories of decades past.

Don’t miss the Hub: Make Lab located within First United Building, a creative space where local artists and entrepreneurs sell their crafts and vintage finds. It’s an ideal place to pick up a unique souvenir.

Evening: Secret Cafe Hopping and Sunset at Manila Bay

After witnessing the beautiful arts, embark on a hidden cafe hopping adventure. Explore tucked-away cafes like The Den in Escolta, which offers a cozy and artistic vibe, perfect for relaxing with a cup of local coffee.

Another great spot is Kapetolyo by SGD Coffee located in the newly-revitalized Mehan Garden area. This cafe is a hidden gem offering exquisite coffee made from award-winning Filipino beans and a peaceful ambiance away from the bustling city streets.

As the day winds down, make your way to Manila Bay for one of the city’s legendary sunsets. While the bay itself is a popular spot, there are hidden corners and lesser-known areas where you can enjoy a more secluded and tranquil view of the sunset.

Paco Park, the Philippines

Day 2: Immersing in Nature and Local Culture

On the second day of your adventure, you’ll uncover more of Manila’s hidden natural and cultural treasures. From serene parks to cultural hubs, today promises a blend of relaxation and discovery.

Morning: Peaceful Retreat at Arroceros Forest Park

Begin your morning with a visit to Arroceros Forest Park, often referred to as the “last lung of Manila”. This hidden urban forest offers a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle. Wander through its verdant paths, listen to the chirping of birds, and enjoy the lush greenery.

The park is home to over 60 species of trees and numerous bird species, making it a haven for nature lovers and bird watchers. It’s a perfect spot for a morning walk, meditation, or simply soaking in the natural beauty.

Late Morning: Cultural Immersion at the Cultural Center of the Philippines

After your visit to the park, head to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). This less-visited cultural venue is a treasure trove of Filipino art and heritage. Learn about Philippine culture through various exhibits, art galleries, and occasionally, live performances.

The CCP complex also offers stunning views of Manila Bay, making it a delightful place to spend a late morning. Don’t forget to check out the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo, the main theater known for its architectural beauty and acoustics, hosting performances ranging from ballets to traditional Filipino plays.

Lunch: Authentic Cuisine at Liwasang Bonifacio

Indulge in a hearty Filipino lunch at one of the hidden eateries around Liwasang Bonifacio. Look for small, family-owned establishments that serve authentic and delectable Filipino dishes.

Cafe Ilang-Ilang is a great choice for a diverse array of local and international cuisines, offering a buffet setup that allows you to sample different flavors.

Afternoon: Explore Paco Park

In the afternoon, take a leisurely stroll through Paco Park. This circular park was once a municipal cemetery during the Spanish colonial period and is now a quiet retreat in the heart of the city. The serene atmosphere, beautiful gardens, and historical significance make it a captivating place to visit.

Walk along its pathways, enjoy the tranquil ambiance, and if you time it right, you might even catch a live classical music performance, as the park is a popular venue for such events.

Evening: Night Market at Quiapo and Hidden Food Joints

Conclude your day with a visit to the bustling Quinta Market. This vibrant market offers a myriad of local goods, street food, and unique handcrafted items. It’s a wonderful place to experience the local culture and find hidden food joints that serve some of the best street food in Manila.

Be sure to try Quiapo’s Especial Empanada, a local favorite that has a perfect blend of savory fillings and a crispy crust. Another must-try is the iconic Pares Mami House, known for its delicious beef pares (braised beef stew) served with garlic rice and noodles.

Bonifacio Global City in Manila, the Philippines

Day 3: Art and Local Vibes

Your third day in Manila promises to be a blend of artistic exploration and local experiences. You’ll dive into the city’s vibrant art scene, uncovering hidden galleries and enjoying street art, followed by a visit to some local hotspots to soak up the authentic Manila vibe.

Morning: Hidden Art Galleries and Studios

Start your day with a visit to some of Manila’s hidden art galleries and studios. Begin at Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, which, though slightly outside Manila, offers a vast collection of contemporary Filipino art set in beautiful, scenic surroundings.

Next, head back to the city and visit Vinyl on Vinyl Art Gallery, featuring works by emerging and established local artists, providing a snapshot of Manila’s dynamic art scene.

Don’t miss Finale Art File in Makati, one of the most respected contemporary art spaces in the country, showcasing a wide array of visual masterpieces.

Lunch: Discover Hidden Cafes

For lunch, take a break at one of Manila’s hidden cafes. Yardstick Coffee in Legazpi Village, Makati, is a must-visit for coffee enthusiasts, offering meticulously brewed coffee and delicious light bites.

Another gem is Commune Cafe + Bar, ideal for a relaxed meal amidst cozy interiors. This spot is known for its locally-sourced coffee and hearty Filipino comfort food.

If you’re around the QC area, visit the Cubao Expo. This unconventional destination is home to several indie cafes, antique shops, and art spaces, making it a great place to discover and unwind.

Afternoon: Explore the Street Art Scene

Post-lunch, delve into Manila’s burgeoning street art scene. Begin at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) Art Tour. This area is famed for its stunning murals and public art installations that bring color and creativity to the urban space.

Don’t forget to explore the alleys around Poblacion, Makati, where you’ll find a blend of hip bars, restaurants, and impressive street art that tell stories of Manila’s diverse cultural mix.

Evening: Enjoy Local Nightlife at Poblacion

As the evening sets in, immerse yourself in the vibrant local nightlife of Poblacion. This neighborhood is a hidden gem itself, with a burgeoning nightlife scene that’s popular among locals and expats alike.

Start with a visit to Polilya, a craft beer bar known for its unique brews and vibrant atmosphere. Follow it up with a meal at Tambai Yakitori, a cozy spot offering delicious Japanese skewers and other street food delights.

For a more laid-back evening, head over to Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen. This unique bar offers inventive cocktails using locally-sourced ingredients and provides a whimsical atmosphere that reflects the rich folklore of the Philippines.

Wrap up your day with a leisurely stroll through Poblacion’s streets, taking in the vibrant energy, unique establishments, and the local artistic flair. Manila’s hidden gems have so much to offer, and today’s itinerary will give you a deeper appreciation of the city’s art, culture, and local vibe.

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