How to make the most out of 48 hours in Manila

If you are making a visit to the Philippines, I’m going to make a guess that you are coming with the intention of lounging on white sand beaches or exploring the tropical islands. Chances are your first destination will be Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. Home to over 21 million people, it is a buzzing metropolis heavy with traffic, high-rises and constant bustle (in other words, the antithesis of tropical paradise)!

Unfortunately, my time in the Philippines was limited to a mere 3 days in Manila (of course, I am already plotting my return so I can explore the paradisiacal side of the country). During this time, I had the opportunity to learn about the history of the Philippines, sample some of the local food and grasp a better understanding of the Philippines’ lifestyle. I stayed at the Ascott Makati, one of the luxury range of serviced residences by The Ascott Limited, located in the business and entertainment district in the wider Manila area. I was warmly welcomed by an Ascott Host, Kathreen, who took me around and showed me some of the city highlights!

If you happen to have a few days to spend in Manila before heading off to the islands, I’ve put together a list of things you can do whilst you are there:

DAY ONE

Morning- Explore the Spanish Quarter

Wake up bright and early and start your explorations of Manila in the city’s oldest district and historical core, the Fort City of the Philippines- Intramuros. Here, you can learn about the country’s turbulent history during the Spanish Colonial Period. Once you’ve had your history fix, meander through the cobblestone streets and before long, you’ll feel like you’ve been teleported to Europe. Stop by San Augustine Church and Museum and admire the impressive baroque structure, which has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Lunchtime- A healthy feed at the Corner Café

Upon arriving in Manila, you may notice that the city is filled with fast-food joints and American chain restaurants. However, if greasy food is not your cup of tea, you’ll be pleased to know that there is a healthier option around! Head to the Corner Café, which offers an amazing menu of entirely vegetarian food, not to mention a great selection of wine and a scrumptious range of vegan ice-cream for dessert.

 

Afternoon- Shopping at Divisoria Market

There is no shortage of shopping malls in Manila, but if you are after a more adventurous shopping experience, head to the Divisoria Market. This maze of stalls is always bustling with locals, and is the best place to score dirt-cheap prices on clothing, electronics and knick-knacks galore. Batering is part of the experience here, so make sure you aren’t shy to haggle with the shopkeepers.

 

Evening- Dampa Market Seafood Feast

You’ve had your local shopping adventure, so now it’s time for a local eating experience. Dampa Market is well-known for its fresh and delicious seafood which every visitor should definitely try when in Manila. Here, you pick out and pay for your own seafood from the marketplace and take it to a nearby restaurant where they will cook it for you in any style you would like.

 

SEE ALSO: Foodies Guide to Kuala Lumpur

 

DAY TWO

Morning- Hike Taal volcano

Your trip to Manila is incomplete without escaping from the concrete jungle to experience a taste of Philippines’ natural beauty. Yolo Travel Philippines offers day tours out of Manila that will take you to Taal Volcano, which is actually the smallest active volcano in the world. The Taal Volcano is in a unique geographical position, where it’s located inside an island on a lake. Reaching the volcano involves catching a boat over to the island and hiking on a trail for about half an hour. The hike isn’t particularly hard, but the trail is hot and dusty, so make sure you come equipped with plenty of water and sun protection. At the top of the hike, you’ll be rewarded with impressive views of the main crater and a bubbling sulphur pool.

Afternoon- Tagaytay City for Lunch

Once you’ve worked up a sweat from the hike, it’s time to head to Tagaytay City for traditional Filipino lunch at a local restaurant. Once your belly is full, hop in a Jeepney (which is the most popular form of transport around the Philippines and is a bright colourful hybrid of a jeep and a bus) ride up to the Palace in the Sky for stunning views over the region. On your way back, be sure to stop by a fruit stall and feast on some delicious, sweet pineapple- the area is famous for it!

 

Evening- Dinner at Greenbelt

If you’ve got any energy left in you, head over to Greenbelt for some last minute shopping. The shopping centre is made out of five different sections, each with its own unique style of architecture and selection of stores. Once you’ve had your shopping fix, head to People’s Place at Greenbelt for some of the best Thai food you’ll have outside of Thailand. The Pad Thai is particularly divine, and the sticky mango rice is a great reason not to skip dessert.

 

Where to Stay

During my time in Manila, I stayed at Ascott Makati. The property is located in an upscale area known as the ‘Ayala Triangle’, which is surrounded by a plethora of shopping malls, office buildings and upmarket restaurants. Ascott Makati is a serviced apartment which offers a 5-star hotel experience in every way. From the grand high-ceiling foyer, chic and modern apartment spaces, to the impeccable service provided by the staff, the stay experience certainly exceeded my expectations.

I stayed in one of the recently renovated one-bedroom apartments, which was spacious, tastefully decorated with great views over the city. The serviced residence provides a wide range of amenities, including a full gym, yoga studio, pool, kids’ area, day spa and executive lounge. The buffet breakfast at Ascott Makati was particularly outstanding, with a massive range of hot and cold Asian and western options. I very much enjoyed starting my day with fresh fruit, granola and a custom-made omelette, all consumed whilst overlooking the pool.

One of the most memorable parts about staying at Ascott Makati was the incredible service I received. I was so warmly welcomed to the serviced residence- the attentive staff really went the extra mile to make me feel at home! I was also lucky enough to be shown around the city by some of the lovely Ascott hosts, who organized local experiences for me as part of Ascott Lifestyle.

Besides Ascott Makati, Ascott offers other serviced residences across Manila as well as in destinations all around the world. If you are interested in experiencing the Ascott Lifestyle activities during your stay, you can browse and book the activities on their website.

I was invited to stay as a guest at Ascott Makati, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Nicola Easterby Bio Image

HEY THERE, I'M NICOLA!

I am on a mission to discover the BEST destinations & dishes from around the world. In fact, I’ve visited 54 countries and cooked 196 cuisines in this very pursuit. Whether it’s hopping on a plane or into the kitchen, come join the adventure!

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