I am making this list for friends who are visiting or moving to Manila. If you are going to Manila to visit for a few days I hope this helps you decide where to go for shopping and where to eat. Manila is a great place for shopping. If you know where to look, it’s unbelievably cheap! There is also a lot of great food to be had. If you have more questions feel free to drop me a comment. I will be adding to this list as I think of more things. This is just off the top of my head. =)
For a short trip, I would suggest you stay in one of these areas (and find everything in the following malls):
- Makati Area (Greenbelt Mall or Rockwell)
- The Fort Taguig (Serendra & Highstreet Mall are right beside each other)
- Or if you are in the Manila Bay/Roxas Avenue area then you can go to Mall of Asia (it’s massive & you can find anything there)
If you were to go to only one shop when you are in Manila go to Kultura. You can get everything from gifts for your loved ones, clothing, accessories, home decor, dining accessories, etc. There are big Kultura sections in SM Mall of Asia or SM Makati. Click here for complete list of locations.
What to buy:
- Freshwater & South Sea Pearls – I prefer buying in Kultura than in Greenhills or Market Market because the pearls are guaranteed & the prices are fixed. Sometimes going to places where you can bargain you end up paying more especially if you are a tourist.
- Filipiniana Bags
- Local crafts
- Capiz or shell decor
- Filipino delicacies
- Local liquore – look for mango rum
- Tabacalera cigars
- Cheap children’s clothes
- For men: Cheap barongs & Guayabera - Look for the executive brand
- Cheap basic women’s clothes, accessories & shoes
- Cheap homeware
Click here to see more samples of their products.
Buy one of a kind clothing pieces for men & women. Gorgeous day-to-night pieces that you can wear to work and confidently wear to a night out. Yes they are that amazing. My husband loves this store as well. He always makes sure to buy a few button down shirts & pants when he is in Manila. Our Tyler pieces are always complimented and catch the attention of fashionistas.
You can get amazing natural and environmentally sustainable Filipino products. You can find it in The Fort. Some examples of my favorite stuff to buy there:
- ECHOstore Body Basics Spa in a Bottle (or Spa in a Can for home use)
- ECHOstore Body Basics Peppermint conditioner
- Ilog Maria Propolis Ointment – for insect bites, allergies, skin irritations, wounds, etc.
- Ilog Maria Bee Pollen – for a natural energy boost & weight management
- Civet cat coffee (our version of kopi luwak) or Barako Coffee
Buy basic clothing pieces at
English books are much cheaper in the Philippines than in Jakarta. So take advantage but make sure you have enough luggage allowance. You can find one of these bookstores in the different malls that I recommended above. Click on each to find the official website.
- National Bookstore - the cheapest among these 3, but selection is better in the next two.
- FullyBooked – can be found in Mall of Asia, Greenbelt, The Fort & Rockwell.
Buy liquor in the supermarket & cheap imported products that are hard to find, super expensive or not available in Indonesia. Liquor is cheap. Especially local liquor. I usually go to Rustans and they can even put stuff in a box for you and tie it up. You might wanna try:
- Paradise Mango Rum - highly recommend. Great on the rocks! These is more premium and well worth the $6 est. Great gift idea coz it comes in a beautiful container.
- Boracay Rum in coconut flavor – highly recommended. Amazing for making pinacoladas and at $2 a bottle you can’t go wrong
- Tanduay Rum
- The Bar Vodka – drink this on the rocks
Check out their to-die-for one of a kind jewelry made by Filipino designers at Powerplant Mall Rockwell Makati. Click here to see samples of items they sell.
If you are in Manila for a short stay, you may as well eat great food. If you know where to go, you can find excellent food! Click on the links below to find out what you should order, the contact details and see photos of the food!
- Sentro 1771 at The Fort or Greenbelt Makati.- excellent Filipino Food. Order the boneless cripy pata. Click here to find out what we like to order.
- Cafe Juanita at The Fort
- Chelsea at The Fort - end your meal with the Toblerone Torte Sansrival
- Mesa at Greenbelt - order The Crispchon OMG!
- Lusso at Greenbelt - luxe dining experience. Demi pound foie gras burger and everything else on the menu!
- Elberts Cheeseteak at Rockwell – I love the Umami Burger even better than the
- Elberts Steak Room in Salcedo Village – for great steak + bone marrow truffle burger. Click here for a comprehensive review.
- Apartment 1B at Salcedo Village Makati - you must have the White Toblerone Cheesecake for dessert
- Izakaya Kikufuji at Little Tokyo in Makati - Best & most value for money Japanese food in Manila. Order the spicy salmon maki, gindara teriyaki & grilled beef cubes.
- Antonios in Tagaytay – if you have time to go on an out of town day trip you must go to Antonios.
This one I am not so familiar with anymore but these are bars that expats enjoy going to. via
Greenbelt is a favorite among visitors for the mall’s amazing architecture and the lively vibe.
- M Cafe – One of my favorite hangouts for the more mature and sophisticated crowd.
- Cafe Havana – live music & tons of expats even on Sundays. You have to be careful though. This is not a family place. If you have children steer clear.
The Fort is also another area that comes alive at night.
- Skye Lounge – beautiful decorated rooftop bar
- The Distillery at The Fort- you need reservations since the bar is small and always get’s full because of the super cheap prices bottles of liquor and the wide choice of imported beers. They also have The Distillery in Jupiter Makati.
- Salon de Ning - There are only 3 Salon de Ning Bars in the World. Go for a surreal experience that transports you to old world glamour.
Blind Pig Speakeasy – I heard of this great concept from my friend Graey Eats Manila. They mix you a personalized cocktail based on your personality. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? Address: 227 Salcedo St., Legaspi Village, Makati City.*I am removing Blind Pig from my list of recommendations because I didn’t have a good experience when I went there last year to check it out. See comments below for details and also the story of another reader’s experience in Blind Pig. FYI.
There are clubs like Prive, Republiq and Opus. I’ve never been to them but my friends in Manila regularly go. So if you are looking for the club scene, click on the links above to get more info. I’ve gone to Time Manila which is more my thing, because it’s smaller and I know when I go, I will see old friends and catch up.
Enjoy and feel free to drop me a comment for questions and I’ll try to help out if I can!
If you are going to Manila this is a must read: CNNgo’s Best of Manila.