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. These are 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.
- 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
- Capiz or shell decor
- Filipino delicacies
- Local liquor – our favorites are Paradise mango rum and Manille Calamansi Liqueur
- Tabacalera cigars
SM Department Store
- Cheap children’s clothes
- For men: Cheap barongs & Guayabera – Look for the executive brand
- Cheap basic women’s clothes, accessories & shoes
- Cheap homeware
They have the most fabulous, and excellent quality leather bags.
I always like to say, it’s the quality of a Louise Vuitton at the price of a Ninewest bag. See their fabulous leather items here and here.
For those who like to live in style, this curated concept store is a must-see. I especially love their one of a kind jewelry made by Filipino designers. Cura V is located at Powerplant Mall Rockwell Makati.
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. via
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
My Favorite Filipino Clothing Brands
Buy great value for money basic wardrope staples at Bayo and Kamiseta. I love the fresh and clean cut styles.
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.
- 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.
They have gorgeous and cleverly designed home accessories.Many of my favourite brands, both local and imported, can be found in Dimensione:
- My favorite Umbra products
- Joseph & Joseph
- And so much more!
My favorite place for buying organizers, space savers & other useful home products. I bought this and this. you can also find more affordable versions of Muji travel organizers at BEABI.
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.
- Manille Calamansi Liqueur – Uniquely Filipino this is our answer to Italy’s Limoncello.
- 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
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
This 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.
Another shopping area with bars that come alive to 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!
Related read: CNN Go Best of Manila
Great list, and a great idea for a post! I’ve been away for 4 years now so I’m not up to date, but I do have a list that includes favorite go-to places, and places I want to try. I can’t say anything about clubbing or nightlife though, lola na ako haha. I will post my own list one of these days!
Thanks Deepa-Deeps! I would love to see your own list of go-to-places whenever you are in Manila. That’s a slightly different list which I have written about in the past:
Bilis na! I would love to compare notes!!! I find it’s a great post to write and refer to for future visits. Especially when I am in panic mode already haha! Thanks for the comment Deeps!
I made reservations for tonight at The Blind Pig. I sent text messages, then called the number, but I didn’t get a response until half a day later. This guy named Andrew asked me about the details of my reservation: for how many folks, what time, et al. When I said, “2 people, 9:30 pm, thanks,” he replied with “You’re welcome!”
Come 9:30, we weren’t buzzed in. We happened to tail gate this other girl and when we went inside, a waiter said that we don’t have a reservation. Since my text exchange with the Andrew guy does not have a confirmation, they said that they couldn’t give us seats.
So, they are asking for a “confirmation,” which, for some reason, they omitted to mention during my text correspondence with their rep.
I went inside and I saw that it’s a small, highly overrated place, with a staff that is eager to treat you shabbily in the guise of exclusivity.
I live in Makati and we have wonderful bars and restaurants here. The Blind Pig is just a pretentious and boring hole-in-the-wall.
Dear Jane, thank you for your comment and feedback on Blind Pig. I’ve removed it from the recos above since I also didn’t have a good experience when I went there to try it out last year. Thank you for reminding me!
For such expensive drinks, I didn’t have a lot of fun, we had the worst seats (we could barely breath it was so tight!) and though they try to make the service friendly, it’s far from great, and barely accommodating. I just think that for the price the pleasure of the customer should exceed expectation. Also the smoked scotch was done too long that the smoke just overpowered the drink. I totally agree with you that the place is highly overrated!
Since you live in Makati I would love to get your recommendations for bars and clubs in the area that I may not have mentioned in the post above!