So you’re going to the Philippines - YAY! Finally, your travel plans have all come together and now the fun part starts - the planning. You’re excited, hell - I’m excited for you! Warm tropical waters, lush green landscapes, breathtaking sunsets, and the food... I just want to go back! Manila may have a reputation for being a bit rough around the edges, but there is plenty of beauty to be found if you scratch below the surface - you just have to know where to go. So, to make your life easy and your trip fun, I’ve rounded up my top 11 Most Instagrammable Places in Manila.
Below are my favorite spots in and around the city to uncover Manila's vibrant charm and fill your camera (and Instagram feed!). Get your diary out, because you’re gonna want to take some notes.
Read more: Best Travel Camera That Will Raise Your Instagram Game: Top 5 in 2020
Most Instagrammable Places in Manila Intramuros
Manila Intramuros is the historic center of modern Manila. Horse-drawn carriages, called kalesa, still line the cobblestone streets and add a unique charm to the area. Statues of heroes past will greet you as you enter this Spanish-era marvel.
The most fun and flexible way to explore Manila Intramuros has to be by bike! And not any bike - a traditional bamboo bike. This was a really unique experience, and these bikes are so cute that, of course, I used them as a prop once or twice. Overall I loved the tour aspect, taking me to all the must-see spots of Intramuros while also giving me some unique insights into the history.
Puerta Real Gardens
Famous for the “Make Manila Dance Again” movement, the Puerta Real Gardens are the product of a cultural revival. The lights that have been strung throughout the garden make for some memorable Instagram moments. Park your bike just outside the stunning garden gates, or in front of the dangling lights to get the best shot.
For me, Fort Santiago wins the top spot for most instagrammable places in Manila Intramuros! The large stone gate marking the entrance to this Spanish-era landmark is the perfect spot for an Instagram moment. But the most Instagrammable corner lies behind the Museum of Jose Rizal, next to the Pasig River. Sitting on the edge of the fortified canal, you get the most amazing contrast between the old and the modern city in the background.
San Agustin Church
With its dramatic architecture, the San Agustin Church Museum makes for a perfect backdrop. The skillfully crafted doors provide an ideal frame. And during celebrations, the courtyard is strung with flags, creating the most magical place in Manila.
Most Instagrammable Places in Manila Metro
Manila is very much a city of contrasts: while it has a rich historic background, it is also a modern, sprawling metropolis - with all the trimmings it entails. If you want to get the best of both worlds, it’s worth doing a combined walking tour. You get to see everything and the guides are amazing. They know all the best spots to get great Instagram shots as well as sharing the history of the city.
I love walking tours as they’re a bit slower paced and you get to take in much more of your surroundings. In Manila, everyone either walks or rides a scooter. But believe me, with the traffic in the city center, you’re going to want to be on foot!
With Manila’s stunning sunsets and LA style promenade, you can’t get a better view (or photo). With palm trees in the background or the local Ferris wheel, this really is a great place to spend a few hours lounging on the beach, eating ice cream, going on the rides, or just walking around till late after dark, when all the lights go on.
Rizal Park is probably best known for the monument to local hero, José Rizal. The fact that it’s guarded by two armed men is a bit strange, especially seeing as the real reason this spot is on our top 11 most Instagrammable places in Manila is because it’s the best place to be a kid again!
Famous for the vendors of Rizal Park, who sell everything a kid could ever dream of, from balloons to kites, your perfect shot will be a burst of color! Go on the weekend, or attend an event at Rizal Park to get a full house and the best opportunity for that viral Insta Post.
Ayala Triangle Gardens
Ayala Triangle Gardens is a magical place in the heart of Manila. On any normal day, it’s a great place to go for a walk and experience this city that comes alive after dark. From kids playing to people just enjoying some time outdoors, it’s a place for Manileños to unwind.
If you’re really lucky (or you planned it well), you could catch the festival of lights, which starts at the beginning of November and ends early January. The park is draped in lights, making it a magical wonderland - the bokeh effect is insane. Honestly, this could be the most Instagrammable place in Manila at that time.
Paco Park and Cemetery
Paco Park has the cutest working chapel I’ve ever seen. It makes for a stunning backdrop as there is also a pond that reflects the gorgeous scene. This park was originally designed to be a cemetery, but today it’s used mainly for spending the day out with family and weddings. Don’t be surprised if you get there and someone’s actually getting married.
The “cemetery” itself isn’t eerie at all, the graves are built into the walls and at night the fountain lights up, changing the entire scene.
Venice Grand Canal Mall
Venice in Manila - need I say more. I loved this experience, honestly, I even went on the gondola ! There are probably a million places in the mall where you could snap the perfect shot. The buildings are a creamy colored dream that are reflected in the milky blue waters. Frame your picture in one of the arches and you’re good to go.
Street art at Bonifacio Global City Artsy Walls / BGC Taguig
Ok, I have to admit, BGC Murals are off the hook - like, they are literally everywhere and changing constantly. It’s an Instagram Paradise! Just search #bgcmurals and a color explosion awaits you. These walls are the creative genius of the Manila art scene and they deserve some exposure.
The other lesser-known fact about Bonifacio Global City is the food scene… If you’re a food Instagrammer, your gold lies here. The cafes are art deco and the food to die for. You can thank me later.
Most Instagrammable Places Near Manila
Wait! Before you go too far away from Manila, there are actually a few nearby gems around the city! My list of most Instagrammable places in Manila wouldn't be complete without including some of the wonders available just a short drive away!
If you’re looking for a day trip out of Manila, you’d be surprised at what you can find within an hour or two’s drive. While Manila itself is a concrete jungle, you can find peace and serenity at the nearby lakes.
Laguna lake is the largest in the Philippines, giving spectacular never-ending views, and the Taal is a freshwater volcanic crater lake - honestly, one of my best trips in the Philippines.
I highly recommend taking this day trip to Tagaytay Ridge - Manila traffic can be stressful and one of the many perks of this tour is that pick-up is included.
The best views of the Taal Volcano and the surrounding lake have to be from the Taal Yacht Club. Once the sun starts to set, you get those magical colors, and with the boats and palm trees in the background, it just can’t be beaten. You can also get a similar view from the restaurant where you will be having lunch.
An extra little bonus that I really enjoyed was the Jeepney factory visit! Literally the home of Philippino Jeepneys - it was great! You have to get a snap in front of your favorite Jeepney. They’re synonymous with Manila.
Marvel at breathtaking views of Taal Volcano and Taal Lake, and visit San Jose Church, home to the world-famous Bamboo Organ of Las Pinas.
Why the Pagsanjan falls are one of my most Instagrammable places around Manila is simple: you get to go on a bamboo raft, and right before you go straight through the waterfall, you have a chance to take some of the most magical photos! And then of course, once you’re through the magic continues. The light coming through the waterfall just creates the most beautiful setting and the aerated water is a turquoise white like you’ve never seen.
I took this cool day tour to simplify the logistics and to get some assistance with taking photos, as I was on a solo adventure. The great thing about this trip is that you also get to take a boat ride to the actual falls. Floating by the magnificent greenery and wildlife was a wonderful experience.
Book one of my recommended tours to get all that Insta material!
That's it for my round-up of the capital city's hidden gems! Manila and its surroundings are a place of great diversity. For a photographer, it has all the aspects that make up a great visual story. Going from lush green gardens to the concrete jungle, and from finding hidden street art and cafes to losing yourself in the display of lights and magic. Once you know where to look, Manila can transform from an intimidating metropolis into an Instagrammer's dream.
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Have you visited any of these 11 most Instagrammable places in Manila? Do you have a favorite photogenic spot I didn't include on this list? Let me know in a comment below!