The City of Manila is a thriving metropolis, holding both titles of being the capital of the Philippines and the most densely populated city proper in the world. While this may turn off many travellers, it is the very reason that you should stick around. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient,’ many describe Manila’s grey and busy exterior as an unappealing shell, but when you look further into the city, its locals and its culture, you will find the jewel that the city truly is.
A bayside city on the island of Luzon, Manila is filled to the brim with towering skyscrapers amongst Spanish colonial architecture mixed in with expansive shanty towns; not to mention ancient sites and modern malls, various markets, a wide range of bars and restaurants and chaotic traffic, all of which reflect its remarkable history. No stranger to hardship, the city has battled through every disaster both humans and nature could throw at it, and this vibe of life and bustle are almost tangible in the atmosphere of the city today.
Knowing where to stay in Manila, especially as a first time visitor, can be really daunting. After all, the city has a reputation for being a congested, concrete jungle, so where do you even start? It depends on what you’re looking for.
If you want to experience a true Asian megacity, you can stay in the most metropolitan regions such as Metro Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong or Muntinlupa. If you want to be in the heart of the history and culture, Intramuros, a walled city in colonial times is where you can experience Old Manila. If you want to use the city as a stopover to other Philippine provinces or one of the thousands of stunning white-sand beaches, that’s okay too, although we highly recommend staying here for at least two days just to drink in the culture and to meet some of the nicest local people.
We will cover off all types of Manila accommodation options from Hostels to luxury Manila hotels as well as how to decide where to stay in Manila, the best Manila hotels, best places in Manila to visit, the best places to stay in Manila, hotels near Manila attractions, Manila neighborhood guide and many more.
To help you make the best of this highly underrated city, here are our recommendations of where to stay in Manila.
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Makati – Where to stay in Manila for first timers
A city that is always recommended to first-time visitors to Manila and even the Philippines, is the city of Makati. Known as Manila’s financial district, Makati has areas that are bustling with businessmen with streets full of shopping, dining and nightlife, and a variety of hotels suitable for any budget. With such a central location, the city boasts access to upscale malls, top sights like Ayala Museum, incredible international dining options, hip speakeasy bars, and popular downtown areas such as Poblacion. Makati is also the best place to stay in Manila for tourists.
Offering all the conveniences of a major city, what travellers really love about Makati, is that it also satisfies our other needs. For a break from the constant churning of the city, travellers can head to areas such as Salcedo, which give off a homier, weekend vibe every day of the week. Have your fill of exquisite handmade items, organic Filipino coffee and delicious local food from the charming Salcedo Market, stroll through Washington Sycip Park or people-watch all day until your heart is content.
Best places to stay in Makati
Quezon City – Where to stay in Manila backpacker
If you’re looking for up-and-coming areas to stay with a fresh and trendy edge, Quezon City is where you need to start your search. Full of some of the top universities, local fashion boutiques and cat cafés, this area is full of youthful creativity and gives off strong hipster vibes.
Home to Maginhawa Street, a place that is heaven for all you foodies, you can feast your eyes (and your stomachs) on some of the best local foods from food trucks at the One Fifty Maginhawa Food Park, local diners or holes in the wall – you’ll never have to eat again! Remember when we said Quezon City was hipster? You can see what we mean when it comes to entertainment. With streets lined with board game cafés, second-hand bookstores and vinyl stores, and tattoo parlours, you can never be bored in this district of fun.
Best places to stay in Quezon City
Intramuros – Where to stay in Manila with Family
From the Latin meaning ‘inside the walls,’ Intramuros is a walled city built by the Spaniards upon their occupation of Manila in the 16th century. Just a small 0.67 square kilometres, this area within the modern city of Manila has become known as the historic centre and is the oldest district of the capital.
If you like to take it easy, you can explore the sights that the city has to offer from the iconic three-mile-long stone walls and fortifications to the ancient churches. Take a walk along the Pasig River and you would have done everything Intramuros has to offer. A simply stunning and marvellous place to stay, this city is perfect for a quieter visit to the Philippines.
Best places to stay in Intramuros
Bonifacio Global City – Where to stay in Manila for one night
Although another up-and-coming financial district in Manila, Bonifacio Global City or Fort Bonifacio gives you something that the others don’t: green spaces! Full of stretching avenues with wide sidewalks lined with hedges and trees, you’d feel like you weren’t even in a city if it wasn’t for the towering cityscape that you can see in the distance.
As you’d expect from a thriving city, Bonifacio also boasts up-scale hotels, amazing Filipino restaurants, a mixture of small and classic art galleries, and a High Street that is full of tempting retail and a killer dining scene. Dotted with rooftop watering holes all over the city and a lively nightlife scene, this city is a suitable place to stay for any traveller on any budget looking for a good time in Manila.