Manila Travel Guide: A perfect 24-hour itinerary for the capital of the Philippines

By Nicole Moraleda

Be sure to try a pastry at the world-famous Mary Grace cafe and take the perfect Instagram selfie at the Dessert Museum

By Nicole Moraleda |

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Check out the Dessert Museum if you're ever in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

It’s amazing how much you can get done when you’ve got a solid plan. Here’s how to make the most of your 24 hours in a different city.

When people think of the Philippines, they think of white sand beaches and crystal blue waters. Unfortunately, if you have no more than 24 hours in the capital city of Manila, you probably won’t have enough time to enjoy the coast. But you will have the perfect opportunity to explore the local cuisine. Here is ultimate food trip itinerary that both your stomach and camera will love.

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Before you check into your hotel, make a quick stop at Mary Grace. This cafe has several branches around the city – there’s even one at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. If you’re eating in, order one of the grilled ensaymadas. 

The Philippines adapted this flaky Spanish pastry into a sweet and pillowy brioche bun baked with butter instead of the traditional lard, and topped with cheese and sugar. At Mary Grace, you can get Filipino ensaymadas topped with chocolate and banana, or a savoury version with three different cheeses.


Next on the itinerary is the perfect lunch spot: Sunnies Cafe. This aesthetic eatery was opened by Sunnies Studios, a popular Filipino company known for their low-cost, good quality shades.

Crispy tacos with shells of Parmesan cheese are a specialty at Sunnies Cafe in Manila.
Photo: Nicole Moraleda/SCMP

We recommend  ordering one of their flavour-packed rice bowls and a plate of crispy tacos on the side. How can you resist when the taco shells are made of Parmesan? The portions are a little small, but that’s OK as you have to save room for dessert.

Which brings us to our next destination ... The Dessert Museum! Yep, an entire museum dedicated to everyone’s favourite part of the meal.

Visitors pass through Instagrammable room after Instagrammable room, picking up delicious treats to eat along the way as you snap photos by literally sweet murals, like the ice cream one above. Weave between hundreds of marshmallows dangling on strings or lounge beside cotton candy trees. This place is pretty popular, so we recommend you book ahead if you want to avoid the long queue.

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You might need a bit of time to digest before you eat again, and what better way to pass an hour than in a mind-boggling escape room? The Philippines’ own Mystery Manila offers a range of games that will test your ability to solve puzzles under pressure. There are four branches in the city, each with a different selection of games.

If you love a good mystery, try the Mr Moriarty room at the Ayala Malls branch, where you step into the role of assistant to Sherlock Holmes. Or, if you’re down for good scare, try to solve a missing persons case in Rebecca’s Room at the Jupiter Makati City branch. You’re given 50 minutes to escape, so you might even have time to play two games before dinner.

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For your final meal of the day, head to Manam. This restaurant serves a variety of local dishes and gives you the option to order them in their classic form or with a modern twist.

You can also choose the portion size, which means you can sample more dishes in one sitting. Manam is famous for its watermelon sinigang, a Filipino sour soup traditionally made with tamarind. The addition of watermelon gives the dish a sweetness that balances it perfectly.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge

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