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The hidden gems of Manila

Manila is misunderstood, as far as destinations in the Philippines go. It's the financial and commercial centre of the Philippines, and a major stopover city for many Kiwis, but their incredible street food, small bars and great shopping malls are often overlooked. Skyscanner New Zealand shows you where to find the hidden gems of Manila!

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The best places for food in Manila

Maginhawa, Quezon City

You’re still in Southeast Asia, so be prepared for some serious street food. Maginhawa street in Quezon City has a strip of food stalls and restaurants – want Mexican? Italian? Just a cup of tea? You’ll find it here. If you want to try Filipino food, go to Jek’s for bulalo – a beefy, soup dish from the Philippines.

Lilac Street, Marikina

This is Maginhawa’s competition – another street of independent food stalls. However, the founders of Burrito Brothers have a bit of a monopoly on this street: they own Breakfast Brothers and Kebab Brothers too (they all have amazing food). In Breakfast Brothers, you can get an all-day Filipino brekkie – usually consisting of bread rolls, rice, eggs, and dried, deboned herring (sounds weird, tastes delicious). It’s also known to be a proven hangover cure.

Casa Italia, Fort Bonifacio

You might know Casa Italia from their gelato shop in Singapore, this sibling branch is an extension of that, serving straight up Italian comfort food, buttery pastries and micro-roasted coffee. You don’t need to know the science behind that roasting – just know that it tastes great in a Flat White.

Address: Megaworld Shop 5, Burgos Park Bldg. Forbestown Center, Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City

Capitol Commons, Pasig

This new development isn’t just for food, but it’s a good place to start. There are 20 restaurants here so you really do have your pick, but the churros from La Lola take the biscuit (or doughnut). Crispy, fried dough, dipped in rich chocolate sauce. The Wholesome Table is good if you have been indulging too much in Filipino food and churros – counteract all of it with their organic dishes, juices and vegan menu.

Address: Capitol Commons, Meralco Ave, Ortigas Center, Pasig

The best places for coffee (and wifi) in Manila

Local Edition Coffee, Quezon City

Not tried Philippine coffee yet? Local Edition ensures all beans are locally sourced, and you can order at different strengths. They also have food, but the affogatto with salted caramel ice cream will wipe out your appetite. Take the sugar comedown in one of their corners of books, learning about local culture, art and design.

Address: Mayfair Mansion, 116 Perea, Legaspi Village, Makati

Craft Coffee, Quezon City

If Chocolate Lava cake doesn’t tempt you into this place, the plethora of coffee brewing methods will. They offer Aeropress, Chemex, Siphon, Pour Over and Espro – guaranteed to keep you awake for at least 24 hours.

Address: 66 Broadway ave, New Manila, Quezon City

Scarsdale Artisanal Delights, Mandaluyong

Have you ever made your own doughnut? Do you want to? Scarsdale allow you to pick a filling, frosting and topping for your pastry for 75 Pesos. They also have excellent coffee, shakes and food – not to mention the free wifi.

Address: S&R Shaw 514 Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City

Restock, San Antonio

This place sits between being a small shop, art gallery, and fine purveyor of coffees. The calm interiors make it a lovely nook to hide away from Manila’s hustle and bustle too.

Address: 7635 Guijo Street, San Antonio, Makati City

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The best bars in Manila

Z Hostel Roofdeck, Makati

This is a relaxed rooftop with which you should start your night. Order a few snacks from the menu, enjoy them over drinks and a view of Makati City. Afterwards, you can continue the evening, or head home without partying the night away.

Address: 5660, Don Pedro, Makati

Finders Keepers, San Lorenzo

Speakeasy’s are not reserved for New York. Finders Keepers fits right into Manila’s night scene, with a neon sign on entry, a cosy ‘lounge’ set up inside, and a friendly crowd always willing to share the couch with you. It’s a good place to start or end the night, as it’s so close to Black Market, and there’s a lengthy cocktail menu.

Address: Warehouse 5, La Fuerza Plaza, Chino Roces Avenue Corner Sabio Street, San Lorenzo, Makati City

Exit Bar, Corinthian Plaza

The dimly lit interiors give this place an illicit feel, even though it’s in the Corinthian Plaza. The bar’s menu is large here – there are 10 different types of Bourbon alone. Beer lovers rejoice, there’s Hoegarden, Coronas, Sapporo, Pabst and more on the menu too.

Address: Ground Floor Corinthian Plaza, 121, Paseo De Roxas, Legaspi Village, Makati

El Chupacabra, Makati City

For relaxed drinks with finger food, this place is on point. It’s also Mexican, so make sure you wash your tacos, hot wings and pork sisig down with tequila!

Address: 5782 Felipe, Makati

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The best shopping in Manila

Estancia, Capitol Commons

We’re almost recommending this just for the air-con. But it’s also great for shopping. This newly opened mall has Women’s Secret, Old Navy, Uniqlo, Lush, West Elm, Burts Bees, Kurt Geiger and a few other stores that aren’t available in New Zealand, so it’s great if you want to stock up whilst in the Philippines.

Cubao Expo, Quezon City

This used to be known as Marikana Shoe Expo, but now, street artists have claimed the walls for their own and it’s a popular haunt with photographers, film makers and those looking for somewhere interesting to stroll. There are several independent shops inside, selling furniture, clothing, art and trinkets.

Greenhills Centre, San Juan

This is where to go for the bargains. It’s not as ‘hidden’ as the other nooks on this list, but it makes a change to the shops in central Manila. Bring your best bargaining tools and come on a Thursday for the flea market. Here, you can get ‘authentic’ handbags, DVDs, mobile phones..expect to come away with all sorts of goodies.

Ready to explore everything that Manila has to offer? Find cheap flights, hotels and car hire on Skyscanner New Zealand.