Shopping in Manila - A Cultural Journey

By Arundhati Bhand on Dec 28, 2017
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The Philippines is known for its gorgeous biodiversity, its deep waters and the abundant marine life. Set deep in the lapping waves of the ocean, there is no doubt that this is one of the best places to explore the miracles of nature. While this is one aspect of the country, the other revolves around the rich culture and tradition. And what could possibly be a better way to explore the culture than shopping! A journey right on the streets of Manila, the capital of this wonderland, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Offering you an exotic experience, shopping is one of the best things to do in Manila. While shopping malls are many, set out into the narrow lanes, the crowded markets and the antique shops for the best experience. Go ahead and check out the list of the top markets and stores that will make shopping in Manila delightful! 

Where to Shop in Manila?

best places for shopping in Manila

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Solidaridad Bookshop

Address: 531 Padre Faura St, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila, Philippines

Often known as the best little bookstore in Asia, Solidaridad Bookshop is one of the key points of interest in Manila. Tucked away in the city, it was one of the earliest bookstores, and today celebrates more than 50 years of life! In the age of internet and television, this bookstore has not only managed to survive, but thrive. 

Owned by the famous Filipino author F Sionil José, you won’t find the books that are meant for one and all. In fact, this store is very selective and has a carefully curated collection. With an extensive series, you will find here archaic Filipino books as well as modern novels. International books can also be found here. An important site in the city, a visit to this bookshop is a must! 

Silahis Arts & Artefacts

Address: 744 General Luna St, Intramuros, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines

Shopping in Manila is incomplete without a visit to Silahis Arts & Artifacts. One of the most exciting things to do in Metro Manila, this souvenir shop encompasses the entire culture of the archipelago. A center for all the local artists to come and showcase traditional art and craft, you will be enthralled by this store. Woven table napkins, red clay jars, bronze sculptures, shell art and more… You will see a blend of all the Asian countries, but wrapped in the essence of Philippines. Ornate trinkets, stone vessels, paintings and handcrafted furniture that is found here is something very special. This is the place to shop if you want to take back some unique souvenirs from Manila.

Quiapo Market

Address: F-R. Hidalgo St, Quiapo, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines

A shopaholic's dream come true, Quiapo Market is one of the top shopping markets in Manila, where you are ensured value for money. Right from vegetables and fruits to wooden artefacts and clothing, you will find here anything and everything… quite literally! Hidden somewhere in these box stores are small apothecary centers, where traditional natural oils and solutions are available. Unique and intriguing, do spend some time here to know more about the different kinds of potions. Giving you an authentic local experience, don’t shy away from haggling, as it is a must, and definitely enjoyable! 

Balikbayan Handicrafts

Address: 290-298 C. Palanca Sr. St., Quiapo, Manila City, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines

In case you are wondering what to buy in Manila, here is the solution! Specializing in the cultural handicrafts of Philippines, Balikbayan Handicrafts is a must visit not only for the shoppers, but also tourists! Offering shipping worldwide, you can indulge in the authentic artforms that are displayed here. With exquisite Capiz shell art, you will find spoons, ornaments, home decor and more such beautiful items. The Philippines is known for its pearls, and fairly priced, these ocean gems will win your heart. Almost 50 years old, this store has grown multi-folds and still ensures genuine cultural art. Drop by and have a splendid experience! 

Divisoria Market

Address: 557 M. De Santos St, San Nicolas, Manila, 1010 Metro Manila, Philippines

One of the best flea markets in Manila, Divisoria Market also boasts of being one of the oldest commercial centers, dating back to the Spanish era. It is one of the best markets that offers tourists the unique experience of bargain shopping in Manila. Street shopping at its best, you can shop here like a local! Apparel, fruits and vegetables, snacks, souvenirs and handicrafts, you will find an endless lane of shops selling these.

While you may find bigger stores and brand stores amidst the crowd of street sellers, the best experience would be to just roam around aimlessly to explore this chaotic, energising city. One of the most affordable shopping avenues in the city, happy bargaining! 

Before you go, check out what to do in manila in 3 days!!


What to buy in Manila

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons 

Kubing- The traditional Philippine musical instrument, this item makes for an exotic gift for your special one, or even souvenirs for friends and family! Made out of bamboo, this small wonder is easy to pack and carry. Found at almost all handicraft shops, you would not need to hunt for them. 

Salakot- A must-buy for all the tourists visiting in the hotter months of the year, Salakot is a slightly sloped hat that keeps the sun away from the face and neck. Made out of different materials, its variations can be found in other parts of Asia too. Traditional caps, they make for a great accessory, or even a wall hanging! 

Barong tagalog- Clothes shopping in Manila is incomplete without this costume. Considered to be the national dress of the country, Barong Tagalog is a must on your list of what to buy in the Philippines. Made out of light, slightly translucent material, heavy embroidery ornates it around the neck, sleeves and back. While it is available in different colours, the traditional ones sway towards the lighter hues. 

Pearls- Surrounded by water on all sides, it’s no surprise that Manila, Philippines is known for its pearls. Flaunting subtle, different hues of the ocean, this is one type of jewellery that entices everyone. Make sure that you buy them from authorised shops. 

Lambanog- Commonly known as Coconut wine, this beverage is one of the most popular drinks in the country. Now available in several flavours, you can indulge in some fruity flavours like mango, blueberry and more! 

Tikog Slippers- A different kind of grass that grows along paddy fields, Tikog is used to make many handicraft items. One of the most popular ones are slippers. Cheap, lightweight and comfortable, this will be your choice of footwear back home too! 

Banig- A traditional mat, usually used for sleeping, Banig mats are decorated with geometric patterns and vibrant colours. Usually themed around the ocean, you will see a lot of designs resembling the ocean and its marine life. A wonderful addition to your terrace back home, this warm mat will bring you back here every time! 

Check Out: Countries to Visit in Asia

Manila Shopping Tips

Shopping is one of the most fun things to do in Manila. And while you explore the malls, the streets and the markets, here are a few tips that may help make your experience memorable. 

1. Keep cash- Many small shops may not accept credit cards, so it is best to keep cash with you at all times. While there are plenty of ATM machines, you can always save a trip to one of those only because you fell short on cash.

2. Keep your wallet close- Like any crowded place, Manila too has flea markets and shopping lanes where pickpocketing is a possibility. Avoid carrying handbags, and keep your wallet or pouch secure. 

3. Bargain- Bargain to your heart’s content! Unless stated otherwise, this is one shopping place where you are free to haggle as much as you like! If you aren’t one of those people who are comfortable doing the same, this may be a good time to explore this art!

4. Enjoy!- Remember, you are in one of Asia’s best places for shopping. Give in to the experience and enjoy!

There you are… Now you have all that you need for your shopping spree in Manila! Cast away the malls, and set out on this adventurous local shopping excursion. Enjoy the food, the handicrafts and the culture that shines in everything that is made here. You will return home with something special for sure...

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