This article was written in collaboration with National Geographic Traveller (UK).
As the gateway to the stunning Philippine islands, Manila stands as one of the world’s most densely populated cities. Located on the island of Luzon, this Filipino capital is adorned with modern skyscrapers and bustling malls, becoming iconic symbols of the city. However, Manila offers much more than meets the eye. Often overlooked as an underrated megacity in Asia, it is a vibrant haven with its abundance of coffee shops, dive bars, art galleries, and food stalls. The influence of Spanish colonial rule from the 16th to 19th centuries has left behind a unique urban landscape adorned with shrines, church spires, and fortifications waiting to be explored. While Manila boasts a multitude of hotels, the recent surge in design-focused accommodations has injected new life into the city’s hospitality scene. Here, we present four of the finest options.
- Admiral Hotel Manila – MGallery
Breaking away from the architectural legacy of its Spanish colonizers, Manila’s hotels are embracing contemporary and distinctly Filipino designs. Leading the way is the newly renovated Admiral Hotel, which opened its doors in July 2022 as the first MGallery property in the country, paying homage to the local culture and customs.
Upon entering, guests are greeted by an atrium dominated by a ceiling fresco depicting “bayanihan,” the Filipino tradition of community cooperation in moving a house. The artwork also celebrates folk dances like the tinikling. Within the atrium, El Atrio, a café run by the talented patissier Kevin Ong, delivers delightful creations. Ong’s bonbons are bursting with local flavors, including purple yam and Mount Matutum coffee.
The rooms, in line with MGallery’s signature art deco style, exude elegance with sharp angles and abundant brass fixtures. The executive rooms offer mesmerizing views of Manila Bay, but for the ultimate panorama, head up to the Admiral Club on the rooftop. Here, a stepped table doubles as a catwalk for events, while overhead projectors illuminate swimming koi images as you dine.
The adjacent open-air deck basks in intense heat, which can be countered with a refreshing dip in the pool or a delightful Don Papa rum punch from the Coconut Grove bar. If you’re in need of respite, head downstairs to the not-so-secret basement speakeasy, Ruby Wong’s, for more cocktails and a taste of Filipino-Chinese cuisine. It’s the perfect warm-up for a night of boulevard bar-hopping or even karaoke. Prices start from 7,600PHP per night, including breakfast.
- Hotel Okura
A bridge connects guests directly from the international airport to the local outpost of Hotel Okura. This brand-new establishment, opened in 2022, embodies the features you would expect from the renowned Tokyo-based brand, including the use of Hinoki wood tubs. Although not all rooms offer outdoor views, those facing the atrium provide a fascinating outlook. The atrium itself is a marvel of glass panels, adorned with rain-inspired chandeliers and tree sculptures. Prices start from 12,700PHP per night (£229).
- Henry Hotel Manila
Located in Pasay City, just a 10-minute drive from the SM Mall of Asia, the Henry Hotel Manila offers a retreat that resembles a suburban escape. Its garden pool and charming clapboard cladding create a serene atmosphere. Guests can enjoy a book from the library, relax on wrought-iron chairs outdoors, or indulge in a classic Filipino breakfast featuring longganisa sausages or milkfish with fried eggs and garlic rice. Prices start from 7,500PHP per night, including breakfast (£99).
- Shangri-La at The Fort
Opulence and glamour define the experience at Shangri-La at The Fort. With marble-adorned corridors, chandelier-lit elevators, and an array of in-room lighting options reminiscent of a shopping mall, the hotel offers a lavish experience. However, it pales in comparison to the breathtaking view outside the windows. Occupying floors 18 to 40 of a towering 755-foot skyscraper, the hotel’s 576 guest rooms provide unobstructed vistas of the Bonifacio Global City district. Prices start from 15,500PHP per night (£270).
All rates mentioned are based on standard double rooms and do not include meals unless stated otherwise.
This story was created with the support of the Philippines Department of Tourism and is featured in the June 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about design-led hotels Manila
What are design-led hotels in Manila?
Design-led hotels in Manila are accommodations that prioritize unique and stylish designs, incorporating elements of Filipino culture and customs. These hotels offer a departure from traditional architectural styles and provide a contemporary and visually appealing experience for guests.
Why should I consider staying at a design-led hotel in Manila?
Staying at a design-led hotel in Manila offers a chance to immerse yourself in the vibrant and artistic atmosphere of the city. These hotels showcase the fusion of modern design with Filipino cultural influences, creating a memorable and visually stimulating environment for guests. It’s an opportunity to experience the local culture and appreciate the creativity and craftsmanship that goes into the hotel’s design.
What amenities can I expect at design-led hotels in Manila?
Design-led hotels in Manila offer a range of amenities to enhance your stay. These may include stylishly decorated rooms with unique architectural features, rooftop restaurants with panoramic views, swimming pools, on-site cafes, speakeasies, and access to cultural experiences. Each hotel has its own distinct offerings, so it’s worth exploring the amenities of each property before making a decision.
Are design-led hotels more expensive than traditional hotels in Manila?
The cost of staying at a design-led hotel in Manila can vary depending on the specific property, room type, and season. While some design-led hotels may fall into the luxury category and command higher rates, others may offer more affordable options. It’s advisable to check the pricing and availability of different design-led hotels to find one that fits your budget.
Are these design-led hotels located in convenient areas of Manila?
Yes, most design-led hotels in Manila are located in convenient areas that provide easy access to popular attractions, shopping centers, and transportation hubs. However, it’s important to check the specific location of each hotel and its proximity to the places you plan to visit in Manila.