Singapore, Taipei, and New York fascinate visitors the world over because of one of a few things — a booming nightlife. Specifically, one composed of staggering street performances, bustling night markets, and most of the time, just skyscrapers bursting with awe-inspiring colours.
But we can’t say the same thing about the Philippines, a country which mostly boasts of tropical sceneries best seen in broad daylight. Though not as grand as the places above, Philippine cities at night are rightfully stunning and equally magical. For your next domestic travel, take note of these cities which are perfect for late-night sightseeing!
Many times in the past, Taguig’s Bonifacio Global City (BGC) has been likened to New York’s Manhattan and SoHo areas. The crowd. The towers. The leisure spots. You get the picture. And just like in those destinations, everything transforms into a different kind of sight as soon as the sun sets over this part of Metro Manila.
Far from unrecognisable, vibrant shopping malls, bars, cafés, and entertainment establishments are the stars of Taguig’s evening scene, sometimes staying open till the early hours of the morning. Bonifacio High Street, The Fort, Venice Grand Plaza, and Market Market are just a few exemplary places to hang if you either feel like observing or immersing yourself in the city’s exceptional night happenings.
The financial and commercial centre is where you can catch spellbinding light shows that take place during the holiday season. Outside of that, BGC’s skyscrapers will also do most of that for you with these buildings, particularly The Curve, lit up throughout the evening.
An average commuter looks at Manila and sees nothing beyond its cramped roads, shopping districts, and food centres. But also, the city takes pride in places that double as a refuge for these individuals and as a stopover for tourists during hours of darkness. Contrary to Taguig, many of Manila’s areas give off a nostalgic atmosphere at this time.
Passing through the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, for example, will incite a sense of eeriness reminiscent of earlier times. Nearby, the newly made-over Jones Bridge of Binondo dazzles with European-style lamp posts that are anything but unromantic.
Continue all the way to the world’s largest Chinatown to get a glimpse of Manila at night through striking neon-lit shops along Ongpin and indie hangout spots over at Escolta. Meanwhile, a stroll through the CCP Complex allows one to see the gorgeously lit Manila skyline that sticks out regardless of any weather. These and more make Manila one of the most stunning Philippine cities at night.
After Manila and Taguig, Makati has proven itself as a coveted centre for arts, celebrations, history, hospitality, and technology in the Philippines. In other words, there’s never a lack of things to see in Makati anywhere you go. And it doesn’t matter if it’s in the day or night either.
Start your evening sightseeing at the Ayala Triangle Gardens along Ayala Avenue, an urban courtyard dotted with rain trees, golden palms, and fire trees, among other vegetations. By dusk, these natural decorations light up in warm hues that create an ambience ideal for night photography enthusiasts or even just those looking to relax in the middle of the city.
Poblacion and Jupiter Street are also a must-visit if you want to experience Makati’s exciting nightlife. Come around 11pm when these places are just starting to liven up. It won’t take long before you develop an appreciation for them that you otherwise wouldn’t if exploring during the day.
Outside of Metro Manila, the newly declared Rizal capital of Antipolo has become a haven for night wanderers. Unlike its neighbouring towns in the province, the city remains radiant at night with glowing cathedrals, like the year-round popular Antipolo Cathedral, also known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.
Those visiting the church beyond dusk will also take notice of the adjacent public park whose trees shine in decorative lights. Not far from here, one will find the famed Antipolo night markets that show the city’s shopping extravaganza. Finally, one simply can’t take a night tour of Antipolo without dropping by the famous Cafe Lupe and Cloud 9. Here, witness the iconic view of Metro Manila’s skyline while enjoying Antipolo’s laid-back evening café culture.
You’ll never find a more spectral yet exhilarating place as Baguio. Located high up in the Cordillera mountains, this educational and tourist centre in Luzon has everything it takes to make you feel all giddy even from just strolling through its back streets at night, or looking at the city from elevated places like Mount Cabuyao and Quirino Hill View Deck.
Home to vibrant Baguio flea markets, Harrison Road comes alive with thousands of evening bargain hunters flocking improvised stalls at once. From a vantage point, everything seems like Christmas, and one won’t help but pull out a camera to capture it all. Session Road does the same with its jam-packed Baguio cafés, bars and restaurants.
On the opposite side of things, Burnham Park offers a calming Baguio night experience, especially when riding the swan boats in its famed man-made lake. Meanwhile, those with a taste for eerie can visit the Diplomat Hotel and Laperal House, among other places.
Often compared to Baguio because of its year-round cool weather, Tagaytay is a great place to spend the weekend. But if you thought the city looked stunning at daytime, especially with Taal Volcano in the view, just wait till you see what it has to offer at night.
In case you missed it, 24-hour Tagaytay restaurants and cafes like Bulalo Capital and Dreamland Arts & Crafts Cafe have been a thing for years, partly to cater weekenders who wish to make the most of their quick visit to the city. Not just popular places to dine, they offer satisfying photography opportunities throughout the night, too.
Any of the accommodations along the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway likewise offer spectacular night views of Taal Volcano and Taal Lake. Those who don’t mind the crowd, try visiting Sky Ranch Tagaytay, which by itself offers euphoric sights and experiences. Not to mention, you can view the city from a height of 63 metres by riding the Sky Eye, the tallest Ferris wheel in the Philippines!
Going on a Visayas adventure? They say that there’s no better place to start than Bacolod, home to the scrumptious chicken inasal. But one can do more than a food crawl in this amazing city, even at night.
While not as busy as other Philippine cities at night, Bacolod has one of the most picturesque provincial capitals in the country. The New Government Center, with its plush white facade and magnificent build, is a definite scene-stealer. Combine that with a massive pond that flawlessly reflects the building (just like those infamous Bali temple shots), and you’ve got yourself some epic shots to take home with you. Witness the same grandeur at the Bacolod Capitol Park and Lagoon, a provincial park and another one of Bacolod’s top attractions.
Although located in the adjacent Talisay City, The Ruins is easily accessible from Bacolod and also just as deserving to be part of your Negros sightseeing. Locals and previous visitors can vouch that it’s best visited at night when the landmark is enwrapped in a brilliant incandescent glow.
It’s a known fact that Cebu is one of the largest cities in the Philippines. With a significant mix of modern and historical sights, Cebu holds a night sightseeing potential unlike any other.
For a sweeping view of the city, look no further than Tops Lookout, a well-known observation spot located 30-40 minutes away from downtown Cebu. Or, climb up to Crown Regency’s Sky Bar for a more sophisticated experience. The Cebu IT Park, with its intricately landscaped spaces and contemporary buildings, is also a playground for late-hour sightseers. As it’s home to many of Cebu’s BPO employees, the area is perfectly safe to explore any time of the night.
Cebu is also an excellent contender for otherworldly historic sites. For that, drop by Magellan’s Cross, which you may admire from the outside once it closes at 6pm. Although constructed less than a decade ago, the Temple of Leah also exudes that very feeling. By sundown, the main Roman-inspired structure and its central marble fountain are illuminated so that the entire courtyard evokes a fairytale-like ambience.
More and more, travellers are looking at Iloilo as a major tourist destination. Not for the accessibility it offers to nearby tropical attractions, but because the city truly is a gem in its own right. The abundance of picturesque historical buildings alone makes it a fitting place for late-night sightseeing. Yet so are the more trendy corners of the city.
The best way to start is by heading to Smallville Complex, Iloilo’s premier lifestyle hub. With a large concentration of restaurants, bars, clubs, cafés, and karaoke houses, it’s impossible to miss sceneries worth capturing here. If you’re not up to that, there’s also the Iloilo River Esplanade which is known for its tranquillity. The place is loved by locals and tourists alike because of how well-maintained the area is, too.
Seeing Iloilo at night isn’t complete without stopping over its heritage streets, churches, and houses. These landmarks are best experienced during the day, but there’s a handful of them that are ideally seen at night. They include Calle Real, Nelly Garden, Molo Church, and Miag-ao Church.
Zamboanga has prospered while being barely touched by modernisation. Geographically far from every other key city in the Philippines, going around this Mindanao destination practically feels like strolling through a live museum.
Also peppered with centuries-old houses and structures, combined with accessible nature, Zamboanga has fantastic sightseeing opportunities after sunset. For one, one can enjoy a nice local meal while taking in expansive ocean views and refreshing sea breeze at Paseo del Mar. It’s a waterfront promenade known for eateries, as well as a nightly dancing fountain light and music show. There’s also the Zamboanga City Hall, celebrated famous for its beautiful light installations during special holidays and occasions.
With not as many artificial lights, Zamboanga is also one of rare Philippine cities at night that offer amazing stargazing opportunities. Barangay Lumayang is the perfect place to do just that. It’s in an elevated part of the city that’s also a great place to enjoy Zamboanga city views!
Philippine cities at night may not be as striking as its counterparts in other parts of the world, but that’s not to say they don’t have anything to offer for those with a penchant for sightseeing during late hours of the day. On your next Philippine escapade, stroll through these amazing cities at night for a whole different local experience!
Featured image credit: Zany Jadraque | Unsplash