Rizal Park (a.k.a. Luneta) is one of Manila’s main tourist spots, and for good reasons. The attractions are cheap, educational, and, to quote a teenager I encountered during my day tour, “Instagrammable.”
Realistically speaking though, it’s hard to go around the park and visit all the attractions in one day. It’s possible, of course, but it can be very tiring. Also, there are places that you have to stay in for at least an hour (or two) for you to fully appreciate them.
Can’t decide which ones to prioritize? Here are five attractions/places in and around Rizal Park that you should definitely visit:
1. Relief Map of the Philippines. It’s a little hard to appreciate this map in its entirety if you’re standing next to it, but it’s still worth visiting, if only to see how realistically each island is sculpted. Try looking for Scarborough Shoal while you’re at it. Hint: It’s not in China.
2. Japanese Garden. This garden is a favorite getaway of those looking for a quick noontime nap, but the picturesque view of the bridge and lagoon makes it a great place for photo op, too. It’s also a popular date spot, so don’t be surprised to see couples having picnics under the shade of select trees. Entrance fee: P10.00. (Alternatively, you can visit the Chinese Garden, which is just past the Open-air Auditorium. Entrance fee is also P10.00.)
3. Diorama of Rizal’s Martyrdom. This dramatic diorama is directly beside the Chinese Garden and just a few steps away from the Rizal Monument. This is the exact spot where Rizal was shot (not at the monument, as many believed). Fancy reading something in Spanish? You can find Rizal’s famous poem, “Mi Ultimo Adios,” engraved in one of the walls.
4. National Museum: Museum of the Filipino People. This four-story building showcases the following exhibits: San Diego Exhibit; Five Centuries of Maritime Trade Before the Arrival of the West; The Origin; Archaeological Treasures; and The Filipinos and Their Rich Cultural Heritage. Sign up for a free guided tour and make your visit a richer one. Entrance fee: Free.
5. National Museum: National Art Gallery. Just across the Museum of the Filipino People is the National Art Gallery, which houses different works of art, including the famous Spoliarium by Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo’s The Assassination of Governor Bustamante. Make sure to visit as many galleries as you can—there are a lot, including a room dedicated to portraits by Fernando Amorsolo and other Filipino artists, as well as an exhibit on works that depict the atrocities done to Filipinos during World War II. Entrance fee: Free.