Staying at a hotel in San Juan City, the smallest city in the Philippines, may not be the most popular option in Metro Manila. Yet despite its size, this city isn’t boring. In fact, it has a number of attractions and activities for urban travelers. Learn all about them in this guide.
While it may seem suburban in character today, San Juan City played a vital role in Philippine history. After all, it was where the first battle of the Katipunan—the group fighting for Filipino independence—against Spanish colonizers took place.
All that history is now hidden in the current city’s more relaxed vibe. Other than numerous residential districts, San Juan is also home to various educational institutions and elite private schools such as Xavier School, Immaculate Conception Academy, and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. Of course, relaxed doesn’t mean boring. There are hotspots of activity in San Juan City, a top example being the Greenhills commercial complex. With these places to go, the area’s definitely more than just suburbia.
Two train stations are located in San Juan City. The northwestern side of San Juan is serviced by the J. Ruiz station of the LRT-2. Meanwhile, the Santolan-Annapolis station of the MRT-3 is the best option for travelers going to the eastern parts.
Those coming from Manila can ride buses that ply the Quiapo-Taytay route. Meanwhile, those heading to the eastern side of San Juan can simply ride any bus plying EDSA that’s marked “A,” then disembark at the Santolan-Annapolis bus stop.
Like most cities in the Philippines, travelers can go around San Juan by riding jeeps, tricycles, or buses. Taxis are also available in the city, especially around the commercial areas.
Since San Juan City is where the revolt against the Spanish first broke out, it is only fitting that the city has several monuments to this event. These include the Pinaglabanan Shrine and the accompanying Museo ng Katipunan (Katipunan Museum). This museum narrates the history of the Katipunan and their leader, Andres Bonifacio; various artifacts and dioramas are on display.
It’s not all history, either. Visit the Fundacion Sansó gallery and museum to get an up close look at the works of renowned painter Juvenal Sanso. The painter, who is Spanish by birth but has lived in Manila for decades, is said to be a shoo-in for the National Artist Award were it not for his citizenship.
And if you’re looking for something more contemporary, then check out the Ronac Art Center along Ortigas Avenue. This quirky building is home to the Jagnus Design Studio, the group that designed the structure itself; Secret Fresh, a niche toy store and gallery; and skateboard shop We Legendary. The building also has a basketball court on the third floor, which is often used as the practice venue by several professional teams.
San Juan City may have a suburban character, but that doesn’t mean that it’s boring. In fact, there are a number of things that you can do around the area.
For starters, one of the metro’s most popular shopping meccas is located here Greenhills. While it’s often associated with imitation bags, it’s also one of the best places to buy real freshwater pearls. And inside this shopping complex are two concert venues—the Music Museum and Teatrino.
Meanwhile, those who want to watch sporting events can proceed to the FilOil Flying V Arena near the Pinaglabanan Shrine. This indoor sports venue has hosted various athletic tournaments. These range from basketball games of the Philippine Basketball Association’s D-League to the volleyball games of the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP).
Almost every city in Metro Manila has a food street and San Juan City is no exception. Travelers can treat their taste buds at the many restaurants along P. Guevarra and Wilson Streets, spanning the barangays of Little Baguio and Addition Hills. One of the top chefs in the country, Chef Laudico Guevarra, actually has his eponymous restaurant along P. Guevarra.
Other top options in the area include Alex III and Café Ysabel for Filipino cuisine; Greeka Kouzina for Mediterranean food and Balkan Express, the only Yugoslav restaurant in the metro. After a hearty meal, you can also enjoy a cup of coffee or a slice of cake at Backyard Coffee.
Though better options for clubbing can be found in other parts of Metro Manila, San Juan City also has a number of good bars at different price points. These include 67 Nathan, a bar that serves up flavored beer. Another popular option is McLaren’s, a pub based on by the establishment of the same name in the TV show How I Met Your Mother.
There are several boutique hotels in San Juan City. These include the Greenhills Elan Hotel Modern, which is located near the Greenhills Commercial Center; and The Orange Place Hotel, along Santolan Road. More options can be found in neighboring Quezon City or in the Ortigas Business District in Pasig.