San Juan is one of the smallest cities in Metro Manila. A quiet town during the 19th century, San Juan was the site of the Battle of San Juan del Monte, the first battle between the Spaniards and the revolutionary society Katipunan during the Spanish colonial period. Over the years, some of its residents became Philippine presidents—Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand Marcos, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The historic battle in San Juan was memorialized in one of its tourist attractions. The Pinaglabanan Shrine is a war memorial dedicated to the Battle of San Juan del Monte, led by nationalist Andres Bonifacio. Near the shrine is the Museo ng Katipunan, a museum where you can know more about Bonifacio and the Katipunan.
Another interesting place in San Juan is Club Filipino, the first exclusive social club in the Philippines. It has a wide range of sports facilities and function areas. Club Filipino is also a popular venue for political gatherings and events.
San Juan is considered to be the "tiangge" (market stalls) capital of the Philippines. The popular Greenhills Shopping Center houses numerous market stalls where you can score the cheapest bargains on clothes, shoes, accessories and electronics. Restaurants are also found in the commercial strips in the vicinity of the mall.
But for a great fine dining experience, you must visit the famed Café Ysabel, one of the most well-known restaurants in the country where you can have some of the best contemporary Filipino dishes in the country. The restaurant also serves its versions of European, Mediterranean, and American food.
From Santa Mesa in Manila, there are RRCG and G Liner buses bound for Taytay, Rizal, that passes through San Juan. This route usually includes passing through N. Domingo Street, Pinaglabanan Street, Bonny Serrano Avenue, and Ortigas Avenue.
If you’re coming from EDSA, you can take a bus to Robinsons Galleria. Make sure to pick the one with the “Ortigas Ilalim” sign. From Robinsons Galleria, walk towards Ortigas Avenue where you can take another bus (RRCG or G Liner buses headed for Quiapo) to get to San Juan.
You can ride the MRT and get off at either Santolan or Ortigas Station. From Santolan, you can walk to Annapolis Street, which is just a couple of steps away from the station and ride a jeep towards Greenhills, a popular mall in San Juan. If you’re alighting at Ortigas Station, walk towards Ortigas Avenue in front of the POEA office and ride a jeep bound for San Juan or Greenhills. You can also ride the bus bound for Quiapo.
The LRT-2 also stops at J. Ruiz Station, which is located in the San Juan district.
Jeeps that pass through the San Juan area can be found along Ortigas Avenue in front of the POEA office. There are also Greenhills-bound jeeps passing through Annapolis Street.
By Taxi or Ridesharing Services
Air conditioned taxis that can take you to San Juan are dime a dozen and can be found anywhere on the streets of Metro Manila. It is the most convenient option but expect to shell out more than expected because of the occasional traffic.
Another convenient option is to book a ride through ridesharing services like Grab or Uber. You can get a ride almost anywhere in Metro Manila with just a few taps on your smartphone.
How to Get Around
Jeeps are the main mode of transportation around the city. You can also ride cabs, but jeeps are generally preferred since they’re very affordable. Tricycles are also available for shorter trips, usually within villages and the subdivisions in the area.
What to See
If you’re traveling to San Juan from Manila via bus or jeep, you will most likely pass by Pinaglabanan Shrine. Built in 1974 to commemorate the Battle of San Juan del Monte in 1896, it is one of the important landmarks in the city. This battle was said to be first real battle between Filipinos and Spaniards during the Philippine revolution.
The Santuario del Santo Cristo Parish is another landmark in the city that is truly a sight to behold. Also known as San Juan del Monte Church, the church features earthquake baroque architecture made from stone and cement. The current church was built in 1774 and has undergone many renovations over the years. Aside from being a holy place of worship for the Catholic faithful, the church is also the seat of the Cofradia del Santisimio Cristo de San Juan del Monte (Confraternity of the Holy Christ of Saint John of the Mountain).
Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) was once headquartered in San Juan. As such, the city is also home to the old Central Office Complex. Now known as the Locale of F. Manalo, the complex still features its art deco style, which was designed by National Artist for Architecture Juan Nakpil. A 1,000-seater chapel is found within the complex. Renowned architect Carlos A. Santos-Viola was enlisted to design the mausoleum-memorial for INC’s founder, Felix Manalo, which is likewise found within the complex.
Club Filipino is the first exclusive social club ever established in the Philippines. It was established in 1898, and its members then included General Antonio Luna and General Emilio Aguinaldo. Club Filipino was also the setting for the inauguration of President Corazon Aquino during the People Power Revolution. Other major events in Philippine politics have also taken place in this exclusive club.
The Museo ng Katipunan is found in San Juan. It was built to preserve the memories and contributions of the revolutionary society Katipunan, founder Andres Bonifacio, and its members. Filled with historical artifacts and artworks that narrate the history of the group, this two-story museum was built in 2013 in celebration of the sesquicentennial birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio.
Sports lovers in the country troop to FilOil Flying V Arena, more commonly known as the San Juan Arena, for different sporting events. This venue plays host to games of various athletic leagues including the FilOil Flying V basketball cup and the Shakey’s V-League.
Also in San Juan is Music Museum, one of the premier concert halls in Metro Manila. Heavy weights in the music scene, both local and international, have graced its stage. Music Museum has been around since 1988.
Not too far away is the Theatre Mall, shopping center where you can enjoy a world-class cinema viewing experience. There is also the Teatrino, said to be the “biggest little theatre in live entertainment.”
Where to Eat
Little Baguio in San Juan earned its name because of its hilly streets that are reminiscent of Baguio’s own zigzagging roads. It is also known as a foodie haven because of the numerous around: Hong Kong Eat Fresh, Tung Lo Wan Food Express, Hai Kang Seafood Restaurant, and Yen Yen Taiwan Street Food are just some of the highly-recommended places in the area, especially those who want some Chinese food.
But when it comes to Japanese food in San Juan, Kimpura is the most established. This restaurant has been around for almost 50 years, serving nothing but the best Japanese dishes that will transport you to Tokyo or Osaka. Their sukiyaki, tempura, and teppanyaki dishes are crowd favorites. Their Kimpura fried rice is not to be missed, too.
Café Ysabel is another beloved restaurant in San Juan. For more than 30 years, this ancestral home-turned-restaurant has been one of the most popular places for fine dining in Metro Manila. Owned by celebrity chef Gene Gonzales, Café Ysabel features fusion food made with various influences from Filipino, French, Mediterranean, Italian, and American cuisines. Try their degustation menu for a romantic dinner date that will surely impress.
Another restaurant to visit in San Juan is Chef Laudico Guevarra’s. Aside from its homey and rustic ambiance that will make you feel as if you’re dining at home, the buffet of dishes prepared by Chef Lau himself is bound to make you love Filipino food even more.
There are even more restaurants to check out when in San Juan: Stephen’s Brick Oven Pizza, Frittery in the Promenade, and 7 Flavors.
Where to Shop
When it comes to shopping in San Juan, there is only one place to go: Greenhills Shopping Center. It’s one of the popular places for shoppers in Metro Manila since the 1970s. This complex boasts rows upon rows of shops that offer all kinds of merchandises. It has numerous stalls called tiangge where you can get cheap deals on clothes, shoes, accessories, and furniture. Greenhills Shopping Center is also the go-to place for electronic goods like mobile phones, computers, gaming consoles, and gadgets. Hobby stores are also available where you can find collectibles like rare toys and various novelty items.
ATMs and Money Changers
Banks line up the major roads in San Juan, especially Ortigas Avenue. Money Changers are also available in Greenhills.
Fare: PHP 20.00++
From Manila, the bus fare to San Juan or Greenhills is around PHP 20.00 one way. The base fare for jeeps is PHP 7.00, which covers the first four kilometers of the journey. LRT-2 Fares to J.Ruiz costs from PHP 15.00 to PHP 20.00. For those taking the MRT, the fare to Santolan or Ortigas ranges from PHP 13.00 to PHP 24.00. If you’re going to take the taxi, the flag down rate is PHP 30.00.
Food: PHP 100.00 to PHP 5,000.00
There are fast food chains around the city so even with a PHP 100.00 budget, you can have value meals for a decent lunch. For a culinary adventure around the city, most restaurants charge about PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00 per dish.
For fine dining restaurants, do expect that meals can go as high as PHP 5,000.00 each.
Shopping: PHP 200.00++
Greenhills Shopping Center has almost everything you need: bargain finds, branded items, arts and crafts stuff, food, and even collectibles. Most items start at PHP 200.00.
Accommodations: PHP 1,500.00 to PHP 3,000.00
There is a variety of lodging facilities available in the city that will cater to travelers or staycationers. Some of the cheapest are at around PHP 1,500.00 a night, while the more upscale rooms are priced at PHP 3,000.00 for an overnight stay.
Activities: PHP 200.00++
Most attractions in San Juan like Museo ng Katipunan don’t charge entrance fees. If you feel like watching a movie at the Greenhills Promenade, tickets start at PHP 230.00 per head. For a concert at the Music Museum, the average ticket price is PHP 2,000.00.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
When dining in the city, a service charge will be included in your final bill. In such cases, tipping is no longer necessary but is considered a welcome gesture. You can leave a PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 note behind.