Fort Santiago: Guide for Brave Travelers to Explore Beyond Its Gates After Dark

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Fort Santiago, as many already know, is a popular tourist attraction in the Philippines. But what it is now—a beautiful and remarkable tourist spot—owes it to the horrifying stories that took place centuries ago. And these stories are not like any other as these will definitely give you goosebumps. Hint: it’s like you’re starring in a horror or thriller film.

About Fort Santiago

fort santiago manila

Fort Santiago was a fortress built in the late 1500s by the Spanish government during the colonization of Manila, as part of Intramuros. It served as a storage for ammunition, and converted into a prison cell for activists and the political resistance. One of the most famous names imprisoned here was Philippines’ National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal before his public execution. Fort Santiago Intramuros was also used during the World War II for formidable purposes—the Japanese kept soldiers and political prisoners in the dungeons to torture and execute.

That’s why this place remains one of the most notable and important historical sites in the Philippines.

What’s inside this blog?

If you’re someone who enjoys thrilling adventures, this Fort Santiago information will definitely interest you so read on.

Fort Santiago History

fort santiago dungeons

Photo credits to Intramuros Administration

Fort Santiago Intramuros was constructed to serve as one of the Spaniards’ main defense lines. 

The old Fort Santiago was made of logs and earth, and was destroyed in 1574 after the Chinese pirate Lin Feng (Limahong) launched an almost successful siege of Manila. The Spanish army repelled the attack, but realized it was too damp so they rebuilt it in stone. The present Fort Santigao pictures you see was built in 1593 and was already constructed using volcanic tuff (adobe). 

Then, the Spaniards converted it into a prison cell for the resistance fighters and political prisoners. Among the most notable prisoners in Fort Santiago was Jose Rizal. He was imprisoned before his execution on December 30, 1896.

The cells could hold about a hundred people at most, but after World War II, almost 600 decomposing bodies were found piled on top of each other inside Fort Santiago.

Fort Santiago Intramuros has been a National Shrine and National Monument since 1951, and a National Cultural Treasure since 2014.

Fort Santiago Dungeon

fort santiago dungeons

Photo credits to Intramuros Administration

In January 2020, the government opened the Fort Santiago Dungeon to the public for a complete experience. By touring the dungeon, visitors will see the actual places of where the significant and horrifying events happened. 

At the baluarte, you will notice a marble cross that serves as a marker for the mass grave where the 600 people were buried. For you to enter the dungeon, you will have to squat since the entrance is small.

The dungeon is open from 2pm to 10pm daily.

Fort Santiago Location

Fort Santiago is located in Intramuros, Manila. You can easily access it by foot, bicycle, and kalesa. Here is a Fort Santiago map to guide you.

How to Get There

Fort Santiago Intramuros is very easy to access given the many transportation options available. To get there, you can either take the LRT-1 (light-rail transit) or the jeepney going in.

When choosing the LRT-1, alight at the Central Terminal Station, then walk five minutes to Manila City Hall. From there, walk to the pedestrian underpass that takes you across Padre de Burgos Street. Immediately upon exiting the underpass, you’ll see Victoria Street, which curves right through the Intramuros walls.

The easiest way on how to go to Intramuros is by taxi or Grab; however, it’s pricier than commuting.

When inside Intramuros, it will be easy to explore it as most of the sights are within a 10- to 15-minute walk away. You can do an Intramuros tour by riding a horse carriage, pedicab, walking, or bamboo bike Intramuros.

Rates and Other Information in Visiting

Fort Santiago entrance fee: PHP 75 for adults; PHP 50 for students, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities.

Fort Santiago operation hours: 8am to 6pm daily; Fort Santiago Dungeons (2pm to 10pm)

Tourist Spots Near Fort Santiago

If you’re done exploring inside Fort Santiago, here are some tourist attractions in Intramuros that you can also visit after your trip to Fort Santiago.

Manila Cathedral

manila cathedral for fort santiago blog

The Manila Cathedral is the Premier Church of the Philippines as it was the first-ever cathedral in the country. The cathedral we see today is not the original structure. Actually, the cathedral has been through a lot but stands still. It has been a witness to a history that is worthy to tell to every generation— from ups and downs to wars and love stories. 

San Agustin Church

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san agustin church manila

Another must-visit in Intramuros is the San Agustin Church. It is the oldest church in the Philippines and the only church which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Manila. Built in 1595, San Agustin Manila, officially known as Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin, is the oldest church in the Philippines. It exhibits remarkable features such as retablos (altars) of high Baroque style and wall buttresses separating cripto collateral chapels. What makes it unique is its ceiling paintings in the tromp l’oeil style. It is also the only church that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Manila. You should also know that the Philippines’ first governor-general, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, is buried there. To know more about San Agustin Church’s history, read this blog

Casa Manila

casa manila intramuros

Ever wondered how the rich lived during the Spanish era in the Philippines? Go to Casa Manila and you’ll find out. Its main attraction is a fully-furnished home-turned-museum that shows how Filipinos lived during the colonial era. The place is beautiful however, visitors are not allowed to take photos. When inside, walk only on the carpeted areas so that you do not damage the wooden floors. Of all the luxurious furniture in Casa Manila, the most notable are the toilets. Apparently, in the old days, toilets were built in twos or more to allow people to sit beside each other and chat while they did their business.

Baluarte De San Diego

intramuros makasaysayang lugar sa pilipinas

Baluarte de San Diego used to be a drowning chamber during the Spanish era. It was built and designed by the Jesuit priest Antonio Sedeno in the late 1580s. Its main feature is the circular dungeon called Fort Nuestra Señora de Guia. Today, Baluarte de San Diego is surrounded by beautiful gardens, adorned with lush plants, pathways, fountains, and an attractive pergola that will remind you of fantasy land. That is why it has become a popular place for weddings, family parties, and other special occasions. It’s just walking distance from the location of Fort Santiago Rizal.

Where to stay

In case you’re planning a quick getaway just around Manila, here are the places you can book for safe staycations in Manila

1. ZEN Rooms V Plaza Manila

v plaza manila

Go for a safe hotel staycation in Manila without worrying about your wellbeing, and of course, your budget. ZEN Rooms V Plaza Manila is a perfect place for those looking for a cheap staycation in Manila.

Address: 3003 Juan Luna St., Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila

Tourist spots near the hotel: Chinatown, Divisoria, 168 Shopping Mall, Intramuros, Escolta, Quiapo Church

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Ideal for: Backpackers, Traders, Young Professionals, Business, Leisure

Amenities: 24h Security, Parking, Baggage Storage, Shared Lounge / TV Area, Designated Smoking Area, Concierge, Air Conditioning, Hot Shower, Free WiFi, Flat Screen TV, Private Bathroom, Cable TV Channel, Window in the Room, Study Desk, Bath Gel/Soap, Shampoo, Bidet

Price from PHP 800/night

Check-in note: No age restriction

Book now

2. Slouch Hat Inn Manila

Slouch Hat Inn Manila

Now this one’s really perfect if you’re coming straight from Rizal Park tagalog. This hotel features a hotel bar and restaurant, rooms with complete amenities, and more. The location of the hotel is along the main street of the city, a few minutes away from historical places in the country, like Intramuros.

Address: 1112-1116 M.H. Del Pilar St., Ermita, Manila

Tourist spots near the hotel: Manila Baywalk, Manuel Roxas Monument, Museo Marino, Intramuros, Rizal Park description

Amenities: 24h Front Desk, 24h Room Service, Hotel Restaurant, Hotel Bar, Designated Smoking Area, Baggage Storage, Air Conditioning, Hot Shower, Free WiFi, Flat Screen TV, Cable TV Channel, Fridge, In-Room Safe

Price from PHP 930/night

Book now

3. Baymont Suites & Residences

Baymont Suites & Residences

If you want to experience the best staycation in Manila, consider booking a stay at Baymont Suites & Residences. What makes it better than other hotel staycation Manila is that it’s just near the airport and many tourist attractions!

Address: 3992 Airport Road cor. Mactan St. Baclaran, Parañaque City

Tourist spots near the hotel: Baclaran Church, Manila Baywalk, SM Mall of Asia, Ayala Malls Manila Bay, Manila Ocean Park, Ninoy Aquino International Airport

Amenities: 24h Room Service, Airport Shuttle (Extra Cost), Ironing Facilities, Baggage Storage, 24h Security, SPA (Massage), No Parking, Air Conditioning, Hot Shower, Free WiFi, Non Smoking Room, Flat Screen TV, Private Bathroom, Cable TV Channel, Window in The Room, Bottled Water, Coffee & Tea, Kettle

Price from PHP 2,100/night

Check-in note: Valid ID and fill out health declaration form upon check-in

Book now

Frequently Asked Questions About Fort Santiago

Q: Is there an entrance fee in Intramuros?

A: There is no admission fee to enter the Intramuros district, but note that some attractions such as Fort Santiago charge a small entrance fee.

Q: What can you see in Fort Santiago?

A: You can admire Fort Santiago tagalog both from the inside and out. You can see a re-creation of Jose Rizal’s cell, the courtroom where his trial was held, and the actual dungeons where some horrifying events happened.

Q: Why is Fort Santiago important?

A: The history of Fort Santiago plays an important role as this was the site of some of the Philippines’ most historic events like Rizal’s imprisonment and the colonizers’ torture to Filipinos and Americans.

Q: What did Rizal do in Fort Santiago?

A: Rizal was imprisoned in Fort Santiago before his execution on December 30, 2896. 

Q: What are the best places to visit in Intramuros?

A: Intramuros is a beautiful place every traveler must visit. Here are some of the best Intramuros tourist spots to check out: 

  1. Fort Santiago tagalog
  2. Manila Cathedral
  3. San Agustin Church
  4. Casa Manila
  5. Silahis Center
  6. Baluarte De San Diego
  7. Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant
  8. Light and Sound Museum
  9. Museo de Intramuros
  10. Bahay Tsinoy

Must-read: A Guide to Intramuros Tour: 10 Places That Will Let You Travel Back in Time

Disclaimer: ZEN Rooms claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on ZEN Rooms, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.

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