Known as the “Walled City,” Intramuros is a place rich in history and culture. With its cobbled streets and preserved architecture dated hundreds of years ago, it will have you second-guessing whether you are still in the Philippines or not. That is why many foreigners and locals never miss an Intramuros tour when in the city.
In between the walls of Intramuros is the mark that 300 years of Spanish rule have left in the form of grand churches and colonial houses. While you can just wander the streets on your own, the best way to get a deeper understanding of the country’s history is with a historic Intramuros walking tour.
In this Intramuros guide, we will tell you the top famous and offbeat spots that will definitely give you chills and make your heart skip a beat!
Places to visit in Intramuros
Given the many astounding places to visit in Intramuros, it could take us a day to list them down so we will just give you our top picks for an easy guide!
1. Fort Santiago
Fort Santiago Intramuros is the oldest Hispanic stone fortress in the Philippines. There are kalesa or carriages, old dungeons, an old theater, and gardens surrounding Fort Santiago Intramuros to keep your eyes and ears busy as you take in all the history. The good news here is, the government has opened its dungeons for the public so visitors can explore the dungeons that were used as storage vaults and powder magazines of the Baluarte de Santa Barbara, a stone structure constructed in 1592. During World War II, the dungeons were used by Japanese troops to imprison resistance fighters and political prisoners.
2. Manila Cathedral
The Manila Cathedral is the Premier Church of the Philippines as it was the first-ever cathedral in the country. The Manila 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. The Manila Cathedral is surely one of the best places to visit in Manila.
3. San Agustin Church
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. You’ll be amazed at the masterpiece painted on its ceilings. 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 which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Manila. And one amazing fact to know about San Agustin Church is 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.
4. Casa Manila
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. While every corner is beautiful and Instagrammable, 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.
5. Silahis Center
Make sure to also include Silahis to your Intramuros tour! It is a place that emphasizes the Filipino’s creativity showcased through various products made from wood, shells and other native materials that you can buy as souvenirs. There are also antiques, artifacts and other Filipino artworks available in store.
6. Baluarte De San Diego
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 a fantasy land. That is why it has become a popular place for weddings, family parties and other special occasions.
7. Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant
Intramuros never fails to disappoint our history and sightseeing cravings but other than these, it’s also a good place to find the top restaurants in Manila. One of these is Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant. If you’re looking for authentic Filipino food to add to your historical day trip, Barbara’s is the perfect place to go to. Try all of the dishes from their grand buffet, while enjoying cultural dance performances. Plus, Barbara’s is a perfect place for a romantic date that will give you the best vibe of Intramuros at night.
8. Light and Sound Museum
Unlike other museums that cater to hundreds of visitors at the same time, only groups of 10 people are allowed into the Bagumbayan Light and Sound Museum. Everyone who loves history or just fancy adding knowledge, its one-hour show about the story of Jose Rizal from his early life to his execution, which combines different visual effects, soundtracks, and other technologies is a perfect treat.
9. Museo de Intramuros
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
If you want to indulge in more history about Intramuros, make sure to visit Museo de Intramuros that was built to share more about the Walled City’s past. It houses about 500 religious artifacts found in old churches near and around the Walled City. It is located in two important reconstructions inside the walled city: the San Ignacio Church and Convent and the Mission House of the Society of Jesus.
10. Bahay Tsinoy
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
It’s not just the Spanish that had great influences in the Philippines but also Chinese have had a rich history. In Bahay Tsinoy, you can see the life-sized dioramas of Chinese traders, goldsmiths, and more. The most interesting masterpiece in the museum is a sari-sari store that played an important role in the lives of early Chinese settlers in the Philippines.
How to go to Intramuros
Intramuros location is very easy to access given the many transportation options available. To get to Intramuros, 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.
Intramuros is truly a one-of-a-kind place that every traveler must visit in the Philippines. Not only it boasts stunning attractions that are definitely captivating but it also bridges as to the past that allows us to discover what it’s like to live in the Philippines hundreds of years ago.
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