Throughout the Philippines' colorful past, most notably the Spanish Era and the Japanese occupation, there is one place that stands as a witness to many important historical events that shaped our history. This place is Intramuros. Known as the "Walled City", Intramuros served as a fort and more importantly a political and military base held by the various nations that colonized the Philippines.
Initially built by the Spanish and declared the capital of the Spanish Colony, over a thousand Spanish families lived in and around Intramuros at the time, with everything being built within the walls to be able to defend the city and their officials from natural disasters and foreign invaders. Also touted as the religious center of its time, Intramuros was also home to various churches by different religious orders along with their different schools and convents, the oldest being the San Agustin church, built in 1607. Unfortunately, as the center of the capital, Intramuros was also the focus of the many attacks and atrocities committed during the wars it has witnessed. During the Japanese occupation, the city was leveled and destroyed as the country fought to get back its independence from Japanese invaders, leaving only San Agustin church as the only structure left standing. Beginning in 1979, It would take years of effort by the Intramuros Administration and related agencies to rebuild and painstakingly piece back together the walled city to its' former glory. Presently, a large portion of Intramuros has been rebuilt, giving emphasis to preserving the historical value, original design and Spanish colonial influence in all the architecture within its' walls.
Fast forward to present day, visitors of Intramuros are treated to a look back in time, with restaurants, cafes, museums, hotels, shops and events spaces all set in rebuilt, authentic, Spanish-style architecture, giving a somewhat accurate representation of what life in Intramuros was once like. For those who want to experience a part of history, especially Filipinos wanting to get in touch with their heritage and past, Intramuros was rebuilt for that purpose - to give the later generations a unique chance to experience life that is a key piece to our history.
Php 100/ hour
Bike enthusiasts can enjoy exploring Intramuros’ historic paths through cycling. Bambikes offer bicycles for rent and also offers group tours. All their bikes are handcrafted from locally grown bamboo which makes it very sustainable. Nothing beats getting in shape while experiencing all your surroundings while you cycle.
Php 1000/ 1 hour or Php 2000/ 2 hours
Kalesas were used as transportation back in the Spanish Era. This could be a wonderful cultural immersion experience especially if you’re traveling with your kids and elders. This is perfect for a big group because a kalesa can easily fit 4-6 persons.
Php 350 each/ 30 minutes or 700 each/ 1 hour
Pedicab rides are perfect for a party of two. Pedicab drivers are familiar with and can take you to all the sights you need to see.
Barabara’s Heritage Restaurant
Dine in one of the oldest settings you could find in Intramuros that offers Filipino and Spanish Cuisine. They used to serve a Filipino buffet with a show of traditional folk music and dances but they have temporarily discontinued it due to the pandemic. Check out their social media from time to time for updates.
The bar offers local craft beers on tap, bottles, rice bowls, sandwiches and desserts. Please don’t leave Intramuros without trying Batala’s delectable ice cream!
La Cathedral Cafe
A café restaurant on a roof deck with a view of the Manila Cathedral Church that offers fairly good food. We advise you to go here at night time so you can enjoy the lights and avoid the scorching heat since they don’t have enough shade.
If you’re on a budget, you can find simple eateries and cafes around Intramuros that serve decent food and drinks with cheap prices. Locals recommend Patio De Conchita as one of those eateries.
Isaw, kwek-kwek, fishballs, kikiam, BBQ, boiled peanuts, hotdogs, balut, turon, bananaque, dirty ice cream and more. Name every street food you know and you’ll probably find it in some corner of Intramuros, whether they’re in food stalls or on wheels.
Unesco World Heritage
The Church of San Agustin
The oldest church in the Philippines and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.
Open Daily 8AM – 9PM
Entrance Fee: Php 75 Regular/ PHP 50 for Students, Senior, PWD
This is the most visited place in Intramuros. Fort Santiago is significant for being the headquarters of the armies of foreign authorities in the Philippine history, including the Spanish, British, Americans and the Japanese. Here you will find the infamous Dungeons, a prison cell where 600 unrecognized bodies were found during World War II. You will also find Jose Rizal’s prison cell here.
Baluarte de San Diego
Open Daily 8AM – 6PM
Entrance Fee: PHP 75 Regular/ PHP 50 for Students, Senior, PWD
This was the first stone fort that was built in Manila in the year 1586 to 1587. Ever since Manila was declared as the capital of the growing Spanish empire in the Far East, they used the fort as part of their defense on the bay side. From rebuilding and converting the wooden fortifications to stone, to the preservation of the fort by the Americans, to being destroyed in Battle of Manila in 1945 and finally its restoration from 1979 -1992, Baluarte de San Diego is full of history. A place that you definitely wouldn’t want to miss while in Intramuros.
Puerta de Santa Lucia
One of the original gates to Intramuros that was built in 1603.
Puerta Del Parian & Revellin Del Parian
This was used as a defense line between the curtain walls of Baluarte de San Andres and the Parian gate. Also one of the earliest gates and the official entrance of the Governor-General in the year 1764.
Baluarte de San Gabriel
This is the prime defense in the north that guarded the riverside. Rampart cannons overlooked the Parian in Binondo.
This used to be the former site of the Baluarte De Santo Domingo and was developed into a dock to open this side of the Intramuros during the American government. In year 1964, the square was named Plaza Mexico to commemorate the 4th centenary of the expedition of Mexico and the historic Manila-Acapulco galleon trade relations allying the two nations.
Plaza San Luis Complex
A complex of 9 different houses featuring traditional Filipino-Spanish architecture located at the cobbled stone General Luna street.
Casa Manila Museum
Tue- Sun 9AM – 6PM
Entrance Fee: Php 75 Regular/ PHP 50 for Students, Senior, PWD
Take a peek at the life of upper class families back then, and be amused by the exquisite artifacts inside. Part of the 9 houses of the Plaza San Luis complex, this is a must see if you want to experience the glory days of Intramuros’ Colonial Past.
The walled city is known to be home to the oldest universities in the Philippines. Some are amazingly still standing despite having been built in the Spanish period. These schools are: Colegio De San Juan de Letran (1620) and Colegio De Santa Rosa (1750).
Palacio Del Gobernador
Before Malacanang Palace there was Palacio Del Gobernador. This was the state residence of the Governor –General of the Philippines back in 1599. The original site of the Palacio was inside Fort Santiago but was destroyed by the earthquake in 1645. Moved to the present site and used as the Governor – General’s residence, office and Supreme Court. It was also used as a shelter during the World War II where 80 male civilians were massacred.
One of the major public squares back then, Plaza Roma was surrounded by some important landmarks like the Manila Cathedral and Palacio del Gobernador. Now, it’s a popular place for locals, vendors and tour guides - you’ll find the Kalesas here.
The first cathedral in the Philippines that serves both as the Prime Basilica of the Philippines and the highest seat of the archbishop in the country. Due to destruction caused by earthquakes, fire, typhoons and of course the war, Manila Cathedral was reconstructed for the 6th time by local architect, Fernando Ocampo in 1958.
Galeria de los Presidentes de la Republica Pilipina
A small park with a gallery of the past presidents of the Philippines.
The Escuela Nautica de Manila
Here once stood the Escuela Nautica De Manila or better known now as the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA). Inaugurated in 1820 as a school for merchant marine officers, it opened classes for some time until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1863. It was one of the oldest institutions back then and was created by virtue of a Spanish Royal Decree through the recommendation of the Spanish Consulate of Commerce.
Plazuela De Santa Isabel
A monument dedicated to the 100,000 civilian victims of the last war in the Philippines. Now it serves as small plaza for locals and visitors of Intramuros.
Philip II, King of Spain Statue
A bronze statue that was put up during the centennial celebration of the Independence of the Republic of the Philippines in 1998.
They’ve collaborated with the Intramuros administration to promote local crafts and authentic souvenirs. It is also a great place to chill after a long walk and have merienda with a locally-grown coffee on the side.
A furniture and handicrafts store that is engaged in selling handmade products sourced from different regions in the country.
From the guardia civil, kalesa driver, parking boy attendant, vendors and even beggars on the street, locals of Intramuros are accustomed to tourists and are sure to give you a warm welcome.
Do you know that you can use some historic sites as your party venue in Intramuros?
Contact the Intramuros Administration to know more details.
You Tube Intramuros Administration
Photos property of Livph