The Intramuros: Manila's colonial walled city

Entrance gate to the infamous Intramuros

Entrance gate to the infamous Intramuros

A definitive and characteristic site at the heart of Manila, Intramuros is one of the must see places in the city, if not the whole country. Through the ramparts of this ancient walled town are centuries of history within the crumbling old buildings, shrines and monuments. The beating heart of the Spanish colony, Intramuros is a living window into life during the early years of Manila’s inception. Here are some of the highlights of this impressive medieval quarter:

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Fort Santiago

One of the major portals into Intramuros is the imposing Fort Santiago. The ancient battlement was built way back 1571 by the Spanish conquistadors, defending Manila from marauding Chinese pirates. The fort also served as a prison and torture chamber during the Second World War. Within the historic walls are memoirs of the past as well as other cultural attractions. (Open: 08:00-18:00 (daily); Admission: adult/Php75, children/Php50; Santa Clara Street, Intramuros, Manila, tel: +63 2 527 1572)

San Agustin Church

A recognised World Heritage Site since 1993, the San Agustin Church is best known for its European appeal and long history of destruction and rebuilding.

Beside the prominent religious landmark is a quaint little museum that features some impressive Spanish Era furniture, vestments, and religious artwork. (Open: 06:30, 07:30, 17:30 (Monday-Friday), 07:00, 17:30 (Saturday), 08:00, 10:00, 18:00 (Sunday), Admission: Church: Free, Museum: requires a paid ticketGeneral Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila, tel: +63 2 527 2746, +63 2 527 4052, email:, website:

Manila Cathedral

Plaza de Roma is at the centre of Intramuros

Plaza de Roma is at the centre of Intramuros

Right in front of Plaza de Roma (about 10-15 minutes’ walk from Fort Santiago’s main gate) stands the Manila Cathedral, a historic church that has been destroyed and then rebuilt several times. It is currently the seat of Manila’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese and is considered to a very important place of worship in the Philippines. The building is one of the most impressive in the country, with its crypts comparable to the Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Cathedral. These crypts also serve as the final resting places for late Archbishops of the city.

The most recent Neo-Romanesque iteration (performed in 1958) is actually the eighth structure, following one destroyed by the war in 1945. To know more about the cathedral’s history, visit the side chapel very near the entrance, where a small exhibit lets you in on all of the notable events of its past. There are daily masses which non-Catholics are welcome to attend. (Open: daily although hours vary;  Admission: free; Cabildo St. corner Beaterio St., Intramuros, Manila, tel: +63 2 527 1796, +63 2 527 3093, fax: +63 2 536 0192, email:, website:

Bahay Tsinoy

If you already have church fatigue, it’s time to visit the museums that dot the walled city. Bahay Tsinoy is one of the most interesting in the area, featuring the historical and cultural contributions of the ‘Tsinoy’ or Filipino-Chinese community. (Open: 13:00-17:00 (Tuesday-Sunday), closed Mondays; Admission: adults/Php100, children, students/Php60; 32 Anda cor. Cabildo St, Intramuros, tel: +63 2 527 6083, +63 2 526 6796, email:, website:

Ruins of the Intendencia (Aduana)

The restored building played an important role during the Spanish colonial government, housing administrative units and customs. Damaged during countless years of war, the building was rebuilt to house the Philippines’ Central Bank, although was again destroyed by a massive fire during 1979. (Andres Soriano cor. Muralla St, Intramuros. No entrance fee)

Casa Manila

Just across the street from the famous San Agustín Church, Casa Manila is the perfect recreation of a typical colonial Intramuros home of an upper-class family. Step inside to see real antique furniture, old artwork, and many other artifacts from the old Spanish era, carefully staged to show visitors everyday life for well-off families during that period. (Open: 09:00–18:00 (Tuesdsy-Sunday), closed Monday; Admission: adults/Php75, children/Php50; General Luna St., (also called Calle Real del Palacio) corner Real St., Intramuros, Manila, tel: +63 2 527 4084).

Manila Hotel

The Manila Hotel lies on the edge of Intramuros

The Manila Hotel lies on the edge of Intramuros

Even if you are not staying in the Manila Hotel, you can still enjoy its historic architecture by simply having coffee in one of its many restaurants. The hotel was opened in 1912 just across from the main entrance of Intramuros, and has become a popular landmark since. Many famous people – including General Douglas MacArthur and Ernest Hemingway – lived there during their stay in Manila. The hotel was recently renovated. (0913 One Rizel Park 2, Manila Bay, Manila)… more details and booking

The Silahis Center

Before you leave Intramuros, buy some handmade Filipino goods from The Silahis Center. The showroom also sells books, fine art produced by Filipino artists, and antiques. (Open: 09:00-19:00 (daily); 744 Calle Real del Palacio, General Luna St, (also called Calle Real del Palacio), Intramuros, Manila, tel: +63 2 527 2111-14, fax: +63 2 527 2112, email:, website:

Barbara’s Restaurant

Barbara’s is a famous restaurant housed in a real Spanish colonial-style structure. It is right across the San Agustín Church, making it a popular venue for wedding receptions among locals. Enjoy the traditional Hispanic, Filipino, and fusion fares in this romantic, old-style setting. (Plaza San Luis Complex: Open: 10:00-22:00 (daily); Plaza San Luis Complex in Intramuros, Manila, tel: +63 2 527 3893, +63 2 527 4086. Orchidarium: Open: 10:00-22:00 (Tuesdays-Sundays) Orchidarium in Rizal Park, tel: +63 2 522 9507, website:

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