You haven’t seen Manila if you haven’t experienced the 16th Century Manila. If you’re landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL), make sure you find time to drop by.
Intramuros has tons of significant history to offer tourists that it’s almost impossible to explore everything at once, so for first timers, here’s a quick guide on the must-see places to see on your first visit.
The Heart of Manila’s History
During the Spanish colonization in the Philippines, Intramuros was the center of business and existence. However, the World War II damaged The Walled City greatly causing it to be unusable. The war left only San Agustin Church, out of the many churches, surviving at the end of the turmoil.
To preserve history and culture, it was restored in the 1980’s. Through the Walled City’s churches, restaurants, and museums, Intramuros now serves as a must-visit tourist destination where foreigners and visitors can immerse in the Spanish-era Manila.
The Art of Getting Around Intramuros
If you worry how to get there, well, bother no more! Intramuros is conveniently accessible via ride-hailing apps, jeepneys, cabs, or the LRT train (the Central Terminal Station is the closest stop). However, we recommend that you book via ride-hailing apps for a more comfortable trip. If you want to experience the real Manila transport system, you may take the jeepneys and train, instead!
There are two ways to enjoy your culture exposure: by riding a Kalesa or by walking. Kalesa is a horse-drawn carriage used as the main mode of transportation in Manila during the 16th century. If it is your first time, we highly recommend that you take the Kalesa (around P350/hour) for a more culture-rich experience. Plus, it’ll save you time from getting lost.
Must-visit sites for first-timers
For the first-timers, these are the must-visit places to enjoy and understand the history behind Intramuros and the rest of old Manila.
1. Fort Santiago
Fort Santiago is the oldest Hispanic stone fortress in the Philippines. But be not fooled! This age-old establishment copes up with the digital age excellently. In fact, the labels around it have QR codes to feed you with facts and information in every stop.
Address: Sta. Clara corner General Luna Street
Admission Fee: P75 for adults, P50 for children
2. Rizal Shrine
If you’re curious about the Philippine National Hero’s death then Rizal Shrine is the perfect place to discover it. Located inside Fort Santiago, it reminisces Jose Rizal’s death and narrates its story through the imprinted footsteps leading to his final breath. Don’t be afraid, because you’d be amazed by how it was artistically recrafted to preserve his heroic act throughout the generations.
Nearby are some artifacts, furniture, and other memorabilia of his life, including his two most famous novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.
Address: Inside Fort Santiago, Intramuros
3. Bahay Tsinoy
Bahay Tsinoy showcases the rich trading system of the Filipinos as early as the 16th Century. You can see giant dioramas and other historical figures, too! One of the best parts in the sari-sari store where it played an important part in their living. Up to this day, you can see sari-sari stores along the streets and homes of locals.
Make sure to drop by anytime from 1-5pm, Tuesdays to Sundays so you don’t miss out on this
Address: 32 Anda Street corner Cabildo Street
Entrance fee: P100 for adults, P60 for students
4. Casa Manila
Filipinos love turning homes into attractions, and that’s what we did for Casa Manila. It is a home-turned-museum that depicts the lifestyle of the Filipinos during the Colonial Era. The rooms and furniture are all antiques nowadays, making them all IG worthy! Be sure to take that cam out and snap some shots.
Address: Plaza San Luis Complex, General Luna Street
Entrance fee: P75 for adults, P50 for children / student / senior citizen
5. San Agustin Church and Museum
San Agustin is the only church that remained standing after the war. The government restored it and turned a part of it into a museum that now displays religious arts and artifacts. Other than that, bookworms will surely marvel at the age-old library with more than a thousand books as old as 1522! Can you even imagine touching something from the 16th century?
Address: General Luna corner Real Street
Museum Admission: P200
After your trip to the “Walled City” of Intramuros, you’re definitely taking home with you a piece of Manila. If you have more time to spare, you must definitely visit Intramuros again for another round (see this Intramuros walking tour post) as historical surprises, subtle details, and new sights are best enjoyed the second time around.