Manila. There’s no other place in the country as historic and vibrant as this one. The capital city of the Philippines has been through a lot of things during its rich history. Many Filipinos lived and died to protect the freedom of our country and they are the reason why we get to enjoy every bit of beautiful things Manila has to offer.
For many years, Manila has been considered one of the world’s premier destinations given its wide array of attractions, diversity of culture, and richness of history. From a plethora of entertainment hubs to world-class hotels, gigantic malls, museums, and parks, there’s still an important piece of the city’s history that tourists from all over the world love to visit. And that is the famous “Walled City” of Intramuros.
For almost 500 years, Intramuros served as one of Manila’s most important locations. During the Spanish Era, the Walled City became the government’s center of operations, it is where the significant government offices were located and some of them are still standing to this date.
Fast forward to the future, Intramuros is still one of Manila City’s renowned landmarks. The Walled City endured the trials of time to perfectly preserve our country’s rich history so future generations can still witness and enjoy the beauty of it. For those wonderful reasons and more, Intramuros still and will always be a perfect combination of nostalgia and modernism. So, join me in this article as we discover the 12 best tourist spots in Intramuros!
1. Manila Cathedral
First on the list and certainly one of the most important is no other than the Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception also known as the Manila Cathedral.
Just like the beautiful city of Manila, Manila Cathedral has also experienced countless wars and catastrophes throughout its entire existence. The church was initially built in 1571, where it was still made of ordinary materials like nipa and bamboo. Moreover, the cathedral also hosted numerous historical events such as the famous Papal Visits of Pope John Paul II in 1981 and Pope Francis in 2015.
Aside from its rich history, the Manila Cathedral is also hailed as one of the country’s top tourist destinations because of its majestic architecture. Designed by the great Architect Fernando H. Ocampo, the breathtaking Neo-Romanesque style of the building easily captures the hearts of tourists. Making the cathedral the perfect spot to appreciate our country’s history and architectural masterpiece. No wonder why Manila Cathedral is also one of the country’s premier wedding venues. So, don’t forget to take pictures during your visit! CHECK THE BEST HOTELS IN INTRAMUROS HERE
2. Fort Santiago
Next up on the list is another significant part of our country’s history, Fort Santiago. It is a citadel built by the Spanish government in 1593. The fortress was designed to protect the then newly established city of Manila. Many lives were lost and imprisoned in this very fortress and one of those people is the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
Fort Santiago is one of the best places to escape from the hustle and bustle of Manila City. The nostalgic vibe of the fortress together with its beautifully landscaped grounds along the banks of Pasig River makes a perfect relaxing destination for everyone.
3. Explore Sites with a Bamboo Bike
Intramuros is full of countless historical sites as well as dozens of nostalgic restaurants and cafes offering exceptionally delicious menus. So, it seems unlikely that you’ll be able to fully enjoy everything the Walled City has to offer while riding a car. But don’t worry! You can always opt to tour around Intramuros while riding the famous Bamboo Bikes!
Bambike Ecotours recently introduced a new and wonderful way to explore Intramuros. For as low as P200 per hour, you can already go on a guided tour around the significant landmarks of the Walled City and you can also choose from several designs of their bikes. Amazing, isn’t it? Make sure to check out the official website of Bambike Ecotours for more information!
4. San Agustin Church
Another important part of our country’s history and religion is the Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Senora de la Consolacion y Correa or widely known as San Agustin Church. To this date, this San Agustin Church is considered to be the country’s oldest stone church, being completed in 1607.
The church’s Medieval style in architecture easily captures the hearts of many as it perfectly depicts the classic way of life our ancestors lived. The style and grandeur of the structure itself are already a sight to see for many, but wait until you see the interior! San Agustin Church was built to display the greatness of the Spanish Era that’s why countless elegant features were installed such as chandeliers from Paris, the 18th-century pipe organ, the antechoir, and many more!
San Agustin Church is definitely a must-visit destination in the city and it will always be for many years to come.
5. Baluarte de San Diego
Yet another beautiful historical landmark located in Intramuros is the famous Baluarte de San Diego. It is actually a bastion, which is a sturdy and strategic structure to repel invasion. The structure is incorporated with several curtain walls so that soldiers will have a clearer view of incoming invaders, giving them much time to counterattack.
Just like all of the surrounding landmarks in Intramuros, many lives were lost and protected in the very location of Baluarte de San Diego. So before you explore its magnificent beauty, don’t forget to pay respects to all the brave souls that once walked around it. CHECK THE BEST HOTELS IN INTRAMUROS HERE
6. Casa Manila
Next on the list is probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing locations you can ever witness in Intramuros. Casa Manila is a popular museum within the Walled City depicting the classy colonial lifestyle of Filipinos during the golden era of the Spanish government.
Casa Manila Museum is actually a reproduction of a 19th-century grand mansion that is fully decorated and furnished to perfectly depict what it was like to live as a highly-respected Filipino in the 19th century. As I’ve said, the museum contains a countless collection of several significant pieces of history including antique furniture from China and Europe. Tourists can also witness what typical affluent Filipinos’ houses would look like.
Make the most of this time to take countless Instagrammable photos as much as you can! I’m sure every corner of Casa Manila Museum has a nostalgic vibe to it. So don’t miss the chance to check it out!
7. Museo de Intramuros
Another hidden gem you can find in Intramuros and certainly, one of the new ones is Museo de Intramuros. It is a legacy project created and managed by the Intramuros Administration. The museum contains an extensive collection of religious images and relics which played crucial roles in the evangelization of Filipinos throughout the Spanish colonial era.
Museo de Intramuros is built on top of the location of San Ignacio Church Ruins. The majestic design of the museum is based on the original vision of the famous Filipino architect Felix Roxas. As I’ve mentioned, the museum houses an extensive collection of religious items over the almost 500 years Christianity has taken over the country. Spread throughout three (3) stories, you can find religious sculptures, colonial paintings, and historical representations of Intramuros.
Despite its already massive display of collections, officials have said that the Museo de Intramuros only shows 30% of its entire collection. There are still a lot more to come so make sure to support and appreciate our history and culture even more!
8. Silahis Center
It is always a delight for us Filipinos to appreciate art and culture. And one of the best places in our country to do that is no other than Intramuros. The Walled City has been a haven for everyone who wanted to witness massive collections of historical artworks and masterpieces.
Silahis Center is the main showroom of Silahis Arts and Artifacts whose main goal is to protect and promote the beautiful heritage of Philippine culture. Countless wonderful Filipino products and handcrafts were manufactured, sold, and retailed by Silahis throughout the years. Enabling them to not only promote the appreciation of our local handicrafts but also create jobs as the Silahis Center also features beautiful indigenous designs from the provinces.
The Silahis Center is divided into four (4) departments where you can witness an extensive display of traditional and cultural artifacts that are also being sold. So aside from being mesmerized by them, you can also opt to buy them as souvenirs! The 4 departments are the Silahis Arts and Artifacts, Chang Rong Antique Gallery, Tradewind Books, and Galleria de Las Alas.
To know more about their interesting collections and displays, just visit the official website of Silahis Arts and Artifacts!
9. Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant
Ah, finally! No trip is ever complete without food, am I right? Well, for our next destination, let me introduce you to the famous Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant. Aside from bringing you the best-tasting gastronomic traditional Filipino-Spanish dishes, the restaurant is also known for elevating your dining experience through beautiful cultural music and dance performances!
Barbara’s is located inside the Casa Manila Museum so guests can also explore the beautiful artifacts displayed around. There’s also a separate Attic Museum and Gallery in the restaurant so it’s safe to say that you’ll both be entertained and have your cravings satisfied at the same time!
This hidden gem of a restaurant offers a delicious buffet of Filipino and Spanish foods so I suggest that you make the most out of your experience and taste them all! Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant also serves as a bed and breakfast so for those who want to enjoy a little bit more of Intramuros, you can always book a reservation at the official website of Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant.
10. Light and Sound Museum
Oh, so you thought we’re done exploring the rich and beautiful history of Filipinos? Well, not quite yet because another hidden gem of spectacular displays of culture and history is the Light and Sound Museum.
One of the museum’s signature shows is the one retracing the footsteps of our very own national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, towards his heroic demise. In the Light and Sound Museum, visitors are guaranteed to experience a recreation history with the masterful touch of light and sound. Feel free to be mesmerized with tons of artwork, visuals, and sounds for as low as P150 per hour! Not bad, right?
11. Bahay Tsinoy
Of course, Intramuros isn’t all about the contributions of the Spanish Colonial Era in our country. It has been standing for almost 500 years now so it’s safe to say that it came across other countries too like the Europeans, other Asian countries, and most importantly, China. China has been a massive influence on our country whether we talk about culture, economy, and history.
Bahay Tsinoy has long been a museum in Manila that houses several collections of the different contributions of the Chinese in our history, culture, tradition, and economy. It houses the recognized Kaisa-Angelo King Heritage Center which is responsible for collecting such important artifacts of our culture.
You can always come and appreciate these beautiful pieces of history in Intramuros so go ahead and check them out!
12. Aduana Ruins
Lastly, we have the beautiful Ruins of the Aduana Building. This Spanish colonial structure is also known as the Aduana de Manila or Intendencia. For centuries, this establishment housed several important government offices that played a huge role in our ancestors’ lives.
To this day, the Aduana Ruins has become a popular tourist destination for its exceptionally beautiful design following a Neo-Classical touch of architecture. The appearance of the structure itself is already an attraction, but if you incorporate its historical significance, visiting the Aduana Ruins can always have a deeper meaning for some.
Intramuros has and always will be a massive part of our lives as Filipinos. It’s sort of a time capsule that enables us to go back to the past and have a look at how beautiful yet challenging life was back then. All of these while still being able to enjoy the present and appreciate the improvements taking place in our country.
Most of all, Intramuros serves as an ultimate reminder to everyone that the freedom we enjoy in the present came with a massive price. We should do our very best to appreciate it, protect it, and love it.