Manila | 10 Things to See and Do at The Walled City of Intramuros

Intramuros is a huge part of my work journey here in Metro Manila. My first job used to be situated in one of the historical buildings inside the walled city, the Palacio del Gobernador. But as I said in one of my previous posts, I haven't explored Intramuros much during my five years stay in the area.

Last March, a colleague from our Myanmar branch visited us here for an official function. It was her first time here in the Philippines and she told us she wants to see Intramuros. So in one of her free days, me and another colleague accompanied her on the tour. From our office in Makati, we rode the MRT and LRT lines and walk our way to Intramuros  where we took a pedicab to our first destination, the San Agustin Church.

San Agustin Church

San Agustin Church was established by Augustinian missionaries during the Spanish era. The present church structure (several churches were built/destroyed before this one) was completed in 1607 and is the oldest stone church in the Philippines. This church was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1993.

San Agustin Church also has a museum where priceless chalices and reliquaries, clergy vestments and other religious artifacts are on display. San Agustin Museum opens at 8:00AM to 6:00PM but closes on lunch break at 12:00PM to 1:00PM. Entrance is free but a donation is expected when you enter the museum.

altar of the San Agustin Church Intramuros
inside the San Agustin Church in Intramuros

Trivia: The ashes of the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the first governor general of the Philippines, and other known conquistadores are housed inside the San Agustin Church.

Manila Cathedral

Manila Cathedral, also known as Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, is the first cathedral of the Philippines. Like San Agustin Church, Manila Cathedral had undergone several constructions and reconstructions due to natural and man-made causes. The present-day Manila Cathedral is the eight cathedral built on this site and was consecrated in 1958.

Aside from historical significance of Manila Cathedral, it is also a popular church for wedding ceremonies. Several known personalities  and celebrities including Sharon Cuneta and Gabby Concepcion and Dodot Jaworski and Mikee Conjuanco took their vows in this church.

Manila Cathedral Intramuros
Manila Cathedral

Casa Manila Museum

Casa Manila Museum is a two-storey mansion located in Plaza San Luiz Complex in Intramuros. It is a replica of the old Spanish mansions found in Binondo, Manila. Casa Manila is a fully-furnished mansion that showcases the luxurious lifestyle of the affluent families in the olden days. Furnitures and fixtures inside Casa are all made of finest materials and the rooms are all big and luxurious. But of all the rooms and fixtures inside, there is this one room that will trigger your curiosity - the toilet! It has two toilet bowls companionably close to each other, you can do tête-à-tête while doing your thing. Weird eh haha!

Casa Manila Museum

Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago was built in the late 1500s to serve as fortress of the Spanish conquistadores. But before the Spaniards arrive, it is a native settlement of Raja Sulayman, one of the kings of Manila. After the Spanish regime, Fort Santiago then serves as a headquarter of the US Army to signify the American rule of the Philippines. When World War II erupts, the Japanese seized Fort Santiago and used its prisons and dungeons to imprison, torture and execute hundreds of Filipinos.

Fort Santiago is open daily from 8:00AM to 6:00PM. Entrance is 75 Php.







Rizal Shrine

Rizal Shrine showcases the life of Jose Rizal, Philippines' national hero, before and during his incarceration in Fort Santiago. It contains Rizal's memorabilia and artifacts including his writings. Also on display at the Shrine is a portion of Rizal's bone together with the bullet that struck him during his execution in Luneta.

Rizal Shrine is located inside Fort Santiago. It is open Monday, 1:00PM to 5:00PM and Tuesday-Sunday, 9:00AM to 6:00PM.  Entrance is free.

Jose Rizal Shrine, Fort Santiago, Intramuros
Jose Rizal Shrine

Kalesa Tour

One of the ways to tour around Intramuros and nearby attractions is to do a Kalesa Tour. The kutsero (the man driving the kalesa, a horse-drawn carriage) usually serves as tour guide, too. He'll tell you some bits and pieces of the history of a particular site or building within Intramuros which makes the tour more interesting and informative. The tour costs around 300 to 500 Php for a 30-minute tour. However, please note that if you step down and check out the sites and let the kutsero waiting, the entire tour would take around two (2) hours. There are some opportunist kutseros out there and they will not explain/emphasize that the tour is time-bound and will take more than 30 minutes, actually. So be prepared to haggle for the entire Intramuros tour rather than agree on a time-bound tour as the cost will go as high as 1,200 to 2,000 Php.

Intramuros kalesa
Kalesa

Bambike EcoTour

If you're an active person and knows how to bike, you can take the Intramuros bambike ecotour. Bambike is a bicycle made of bamboo and can be rented for as low as 799 Php up to 1,200 Php for a 90-minute or 150-minute tour. This is a guided tour and has specific route, depending on the bambike package tour you availed. For more details about this ecotour, check out bambike website.

Intramuros bambike
Bambike

Shopping for Pinoy Arts and Crafts

If you're a foreigner or even local tourists fond of buying souvenirs (for yourself or your loved ones), there are several stores selling Filipino arts and crafts -- pouches, wallets, bags, key chains, magnets, hats, shirts, even furnitures and fixtures -- all proudly Philippine-made. The materials used in the items being sold are usually found here in the Philippines, too, like sea shells and abaca thread.

Food Trip

Got a tough tummy? Check out and try some of the famous Pinoy street foods like fishball, tokneneng and kwek kwek; baluts are also available in the streets of Intramuros. But if you're not ready for street foods yet, there are several restaurants  located within the vicinity of the churches, you can check out those that offer Filipino dishes. On our trip, we've tried Restorante Delle Mitre, a restaurant and cafe that offers various cuisines including Filipino foods like sinigang and tinola. Restorante Delle Mitre is located just across San Agustin Church.

restorante delle mitre, grilled tuna belly
grilled tuna belly with mixed veggies
from Restorante delle Mitre


Photography

Photography enthusiast? Don't fret! There's a lot to shoot and photograph in Intramuros, from historical sites to century-old structures, manicured parks, too. You can even do sunset photography here, just climb the Intramuros walls and find a good spot for sunset. If you have the money, you can stay and dine in the Bayleaf Hotel, go to its rooftop and take the best cityscape you can get. You can also join bambike ecotours as sunset photography is one of the packages they offer.

Pasig River
Pasig River

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