The colonial heart of Manila, Intramuros—which means “within the walls”—is the capital’s oldest district and home to some of its most impressive historic monuments. Founded by the Spaniards in the 16th century, the gigantic stone citadel is surrounded by impressively preserved city walls, stretching for almost 3 miles (5 kilometers).
Many Manila city tours include a visit to Intramuros, and a walking tour is a popular way to explore the many historic attractions within the walls. Highlights include the mighty waterfront Fort Santiago, home to the Rizal Shrine, a tribute to Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal; San Agustin Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest churches in the country; the 16th-century Manila Cathedral; and the fascinating Casa Manila Museum. Leave plenty of time to browse the souvenir and handicraft shops, and enjoy a coffee at one of the lively cafés, too. Some excursions combine a tour of the city with an evening dinner cruise.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Parts of Intramuros are pedestrianized, but pedicabs and horse-drawn carriages (calesas) are also popular ways to get around.
- There is no admission to enter the Intramuros district, but attractions, such as Fort Santiago and San Agustin, do charge a small entrance fee.
- Wear comfortable shoes—roads can be uneven around the historic district.
- There are numerous shops, cafés, and restaurants located in and around the walled district.
How to Get There
Intramuros is located close to the port on the south bank of the Pasig River, and there are numerous entry points to the walled town. The closest train station is Central Terminal. Alternatively, the easiest way to access Intramuros is by taxi.
When to Get There
Make an early start to avoid the heat and the crowds, as you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking. While it’s possible to visit Intramuros at any time, most attractions close around 6pm. Be aware that museums are typically closed Mondays.
Walled City of Intramuros
Spanish governor Miguel Lopez de Legaspi founded the walled city of Intramuros in 1571. At the time, it was the entire city of Manila. With its 20-foot-high (6 meter) walls, moats on all sides, and seven fortified gateways, the 163-acre (66-hectare) citadel was impenetrable. However, the city sustained considerable damage during World War II bombings and extensive restoration work has since taken place on the walls, city gates, and many of the historic buildings.