The Walled City of Intramuros in Manila City, located south of the Pasig River and east of Manila Bay, was established by the Spaniards 400 years ago as their political and military base in Asia. It is a popular tourist destination in Manila, the Philippines’ capital.
Besides the 4.5-kilometer wall, from which the city’s name was derived, and other defensive fortifications used to surround the city, such as bulwarks, moats, cannons, and javelins. It not only kept Intramuros safe from man-made disasters, but it also kept Dutch soldiers, Chinese pirates, and other attackers at bay.
Although primarily influenced by Spanish architecture, such as massive baroque cathedral designs, renovations showed Chinese influences as well. However, some structures were not reconstructed after being destroyed by multiple conflicts and are now ruins. The ramparts, castles, and gates of yesteryear are still accessible and are a staple of today’s walking tours and cultural performances for visitors, interested in learning about the country’s history.
WHAT TO BRING FOR THE TOUR
Below are the things you can consider for your day trip adventure:
While there are some indoor sites in Intramuros, walking or biking through the walled city is still the greatest way to explore and learn about its great history. Because there is little to no rain from December to May, it is the perfect time to go around Intramuros. However, avoid doing it between March and May, particularly during the hot dry season, because it can get extremely hot in the city.
HOW TO GO THERE
Near Intramuros, there are two international and domestic airports, NAIA that is Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Paranaque for Terminal 1, Pasay for 2, 3, and 4 Terminals, and Clark International Airport in Pampanga. Visitors arriving from other local and international areas can choose planes that land at either NAIA or Clark for quicker reach to the city of Manila.
Hailing a taxicab is the quickest and most convenient way to get to Intramuros. In Manila, taxi cabs charge a flag-down fee along with the distance charge. Although the fares are reasonable, given the intense traffic in Metro Manila, you will almost certainly pay a high fare.
In NAIA, you will find three types of taxis such as regular, which are white, metered cabs with fixed flag down and per km rates, coupon, which are taxis of blue-marked white dispatched by airport personnel with a fixed price, and yellow airport, that is metered taxi with the fixed flag down and per km fees that are double the price of the regular one.
It is feasible to rent a car in Manila and drive yourself. You can reserve a car in advance, or you can use one if you arrive at NAIA Terminals one, two, and three. Just keep in mind that traffic in Manila is not easy, patience and competence are required.
The LRT1 Central Terminal Station is the station nearest to Intramuros. LRT1 connects Baclaran and Monumento. Although it is the closest, getting to the eastern side of Intramuros requires a significant amount of walking, which is why some people choose to catch a cab from here.
If you prefer to walk, then proceed to Manila City Hall, then take the pedestrian underpass that will take you to Padre de Burgos Street. When you depart, you’ll find Victoria Street, which will take you directly into Intramuros. You’ll have to walk from here to the western side, where many of the attractions are.
THINGS TO DO
Intramuros’ fortifications are divided into two sections: the front seeing the sea and the river, which were less intricate and complex, and the three-sided land front with its corresponding bastions. Fort Santiago was built as a castle near the northwest tip of the island, where the sea and river meet. Throughout Philippine history, Fort Santiago has played an important role as a military headquarters for the British, United States, Spanish, and Japan.
The triangle fort of Fort Santiago has bastions on each corner. The Baluarte de Santa Barbara overlooks the bay and the Pasig River; the Baluarte de San Miguel sees the bay, and the Medio Baluarte de San Francisco overlooks the Pasig River.
Before the American Revolution, the city was entered through 8 gates, or Puertas, from Fort Santiago – clockwise. 3 of the gates were completely demolished. The American engineers destroyed two of them, that are the Santo Domingo/Customs Gate and the Almacenes Gate, when they opened up (the northern half of the walls) to the wharves. The earthquake damaged the Banderas Gate, which was never reconstructed.
VISIT THE HISTORICAL OLD CHURCHES
Because the Spaniards were responsible for the spread of Christianity in the Philippines, it became logical for Intramuros to house a few churches where the settlers who lived there could continue to practice their faith. Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church are two of the most renowned.
Have you ever thought about what life was like for Filipinos under colonial rule? Casa Manila sends you back in time to see everything. Surrounding the three stories are vintage furniture, artisan decor, fine art, and sculptures. Admire the 18-seater kitchen and the spacious courtyard. Relax near the ornamental fountain to round out your time travel adventure!
This less-known museum brilliantly portrays the contribution of Tsinoys in the history of the country from pre Hispanic to present times. The exhibits are clearly labeled and displayed. If you’re unfamiliar with Philippine history, this museum will provide you with a brief overview with lots of questions to contemplate.
Take a break from touring and visit one of Intramuros’ many souvenir shops. Manila Collectible Co., one of the capital’s premier retailers for Philippine-made items and gifts, puts the flavors of the islands such as dried mangoes, fruit wine, coffee, and palm sugars – together under one roof. Indigenous Filipino gifts like fabrics, ling-ling-o amulets, artwork, and handmade tribal crafts are also available at the store.