All You Need To Know About Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago in Intramuros is a timeless fortress of Philippine history and culture. It witnessed centuries of Spanish colonial rule, wartime struggles, and the fight for Philippine independence. If you plan on dropping by this iconic landmark soon, below are things you should know for a richer experience.

Must-Know Facts About Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago is a prominent landmark and tourist attraction in the Philippines. If you want to have a deeper appreciation of the structure, here are fun facts you must know: 

Historical Background

If you want to glimpse Philippine history during Spanish colonial rule, we highly recommend you visit Fort Santiago, Intramuros. Before it became the oldest fortress in the country, the site was once a Muslim kingdom ruled by Rajah Soliman. In 1571, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi turned it into the Spanish military’s headquarters and built a fort made with logs. 

In 1574, the structure was destroyed when Chinese pirates led by Limahong sieged Manila. Not long after, the Spanish rebuilt the fort with stone and mud cement to reinforce it. The adobe walls that you now see were built between 1589 and 1592. Legazpi named the fort after Spain’s patron saint, St. James the Moor Slayer, also known as Fuerza de Santiago.

Since then, Fort Santiago became the headquarters of foreign occupation, including the Spanish (1571-1898), the British (1762-1764), the Americans (1898-1946), and the Japanese (1942-1945).

See also: Celebrating The 125 Years Of Philippine Independence

Cultural Significance

Since Fort Santiago served as the headquarters of several foreign occupations, it also became a prison camp. The dungeon serves as a somber reminder of how hundreds of Filipinos were imprisoned and tortured at the site.

The Philippines’ national hero, Jose Rizal, was also incarcerated in Fort Santiago before his execution in 1896. This was a significant event in the country’s history because Rizal’s death fueled the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonial rule. The site where Rizal was held prisoner is now a shrine dedicated to his life and works, making Fort Santiago a pilgrimage destination for Filipinos.


Fort Santiago is located within the walled city of Intramuros, Manila. If you’re not familiar, Intramuros is a well-preserved colonial district that was once the center of political, religious, and military power during the Spanish colonial period. Now, Fort Santiago is a popular tourist destination that’s often included in guided tours of Manila and Intramuros.

Aside from a glimpse of the past, you can also view the Pasig River from a portion of the wall. In addition, Fort Santiago is conveniently surrounded by other historical sites, such as the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, and Plaza de Roma. So, you can also check them out when you’re done at the fortress.

See also: Explore Must-See Unesco World Heritage Sites In The Philippines

Architectural Features and Design

One of the highlights of visiting Fort Santiago, Intramuros, is seeing the architectural features and design of the structure up close. The first thing you’ll probably notice about the fort is its iconic arch. It’s intricately carved with coats of arms and Grecian pillars, with a horseman presiding over it. It’s believed that the rider is an image of St. James.

Once you get inside the gates of Fort Santiago, you’ll see that the architectural style combines Spanish colonial elements with Filipino design influences. The fort features elaborate carvings, arches, and details that reflect the Baroque and Spanish Colonial Revival styles popular at the time of its construction.


Aside from learning the rich and complex history of Fort Santiago, the site also has plenty of attractions that you can explore. One is the Santiago Chapel, one of the oldest buildings on the site, which features a simple yet elegant architectural design. You can also check out the Baluartillo de San Francisco Javier. It’s a small bastion within the fort that offers panoramic views of the Pasig River and its surrounding areas.

You’ll also find various historical markers and plaques throughout Fort Santiago that provide information about the structure’s history, architectural features, and significance in Philippine history. We highly recommend you take the time to read them so you can have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the place.  

Aside from the Dungeon, the major highlight of Fort Santiago is the Rizal Shrine. It features a collection of Jose Rizal’s life, writings, and contributions to Philippine independence. You can see his personal belongings, manuscripts, and artworks that highlight his intellectual and political endeavors.

See also: Top 5 Historical Churches in the Philippines that Stand the Test of Time

Closing Thoughts

Fort Santiago in Intramuros is a cultural and historical treasure that captures the Philippines’ colonial past, struggle for independence, and rich architectural heritage. It’s also a symbol of Spanish colonial power and the resilience and spirit of the Filipino people, so it’s a must-visit for tourists and locals alike. If you plan on visiting the iconic landmark soon, we hope knowing the facts above has given you a deeper understanding and appreciation of its significance to the country’s history.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you plan on visiting Fort Santiago soon, here are answers to frequently asked questions so you’ll know what to expect on your excursion:

Is Fort Santiago and Intramuros the same?

Fort Santiago and Intramuros are not the same. Fort Santiago is the citadel that the Spanish built in 1957. It’s located inside the walled city of Intramuros, Manila.

Is it free to enter Intramuros?

Intramuros is open to the public, so you can enter the area for free. But if you want to visit one of its attractions, you’ll need to pay a fee. For instance, the ticket to Fort Santiago will cost adults 75 pesos, while senior citizens and students will get a discounted price of 50 pesos if they present their valid ID.

Can you eat inside Fort Santiago?

If you get hungry in Fort Santiago, there are various cafes inside the area where you can grab food and drinks.

Related: Great Historic Wall City: Intramuros

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