Intramuros- The Old Walled City of Manila, Philippines
Intramuros is an old historic walled city within Manila, Philippines that has so much history to tell. Because of its rich history and beauty, it is a great tourist spot to visit while you are in Manila.
The word “Intramuros” is Spanish for “within the walls”. Built in the late 16th century by the by the Spanish colonial government in the late 16th century, its history includes protecting the city from foreign invasions. Guarding the old city is Fort Santiago, at the most northern point of Intramuros at the mouth of the Pasig River.
Also, Intramuros is famous in World War II history. In fact, it is the place where the occupying Japanese Imperial Army made their last stand against Americans and Filipino guerilla. The Battle of Manila in 1945 devastated Intramuros. As a result, the battle destroyed its magnificent churches, universities, houses and government buildings, most of which dates back to the Spanish Colonial Period.
After World War II, Intramorus was rebuilt back to its Spanish colonial architecture and became a historic site in 1952.
The map above specifically shows the location of Intramorus. In addition, the map shows hotels within and nearby to Intramorus. Click on the hotel markers for availability, prices and booking.
As shown, Intramorus is on the south side of the mouth of the Pasig River’s outlet to Manila Bay. Also, it is just north of Rizal Park.
The Embassy of the United States is within walking distance to Intramorus. Therefore, Intramorus is a great place to tour if you are also in the area visiting the U.S. embassy for an appointment. Actually, we went on a tour of Intramorus the day before one of my U.S. embassy appointments. Specifically, this was to get my Affidavit in Leiu of Legal Capacity to Marry as we explain in our previous blog post “Marriage in the Philippines- Steps for U.S. Citizens“.
Places to See in Intramuros
We took a tour of Intramorus in a half a day after my embassy interview with the help of a local bicycle trike tour guide.
This young man knew so much about Intromuros and bicycled us to all the sites. The cost was only about 700 php or $10. Plus, I gave him a 500 php tip because he did a great job and spend four hours with us.
He bicycled us to each of the popular sites. During the pedalling, we had great conversations with him about Intramorus history. Subsequently, he gave us history of each sites after our arrival. Then, we would visit each site for 30 minutes or so.
After visiting each site, our bicycle trike driver was waiting for us to go to the next site.
Fort Satiago was initially built by the Spanish to protect Intromuros from invasions from the sea and Pasig River.
While it was a Spanish fortress, the original log and earth fort was destroyed by invading Chinese Pirates.
After that, the Spanish reconstructed Fort Santiago with volcanic rock.
The british actually held the fort for a short time before the Spanish took control again.
Fort Santiago has beautiful manicured gardens.
Also, there are wonderful plazas and fountains leading to an arched gate and a pond.
Toward the end of the Spanish rule, Philippine hero Dr. Jose Rizal was imprisoned and executed in Fort Santiago. Dr. Rizal inspired the Philippine revolution by his writings. His writings included ideas of individual rights and freedom for the Filipino people.
Also within Fort Santiago are dungeon cell blocks. In fact, one of these is the cell that Rizal spent his last night in. Brass footprints set into the ground mark his final steps to his execution spot in 1896.
In 1898, the Americans took control of the Philippines from the Spanish. Afterwards, Fort Santiago became the headquarters for the U.S. Army. As a result, several changes were made to the fort by the Americans. For example, one change was the draining of the moats surrounding the fort. Also, the grounds became a golf course.
In 1942, during World War II, the Japanese took control of the Philippines from the Americans. The Japanese used Fort Santiago as a prison and execution area for Americans and Filipinos. In fact, many of these were caged, starved and torchered. Thousands of Filipinos were executed within the fort.
In 1945, at the end of the war in the Philippines, Fort Santiago was the last stand of the Japanese against the Americans and Filipino guerillas. Intramorus was heavily destroyed during the battle of Manila. Even today, bullet holes are seen in the walls of the fort from the battle. Hundreds of Americans, Japanese and thousands of Filipinos were killed during this battle.
Manila Cathedral is near Fort Santiago. The cathedral was heavily damaged during the Battle of Manila. After the war, it was rebuilt again.
Manila Cathedral has beautiful and detailed stone carvings and stained glass mosaics. The church has a Romanesque revival architecture.
Manila Cathedral makes a great spot for a Catholic Church Wedding. For this purpose, see our previous blog post, “Marriage in the Philippines- Steps for U.S. Citizens“.
San Agustin Church
San Agustin church is the oldest church in the Philippines. The church, built by the Spaniards in 1586, is old and beautiful. It has undergone several renovations, but the structure is the same. Inside and outside, the church is a great display of Spanish colonial architecture.
In fact, San Agustin church was one of the only surviving buildings left during the Battle of Manila. Also, the church lived through fires, earthquakes and looters.
Now, the church is a museum for all to see. Also, San Agustin church is available for weddings.
Take a tour along the walls of Intramuros and see the beautiful views of Manila and Manila Bay. Cannons are places along the walls like they were back in the Spanish colonial days.
All along the walls on the exterior and interior of Intromuros are beautiful garden areas. It is a great place for a stroll. Take in all its beauty and history.
There are several ways to tour Intromuros. Some of our recommendations include:
Bicycle Trike Tour
We took the bicycle trike tour as we missed the tour that we had on our schedule. We had fun on the trike tour. The young man knew a lot of the history and was funny.
He was always there waiting for us to go to the next site.
Find these trike tour guides on the street, but they will probably find you first.
The Intramuros Walking Tour
I was so excited to take The Intramuros Walking Tour by Carlos Celtran. However, we missed his tour because of unforseen complications. I definitely want to take his tour on our next visit to Manila.
Carlos’ tour is actually a performance.
See his website above for the tour, cost, dates, times and other information.
Places to Stay in and Near Intramuros
Hotels in Intramuros
There are only a couple of hotels in Intromuros, “within the walls”:
Firstly, the Bayleaf Intramuros is a boutique hotel inside the walls of Intramuros, Manila, Philippines. It is a great stay for travelers visiting the old wall city. Therefore, walk out of the Bayleaf directly onto the Spanish colonial era streets.
The Bayleaf Intramuros has many contemporary luxuries and conveniences.
The Bayleaf has 57 guest rooms with five-star bedding that blend style and comfort to encourage relaxation. Each one has plush beds, a 32-inch LCD TV, Wi-Fi Internet, and spacious bath with rain shower. Also, the hotel has great facilities for leisure and business. In fact, the hotel has a great ballroom, 5 meeting rooms, and 4 dining venues.
In fact, Bayleaf Intramuros is a great place for a wedding or wedding reception.
White Knight Hotel Intramorus
White Knight Hotel Intramuros is in the Plaza San Luis Complex of Intramuros Manila. It is nearby the historic Manila Cathedral and Fort Santiago.
White Knight Hotel Intramuros has a total of 29 rooms. The hotel offers attractive and comfortable rooms at a reasonable price. The hotel specifically has 4 types of rooms including the Deluxe, Standard, Suite and Executive Rooms.
All rooms have private bathrooms, personal wardrobe, desk, telephone and free WIFI internet access. In addition, rooms come with all the modern equipments to bring the convenience and safety for guests. For example, flat screen TV sets, air conditioners, refrigerators and the other necessaries are available.
Hotels Near Intramuros
There are several hotels nearby and within walking distance to Intramuros including:
Also, Manila Ocean Park is within the same building as Hotel H2O.
Bayview Park Hotel
Bayview park hotel is our recommendation for anyone that has an appointment at the US Embassy. In fact, Bayview Park Hotel is actually right across the street from the US Embassy.
See our previous “Review of Bayview Park Hotel“.
Also, Bayview Park Hotel is definitely within walking distance of Intramuros. Therefore, stay at the Bayview Park Hotel for your embassy appointment. Then walk to Intramuros to take a tour in your free time before or after your embassy appointment.