Intramuros. Town in Metro Manila, Philippines

Intramuros

Town in Metro Manila, Philippines

King Carlos IV and the Manila Cathedral Photo © Agustin Rafael Reyes

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Intramuros

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San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church
Intramuros, historically known as the Walled City, is the oldest district located at the south bank at the mouth of the Pasig River (Wikipedia Article) in the city of Manila, Philippines. History lovers find this place very interesting as it is one of the few places where they can see evidence of the Spanish era with several structures still standing.

History

Intramuros literally means “within the walls”. When Manila was formally founded in 1571, the first Governor, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, began planning Intramuros based on King Philip II’s Royal Ordinance. Completed in 1606, the high stonewalls complete with moats and bulwarks enclosed 64 hectares of land with grand churches, schools, government buildings, and residences of the Spanish and Filipino elite, or the ilustrados.

During World War II, almost all the structures were destroyed by the American and Japanese bombs. The Japanese soldiers invaded Intramuros in 1945 during the Manila Liberation and killed more than 100,000 civilians.

San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila -
	San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila. Photo by Shubert Ciencia

Landmarks

After the war, only San Agustin Church was left standing. Through the years, though, the other structures were rebuilt while other buildings were built on the site of other landmarks. Among the interesting attractions in Intramuros today are:

Manila Cathedral

Manila Cathedral - Intramuros
Manila Cathedral - Intramuros. Photo by Kokoro Kara
Manila Cathedral is located at the Plaza de Roma and is the mother of all Philippine churches. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Manila. Built in 1581, it was destroyed several times by bombings and the existing structure was completed in 1958. A Romanesque façade, gilded altars, stained glass, and a 4,500-pipe organ make this church one of the top attractions in Intramuros.

Plaza San Luis

Right across San Agustin Church is an arched portal that leads to the cobblestone streets of Plaza San Luis, an interesting commercial-cultural complex of 5 replica houses that show the different era of Filipino-Hispanic architecture. The five houses are Casa Manila, Casa Urdaneta; Los Hidalgos, El Hogar Filipino; and Casa Blanca but eventually, there will be a total of 9 houses in Plaza San Luis. There is a hotel, restaurants, souvenir shop, café, and events venue.

Casa Manila

Casa Manila Patio -
	Intramuros
Casa Manila Patio - Intramuros. Photo by Boe & Arne
Casa Manila is part of the Plaza San Luis Complex. The original house located on this site was rebuilt to be a copy of a 19th-century house located on Calle de Jaboneros in San Nicolas, Binondo (Wikipedia
	Article). Casa Manila is a museum with rooms that display 19th-century furniture typically found in the home of the privileged class or the Filipino ilustrado. Furnishings from Europe and China worth seeing are the crystal chandeliers, a four poster ebony bed; antique piano and harp, Chinese ceramics; Persian rugs, and more.

Plaza de Roma

Plaza de Roma, formerly known as Plaza Mayor, was then the main square of Intramuros. It is located right across from the Manila Cathedral and has a statue of King Carlos IV of Spain built in 1824.

Palacio del Gobernador

The Palacio del Gobernador, in Plaza de Roma, is an 8-storey building built on the exact site where the old 2-storey Palacio del Gobernador was once situated. It was the official residence and office of Spanish governors in 1645, and was once the house of a governor’s aide, Manuel Estacio de Venegas.

Jose Rizal's Cell at Fort
	Santiago - Cuarto de Repuesto - Intramuros
Jose Rizal's Cell at Fort Santiago - Cuarto de Repuesto - Intramuros. Photo by Luna Miranda

Fort Santiago

It is the most popular destination in Intramuros. Part of the original walls, the museum at the fort has a replica of Jose Rizal’s prison cell. There are also simulations of dungeons where prisoners used to be kept. The rest of the area has been transformed into a beautiful park. Two museums at Fort Santiago displays Jose Rizal's furniture from his Calamba, Lagunahouse and his literary and art works including El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere. Entrance fee to Fort Santiago is ₱75 ($1.65) for adults and ₱50 ($1.10) for children.

San Agustin Church and Museum

San Agustin Church, built in 1607, is the oldest standing church in the Philippines and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Its façade is unassuming but the interiors are beautiful which is why it is a popular venue for grand weddings. The San Agustin Museum houses interesting collections from the Spanish era. Entrance fee to the museum is ₱100 ($2.20).

Plazuela de Santa Isabel

Plazuela de Santa Isabel is a small plaza located at the back of the Manila Cathedral. It is the location of the Memorare Manila 1945, a war memorial immortalizing the killing of 100,000 civilians by Japanese soldiers during the liberation of Manila.

Colegio de San Juan de Letran

Popularly called Letran, this school was established in 1620 and is the oldest college in the Philippines. There are a total of 8 buildings in the campus.

Ayuntamiento

The Ayuntamiento was recently restored to its original look and now houses the country’s Treasury Department.

Ruins stand today as reminders of the glorious past. Some of the ruins you can see at Intramuros include the Intendencia and the San Ignacio Church which is currently undergoing rehabilitation work. What used to be 6 hectares of moat is now the 18-hole Club Intramuros Golf Course where foreign guests can play for ₱1,500 ($33) (day) or ₱2,400 ($53) (night).

Intramuros Walls - Intramuros
Intramuros Walls. Photo by Gervin Paulo Macion

Tours

You can do a tour of Intramuros on your own. Just drop by the Intramuros Visitor Center and get a copy of the map. There are guided tours being offered as well, the most interesting are Carlos Celdran’s 3-hour Classic Intramuros Walking tour at ₱1,100 ($24) or Ivan Man Dy’s 2.5-hour Old Manila Walks – Walls of This Content at ₱1,000 ($22). You can also opt to do a calesa (horse-drawn carriage), jeepney, tricycle, or bamboo bike tour of Intramuros.

Accommodations

Two hotels located right in Intramuros provide luxurious accommodations for visitors. The Bayleaf Intramuros is a boutique hotel with a penthouse restaurant providing a great view of Manila while the roof-deck bar provides a view of Manila Bay and its renowned sunset. White Knight Hotel is located right at the Plaza San Luis Complex across the famed San Agustin Church.

How to Get There

Taking a taxi is the most convenient and direct way of going to Intramuros. Those who are more adventurous can take the LRT 1 (Green Line) then a jeepney. Get off at Doroteo Jose Station and take the Baclaran/Mabini jeep, or get off at the Carriedo station and board the jeep going to the pier then get off at Intramuros, or take the Lawton/SM City Hall jeep and get off at the City Hall, cross using the underpass departing from City Hall to Intramuros.

Safety and Travel Tips

While Intramuros is the most popular historical landmark in Metro Manila, sadly, there are squatter shanties inside Intramuros with little children playing on the streets. Be wary of strangers offering to tour you around Intramuros who might charge you exorbitant rates or take you to a secluded place and rob you.

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Author: janblim. Last updated: Dec 06, 2014

Pictures of Intramuros

The Moats of Intramuros - Intramuros
The Moats of Intramuros - Photo by Luna Miranda

San Agustin Church - Intramuros
San Agustin Church - Intramuros. Photo by unknown

Memorare Manila 1945 - Intramuros
Memorare Manila 1945 - Intramuros. Photo by unknown

Colegio de San Juan de Letran - Intramuros
Colegio de San Juan de Letran - Intramuros. Photo by SeamanWell

Ayuntamiento - Intramuros
Ayuntamiento - Intramuros. Photo by Eldon

Palacio del Gobernador - Intramuros
Palacio del Gobernador - Intramuros. Photo by Krystle

San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila - Intramuros
San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila - Photo by Shubert Ciencia

Manila Cathedral, Intramuros - Intramuros
Manila Cathedral, Intramuros - Photo by Shubert Ciencia

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