Intramuros Travel Guide: How to Go To, Places to Visit, Things to Do
- Best Time to Go to Intramuros
- Dry Season | December – May
- Holidays | September – December
- Climate and Weather
- What to Wear
- How to Go to Intramuros
- By Taxi
- By Train
- By Bus
- By Car Booking App
- By Private Car
- Getting Around Intramuros
- Bamboo Bike
- On foot
- Where to Stay in Intramuros
- Types of Accommodations
- Neighborhoods and Areas
- Accommodation Highlights
- What to See and Do in Intramuros
- Take a closer look at the stone walls, gates, and forts
- Pass time at the public squares and notable structures
- Marvel at the architecture and faith within the churches
- Learn more Intramuros history at these museums
- What to Eat and Drink in Intramuros
- Local Cusine
- Recommended Best Restaurants and Bars
- Practical Information and Tips
- Safety Tips
- Public Transportation Tips
- What to Pack
- Sample Itinerary in Intramuros
- Day 1: Intramuros Church and History
- Day 2: A Tour of the Wall and Dinner at Bayleaf Intramuros
- Day 3: Intramuros and Manila Tour
Learn about the rich history of the Philippines with Intramuros tours that will take you around the Walled City of Intramuros in Manila! Find out which buildings, churches, plazas, and museums offer the best history lessons about the Spanish colonial era in the capital city of the Philippines. Read this travel guide to help you plan your visit to Intramuros.
Located south of the Pasig River and east of Manila Bay, the Walled City of Intramuros in Manila was built by the Spaniards some 400 years ago as their political and military base in Asia. It is one of the top tourist spots in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
Apart from the 4.5-km. wall, from where the name came from (“within the walls”), other defensive structures used to surround the city, like moats, cannons, bulwarks, and javelins. Not only did it protect Intramuros from man-made disasters, but it also fended off threats from Chinese pirates, Dutch forces, and other invaders.
See our popular Intramuros Tours
Despite being heavily influenced by Spanish architecture (think grandiose baroque church designs), renovations made also revealed its Chinese influences. Some structures, however, were not restored after the destruction of multiple wars and remained today as ruins.
Not that it became an eyesore, though. In fact, the history behind the ruins is what made Intramuros a must-see destination in Manila today, despite the modernization it has since undergone.
In addition, the rampart, fortresses, and gates from yesteryears remain accessible and are a mainstay of today’s walking tours and cultural performances for visitors who want to understand the country’s past.
Go down memory lane and learn the history within the walls. Bookmark this guide handy for planning your Intramuros tours!
Best Time to Go to Intramuros
While there are destinations in Intramuros that are under a roof, walking or biking around the walled city is still the best way to explore and learn more about its rich history. Here are the best months to take a tour of Intramuros.
Dry Season | December – May
The dry season in the Philippines can mean either cool dry or hot dry, both of which fall between December to May. Both dry seasons are also ideal times to walk around Intramuros because there’s little to no rain.
Though, be cautious of doing it between March to May, or the hot dry season, because it does get crazy hot in the city.
Holidays | September – December
With the majority of the population being of the Catholic faith, the celebration-loving Filipinos go all out for Christmas; so much so, that decorations and Christmas songs abound as early as September. The months leading up to the holidays starting in September are dubbed as the -ber months.
Not only is it fun to marvel at the outrageousness of seeing festive Christmas decorations and lights on full display even before Thanksgiving or Halloween rolls in, but it’s also the best time to visit Intramuros because temperatures are cooler.
What you need to be wary of are the traffic jams even outside of peak hours thanks to the holiday rush and possible inclement weather. After all, September–November are still part of the rainy season.
Climate and Weather
According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration, the climate in the country is divided into two: rainy and dry season.
The rainy season is between June to November, or the months when the majority of the year’s typhoons happen.
The dry season, as mentioned, is further divided into the cool dry season (December–February) or the colder months with only a few rainfalls; and the hot dry season (March–May) which is often called summer here in the Philippine when there are no rains at all.
During hot dry months, the daily temperature can go above 33°C.
What to Wear
Photo by the Philippine Department of Tourism
If you’re planning to visit during the cool dry months or holidays, opt for comfortable sneakers or sandals for footwear. Carrying an umbrella wouldn’t hurt, especially if light showers are expected. Bring a jacket or raincoat to protect yourself from the rain or low temperatures at night, too.
For visitors during hot dry months, make sure to wear light clothing, especially if you’re planning to do a walking tour. Expect to sweat it out, so bring towels, handkerchief, umbrella, and a change of clothes. Of course, stay hydrated and always bring a bottle of water to drink.
How to Go to Intramuros
Since Intramuros is in the heart of the bustling city of Manila, land transportation is the most convenient means of getting there. But if you’ll be coming from locations outside Metro Manila or another country, don’t fret, it is still very accessible thanks to its proximity to airports and terminals.
There are two international and domestic airports near Intramuros: Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Parañaque (for Terminal 1) and Pasay (for Terminals 2, 3, and 4) and Clark International Airport in Pampanga.
- Read our guide on airports in the Philippines
For visitors coming from other domestic and international locations, opt for flights that will land on either NAIA or Clark for faster access to the city of Manila.
From any of these airports, you can then take some form of land transportation to get to Intramuros.
The easiest and most convenient way to go to Intramuros is by hailing a taxi cab. Taxi cabs in Manila have a flag down rate in addition to the distance rate. The prices may be relatively cheap, but considering the heavy congestion of traffic in Metro Manila, you’ll likely incur quite a hefty fare.
However, if you can’t be bothered to transfer from one transport to another or walk for minutes to reach the destination, hailing a cab is the best option.
From NAIA or other cities in and around Metro Manila
There are three kinds of taxis you will find in NAIA: regular (white, metered cabs with fixed flag down and per kilometer rates), coupon (blue-marked white taxis dispatched by airport personnel with a fixed price), and yellow airport (metered taxi with fixed flag down and per kilometer fees that are twice the price of the regular).
Be very careful and ask questions first before getting into any of the cabs in the airport.
See our popular Manila Transfers
From Clark and other nearby provinces
Unfortunately, this one isn’t recommended due to the high fare you will incur (the chances of finding a driver willing to take you to such a faraway place is very low anyway).
Your best bet is to take a bus—different bus lines have terminals and stops around Metro Manila where you can get off, with the closest ones in Manila itself and Pasay City.
The three main train lines running in Metro Manila can take you near Intramuros: Light Rail Transit (LRT) 1 and 2, and the Manila Metro Rail Transit.
Anyone coming in from nearby cities or provinces can get off the station nearest to them and still reach Intramuros because all three lines are connected.
MRT and LRT1 connect at Baclaran and North Avenue Stations, MRT and LRT2 meet at Araneta-Cubao, and LRT1 and 2 are joined at Doroteo Jose.
The station closest to Intramuros is the LRT1 Central Terminal Station. LRT1 runs from Baclaran to Monumento.
Although it is the nearest, you still need to do a big deal of walking to get to the eastern side of Intramuros, that’s why some opt to hail a cab from here.
If you do decide to walk, head to the Manila City Hall first, then take the pedestrian underpass that will help you get across to Padre de Burgos Street.
Upon exiting, you'll see Victoria Street, which will lead you right into Intramuros. From here, you’ll have to walk to reach the western side where many of the sights are located.
Buses are the best way to get to Intramuros, Manila if you’re coming from farther places, although there are also bus lines that loop just around Metro Manila.
Keep in mind that there is no public transportation that stops directly in front of the gates itself, so you still need to do some walking from the closest unloading areas.
You can take the Airport Loop buses in any of the NAIA terminals. Stops include Baclaran, Pasay Rotonda, and Taft Avenue stations of the LRT and MRT. You can ride the LRT line from any of these stations and get off at Central Station to get closer to Intramuros.
From Clark and other neighboring provinces
Nearby provinces all have bus lines that stop or pass through Manila. Many of them may not directly have a stop close to Intramuros, but you can always take a cab or jeep, or get off at the nearest LRT station, to get to Intramuros.
By Car Booking App
An excellent alternative to hailing a cab is to book a car through the ride-hailing app Grab. Grab Philippines also offers a GrabTaxi (a regular metered taxi) and GrabShare (carpooling option).
A huge saturation of Grab cars are in Metro Manila, so you’re sure to book one if you’re already here and want to reach Intramuros (though you will have a hard time booking during peak hours).
Unfortunately, Grab cars are rare in more rural areas. In addition, even though there are other ride-hailing apps in the country like Owto or MiCab, they are not as prominent as Grab.
By Private Car
Getting a car rental in Manila and driving yourself is possible. Book a car in advance, or you can avail of one if you arrive through NAIA Terminals 1, 2, or 3. Just make sure you have the requirements to rent a car in the Philippines. Be mindful that traffic in Manila is no cakewalk—you’ll need patience and skills.
Getting Around Intramuros
Despite its relatively small land area (approximately 67 hectares), it can still get tiring to explore the entirety of Intramuros in one day on foot.
While you can definitely walk to sights that are at least 10 to 15 minutes away from each other, such is still quite a feat if you’re planning to explore different locations in a day, especially under the sweltering heat.
Fortunately, different kinds of public transport are still available within the walled city, either take you from point A to point B with ease or let you experience some sort of blast from the past or a look into the future.
Pedicabs are almost similar to tricycles, but think bicycle instead of a motorcycle. They are comparable to rickshaws, with a side compartment attached on one side of the bike. And, like tricycles, pedicabs are often used to pass through inner, narrower roads.
In Intramuros, pedicab terminals are everywhere. If there’s a line, line up and wait for your turn to be serviced. You can also hail and ride if you happen to spot one while strolling, as long as there’s no passenger in it, of course.
Unfortunately, its small size only has space capacity for two small people. There are also pedicabs that you can rent to take you to all the sights—after all, the drivers should be knowledgeable about the place.
Horse-drawn carriages or kalesa/karwahe were prominent in the 18th century. Understandably, today, it isn’t the most efficient land transportation anymore; and so, these remnants of the past are now mainly used for tourism purposes only.
Riding a kalesa is perfect for a leisurely, old-fashioned trip around Intramuros. Similar to pedicab drivers, the kalesa’s coachman can also guide you to the sights you want to visit when you book a kalesa tour in Intramuros. Kalesas can accommodate 1–3 passengers.
If the kalesa ride lets you experience the golden years of the humble carriage, then a ride in the modern e-trike should snap you right back into the present time. The three-wheeled electric vehicles (EV) were launched in 2016 and stop at 13 spots with the trip spanning around in 25 minutes.
The stops are as follows: Round Table, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, San Diego Gardens, the office of the Department of Labor and Employment, San Agustin Church, Manila Cathedral, Plaza Roma, Lyceum of the Philippines University, Mapua University, Manila High School, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, National Press Club, and the office of Bureau of Immigration.
Aside from regular trips, the EVs can also be chartered for a tour around the historical landmarks of Intramuros.
Tickets can be bought at booths located near Manila Cathedral, Casa Manila, Round Table, Manila HS, Lyceum, and Bureau of Internal Revenue office.
Photo by Travels With A Hobo
While it does sound like fun to roam around Intramuros on a bike—one made of bamboo, to boot—the only way to do so is to join an Intramuros tour. Bambike Ecotours offers this one-of-a-kind bamboo bike tour in Intramuros that is both exciting and educational.
Bambike is a socio-ecological enterprise, with the bicycles being made by the “Bambuilders” of Gawad Kalinga, a community development organization for the poor.
If you’re up for the challenge, grab an Intramuros map and do a walking tour from one attraction to another. Aside from the unpredictable weather, you also need to mind the cars passing by, as some streets almost have no pavements for pedestrians to walk on. This means that you have to share the road with automobiles.
Where to Stay in Intramuros
Photo by Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros
Because the space inside Intramuros is somewhat limited, it only makes sense that only a few accommodations will be available for those who would like to stay within the walls for the entirety of their trip—some are even on the pricey side. However, there are more options beyond the walls.
Types of Accommodations
There is a lot of activity happening in Intramuros, Manila, or just about any district or city in the Metro.
However, the capital city never neglects tourism, so whatever kind of traveler you are: a backpacker with enough in the pocket or perhaps a seasoned traveler who saved up for a week-long exploration, there’s bound to be an ideal lodging option for you inside and outside Intramuros.
Both budget and high-end hotels can be found here in Manila—in fact, Manila Hotel, one of the most prominent names in luxury accommodations—is very close to Intramuros. However, being one of the main tourist attractions of the country, Manila caters to penny-pinchers and budget travelers, too.
Apartment and Condominium Units for Rent
Rentable units around Intramuros can be found mostly on Airbnb. There are a lot of condominiums and apartments in Manila, mainly thanks to the recent boom of the real estate industry.
Many of these rooms can be rented out for different reasons, making it an affordable option for tourist lodging.
Neighborhoods and Areas
Intramuros is one of the 16 administrative city districts of Manila and belongs to the fifth of the six congressional districts.
It shares the same congressional district as Ermita, Malate, Southern Paco, Port Area, and San Andres Bukid. These six administrative districts cover 11.56 sq. km. of the total land area of the city.
With that said, if you’re on the hunt for accommodations closest to the walled city, you’re better off choosing one in Ermita which has the most diverse choices near Intramuros.
Ermita is a district of significance not only because it is the civic seat of Manila, but also because it is a vast financial, educational, cultural, and commercial hub.
Located in the central area of the city, it was a posh neighborhood with large mansions during the early 20th century alongside the district of Malate. However, both were bombed during WWII and reconstructed for commercialization.
The district is now known for housing the city government in Manila City Hall, the judicial arm of the Philippine government (Supreme Court of the Philippines, Court of Appeals, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Justice), and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines headquarters.
Of course, one shouldn’t forget that Ermita is where Rizal Park is located. The widest urban public park in the Philippines, this is where the monument of the national hero Jose Rizal stands.
Other places of cultural and social importance here are the National Museum, National Library of the Philippines, National Archives of the Philippines, Quirino Grandstand, Manila Ocean Park, and Philippine General Hospital.
Because of these sites and a few restaurants and bars catering to travelers, it’s no surprise that Ermita also houses quite a few hotels and accommodations ready to play host to visitors of the city.
When compared to Ermita’s lure, the Port Area district can look quite lucklaster. While it may not have swanky party places or museums showcasing significant artworks, the Port of Manila is still highly relevant to the city in terms of trade and finance.
This is also where the Philippine Ports Authority is headquartered. Despite that, looking for a place to stay here may prove quite challenging.
Because Manila is one of the centers of tourism in the country, hotels and other accommodations in the city make sure that their guests are well-taken care of.
They may all have their own brand of hospitality, but they also share the same warmth for their guests that the Filipinos are known for.
Keep your money for more important activities and get accommodation that won’t eat up your budget. Here are some picks both within and beyond the walls.
White Knight Hotel Intramuros
Photo by White Knight Hotel Intramuros
Despite being a hotel inside Intramuros, room rental in White Knight Hotel is quite budget-friendly. But aside from having a nearby lodging, located just inside Plaza San Luis Complex, White Knight Hotel also has a tie-up with Club Intramuros for a golf package. It’s also a great place to hold weddings and birthdays.
Casa Bocobo Hotel
Photo by Casa Bocobo Hotel
If you want somewhere even cheaper, go out of the walls and into Jorge Bocobo Street in Ermita for Casa Bocobo Hotel. For an affordable price, you can have basic conveniences like air-conditioning in your room, Wi-Fi, cable TV, orthopedic bed, and even a buffet breakfast.
In addition, shopping malls, historic landmarks, and other places of interest are all just walking distance from it.
If you're looking for more than enough services without breaking the bank, these mid-range accommodations should cost you a little bit more, but you’re sure also to get you more bang for your buck.
Photo by Hotel H2O
Located on the waterfront and just beside the Manila Ocean Park, Hotel H2O is a few minutes away from Intramuros but is an ideal accommodation for those who also want to explore other parts of Manila, especially those bringing along their children.
Rooms and common areas in Hotel H2O are all equipped with Wi-Fi. Other conveniences include LCD TVs with cable channels, pillowtop, and 24-hour room service.
In-room massages, hypo-allergenic bedding, and iron and ironing board can also be requested. For those looking to relax, there is a café and lounge, as well as a poolside bar.
Photo by Luneta Hotel
The hotel itself is a historic landmark that has since undergone countless renovations. While it may not be as vast as the other hotels in this list with only 27 rooms, Luneta Hotel still offers quality service for the right prices.
There’s complimentary Wi-Fi for both rooms and public areas, LED TV with premium channels, and minibars. If you want to drink outside your room, there’s both a café and bar/lounge here. Staff can also help arrange tours for you, and the hotel has a nightly turndown service.
Don’t be afraid to splurge all you want—if you have the money for it!—at these high-end hotels in and around Intramuros.
Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros
Photo by Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros
The boutique Bayleaf Hotel is run by the Lyceum of the Philippines University for the benefit of their Hotel and Restaurant Management students.
The Bayleaf's rooftop, where one of their restos Sky Deck is located, is one of the hippest chill-out places in Intramuros with the best view of the Manila sunset.
Each of its 57 rooms comes with high-quality beddings, mini-bar, safety deposit box, a 32-inch LCD TV, Wi-Fi, and many other amenities. Aside from Sky Deck, there are also other restos in Bayleaf Intramuros, making it an ideal stop for traveling gourmands.
Photo by Manila Hotel
Perhaps one of the most prominent five-star hotels in the Philippines, Manila Hotel has been the home to Filipino elites and International names alike. Its amenities are just as luxurious as the grand chandelier hanging in the main lobby, the hotel's centerpiece.
All 515 rooms are equipped with Wi-Fi, iPod docking stations, 42-inch TVs with premium cable channels, and deep-soaking bathtubs to end your day on a bubbly note.
There are six restaurants where you can get your fill, including swim-up and poolside bars. For fitness enthusiasts, there are aerobics, yoga, and pilates classes that you can avail of.
What to See and Do in Intramuros
The walled city isn’t that big, and compared to other tourist destinations in Metro Manila, there are limited activities and sights that you can go to within the walls.
However, the great thing about exploring Intramuros is that every site that you go to is rich in significant history, and they’re just a walk away from each other, to boot.
Take a closer look at the stone walls, gates, and forts
Video by the Philippine Department of Tourism
A visit to Intramuros isn’t complete without getting close to what made it so celebrated—the stone wall, garrison, and fortification that protected the colonizers and elites who once lived here. These strongholds still enclose the city today, with only a small stretch open near the Pasig River.
The most popular of the forts would have to be Fort Santiago in the northwestern end. It’s the former seat of power of the Spanish military, where many prisoners were taken into its jails and dungeons.
The most popular prisoner is Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero. Rizal spent his last days in Fort Santiago before he was ultimately executed in December 1896 at the nearby Luneta Park.
Nowadays, the fort is visited for its iconic gate featuring an image of St. James the Moor-slayer, the patron saint of Spain, and the Rizal Shrine, a museum dedicated to its most recognized inmate.
Other forts that you can visit include Baluarte de San Diego (the oldest one, which surrounds the remains of what used to be the fort of Nuestra Señora de Guia), Puerta de Isabel II, Puerta de Santa Lucia, Baluartillo de San Jose and Reducto de San Pedro, Puerta Real and Revellin de Real del Bagumbayan, Baluarte de San Andres, Baluarte de San Gabriel, and many others.
See our popular Fort Santiago Tours
Pass time at the public squares and notable structures
Because it used to house the select few back in the day, it’s no surprise that there are many public squares inside Intramuros where people can spend their leisure time. From then until now, Plaza de Roma is considered the most popular of these town squares.
Plaza Roma is bound by other notable destinations such as the Manila Cathedral, Palacio del Gobernador, and Ayuntamiento.
It’s considered as the city’s plaza mayor or main square, where many public events like bullfights were held. It was turned into a garden in 1797, with a monument of King Carlos IV of Spain at the center. The king was regarded for having dispatched a shipment of smallpox vaccine to the Philippines.
While you’re at it, you can also visit the Ayuntamiento and marvel at its neoclassical design. Once the seat of Manila's city council, it reportedly had a very grand interior that it was nicknamed the Marble Palace.
Sadly, it’s been damaged by earthquakes and wars until only parts of its first story survived. It’s been rebuilt three times over the past four centuries and now houses the Bureau of Treasury office.
Other squares and buildings that you can visit include the Palacio del Gobernador, Plaza Moriones, Plaza México. Plaza Sto. Tomas, and Plazuela de Sta. Isabel, where a memorial monument for the civilian victims of World War II is located.
Marvel at the architecture and faith within the churches
As the Spaniards were responsible for the burgeoning of Christianity in the Philippines, it also made sense for Intramuros to house a few churches where the colonizers living inside can continue practicing their faith. The two most notable are Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church.
The Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception or Manila Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, making it one of the most important churches in the country.
Since its inception in 1581, the church has been renovated and restored multiple times (most remarkably after the 1945 Battle of Manila), with the current style being Neo-Romanesque. It was consecrated in 1958.
When it comes to steadfastness, though, the Intramuros church that stands tall is San Agustin Church.
Consecrated in 1607, it reportedly survived WWII and is said to be the oldest stone church in the Philippines. Miguel López de Legazpi, the first Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines, is buried near the high altar of the church.
San Agustin Church is the epitome of Spanish Baroque style with its Trompe-l'œil ceilings and high altar. Its rich history made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 under the group Baroque Churches of the Philippines.
Learn more Intramuros history at these museums
When in Intramuros, it is a must to learn as much as you can not only about the rich history of the walled city but also of Manila as a whole—and there’s are no better locations to educate yourself than in these Intramuros museums.
San Agustín Museum
Photo by San Agustin Museum
Houses a collection of Spanish colonial-era ecclesiastical garments, sacred vessels, manuscripts, wooden and ivory statues, Dominican paintings and sculptures, and many other religious relics.
Light and Sound Museum
In this interactive museum, visitors can experience Philippine history under the Spanish rule and the life of Rizal through images, sounds, and animatronics.
Here, you get to learn the history and contributions of the Chinese-Filipino community, including those who aided the Filipinos revolution against the Spaniards.
It houses other galleries, too, like the Bahay na Bato (Chinese settlement in Manila), Ching Ban Lee Ceramics Gallery, Martyrs Hall, and Batang Tiaong.
Video by the Philippine Department of Tourism
The place can be best described as a recreation of the home of a typical upper-class family in the 18th century, or the Ilustrados.
These are the highly-educated and wealthy class who wielded great influence both in the government and the masses. The casas are filled with furniture, artwork, and other artifacts from the colonial era.
What to Eat and Drink in Intramuros
When in Intramuros, dining is more about the ambiance and overall experience rather than the diversity and creativity in food choices.
Sure, some establishments serve international dishes (after all, Manila is a melting pot of various cultures) that foreign visitors may find familiar, but ultimately, the best way to enjoy your Intramuros food trip is to go for local favorites that offer both traditional Filipino cuisine and cultural experience.
In terms of local cuisine, Intramuros doesn’t really have much to offer unlike other provinces in the country. There’s no harm in going beyond the walls and trying the Chinese favorites through a Binondo food trip if you’re bent on having a journey for your taste buds in Manila.
See our popular Binondo Tours
The next best thing, though, would be to try these Intramuros restaurants offering traditional Spanish and Filipino dishes.
Barbara's Heritage Restaurant
Restaurateur Barbara Gordon-De Los Reyes from Olongapo brought her ideas to the walled city and opened Barbara’s, serving buffet lunch to hungry officegoers in Intramuros.
Located in Casa Manila, the restaurant offers traditional Filipino and Spanish recipes, as well as European-inspired dishes. Meanwhile, its ground floor houses an outdoor coffee shop serving sandwiches and other snacks.
Outside of food, Barbara’s became well known for hosting a cultural show at night. Known as Kultura Night, it aims to give guests—especially foreign visitors—a glimpse of what Filipino culture is like through a traditional form of entertainment.
Members of the Folklorico Filipino Dance Company would dance the Singkil of Mindanao, Tinikling of Visayas, Pandango sa Ilaw of Luzon, and other traditional dances to the beat of Filipino folk songs. Buffet customers get to watch the 45-minute show free.
Photo by Ilustrado Restaurant
Opened in 1989, Ilustrado has been regarded as one of the best restaurants in Intramuros—and it’s no surprise as to why.
The restaurant, set in an old, restored Spanish-era house with an Old Manila setting, is lauded for their take on what some may call the Philippine national dish, adobo.
Photo by Ilustrado Restaurant
Ilustrado’s has the Adobong Bagnet and Prawns with Taba ng Talangka—pork belly is simmered in six spices and sauce mixed with crab fat until tender. The heart-stopping dish holds a tag that reads “Please Be Careful with My Heart” on the menu.
Then, there’s the Sampaguita Ice Cream, a dessert made with the national flower of the country. The ice cream literally has petals of Sampaguita in it.
Aside from that, diners can expect traditional Spanish dishes like Paella join Salmon, Duck and Lamb Chops, and many others. It’s also close to Kuatro Kantos Bar, a coffee shop for art enthusiasts.
Recommended Best Restaurants and Bars
Outside of the colonial-era inspired restaurants, and fast-food or hole-in-the-walls that cater to the hunger pangs of the students from nearby campuses, there are other food stops in Intramuros that you can try.
Ristorante Delle Mitre
Photo by the Philippine Department of Tourism
A restaurant owned by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Ristorante Delle Mitre is located in the CBCP building across San Agustin Church.
Named after the tall headdress worn by bishops and senior abbots, the restaurant offers the favorite dishes of priests and bishops across the country—and even named the food after them!
For instance, you can order the Father John Christian Young’s Sinigang na Crispy Pata, Father Beltran’s Tuna Belly with Mashed Potatoes, and Monsignor Dennis Villarojo’s Seafood Pasta with Marinara Sauce.
The menu is a selection of Spanish, Italian, and local dishes. In addition, nuns would often help in the Mitre kitchen.
There are different kinds of restaurants located inside The Bayleaf, one of which is 9 Spoons. It may be offering a chic and casual dining experience and a panoramic view of the Manila skyline and Intramuros Golf Course, but it is the heritage Filipino dishes that you should be on the lookout for.
Do try the Bayleaf All Day Tapa and Kare-kare for a taste of home, or international flairs like wood-fired pizzas, pasta, and sandwiches.
Photo by Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros
Another Bayleaf Intramuros restaurant that offers both an impressive menu and sights is Sky Deck. Located at the rooftop of the hotel, its setting gives diners a 360-degree view of the city of Manila.
Needless to say, the best time to get a table here is at sundown, when you can watch the majestic Manila sunset.
The alfresco style restaurant also serves the legendary Bayleaf Tapa with garlic rice and eggs, but also do try their pasta dishes and Filipino-style desserts like the Ensaymada Pudding—ensaymada with crème anglaise and mango balls.
Coco Bango Café
Located inside White Knight Hotel, Coco Bango Café is a favorite among the locals. The menu is quite extensive, with Filipino, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and European-inspired dishes.
What patrons go loco for, though, is the classic Beef ala Bulalo (especially during rainy days) and the Inihaw na Pusit, which the perfect bar chow.
Practical Information and Tips
Much like traveling anywhere in the world, planning your itinerary for Intramuros also requires a lot research beforehand. Here are a few practical tips that may just make your stay in Manila a little safer and smoother.
The national language Filipino is the most common language spoken here, though you may expect to find a few people who can also speak other Philippine dialects.
Foreign visitors need not worry as a huge majority of Filipinos can also speak and understand basic English, and the tour guides will definitely do the tour in English if need be.
Understandably, you will need to check your foreign currency exchange first before traveling to the Philippines.
These can be exchanged to Peso (Php) in the airport if you want to be sure, but you can always find forex in malls or just pay in credit card if you’re in a major establishment.
Small bills in Php 20, 50, and 100 are preferred when paying in small-time vendors or riding public transportation.
Filipinos are friendly and hospitable, but just like any other place, there are a few rotten apples among the bunch, too. Avoid being deceived into losing something essential to you and use smart judgment when dealing with people.
Petty crimes are rampant in the city, so always mind your belongings anywhere you go. If you need help, the best people to ask are the police and security guards, if available.
In terms of environmental dangers, always check the news for weather updates before planning your activities in Manila to avoid falling victim to inclement weather.
Public Transportation Tips
The horrible traffic congestion in the Philippines is no secret. Although there’s not much road congestion within Intramuros, you can still experience it once you go beyond the walls.
The best way to keep calm in such situations is to allot at least an hour for land travel if you want to go around Manila.
If you’re taking any train lines, be also warned that it gets really crowded during rush hour or between 7 AM to 9 AM, and 5 PM to 9 PM. Try to travel during off-peak hours, instead.
What to Pack
Aside from your essentials (i.e. passport, other ID cards, money, etc.), you may also want to bring a smartphone and pocket Wi-Fi (or buy a local SIM for data), so you can find your way if needed.
Unfortunately, not all public areas in the Philippines has free Wi-Fi, so it’s better to bring your own.
As already mentioned, pack light clothing and comfortable walking shoes. If you’re expecting rains, bring your umbrella and jacket or raincoat to protect yourself.
If the weather is going to be sunny, a change of clothes, towels, and lots of drinking water are imperative.
Sample Itinerary in Intramuros
Since the walled city isn’t that vast, to begin with, a day or two is more than enough to see its notable locations. However, if you want to also get an overview of its neighboring districts and other parts of Manila, you would want to stay for one more day.
Make sure, though, to allot at least an hour for traveling to your next destination, especially if you have to take public transportation—and don’t forget your Intramuros map!
Day 1: Intramuros Church and History
08:00 AM - Fort Santiago and Rizal Shrine
10:00 AM - Plaza Roma: Manila Cathedral, Ayuntamiento, and Palacio del Gobernador
12:00 NN - Lunch at Coco Bango Café
01:00 PM - Casa Manila
02:00 PM - Bahay Tsinoy
04:00 PM - San Agustin Church and Museum
07:00 PM - Dinner at Barbara’s
Day 2: A Tour of the Wall and Dinner at Bayleaf Intramuros
08:00 AM - Plazuela de Santa Isabel
08:30 AM - Puerta de San Lucia
09:00 AM - Light and Sound Museum
11:00 AM - Baluartillo de San Jose
12:00 NN - Lunch at Ilustrado
01:00 PM - Baluartillo de San Diego and Puerta Real
02:30 PM - Baluarte de San Andres
03:30 PM - Puerta del Parian
04:00 PM - Puerta de San Isabela II
05:00 PM - Bamboo Bike tour with sunset viewing at Sky Deck
Day 3: Intramuros and Manila Tour
08:00 AM - Rizal Park
10:00 AM - National Museum tour
01:00 PM - Lunch, walking tour, and souvenir shopping at Binondo
04:00 PM - Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church)
06:00 PM - Dinner and bar-hopping at Malate
Explore the Walled City of Intramuros
Up to now, renovations and improvements are still being made to maintain and reinforce the aesthetics and timelessness of Intramuros. It’s always a good idea to come back and experience what’s new if it’s something you look forward to.
Intramuros is a constant reminder for Filipinos that there is beauty amidst the chaos—perhaps not in terms of looks, but being able to withstand the harsh conditions of history and time, and to grow from it, are still worth celebrating.
It may be a city heavily guarded by fortifications, but its rich history is something that should be placed front and center for the world to see. This is why Intramuros is one of most famous destinations in Manila tours.
Go on a nostalgia trip and see for yourself what makes Intramuros such a unique location. Intramuros tours and activities are available all year round for you to enjoy.
Best Palawan Guide: Top Tours, Where to Stay, How to Get Around
20 Most Beautiful Sandbars in the Philippines: White Sand, Longest, Vanishing
11 Best Santorini-Like Resorts in the Philippines: Near Manila, Cebu, Palawan, Vigan
15 Best Tropical Bali-Like Resorts in the Philippines: Near Manila, Siargao, Cebu, Bohol
Other interesting articles
Travel Insurance in the Philippines Guide: Coverage, How to Choose, TipsThe Philippines, located in Southeast Asia, is home to over 7,000 islands with beaches, mountains, volcanos, waterfalls, caves, and other natural wonders. Because of the unique Philippine geography, t...Read more
Best Golf Courses in the Philippines: Manila and Nearby, Boracay, CebuPhotos by Sta. Elena Golf & Country Estate (left) and Fairways and Bluewater Boracay Resort Golf and Country Club (right) When you think of the Philippines, the first things that usually come to mi...Read more
20 Most Unique Hotels in the Philippines: Floating Houses, Campers, TreehousesPhotos by Paolyn Houseboats/The Airstream Airbnb IMPORTANT: The unique and Instagrammable hotels and resorts featured in this article may have COVID-19 travel restrictions and requirements. Check o...Read more