Why is Intramuros so famous?

This article was written by Grethel Rizare, who studied for five years in Manila, and who knows better than anyone else why is Intramuros so famous.

Intramuros is famous for its culture, its food, and its atmosphere. Numerous monuments can be found, like the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, or the Palacio del Gobernador. Food tourism is a famous activity in Intramuros thanks to the warm atmosphere reigning in the Walled City.

Founded in the mid-1500s during the Spanish Era in the Philippines, Intramuros is one of the most historical places in Manila. This 0.67 square kilometer site became the home for many rich Spanish families and politicians during the Spanish colonial period. Currently, you can still see great pieces of evidence of Spanish influence, making it one of the country’s most historic sites. Today, Intramuros is well protected, as you can see on the official website of Intramuros Administration.

Places to see in Intramuros

  • The Walls
  • Manila Cathedral
  • San Agustin Church
  • Palacio del Gobernador

You can also watch this virtual tour of Intramuros made possible by Andrei Julian, an Intramuros tour guide, and Asean Analytics:

Credits to ASEAN Analytics for this virtual tour guide of Intramuros

Intramuros, the famous Walled City

Intramuros is not like any other historic site which can be found in every part of the world. What makes this destination unique is its high, concrete walls surrounding it. Now, people famously know Intramuros as the Walled City. Construction of its walls started way back 500 years ago, for the purpose of protecting the city from foreign invasion.

In the past, guards could observe invaders at the top of the walls, thanks to watchtowers and huge cannons. To further strengthen its defense, Spanish soldiers placed gates at the entry and exit points of Intramuros. Today, the Filipino guards still manage the gates. They are easily recognizable because they wear uniforms designed during the Spanish period. Today, people are now free to enter and exit the area.

the famous walls of intramuros
The Walls of Intramuros. Credits to Wander Fleur

The Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church

Inside its massive, sturdy, solid walls reside a variety of religious orders such as the Dominicans, the Augustinians, the Jesuits, the Capuchins, etc. Each religious order constructed its churches inside the vicinity of Intramuros. Unfortunately, during the Battle of Manila, many churches were destroyed. These churches were rebuilt outside Intramuros. The only church which was not destroyed during the war and still exists today is the San Agustin Church, the oldest building in existence in Manila. It is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, just like Yosemite Valley or Grand Canyon, under the collective title Baroque Churches of the Philippines.

Aside from being the seat of the Archdiocese of Manila, the Manila Cathedral became one of the famous tourist destinations in Intramuros after it was restored in 1958. Nowadays, the San Agustin Church and the Manila Cathedral regularly organize weddings and events for different traditional and religious Filipino occasions. Additionally, these churches became tourist’s favorite spots in Intramuros because of the architectural designs of the buildings.

Manila Cathedral. Credits to Mara Rivera

Palacio del Gobernador

Long before the Filipinos acquired independence and took over places conquered by the Spanish colonizers, Intramuros has been the home for politicians and the center of political activities. The Palacio del Gobernador was the official dwelling of the Spanish governors-general in the Philippines before it became the main building of government agencies such as the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the Intramuros Administration. Similarly, the head offices of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Immigration, and Bureau of Treasury are situated within the walls. Because of this, Intramuros is a highly secured place making it safe for tourists to visit the area and enjoy its beauty.

Palacio del Gobernador. Credits to Palacio del Gobernador, Wikipedia

Food tourism in Intramuros

Of course, it’s boring to just roam around a tourist destination without getting something to eat. Well, Intramuros got it all for you! You will find lots of food stalls serving a wide variety of food that can really satisfy our hunger. Not only will it please our tastebuds and fill our stomachs, but will also make us open our wallet without doubting if we can still be able to pay for our travel the next day since the food is very affordable and budget-friendly.

Students in Intramuros really like “Spicy Chicken”. It costs $1.45 per serving. Combining with lemon juice that costs $0.93, it is really a super meal for students who have a tight allowance. Certainly, let’s not forget the food for dessert. For only $0.41, you can now taste the delicious ice cream from the locals. You can freely decide on a variety of available flavors. There are also well-known food chains and restaurants that we can choose from. Surely, without spending too much, you will eat enough when you visit the Walled City.

If you are into food tourism, you should also read the article about Kuching in Malaysia, or the ones about Singapore and Islamabad.

Living in Intramuros, Manila

Aside from having busy activities present inside Intramuros, little did we know that it also takes care of residential communities. Intramuros belongs to the 5th congressional district of Manila. This district consists of five different barangays namely 654, 655, 656, 657, and 658.  Since Intramuros has lots of colleges and universities sitting inside it, there are also dormitories in the area. This allows students to go home early after school instead of commuting to their houses. Indeed, it takes a 1 to 3 hours ride from school, without yet considering the traffic congestion inside Manila. And the neighborhood inside Walled City is peaceful and safe. It’s definitely different than the neighborhoods in the United States!

Studying in Intramuros, Manila

There are not only churches, apartments, and restaurants inside Intramuros. There are also different well-known colleges and universities in the Philippines. Before moving in 1927, the Dominicans established the original campus of Asia’s oldest university, the University of Santo Tomas. Also, Ateneo de Manila University’s first campus was built by the Jesuits within the area before its transfer in 1932. Some schools left Intramuros. But the place is still the home of today’s high-ranking colleges and universities such as:

  • Mapua University
  • Colegio de San Juan de Letran
  • Lyceum of the Philippines University
  • Colegio de Santa Rosa
  • Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (University of the City of Manila)

This makes Intramuros a place to both learn academic stuff and know Philippines history by witnessing the structures. If you are someone who studied in the United States, this must be something very different than what you experienced.

Being a tourist in famous Intramuros

Most travelers want to go to a certain place, away from their home, mainly for the reasons that it has beautiful sceneries, relaxing ambiance, historical sites, and such. But it is quite uncommon to hear from them the purpose of traveling to a specific location because of its people. Given the different kinds of activities present inside Intramuros, it is safe to say that Intramuros is a place for diverse personalities.

People from all walks of life come and go each day inside the walls. They don’t realize that thanks to these people, Intramuros is still present today. People are the ones that transform a bare, boring place into an awesome one. How will you know the background of historic sites inside Intramuros without the help of the local tourist guides? Sure, the internet is just one chat away to help and guide you. However, will you be able to think of searching for the place’s past at the specific moment? Well, I don’t think so.

What about the locals in famous Intramuros?

This is somehow one of the things that we take for granted when traveling to a certain area. Hospitality is one of the traits Filipinos show each day, especially to foreigners visiting their place. They are welcoming other people of different nationalities because they want to know their story. Good friendships can arise between them. That’s why it’s good to visit Intramuros. Here, you can interact with a lot of people in such a small place. Visiting Intramuros is the only thing you need if you want to socialize with a variety of people.

Sure, there are places in the different parts of the world that are better than Intramuros. Nevertheless, the things discussed above are the ones that make this Walled City unique and one of a kind. So, if you have plans on traveling to the Philippines, don’t forget to insert Intramuros on your bucket list. And definitely, you will enjoy your journey and crave for going back to this simple yet historical place.

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