Manila‘s metropolitan facade hides some of the city’s harrowing past, including colonialism, the revolution and World War II. A visit to the historical sites in Manila, Philippines, will give you a glimpse into some of the important events the city has lived through. Here are some interesting places to visit and things to do in Manila if you’re interested in history.

Visit the Walled City of Intramuros


Intramuros is Manila’s most historic district, with a story tracing back to the 16th century during the time of Spanish colonialism. It’s also home to the Colegio de San Juan, one of the oldest, and still operating, educational institutions in the Philippines.

For this reason, walking through the city’s arched entrance is like travelling back in time. Featuring row upon row of red and grey bricks and carved wooden trims, you will discover doorways that lead to enclosed courtyards where cafes and restaurants now thrive. Here, you can explore some of the city’s hidden laneways among the maze of colonial buildings.

Today, Intramuros is one of the most visited areas of Manila, where horse-drawn carriages lead visitors around in old-world style. One of the most amazing sights in Intramuros is the baroque San Agustin church, which is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Its pale peach exterior opens into a beautifully decorated interior, with wide columns, a gold painted arched ceiling and an elaborate chandelier as its centrepiece. If there is only one building you visit in Intramuros, make it this one.


Retrace Rizal’s Last Days at Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago

Travelling down the main road of Intramuros, towards the mouth of the Pasig River, you’ll come across the imposing Fort Santiago, another outstanding attraction in Manila. It started as a palisaded fort of a Muslim chieftain during the city’s pre-Hispanic period and was rebuilt by a Spanish conquistador as a defensive fortress to protect the newly formed city of Manila, Philippines. It acted as a citadel that guarded Intramuros from invasions, as well as working as a prison throughout its time.

Here is where the fort’s most famous prisoner, Filipino national hero, José Rizal, spent his last days before walking towards his execution. Visitors can learn more about this story at the Rizal shrine within the fort and trace his final footsteps. Other activities include exploring the gun platform, enjoying a picnic in the beautiful park grounds, or strolling along the top of the walls for a good view of the fort’s surrounds.


Walk Among the Ghosts of Corregidor Island

Pacific War Memorial

Pacific War Memorial. Credit: Flickr

Corregidor Island lies at the entrance of Manila Bay. It was the base for Filipino and American defenders working against the invading Japanese forces that were slowly spreading through Asia during World War II. It is said to be where the war would be won or lost. The heavily fortified island played an important role in the invasion and liberation of the Philippines, making it one of the most important historical sites in the country.

The island is now a monument to those who perished; view the big guns that are now silenced, the tunnels now emptied of shells and the ruins of hospitals where ghosts of war victims still roam. Visitors should also head to the Pacific War Memorial, a museum dedicated to telling these stories. Behind the memorial and looking over the ocean is the Eternal Flame of Freedom, where you can reflect on the history lessons and lives that were lost when the world was at war.

It takes a little over an hour from Sun Cruises’ Manila Bay terminal to reach Corregidor Island by ferry. Tickets include either a trolley or walking tour to suit all physically abilities and preferences.


Feature Image: Corregidor Island via Flickr

Image Credits: Thinkstock