Manila Introduction Walking Tour, Manila

Manila Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Manila

The capital of the Philippines, Manila was officially founded in 1571 by Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi. However, an organized polity, called Maynila (meaning "where indigo is found" in Tagalog), existed on the site since as early as 1258.

The earliest human life in the area dates to 3000 BCE, but much of the existing constructions found around the city were created since the time Spain declared the islands to be their territory in the late 16th century. Manila, along with Mexico City and Madrid, were world's earliest global cities with their trade networks linking together Asia, the Americas and Europe under the Spanish Empire. It was the first time in world history that a chain of commercial trading routes circling the planet had been established.

Visitors who want to see as much as possible about Manila’s early inhabitants can find a great deal of information at the National Museum of the Philippines – including archaeological artifacts, art, and geologic specimens. Other places like Baluarte de San Diego and Fort Santiago tell the story of Manila as a fortified city under Spanish rule.

Casa Manila gives visitors a glimpse into colonial life. Those wishing to see monuments erected during the American colonial period can head to Rizal Park to see the Rizal Monument, along with a number of public art pieces and the Independence Flagpole.

Take this self-guided walking tour to discover the rich colonial heritage and the multi-facet culture of Manila, the Pearl of the Orient.
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Manila Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Manila Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Philippines » Manila (See other walking tours in Manila)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • National Museum of the Philippines
  • Rizal Park
  • Baluarte de San Diego
  • San Agustin Museum - Intramuros
  • San Agustin Church - Intramuros
  • Casa Manila
  • Cathedral-Basilica
  • Ayuntamiento Building
  • Fort Santiago
National Museum of the Philippines

1) National Museum of the Philippines (must see)

The National Museum of the Philippines is a conglomerate of museums located near Rizal Park. The National Museum of Fine Arts, the National Museum of Anthropology and the National Museum of Natural History all fall under the umbrella of the National Museum of the Philippines.

The National Museum of Fine Arts is located in the former Legislative Building. The original building was completed in 1926 but destroyed by Japanese forces during World war II. The building was rebuilt in 1950 in a Neoclassical style. The museum holds paintings and sculptures from prominent Filipino artists like Guillermo Tolentino and Juan Luna.

The National Museum of Anthropology is adjacent to the National Museum of Fine Arts. It is in the building that formerly housed the Department of Finance. Built in 1918, the National Museum of Anthropology building was constructed in a Neoclassical style. This museum offers a history of the Filipino people. Visitors will find maps, archaeological treasures and art through the ages, among other items.

The National Museum of Natural History contains botanical and zoological specimens. It is held in the former Agriculture and Commerce building, which was erected in 1941.

The National Museum of the Philippines is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 AM through 5 PM. It is free to all visitors.
Rizal Park

2) Rizal Park (must see)

Rizal Park is one of the largest urban parks in Asia. At 140 acres, the park is home to the National Museum Complex, the Rizal Monument, a series of gardens, public art and event venues.

The National Museum Complex consists of the National Museums of Fine Arts, Anthropology and Natural History. This complex is held in a series of buildings that were once part of the Filipino government.

The gardens in Rizal Park are in a variety of styles. Including among these gardens are the Orchidarium and Butterfly Pavilion, Japanese Garden and Chinese Garden. The Children's Playground offer multi-color slides, swings and climbing structures.

The Rizal Monument is a memorial and the final resting place of Filipino nationalist, Jose Rizal. The monument is an obelisk that holds Rizal's cremated remains, his two novels and a statue in his honor. The monument is arguably the most famous sculptural landmark in the Philippines.
Baluarte de San Diego

3) Baluarte de San Diego

Baluarte de San Diego is a bastion that was built on the southwestern corner of Intramuros, the walled city of the Philippines. The structure dates to the 16th century.

The bastion was meant to be part of a much larger fort, which was not completed. The bastion itself includes an outward projecting face and flanks that would have connected the bastion's face to the curtain wall.

Though it was built in 1587, the structure was altered many times over the years. These changes were documented in writings by Antonio de Morga. They were also evidenced by the archaeological excavation that uncovered the Baluarte de San Diego. That excavation began in 1979 and was completed in 1982.

The small park containing the Baluarte de San Diego includes gardens, landmarks, monuments and fountains.
San Agustin Museum - Intramuros

4) San Agustin Museum - Intramuros (must see)

One of the most fascinating sites in Manila is the Intramuros or the walled city, which is the oldest district of the region. Built by the Spanish in the 16th century, the Intramuros survived right up until the mid 1900s after which it was reduced to ruins during the Second World War.

Although much of the ancient city was destroyed by the war, the San Agustin Museum offers its visitors an opportunity to appreciate the glory and legacy of the region. Adjacent to the San Agustin Church, one of the oldest surviving churches in the area, the Museum boasts a proud collection of artifacts, statues, sculptures and monuments that can transport you to the medieval years. Not only is the collection of the Museum worth the while, but the architecture of the building itself and the ambiance mesmerize the visitors.

The history of the structure is nothing short of a tale itself. Formerly a monastery, the building is of a great historical significance and offers a perfect enclave for the artifacts that it so proudly displays. The Museum is open from 8 am till noon and reopens after an hour right through to 6 o'clock in the evening. It has a strict no photography rule, which is quite disappointing considering the brilliant treasures the museum possesses.
San Agustin Church - Intramuros

5) San Agustin Church - Intramuros (must see)

Behind the wall of the Intramuros, the oldest walled city within Manila is one of the oldest surviving churches of the country. The San Agustin Church, built by the Spanish during their colonial reign, represents the city’s rich and vibrant past.

The San Agustin Church has come a long way since its inception in 1607. Initially built with bamboo and wood in the early 16th century, the structure was razed due to a fire and was reconstructed with wood, which also failed to survive. It was then that the Augustinians decided to build a solid structure made out of stone, with an adjacent monastery. Based on the design by architect, Juan Macías, construction started off in 1586. Although, the project started with zeal and enthusiasm, the same spirit was not seen with the inflow of funds. Construction took more than 2 decades and by the time it was completed, the Church lost its chief designer Macias.

Despite having a shaky start, the San Agustin Church had a very eventful history. Plundered by the British forces in the 18th century, the Church miraculously survived many devastating earthquakes that had left the city of Manila in shambles. As a matter of fact, the San Agustin Church was the only public building to survive the massive earthquake of 1863.
Casa Manila

6) Casa Manila (must see)

Manila House (Casa Manila) is an example of the opulence and elegance of Filipino life during the late Spanish colonial era. This living museum is meticulously designed to mirror the lifestyle of a wealthy Filipino family of the 19th century, with a façade inspired by an actual residence that once graced Jaboneros Street in Binondo's Chinese district in the 1850s. The interior of Manila House is a lavish display of late 19th-century taste, adorned with European and Chinese furniture, painted walls, crystal chandeliers, carved traceries, Chinese ceramics, and gilded furnishings, all contributing to the grandeur and luxury that characterized Manila houses of that period.

Spanning three floors, Manila House offers visitors a comprehensive glimpse into its historical past. The ground floor introduces the Main Gate (Puerta Principal), a heavy wooden gate leading to a corridor, designed for carriages, to pass through to the patio where passengers were dropped off. This patio, paved in granite and adorned with vibrant flowers, features a large fountain and windows that bathe the space in natural light. The presence of a stable, where the owner’s carriages were kept, signifies the wealth and social status of the family, with the size of one's carriage directly correlating to their societal standing.

The first floor houses the office, library, and a safe for storing valuables, alongside bedrooms designated for siesta use. Ascending to the third floor, visitors find the anteroom, a casual space for snacks, games, and smoking. Adjacent is the living room, crafted from hardwood with ample space for relaxation and social gatherings, its windows strategically placed to optimize sunlight blockage and ventilation. Additionally, this floor includes a prayer room for the Catholic family and bedrooms for family members, rounding off the immersive experience of 19th-century Manila living.

Manila House not only serves as a bridge to the past, offering insights into the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period but also stands as a symbol of the architectural and social intricacies that defined the era's affluent lifestyle.

7) Cathedral-Basilica (must see)

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception or the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica is one of the most important churches in Manila. Standing poignantly in the Intramuros district of Manila, the Cathedral has looked over the city for over 5 centuries. With its solid Neo-Romanesque architecture, one cannot ignore the almost over powering effect it has on its visitors and passersby. This is one of the many reasons that the Cathedral is one of the most famous venues for many locals as well as foreigners to share nuptials vows.

Despite its reputation and opulence, the Cathedral has had a very turbulent past. Although the Church has been on site since the early 16th century, the structure has changed several times over the years. The present, being the eighth reincarnated version of the original structure! The Cathedral was destroyed by earthquakes and terrible fires, but despite that, it has always managed to maintain that special possession not only in the city’s skyline, but also the hearts of the denizens.

With the Cathedral and the city having the same patroness, the Virgin Mary, the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica is also the highest seat for the Archbishop of the country.
Ayuntamiento Building

8) Ayuntamiento Building

Ayuntamiento de Manila is often referred to as the Marble Palace due to its reconstructed exterior. The Ayuntamiento is home to the Bureau of the Treasury and is open for public tours. It is notable for having undergone many iterations from its original construction to present day.

The Ayuntamiento was originally constructed from 1599 through 1607, but a number of disasters caused rebuilding and reconstruction over the years. The first building was severely damaged by an earthquake. It was rebuilt in 1738 in an ornate, Baroque style. That building was also destroyed by an earthquake in 1863.

The third Ayuntamiento was completed in 1884. This was once again destroyed. The Battle of Manila in 1945 left nothing behind except for the outer walls.

Construction took place on the present-day Ayuntamiento from 2009 through 2013. It was rebuilt in the Neoclassical architectural style with careful consideration to stay as true to the most recent iteration of the building as possible.

Visitors who wish to tour the interior of the Ayuntamiento de Manila must schedule a tour on either Tuesdays or Fridays. Walking around the perimeter of the Ayuntamiento is an excellent alternative as it is near a number of beautiful and historic sites in Manila.
Fort Santiago

9) Fort Santiago (must see)

Fort Santiago is an important, historic structure in the walled city of Manila, Intramuros. Five flags have flown over the fort since its construction in 1593.

Fort Santiago was named for the patron saint of Spain, Saint James. Its purpose was to defend the Spanish government while it ruled the Philippines. In particular, Fort Santiago served as defense for the spice trading ships that traveled between Manila and Acapulco, Mexico.

Briefly, during the Battle of Manila, British occupying forces took over Fort Santiago. The fort served as the base of operations for the British Royal Navy from 1762 through 1764. When a ceasefire was declared, the fort reverted into Spanish control.

The Philippine-American War took place from February 1899 through July 1902. The United States overtook the fort, which then served as the headquarters of the U.S. Army in the Philippines.

The fort was captured by Japanese forces during World War II. It was used to house prisoners of war, hundreds of whom died in the dungeons as they succumbed to suffocation and hunger.

Fort Santiago has been under Philippine control since the country gained its independence in 1946. It was declared a shrine of freedom in 1950 and was restored shortly thereafter. It is now part of a historic park that recognizes the rich and sometimes tragic history of the country.

Visitors are welcome to explore the interior and exterior of the fort. The dungeon is a particularly somber experience where visitors can honor those who perished. A marble cross in the dungeon signifies the mass grave where 600 prisoners of war were buried.

Fort Santiago is located near many other important landmarks in Manila. Visitors can easily add this must-see spot to their walking tour of the city.

Why You Should Visit:
- To witness one of the most important sites in the Philippines
- To pay honor to those who died in the dungeons of the fort

Fort Santiago is open daily from 8 AM through 6 PM. The dungeon is open from 2 PM through 10 PM.

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