INTRAMUROS GUIDE: New things you can do in 'Old Manila' in 2023
Intramuros, also known the "Walled City," is one of the oldest districts of Manila. Built on the south bank of the Pasig River around 1571, this area is bound on all sides by moats and thick, high walls, with some over six meters high. Old Manila has always been popular for its museums, walking tours, and Bamboo bike tours with international tourists in transit in the capital before visiting other parts of the Philippines.
Intramuros is in the running again for Asia's Leading Tourist Attraction at the World Travel Awards. In case you need to entertain balikbayan relatives or friends and want to try something new, here are a few new activities you can do in and around Intramuros.
Explore Intramuros in style
Unleash your inner Maria Clara or Ibarra while touring around the old streets of Manila. ICYDK, a new pop-up shop was set up this March where you can rent Filipiñiana terno and barong so you can dress up and channel the old world charm in your photos as you go around. Just like renting a kimono for a day in Japan or wearing a hanbok in Seoul to explore temples and parks, you can dress up in traditional costumes and pose around Manila for unique photo ops.
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The pop-up clothing rental shop is located between Cold Treats and Instituto Cervantes in the Plaza San Luis Complex. The shop will be open only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until March 31.
Dine in newly opened restos
Intramuros has a few classic options where foodies can enjoy the colonial vibe when they dine. Well-loved establishments include Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant, La Cathedral Cafe, Batala Bar, Ilustrado, Ristorante delle Mitre opposite San Agustin Church, and Belfry Cafe, to name a few. For those revisiting the area, several new cafes opened in 2022 that you might want to check out.
Cafe Intramuros, located at the corner of the Plaza San Luis complex, offers a contemporary take on traditional Pinoy fare, along with cakes, coffee, and pastries. Cold Treats is a small coffee shop that offers ice cream and refreshing cold drinks like Cheesecake Mango Shake. There’s also The Royal Cafe, a quiet aesthetic cafe hidden inside the patio area of the same complex. Walk around the side streets, and you're sure to find other restaurants worth checking out.
Have coffee in a 400-year-old water cistern turned café
Need a coffee break after sightseeing around the usual tourist landmarks? The popular bike-friendly coffee shop Papakape recently opened a second branch inside Fort Santiago. The original tiny glass house café which originated in Makati City is known for serving unique ginger-infused coffee and tea beverages.
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Coffee lovers can now enjoy a cup of coffee at Aljibe Dela Fuerza, a 400-year-old water cistern within the defense fortress that was turned into a cozy cafe. The cafe is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Good news for bikers, Intramuros allows bikes inside Fort Santiago, making this an ideal pit stop for leisure cyclists looking for their next weekend coffee ride destination with friends.
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Papakape is located inside the grounds of Fort Santiago. Entrance fee to the Fort is P75 for adults and P50 for children (below 18), senior citizens (60 and above), students, persons with disability (PWDs), and government employees. Guests are requested to present valid IDs.
Shop for heritage-themed souvenirs
Want to shop for unique souvenir items? Check out Pilibustero, a clothing shop and bookstore specializing in local and handmade products. The shop housed within the gates of Intramuros itself sells history-inspired and heritage-themed graphic tees and hoodies along with books centered on Philippine history.
Pilibustero is located at General Luna Gap 2, corner Muralla Street, Intramuros Metro Manila. Store hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Check out new exhibits at nearby museums
There are more than ten museums just around Intramuros, so visiting new exhibits or museums you haven't been to is always an option. Instituto Cervantes at Casa Azul has a newly launched exhibit that is open to the public free of charge until April 16.
Consisting of 27 works, the exhibit by Spanish artist Teresa Esteban, titled “Manila: Born from the Waters,” makes use of historical documents and maps for a visual and aesthetic analysis of the urban evolution of Manila. The exhibit aims to tell the story of the Philippine capital from its beginnings in bfgIntramuros, to the current vibrant walled city. The exhibit will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. until April 16, 2023 (except for Holy Thursday until Easter Sunday).
In case you haven’t been to the National Museums since they reopened last year, you could also plan sightseeing around the three central ones in Manila before crossing over to Intramuros. Walk-ins are now accepted at the National Museum of Natural History, Museum of Fine Arts, and Museum of Anthropology, and there's no entrance fee to visit.
The Indio-Genius exhibit of National Artist Kidlat Tahimik, which retells the Filipinos' cultural struggles throughout history, is definitely worth checking out. The National Museum of Fine Arts, National Museum of Anthropology, and National Museum of Natural History are open to the public from Tuesdays to Sundays (except religious holidays) from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Visitors can enter at least 30 minutes before closing time.
Another relatively new museum in the area is the Clock Tower Museum, a history and art museum located at the Manila City Hall. In line with Women’s Month, the Clock Tower Museum has an ongoing Modern Manileña exhibit, a fashion and art exhibit that features clothing and wearable art made for the modern woman.
The Manila Clock Tower Museum is located at 4/F Manila City Hall, Padre Burgos Avenue, Ermita, Manila. It's open from Tuesdays to Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m, and closed on weekends and Monday. Entrance is free, but note that walk-ins are not allowed. To book visits online, you may send a message to the Manila Clock Tower Museum’s FB page.