Intramuros remains to be one of my favorite places in Manila. I am in love with the place. Look, I visit it every week. If you live within Metro Manila, it is really a perfect destination for those spur-of-the-moment breaks or vacation you might have every now and then (e.g., weekend, mid-week break).
Depending on what you want to do, heading down to Intramuros may be quite expensive. There are fees that you need to pay to enjoy some attractions or amenities. Guided tours, which may be pricey, are also available. But you can actually do touristy things in Intramuros for free!
Be sure you have a copy of the Intramuros map. It would be better if you can access Google Maps via your smartphone during your trip. You may also follow my Intramuros commuting guide if you are not sure how to reach the place.
Here are free things that you can do in Intramuros.
1. Walk on walls
In Intramuros, yes, walking on walls is possible! And you can do so for free. Wow.
Intramuros is dubbed as the “Walled City” as well as the “City Within The City.” You can walk on top of the defensive walls that surround what was once the former seat of the Spanish colonial government in Manila. The whole experience can be likened to climbing the Great Wall of China or passing through the Passetto di Borgo.
2. People watch from the baluartes
Intramuros is also a perfect spot to do some people watching. Seeing people from all walks of life converge in the walled city is a pretty interesting sight. I recommend staying at the Baluarte de Dilao which is just across The Bayleaf Hotel and Lyceum of the Philippines University. Find your spot at the baluarte and maybe you could do what the girl on the “Sleepless Night” Department of Tourism TV advertisement did.
3. Visit plazas and other free attractions
There are a lot of plazas and other attractions that you can enjoy in Intramuros for free. Some Intramuros plazas that you may enjoy for free include: Plaza Roma, Plaza Mexico, Plaza España, Plazuela de Santa Isabel, Memorare Manila and Puerta Isabel II.
You may also drop by Intramuros attractions like Manila Cathedral, Ayuntamiento de Manila, Aduana (Intendencia) Ruins and San Ignacio Church Ruins. If school and university buildings interest you, then you could also enjoy the different schools found in Intramuros including the Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
4. Say a quick prayer at the San Agustin Church
If you are a Catholic, then stop by at the San Agustin Church and hear Mass or say a quick prayer. The church is also known as the “wedding capital of the Philippines.” You can actually stop by and witness how wedding ceremonies are done here in the Philippines.
Entering the church is free. However there are times when they close the church’s main entrance if there are no church services. Sometimes they also do not allow tourists inside especially if church services are being held. If anyone stops you from entering, just inform him or her that you are a Catholic and you just want to say a quick prayer. Do not forget to enjoy the church’s unique architecture, design and iconographies while you’re inside. Take photos too but turn off your camera’s flash.
If the church’s main entrance is closed, the only way to enter it is through the San Agustin Museum, which means you have to pay for a ticket.
5. Pose for souvenir photos
Intramuros is one of the few places in Manila that still has cobbled streets (cobblestone streets). (I love walking on cobbled streets!) Cobbled street and Spanish-era houses or buildings make for a perfect background for your next profile photo. So do not forget to have photos taken during your stroll around Intramuros.
The best spot to do this is just outside the San Agustin Church, General Luna Street corner Real Street. Posing for a souvenir in the Casa Manila Patio, which near the church too, is also great. The friendly kutsero or coachman may even allow you to pose beside his horse-drawn carriage or kalesa.
6. Window shop
Intramuros abounds with several souvenir or novelty shops and doing some window shopping is a great way to pass time. Try window shopping at The Manila Collectible Co., The Papier Tole Shop, Silahis Souvenir Shop, Mananzan Handicrafts or La Monja Loca.
7. Watch for free cultural events
Follow the Intramuros Administration (IA) on Facebook or Twitter so you could keep track of free cultural events in Intramuros that you can take part in. The IA also organizes free concerts or cultural shows in the area.
Every third Sunday of the month is called the “Intramuros Pasyal Sunday.” During the event, a stretch of Intramuros is closed to vehicular traffic. Start-up businesses and street performers also line a portion of Intramuros.
The annual Santacruzan in Intramuros is held during the last week of May.
Every first Sunday of December, the Grand Marian Procession is held in the walled city. More than 100 images of the Blessed Virgin Mary take part in the procession. The annual procession is included in Time’s “25 Authentic Asian Experiences.”
You may also watch free cultural shows in Fort Santiago.
Have you been to Intramuros? Do you have other ideas on what tourists can do for free there? Share it (or them) with us by posting a comment below.