Underrated spots to visit in Intramuros

Whenever I travel to other destinations in the Philippines or other countries, I usually include museums and old historic quarters as part of my itinerary. But like many urban dwellers, I overlook places in Metro Manila. The walled city of Intramuros in Manila is always a good place to start to get a sense of Manila’s rich history. 

This past summer, I biked with friends to visit churches and Fort Santiago at night and returned on a solo photo walk to check out some museums. General Luna Street has been transformed into a more pedestrian and bike-friendly tourist hub, making it ideal for international tourists and locals to explore easily. With Independence Day celebrated in June, why not visit museums, go cafe-hopping, and check out the Mercadillo bazaar held on weekends as an alternative to malling?

Despite being a bustling tourist hub, you can still find peaceful and uncrowded spots in Intramuros. Here are just some of the hidden gems worth hunting down.

Destileria Limtuaco Museum 

Intramuros is home to many historical and religious museums, but those looking for a more spirited experience can head to Destileria Limtuaco Museum, which opened to the public in 2019. This liquor museum housed within a bahay na bato highlights the history of alcohol production from the oldest existing distillery in the Philippines. 

The liquor brand founded in 1852 is behind some of the country’s most popular distilled spirits, whiskies, brandies, gins, rums, vodkas, tequilas, cocktails, herbal and sweet wines, and the original medicinal wines. Aside from learning about the distillation process, and seeing vintage equipment and bottles up close, guests can enjoy liquor tasting during their visits. Be sure to try the basi or sugarcane wine from Vigan, the Amadeo Coffee liqueur, and the unique Intramuros Liqueur de Cacao, a rich tablea tsokolate (chocolate tablet) liqueur using 100% roasted cacao.

Destileria Limtuaco, San Juan Letran St. Open Tue to Sun: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed on Mondays. Entrance fee: P 100.00, P50.00 (Discounted). An additional P 100.00 is charged for liquor tasting.

San Agustin Museum and Cafe

Right next to the UNESCO-listed San Agustin Church is a sprawling museum housed within the former monastery of the church. With serene gardens and elegant architecture, the San Agustin Church Museum boasts an extensive collection of religious art and historical relics. If you want a break after touring the museum, you can also find a cozy café solely for museum guests right next to the Escalera grand staircase. 

San Agustin Church Museum. Hours open: Mon to Sun: 8:00 am to 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Entrance fee: P200.00 (Regular); P160.00 (Discounted rate for seniors, students and PWDs with IDs). 

Museo de Intramuros

Museo de Intramuros, which only opened in 2019, showcases the rich history and cultural heritage of Intramuros through artifacts, religious art, and archaeological finds from various periods. Have you ever wondered about secret tunnels in the old Walled City? You can see a section of an underground chamber once believed to be part of the long-rumored tunnels and an old water cistern right inside the grounds of this modern two-story museum. Virtual tours and video features at the museum explain the evolution from the pre-colonial era to the Spanish colonial era and modern times while the top floor has an extensive photo exhibit of religious festivals. 

Museo de Intramuros, Real St. cor. Anda St. Open Tuesday to Friday by appointment only. Sat to Sun: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed on Mondays. Entrance fee: P75.00 (Regular), P50.00 (Discounted).

Papa Kape 

If you’re in the mood for a coffee fix, check out Papa Kape, a cafe housed in Aljibe de la Fuerza, a 400-year-old water cistern tucked in one corner of Fort Santiago’s grounds. This charming bike-friendly and pet-friendly cafe which opened in 2023 is a great spot to enjoy signature coffee drinks infused with local ingredients. Try their Black Gulaman Americano or Tahoat with pastries like Tablea cupcakes. The hidden cafe is right next to the dungeons and the iMake History Fortress, which displays notable Philippine landmarks recreated in LEGO. 

Papa Kape, Fort Santiago. Open daily from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.


For modern merch and souvenirs, look out for Pilibustero, a tiny clothing shop and bookstore hidden within the main gate of the stone fortifications of Intramuros. This souvenir shop which opened in 2022 puts the spotlight on the country’s history through contemporary designs. Their locally-made souvenir items, including shirts, bags, and other modern merchandise, will appeal to anyone who loves Philippine history and cultural heritage.

Pilibustero, Gap, General Luna St. Open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Hidden cafes in Intramuros

Looking for new cafes to visit in Intramuros? Aside from the well-loved classics like Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant, Ilustrado, Ristorante delle Mitre, and La Cathedral Cafe, you can also enjoy coffee and lighter fare in these other hidden cafes around the walled city. 

The Royal Cafe
San Agustin Cafe
Belfry Cafe
Batala Bar
Cold Treats
Belfry Cafe 
IN Cafe + Bar
Aujen’s Coffee 
Bloque 7 Cafe
Cafe Janealo
Cioccolata Churros Cafe at Bayleaf Hotel

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For more travel stories, visit the author’s blog at www.traveling-up.com.