8 Notable Places in Manila Every History Buff Should Visit

Famous Historical Places in Manila

Rizal Park photo via Pixabay

Eight must-see historical sites in Metro Manila

Wars, national catastrophes, coup de tat, violent rallies, grand festivals, international iconic events, the rise and fall of a dictator, we could go on and on. The history of the city of Manila is so vast and countless significant historical events have taken place in this very place. Every kilometer stone, every bridge, and every building has its own interesting story to tell.

Sure, tourists flock to Manila for entertainment. Well, who wouldn’t? Manila is now a well-developed metropolis featuring gigantic malls, elevated superhighways, towering skyscrapers, and grand entertainment establishments. But before the Filipinos, especially the Manileños, had the chance to enjoy these privileges, a lot of blood has been drawn and a lot of stories had to end. The best thing we could do for them right now? Is to honor them and look back to Manila’s rich history.

So, if you’re a history buff then this article was made exactly for people like you! Come and join me as we discover the eight (8) best historical places in Manila:

National Museum

National Museum Manila by Eryka Raton via Unsplash
National Museum Manila by Eryka Raton via Unsplash

If you’re really interested in the history and culture of the Philippines, especially Manila, then the best place to start our adventure is by visiting the National Museum. It houses a vast collection of the country’s most significant ethnographic, anthropological, archaeological, and visual arts pieces.

Probably the most significant piece of art and history located in the National Museum is Juan Luna’s Spoliarium. It is one of, if not the most famous paintings in the entire Philippine history. That being said, it is also considered the most expensive, although there’s no definite price because of its irreplaceable contribution to the country.

Feel free to wander around the National Museum with a total of six (6) floors each giving you a chance to disembark on a journey back in time. The best part? Admission to the museum is absolutely 100% free. So, make sure to drop by!

Intramuros

Intramuros reopens in the new normal photo via Depositphotos
Intramuros reopens in the new normal photo via Depositphotos

Next up! Not too far away from the National Museum is another significant piece of Manila’s history, the Intramuros. The name “Intramuros” literally translates to “Walled City”. And for more than 400 years, it has been the city of Manila itself, right there, inside the walls. From the year 1571 until 1865, Intramuros served as the seat for the Spanish Colony’s Gobernador Heneral. From 1865 onwards, it was then the Real Audiencia de Manila’s, the Appellate Court of the Spanish empire, exclusive home until the end of Spanish rule in the Philippines in 1898.

Four (4) centuries of Philippine history are housed within these walls. You can only imagine the conversations between national heroes, plots of revolution, and betrayals that took place in these very walls. It’s amazing and terrifying at the same time.

You can also stop by some of the country’s iconic landmarks such as the Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church, and Baluarte de San Diego inside Intramuros.

Rizal Park

Rizal Park photo via Pixabay
Rizal Park photo via Pixabay

Of course, you shouldn’t miss the chance to visit the shrine of the national hero of the Philippines. The Rizal Park or formerly known as Luneta is where Dr. Jose Rizal was executed on December 30, 1896. Years later, during the American period of the country, a monument was erected in honor of the national hero.

Among other historical places in Manila, the Rizal Park remains the flagship and symbol of freedom. Numerous national events, oath-takings, and rallies are held at the park. On the other hand, it also serves as a place for the people. Every day, Manileños are free to roam around the park to jog, have a picnic, or just appreciate the beauty and story behind this historical place.

The Quiapo Church

Quiapo Church
Quiapo Church

Quiapo Church is the home of the famous Black Nazarene. Every year, on January 9th, millions of devotees all over the Philippines are flocking to the city of Manila to join the grand procession of the Black Nazarene. The procession usually lasts for almost a day, the longest recorded being at 22 hours.

Devotees join the procession because of the miraculous touch of the statue. It is a sculpture of Jesus Christ made during the early 1600s. It is said that the sculpture was charred when the galleon carrying it from Mexico caught fire, hence giving it the name “Black Nazarene”. As the religious figure passes by during the procession, devotees would throw white towels at it just to wipe its surface. This very towel would then be used to miraculously heal the sick and afflicted.

University of Santo Tomas

University of Santo Tomas photo via Pixabay
University of Santo Tomas photo via Pixabay

Ah, your historical adventure in Manila wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Asia’s oldest existing university, no other than the University of Santo Tomas. It was built during the peak years of Spanish colonization in the Philippines through Manila’s third archbishop Miguel de Benavides.

From then up to now, UST has been one of the prestigious universities in the Philippines, producing some of the most successful Filipino professionals. Even Dr. Jose Rizal was once a Thomasian.

The most iconic spot in the University of Santo Tomas is the Arch of the Centuries. It was originally erected at Intramuros, the original home of UST in 1680. After the second world war, it was transferred to the campus in Sampaloc, Manila piece-by-piece.

Thomasians are saying several stories about the famous arch, some say that casually passing through the Arch of the Centuries means bad luck for the students, some also say that it’s a portal! Well, I guess that’s another thing to find out the next time you visit!

Casa Manila

Casa Manila is a museum in Intramuros depicting colonial lifestyle during Spanish colonization of the Philippines photo via Depositphotos
Casa Manila is a museum in Intramuros depicting colonial lifestyle during Spanish colonization of the Philippines photo via Depositphotos

Another historical gem of Manila can be located right at the walled city of Intramuros. Casa Manila is a luxuriously created mansion that offers a glimpse of Manila during the 19th century.

It is basically a reproduction of a household mansion during the Spanish colonial era. All of the three (3) floors of the mansion depict the lavish lifestyle and culture of Manila during those times. For a modest admission fee, you will have the chance to experience the setting of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo first-hand!

The EDSA Shrine

The EDSA Shrine by Patrick Roque via Wikipedia CC
The EDSA Shrine by Patrick Roque via Wikipedia CC

The Philippines has shaken the entire world in 1986 for its ever-famous People Power Revolution. International media praised the bravery of the Filipino people to march along the streets in protest of the dictator and then president Ferdinand E. Marcos. EDSA 1, or sometimes referred to as the “Yellow Revolution”, was headlined internationally as the “Revolution that Surprised the World”.

In 1989, the EDSA Shrine was built to commemorate that very historical event. Up until now, the shrine still serves as a symbol of freedom, bravery, and fearlessness of the Filipino people.

San Juan Del Monte Bridge

San Juan Del Monte Bridge by MikeLaagan via Wikipedia CC
San Juan Del Monte Bridge By MIKELAAGAN – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC

The amazing thing about history is that you won’t have any idea that the bridge you’re casually crossing every day was actually a big part of your country’s history. You’ll never know it unless you read it somewhere or somebody told you.

The San Juan Del Monte Bridge played a major role for the country during the Spanish and American colonization. It is essentially the main battleground of the Filipino revolution and war during the 1890s.

The iconic bridge is where the “first shot” was fired by American soldier Willie Grayson to a Filipino soldier that sparked the Filipino-American war. Imagine standing at the exact spot where the “first shot” took place. Pretty amazing, huh?

Conclusion

So there you have it! These are the eight (8) historical places you should visit in Manila especially if you’re a history buff. The best part about this is that most of the places we mentioned are absolutely free to visit! So, whenever you have time, history buff or not, it is always worth appreciating the rich culture and history of Manila City.

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Also read: Top Five Attractions In The Historic City Of Manila

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