The best of Manila's architecture

Explore Manila's fascinating history through its iconic landmarks.

Spanish Colonial–style stone-paved courtyard with fountain and plants within walled-city Intramuros, Manila. Image credit:
  • Jetstar
  • November 2023

Manila's architecture is as diverse and intriguing as its history. Begin at the famous walled city Intramuros to visit historic Fort Santiago, Casa Manila and San Augustin Church. In Chinatown, stop to admire the Binondo Church and its unlikely mix of styles. Then hit the malls for something more contemporary: Manila's own Venice Grand Canal Mall.

San Augustin Church: World Heritage Site

In the walled city of Intramuros, San Augustin Church is the oldest stone church in the Philippines. With its ornate ceilings and hand-crafted chandeliers, it's a monument to Baroque beauty. The church was given the title of National Historical Landmark in 1976 and was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1993. Don't miss the museum, a converted monastery that houses a world of ancient church relics, religious artworks and other treasures.

Interior of San Agustin Church in Manila, Philippines. Image credit:
A treasure trove of art and history.

Casa Manila: 19th-century opulence

Living museum Casa Manila invites you to immerse yourself in the opulence of an affluent Filipino family during the late Spanish colonial period. The house's facade, inspired by a 19th-century Binondo residence, sets the stage for the elegance within. Inside, you'll discover intricate European and Chinese furnishings, painted walls, crystal chandeliers, Chinese ceramics and gilded furniture.

Spanish Colonial–style stone-paved courtyard with fountain and plants at Casa Manila. Image credit:
Spanish colonial opulence at Casa Manila.

Fort Santiago: national shrine and monument

The oldest Spanish bastion in the Philippines, Fort Santiago stands within Manila's ancient Intramuros and is a monument to the Philippines' storied past. Originally established for the Spanish army in 1571, the fortress was also used by the British, American and Japanese in subsequent years. Inside the fort's grounds, you'll find dungeons, underground chambers, and the very cell where national hero Jose Rizal was once imprisoned. Now a museum-shrine to Rizal, the building showcases his life, books, artworks and artefacts.

Stone wall and intricately carved-stone main gate at Fort Santiago in Manila. Image credit:
Fort Santiago's main gate.

Binondo Church: a hidden gem in Manila's Chinatown

The Minor Basilica and National Shrine of San Lorenzo Ruiz, popularly known as Binondo Church, is a Chinatown must-see. Founded in 1596 by Dominican priests, the ornate church boasts Spanish and European Baroque influences, but its unique, octagonal five-tier Chinese-style bell tower is the architectural highlight.

Exterior of Chinatown's Binondo Church with a vehicle in the foreground and high-rise towers in the background. Image credit:
Chinatown's Binondo Church.

Venice Grand Canal Mall: a European escape in Manila

Transport yourself to "Little Italy" in the heart of Manila at Venice Grand Canal Mall. Offering a slice of European charm, the mall is celebrated for its faithful replica of Venice's Grand Canal. Explore the bazaars for unique finds, feast on an array of international cuisines and enjoy varied street performances. For romantics, there's a special spot to attach a love lock, a symbol believed to grant a gift of love for a lifetime.

Close-up of Christmas tree and gondola on canal with people overlooking from bridge, Venice Grand Canal Mall, Manila. Image credit:
Christmas at Manila's Venice Grand Canal Mall.