Manila, officially known as the City of Manila being the capital city of the Philippines is highly urbanized. The Architecture of the city exhibits a wide range of cultural and historic era which mainly includes American, Spanish, Chinese, and Malay influences. The cityscape of Manila demonstrates Art Deco, Neoclassical, and Beaux-Arts as well as modern styles of Architecture. Also, Earthquake Baroque is the style invented by the Spanish colonial architects of the city as Manila is prone to earthquakes. As a result, many churches and government buildings survived through the 18th and 19th-century earthquakes. If you are a traveling enthusiast with a taste in traditional architecture then Manila should definitely be on your travel list.

So here are some splendid places to visit in Manila which will make you fall in love with the architecture over and over again.

1. Fort Santiago

Location: Along Pasig River, Intramuros
Architect: Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas y Ribadeneira
Built-in: 1593

Fort Santiago is situated in the walled city known as Intramuros, which is also the oldest district and historic core of Manila. Fort Santiago is the oldest Hispanic stone castle in the country. It is triangular in form and has a perimeter of 620 m along with 6.7 m high walls of 2.4 m thickness. We can witness the Italian-Spanish style of architecture with masonry being the construction system. Once a fort and later a prison for criminals, it now is declared as a national historic monument in 1951.

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Fort Santiago ©
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Fort Santiago © Wikipedia

2. Manila Cathedral

Location: Intramuros
Architect: Fernando H. Ocampo, Sr.
Built-in: 1581

Manila Cathedral is a very fine example of the Neo-Romanesque style of Architecture. The original structure was constructed in 1581 but it was destroyed several times. Hence, what we see today is the eighth structure which was constructed in 1958. The main portal exhibited beneath the imposing rose- glass is executed in eight bronze panels. It is one of the most admired structures by dilettantes all over the world.

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Manila Cathedral ©


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3. San Agustin Church

Location: Intramuros
Architect: Juan Macías
Built-in: 1571

San Agustin Church also known as the Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Consolación y Correa or the Immaculate Conception Parish is the oldest stone church in the country. The church survived major earthquakes of 1645, 1699, 1754, 1796, 1825, 1863, and 1880. The symmetric interior of the structure is elegantly painted along with the profile of the mouldings, rosettes, and sunken panels which appear as three-dimensional carvings. The structure we see today is the third Augustinian church constructed on the site and was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

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 4. Casa Manila

Location: Intramuros
Architect: Ramon Faustmann
Built-in: 1980s

If you want to witness the colonial lifestyle during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, Casa Manila is the perfect place to visit. It is the stone and wood structure rebuilt of a 19th-century Spanish colonial house. Also, we can see the beautifully carved fountain in the courtyard of the house.

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 5. Baluarte de San Diego

Location: Intramuros
Architect: Fr. Antonio Sedeño
Built-in: 1587

An older structure was a circular tower constructed to provide a clearer view of the cortina for the artillery so that they could prepare against invaders. It underwent many alterations since it was first constructed. Baluarte de San Diego is a masonry bastioned fort. The circular dungeon which is the main feature of the structure is called Fort Nuestra Señora de Guia. Today, pergolas, and gardens are added to make the structure more visually pleasing.

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Baluarte de San Diego ©

6. Malacañang Palace

Location: San Miguel
Architect: DonLuís Rocha
Built-in: ©

Malacañang Palace represents the neoclassical style of Architecture. Originally a summer house is now the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the Philippines. The new Palace is constructed behind the small original structure which was a casita or more commonly known as a country house.

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 7. The National Museum Complex

Location: Ermita
Architect: Ralph Harrington Doane, Antonio Toledo, Juan M. Arellano
Built-in: 1900s

The national museum complex is situated in Rizal Park, Ermita. It consists of a number of structures namely, National Museum of fine arts (depicting famous paintings by the Philippine revolutionary artist), National Museum of Anthropology depicting various anthropological as well as archeological artifacts along with the old Philippine script called Baybayin.

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The National Museum Complex © tripadvisor
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The National Museum Complex © Wikimedia Commons

8. Binondo Church

Location: Binondo
Built-in: 1596

The church was formerly known as the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish and was founded by Dominican priests in 1596. But the original building was bombarded by the British in 1762 and thus destroyed. Although the new building was built in 1852, it was highly damaged in World War II with only the western façade and the octagonal belfry surviving. The current structure was built in the 1950s with a resemblance to the Italian High Renaissance churches.

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Binondo Church © LG Kay

 9. Quiapo Church

Location: Quiapo
Architect: José Ma. Zaragoza
Built-in: 1586

The current structure of the church is constructed in the Mexican baroque style of Architecture. We can witness the Corinthian columns on the second level and have a third of its shaft twisted near the base. The structure also has elegantly designed balustrades which are decorated with huge scrolls. Also, the tympanum of the pediment exhibits a pair of chalice-shaped finials.

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10. Manila Ocean Park

Location: Ermita
Architect: E.R. Hitosis and Associates
Built-in: 2008

Ocean Park’s main attraction is the Oceanarium along with a 25 m curved walkway tunnel and many other areas specially designed for specific activities like educational activity area, shark and stingray viewing area, Jellies exhibit, fish spa, etc. Also, The Manila Ocean Park hosts a hotel named Hotel H2O. The Oceanarium is erected on structural pillars at the beachfront and Hotel H2O is designed above the same.


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11. Cultural Centre of the Philippines Complex

Location: Roxas Boulevard
Architect: Leandro V. Locsin
Built-in: 1966

The Cultural Centre of the Philippines is designed on the 88 hectares of reclaimed land. It is a hub consisting of a number of structures overlooking Manila Bay. It is a major tourist spot due because of the entertainment zone as well as iconic buildings. The National Theatre exhibits the signature style “floating volume” by architect Leandro Locsin.

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12. The University of Santo Tomas

Location: España Boulevard, Sampaloc Manila, Metro Manila
Architect: Roque Ruaño
Built-in: 1927

The main building of the University is the first earthquake-resistant building in the Philippines. The rectangular building holds interior courtyards and patios along with a significant feature of actually being forty independent structures provided by precast slab flooring. But over the years, there have been many alterations that make it difficult to distinguish the separations.

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13. Nicanor Reyes Hall – Far Eastern University Complex

Location: Nicanor Reyes Street, Sampaloc, Manila, Metro Manila
Architect: Pablo Antonio
Built-in: 1939

The university received a UNESCO Heritage award for being the remnant of preserved art deco buildings of the Philippines. The broad expanse of the structure is supported by the dominant projecting piers. This structure sets an amazing example of how to preserve the original design along with the university’s modern needs.

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Nicanor Reyes Hall-Far Eastern Complex © FEU website

14. Philam Life Building

Location: Ermita
Architect: Carlos Arguelles
Built-in: 1961

The architecture style used in the design is International with the emphasis being on the rectilinear forms and plane surfaces without any decorative ornamentation. The building also contains a performing arts venue with a seating capacity of 780. The walls have an added feature of Narra relief carvings.

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Philam Life Building © The urban Roamer
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Philam Life Building © The urban Roamer

15. The Mind Museum

Location: Taguig, Metro Manila
Architect: Ed Calma
Built-in: 2012

The Mind Museum is inspired by a cellular membrane and hence forms amorphic form. Also, all the facades seem to be different when viewed from all sides. The museum has a solar reflective exterior, wind ventilation as well as rainwater flow drainage. If you want to see a modern structure by a prominent architect then this is the best place to visit.

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Arundhati Chitnis is an architect and a writer based in Dubai. She believes in the architecture which can cater the needs of the users and hence apply user centric approach in her designs. Also, she believes every structure has a story to tell, we just have to give it a voice.

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