Intramuros is a 0.67 square kilometers (0.26 sq mi) fortified area located within Manila. It is the city's oldest district and historic core, with its establishment beginning the city's history and habitation. It name, intramuros, is a Latin word which means "within the walls". During the Spanish colonial times, places located beyond the walls were referred to as extramuros, which means "outside the walls". It earned the nickname Walled City because of the thick defensive walls surrounding it that was constructed by the colonizing Spaniards in the late 16th century to protect the it from foreign invasions.The city was originally located along the shores of Manila Bay and near the southern Pasig River entrance before 20th-century reclamations obscured the city from the bay. Guarding the city is the Fuerte de Santiago, a citadel located at the mouth of the river. 

The strategic location of Manila, sitting along the bay with a river flowing through it made it an ideal location for the Tagalog and Kapampangan tribes and kingdoms to trade with other Asian civilizations, including Chinese, Indian and Islamic merchants. These merchants have hailed from China, India, Borneo and Indonesia. Before the first arrival of Europeans in Luzon, the area where Intramuros lies was a part of the empire of Majapahit around the 14th century, according to the epic eulogy poem Nagarakretagama which inscribed its conquest by Mahārāja Hayam Wuruk. The region was invaded around 1485 by Sultan Bolkiah and became a part of the Sultanate of Brunei. The site of Intramuros then became a part of the Islamic kingdom of Maynila ruled by Datus, Rajas and the Sultan.

On 1564, Spanish explorers led by Miguel López de Legazpi sailed from Mexico, and arrived on the island of Cebu on February 13, 1565, establishing the first Spanish colony in the Philippines. Having heard of the rich resources of Manila from the natives, Legazpi dispatched two of his lieutenant-commanders, Martín de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo to explore the northern regions of the Visayas. Spaniards arrived in the island of Luzon on 1570 and resulted in quarrels and misunderstandings among the inhabitants. After tensions erupted between the Islamic natives and the Spaniards, both groups fought for the control of lands and settlements.

On 1571, after several months of warfare, the natives were defeated, and the Spaniards made a peace pact with the tribal councils of Rajah Sulaiman III, Rajah Lakandula, and Rajah Matanda; who, in return, handed over Manila to the Spaniards. Legazpi declared the area of Manila as the new capital of the Spanish colony on June 24, 1571 because of its strategic location and rich resources.


The walled city is the only district of Manila where old Spanish-era influences are still plentiful. Newer buildings are built in the style of the era. As in the Spanish Colonial period, Intramuros still houses some of the higher education institutions in the Philippines. Located within its walls are the city-owned Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, the technical college Mapúa Institute of TechnologyLyceum of the Philippines UniversityColegio de San Juan de Letran and high schools such as the Manila High School, and Colegio de Santa RosaFast food restaurants though, like JollibeeMcDonald's and Starbucks are also sprouting within its walls alongside the educational institutions.

Of the eight churches that were located within its walls, only two remained: San Agustin Church, the oldest building in Manila completed in 1607, and the Manila Cathedral, which was reconstructed in the 1950s. The other religious orders reconstructed their churches away from Intramuros after the war. There are plans of reconstructing the San Ignacio Church in its vacant original location to serve as an ecclesiastical museum for the IA collection.[18]

Fort Santiago is now a well-maintained park where visitors can enjoy the nostalgic legacy of the bygone Spanish Colonial Era within its gardens. Next to Fort Santiago is one of the big projects of Intramuros Administration - the reconstruction of the Maestranza Wall - the wall removed by the Americans in 1903 to widen the wharves thus opening the city to Pasig River. One of the future plans of the administration was to complete the perimeter walls that surround the city making it completely circumnavigable from the walkway on top of the walls.