Main gate of Fort Santiago in Manila, Philippines.

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Fort Santiago

Top choice in Manila

Guarding the entrance to the Pasig River is Intramuros' premier tourist attraction: Fort Santiago. Within the fort grounds is an oasis of lovely manicured gardens, plazas and fountains leading to an arched gate and a pretty lily pond. Within is the beautifully presented Rizal Shrine museum, the building where Dr José Rizal – the Philippines’ national hero – was incarcerated as he awaited execution in 1896. It contains various fascinating displays of Rizal memorabilia and a recreation of his cell and the courtroom trial.

At the far end of the fort are outlooks over an industrial section of the Pasig River leading to Baluarte de Santa Barbara, a restored 18th-century Spanish military barracks where hundreds of Filipino and American POWs were killed in WWII; it's now the Rizaliana Furniture Hall, displaying Rizal's family furniture. Also of interest are various dungeon cell blocks, including one that Rizal spent his last night in. Brass footprints set into the pavement mark his final steps to the execution spot in Rizal Park.