San Agustin Church

Top choice in Manila

Decorated interior, San Agustin church and museum dating from between 1587 and 1606, the oldest church in the Philippines, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Intramuros Spanish Colonial District, Manila, Philippines, Southeast Asia, Asia

Christian Kober/Robert Harding

The San Agustin Church was the only building left intact after the destruction of Intramuros in WWII. Built between 1587 and 1606, it is the oldest church in the Philippines. The massive facade conceals an ornate interior filled with objects of great historical and cultural merit. Note the intricate trompe l’oeil frescos on the vaulted ceiling. Be sure to check out the tropical cloisters as well as the slightly shabby gardens out the back.

The present structure is actually the third to stand on the site and has weathered seven major earthquakes, as well as the Battle of Manila. It’s an active church and much in demand for weddings and other ceremonies.

You can access the church through the newly renovated San Agustin Museum, a treasure house of antiquities that give the visitor tantalising glimpses of the fabled riches of Old Manila. Check out the vaguely Chinese–looking Immaculate Conception statue in ethereal ivory.

The church is closed to tourists during Mass, though you may be able to sneak in.