Must-see Vigan tourist spots, Ilocos Sur

Must-see Vigan tourist spots, Ilocos Sur

Vigan cathedral must-see tourist spots in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur

 

Vigan city in Ilocos Sur, located in the northwest region of Luzon in the Philippines is a beautiful Spanish colonial city. The city takes pride in its colonial past while mixing in some quirky, new and fascinating places to visit in the city and region.  If you are looking for something with more history and culture in your visit to the Philippines, check out these must see tourist spots in Vigan city, Ilocos Sur.

Calle Crisologo in Vigan City

 

Where is Vigan city and why visit

Unlike the ugly urban sprawl and development of Manila and Cebu City, Vigan city maintains its unique character as a authentic Spanish colonial city, in a very compact space. Designated as a Unesco World Heritage site, the entire city has many traditional homes, converted mansions and beautiful architectural zones that make this a unique travel destination in the Philippines. For those interested in Philippine culture and history from the Spanish colonial times, this city encapsulates the look and vibe of the those early days but with modern conveniences to make it a pleasant visit.

 

 

Bantay Bell tower in Vigan City

Top attractions to visit in Vigan city and surrounding area

Calle Crisologo in Vigan City

 

Calle Crisologo

Running over five blocks in the historic center, Calle Crisologo is the popular tourist destination with many of the Spanish colonial homes in the street converted into shops, restaurants, inns and other tourist attractions that give you a taste of what this colonial city looks like with cobble stone streets and kalesa horse buggies ply through the main thoroughfare.

 

 

Calesa rides Calle Crisologo in Vigan City

Kalesa ride through the historic districts of Vigan

One of the best ways to slow down to the colonial lifestyle and pace of Vigan is to travel by kalesa or a horse drawn carriage with a driver. Kalesa drivers ply the main tourist areas of the city to show you the best parts of the colonial capital depending on how far you want to go and see around the city.  Most drivers will offer you a highlight tour of the important sections and attractions around the city

Tip  – Make sure you negotiate a good price up front before you step into the kalesa and what places you want to explore from the drivers highlights of places to see.

 

Kalesa rides through Vigan city

 

 

 

 

 

St. Paul Metropolitan cathedral

St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral

The main church of St. Pauls sits directly in front of Plaza Salcedo – the main square of the city with the dancing fountains. St. Paul’s Cathedral is part of the Unesco Heritage sites of the city and has been rebuilt many times from earthquakes, fires and other damages. The Spanish colonial style church is Neo-Gothic and Romanesque in style with the archbishop’s palace located next to the cathedral.

 

 

 

 

Plaza Salcedo In Vigan City

Plaza Salcedo

The large plaza fronting St. Paul Cathedral is known as Plaza Salcedo which is named after Spanish conqueror Juan de Salcedo who founded the city and region. The plaza is a very popular spot to hang out and relax in the main square of Vigan City with large monuments to check out around the square include the bronze statue of Jose Rizal (Philippine national hero), the water dancing fountains with the obelisk in the center (to honor Salcedo) and the city hall fronting the fountains. Night time is a popular time to visit with the colorful water dancing show which happens daily.

 

 

Father Burgos museum In Vigan City

Father Burgos Museum and Home

The city has so many heritage homes and sites and this includes the Father Burgos Museum which used to be his home.  Now managed by the Philippine National museum, rotating exhibits, art collections and a visit to the home and personal collection of Father Burgos gives you an insight to the daily life, memorabilia and Spanish colonial lifestyle to living in Vigan city.

 

 

Sysquia mansion in historic Vigan city

 

Syquia Mansion of President Elpidio Quirino

Home to the Philippine’s sixth president, Syquia mansion is the birthplace of Elpidio Quirino who brought back the Philippines economic growth after World War II. You can take a self tour of the mansion with signage describing the elaborate rooms that are all open to visit in this colonial home.  The ancestral home has many of the personal effects, fine furnishings, antiques and memorabilia of this affluent family that made their fortune building trade in the Vigan area. The exquisite home, furnishings and beautiful details are perfectly preserved for you to see how the wealthy entertained and lived during this time frame.

 

 

Baluarte Zoo in historic Vigan city

Baluarte Zoo

Part zoo and then a strange collection of the owners hunting prowess with a museum on the top of the hill with his trophy wildlife collection. This private collection gifted to the city, Baluarte is a fun distraction to visit outside of the city with a beautiful view from the top hill to the ocean with some free range animals roaming around and some other caged or fenced animals that you can view from a distance. This free zoo is open to the public, but there is a charge for the tram and visit to the wildlife museum if you’re in the mood to see his trophy collection of prized heads and taxidermy.

 

Bizarre museum of taxidermy and prized hunts at Baluarte

 

Baluarte museum collection in Vigan city

 

 

 

 

Public market in historic Vigan city

Vigan Public Market

The expansive Vigan public market is a fun place to explore to see where the locals shop for their perishables, meats, seafood and other take away foods. Housed in two large indoor buildings the top floors are the actual markets for fruits and vegetables on one side and meat, poultry and seafood with a large section of cafes, bakeries and other take away foods. The downstairs have crafts and souvenir shops, clothing and other daily sundry items worth walking around and finding some real cheap deals or gifts to take home. This is also a great market to photograph with not so shy locals also posing and hamming it up with you when you walk around the aisles.

 

Poultry section at the Vigan public market

 

 

Abel Iloco

Traditional woven craft products are still hand-made in Vigan city and Ilocos Sur. There are traditional craft centers or coops that you can visit personally and pic up some wonderful and inexpensive hand-made woven crafts. Also if you visit the Vigan public market, there is a large souvenir area that you can find many of the local fabrics turned into linens, clothing and other souvenirs at cheap prices.

Bantay Belfry in Vigan City

Bantay Belfry

The Bantay Belfry is in another section far from the historic district – you can catch a tricycle to get to this destination. The entrance to the tower requires you to sign in and give an optional donation to visit the tower. Once you enter, you climb up a nicely landscaped area and then enter the door where you climb two sets of stairs to two observation areas, but the top deck has great views and a nice cool breeze flowing through which made me want to stay longer to enjoy the great views from the top. The name Bantay means to watch and was used as a lookout for raiders coming close to the town.

 

Poultry section at the Vigan public market

 

I head back down the tower and enjoy a nice last view and spot the wedding couple again taking pictures in the garden. Just outside the gate are a few more vendors selling crafts and snacks and I stop again to try another savory empanadas and fried shrimp okoy with a spicy vinegar sauce. When the temperatures are hot I usually just stick to small snack foods to keep me going instead of the typical heavy meals served in the restaurants. There are also a few cafes and small eateries just outside of the church if you are looking for a bigger meal.

 

 

 

Bantay church in Vigan City

Bantay Church

The church is quite elaborate with a beautiful exterior and interior – a wedding photo shoot was in progress which made it fun to also take photos with a wedding couple. I checked out the lovely outside garden and chapel before heading out to climb the massive bell tower.

 

Interior details of Bantay Church in Vigan City

 

Bantay church gardens and outdoor chapel

 

outdoor gardens of Bantay Church in Vigan City

 

Plaza Burgos

Located in the historic district, Plaza Burgos is the starting point of the cobbled streets of Calle Crisologo along with a variety of fast food, take out eateries and the popular empanada shacks that Vigan city is known for its famous snack – the empanada. Old colonial structures line the square along with very well established restaurants serving a variety of Ilocano specialties from the region. If you’re looking for food venues, take a walk around the square and then to Calle Crisologo and check out the menus and daily specials to the various places you pass through.

 

Plaza Burgos in Vigan City

 

Old colonial buildings around Plaza Burgos

 

Plaza Burgos in Vigan City

 

 

 

Empanada food stalls plaza Burgos

Empanada food stalls

Located on the far end of Plaza Burgos, you’ll find the empanada food stalls where all the fried specialties including empanadas, okoy, grilled barbeques and soups are made fast and are an inexpensive snack or quick meal.  Around the square are a variety of shops and small malls selling a variety of souvenirs, tshirts and clothing and other local made crafts and food items.

 

eating out vigan city at Sitio food park

 

Sitio Food Park

Just outside of Vigan city is the cool new venue called Sitio Food Park which are old containers refashioned into a hip new dining, bar and hangout space with live music. Popular all day, the scene is really active at night time with live bands, neon and spotlights to create a fun vibe with many food choices to choose from snacks, desserts to local traditional food or even fusion food.  Come to Sitio if you’re looking for something different and lively at night time in Vigan City.

 

eating out vigan seaffod paella

 

Traditional to fusion at Sitio Food Park

 

 

eating out vigan city at Sitio food park

How to get to Vigan City

The easiest way to get to Vigan City is by flying from Manila to the closest airport at Laoag and taking a bus or hired car to Vigan. There are about 4 main bus lines from Laoag to Vigan City and the best schedule is with

If you are going to fly, check out these airline deals through Skyscanner to Vigan City.

Other alternatives would be to take one a 10 hour ride from Manila to Vigan city which is a cheaper alternative.

 

 

 

Where to stay in Vigan City

 There are plenty of fantastic accommodations, but the best stays are in some of the beautiful homes repurposed into inns or hotels. Here are some of the wonderful choices for inns to add to your stay and visit to Vigan City below.

Hotel Luna – nicely restored with a swimming pool, the comfortable rooms and modern amenities make this stay and close proximity to Calle Crisologo ideal in the historic district.

 

Hotel Salcedo de Vigan – Beautifully restored colonial home in the heart of the historic district with spacious rooms, fantastic buffet breakfast and friendly front desk service.

 

Vigan Plaza Hotel – A grand colonial home restored with beautiful antiques, large rooms with historic details and features in the rooms and main room. In the historic district with comfortable sized rooms.

 

Check out these other listing reviews with Trip Advisor here for current prices and availability.

 

More details about visiting Vigan City

It’s relatively easy to get around the city by taxi or tricycle, you can also hire a Kalesa ride to take you to any of the historic places around the city.

Try some of the local Ilocano specialty dishes like empanadas or okoy, loggonnisa (local sausages), and popular main dishes like pinakbet, bagnet (fried pork belly)

There are quite a few spas around Vigan City which are a fantastic and inexpensive way to wind down after touring around the city. You can check out the various spas here for more details.

 

 

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Vigan City, Philippines

 

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26 Responses to Must-see Vigan tourist spots, Ilocos Sur

  1. Anita Hendrieka December 7, 2017 at 7:34 am #

    I never knew this place existed! I would love to take a visit to the watchtower and the markets. It sounds like there is lots of great stuff to do in Vigan!

    • Noel December 7, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

      Vigan City is one of those rare colonial cities in the Philippines that remained relatively intact and is definitely worth a visit

  2. AllGudThings December 5, 2017 at 10:20 pm #

    Whenever I think of Philippines, I think about beaches and never the colonial city. But the Vigan city in Ilcos Sur looks quite impressive and interesting. Riding by Kalesa horse buggies to experience the colonial lifestyle will be on top of my list. Plaza Salcedo and Abel illoco is another attraction I would love to hang and shop around. Great pictures and thanks for sharing.

    • Noel December 6, 2017 at 11:17 am #

      Most people think of the Philippines as beaches and islands, but there are some cultural gems worth visiting like Vigan city in Ilocos Sud

  3. Anneklien Meanne December 5, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

    I was born and bred here, its so nice reading articles about my home town Vigan City…. you missed going to PAGBURNAYAN a local pottery neighbourhood. Did you try to visit places making the VIGAN longanisa (local sausage)

    • Noel December 6, 2017 at 11:20 am #

      Oh yes I visiting some of those places that do make and sell Longonissa, the Vigan Sausage specialty. Thanks for suggesting this.

  4. Nisha December 5, 2017 at 2:04 am #

    I am nostalgic abut our tour of Ilocos. I can never forget how we were overtaken by the cyclone and reached Manila after a delay of many hours. Your photos are just too good Nathan. Especially the street photos :).

    • Noel December 5, 2017 at 11:39 am #

      It looks like its back to normal and Vigan city is shining with beautiful architecture, food and places to explore

  5. Divyakshi December 4, 2017 at 3:51 am #

    I had never heard of Vigan city. A little bit of Spain in Philippines! 🙂 Loved the quirky, rustic charm on the streets with colonial architecture and an authentic character of it’s own! Calle Crisologo looks like a superb place for street shots and people watching. Loved the architecture of St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral and the vintage charm of Father Burgos Museum and Home! I’d love to visit the traditional raft centres of Abel Iloco! Thanks for such an insightful post!

    • Noel December 4, 2017 at 10:05 am #

      It’s well preserved and well worth the Unesco designation, a must visit to Vigan City

  6. SkyeClass December 4, 2017 at 1:19 am #

    Vigan City looks like a great place to explore. I still haven’t made it to the Philippines, but I hope to fix that next year. I would certainly head for that food market, and climb up Bantay Belfry to get a view of the town. I had no idea this would be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I do try to get to as many of those as I can.

    • Noel December 4, 2017 at 10:06 am #

      Vigan city is very compact and easy to explore with all the interesting monuments, public squares and architecture – very unique for the Philippines

  7. Pedro December 3, 2017 at 11:16 pm #

    I still need to see more of the Philippines and Vigan will definitely make it to my itinerary next year.

    • Noel December 4, 2017 at 10:07 am #

      It is beautiful in Ilocos Sud and Vigan City

  8. Hannah Lukaszewicz December 3, 2017 at 7:54 am #

    Yet another place in the Philippines we need to visit. We spent in the Philippines back in 2014 but I think you could spend YEARS there exploring. So many amazing places.

    • Noel December 4, 2017 at 10:08 am #

      If you like Unesco sites then you would definitely enjoy exploring Vigan City Hannah

  9. eclecticgal December 2, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    Vigan City looks so different to my perception of The Philippines. I guess I just imagined great beaches and didn’t realise there were such fabulous historic districts. Really eye opening.

    • Noel December 3, 2017 at 6:36 am #

      This is unique for the Philippines, it really is a special city.

  10. Melanie Klien December 2, 2017 at 11:22 am #

    I want to see the Philippines so badly and I think this place looks much more attractive than Manila (although I am not very aware of things to do in Manila). I loved to read you enjoyed the empanadas and now I am hungry 🙂 Bantay Belfry looks really cool. I think I wouldn’t enjoy the market with all the dead animals and I am a bit worried that the horses have to work a lot with carrying people around. The place looks really cool and I hope I can visit one day.

    • Noel December 3, 2017 at 6:36 am #

      Vigan city is very unique to the Philippines and not like the busy metropolis of Manila

  11. alison abbott (@GreenWithRenvy) November 26, 2017 at 7:35 am #

    What a beautiful Unesco site. I spend many years in and out of Manila in the 80’s, but never had the opportunity to visit other pieces of the country. clearly I missed a lot. Vigan City reminds me a bit of Cuba with all the colonial influences. Thanks for the visit, your photos really tell a story.

    • Noel November 26, 2017 at 11:06 am #

      Vigan city is very different than the rest of the country and really maintains its heritage, hence the Unesco status, thanks for visiting.

  12. McCool Travel November 26, 2017 at 5:13 am #

    This is quite a comprehensive look at Vigan and Ilocos Sur. Those food stalls are calling my name. Mmmmmmm, empanadas.

    • Noel November 26, 2017 at 11:07 am #

      Vigan City is very historic, cool and fun at the same time.

  13. Rhonda Albom November 22, 2017 at 12:35 am #

    I love the architecture and style of this city. While I enjoy seeing all the church interiors, there is so much more to this city. I would definitely visit the Sitio food park.

    • Noel November 22, 2017 at 7:37 am #

      Vigan City is definitely a beautiful Unesco city in Ilocos Sur, I think you would definitely enjoy touring the entire region Rhonda

I look forward to hearing from you and continuing our discussion with any comment you would like to add

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