The historic Spanish style buildings can be found all around the Philippines, but none are as condensed and preserved as those in the city of Vigan. Located in the north-western Philippines, it is home to some of the best history and architectural memories of the origins of the Filipino people.
While most that visit Vigan come here for only a short time to see the famous street of Calle Crisologo, it’s worthwhile to stay longer and explore many of the hidden gems that Vigan has to offer. Not only does it have great Spanish style architecture, but a great mix of nature, beaches, animal-life, and a brand new dancing water fountain.
Use my guide below to understand how to get to Vigan, it’s rich Spanish history, activities to do, food to try, and best hotels to stay in. See you in Vigan!
How to get to Vigan?
There are plenty of Bus routes going to Vigan that you can take from Manila.
Below are the most common bus companies that have routes going to Vigan. To get to Vigan you’ll want to take the bus route going to Laoag and get off in Vigan.
- Partas from Cubao(Manila)
- Dominion Bus from Cubao(Manila)
- Viron Transit from Cubao or Sampaloc (Manila)
- Florida Bus from Cubao or Sampaloc (Manila)
Most companies offer both regular buses and the 1st class buses with the large seats that recline far back. The cost of the bus fare depends on which one you choose but costs between 600-800PHP (Around 12-16 USD)
If you want to book your trip in advance, you can book using 12Go here:
The trip from Manila takes around 8-9 hours to get there so typically it’s best to take a trip later in the day so you can sleep all night and arrive there rested. The bus will have one stop over on the way so be sure to watch your liquid intake! 🙂
Spanish architecture and history
Vigan is a well known Philippine city in the north and was a very prosperous place to be since it’s start both economically and politically. It’s mix of cultures ranges from Spain, China, America, and many others. For that reason you’ll notice a unique architecture style to Vigan which has primarily Spanish influence.
While there are many great architectural wonders in the Philippines, Vigan is a very unique place as it was essentially left untouched during the World War II. The community, proud of it’s unique city, kept the buildings in beautiful condition and continued to preserve it’s cities heritage.
That is why UNESCO named Vigan a World Heritage Site as an “exemplary model for preservation of Spanish colonial towns in Asia.”
When visiting Vigan, to get the best view of this Spanish style architecture, you’ll want to head to Calle Crisologo which is the most well preserved cobblestone street in Vigan lined on both sides with well preserved buildings.
Calle Crisologo is not passable by vehicle and is either walked or you can opt to take a unique Vigan travel option called the Calesa (horse drawn carriage). For P150/hour (About $3/hour) you can have a personalized tour around the city in the Calessa taking you to each of the best tourist destination around the city. If it’s your first time, this is definitely a must!
If you want to know more about the city, there are two great museums to check out:
- Crisologo Museum: This is a privately owned museum and does not have an entrance fee. It has many beautifully preserved items from all over the Ilocos region and has fully furnished rooms with restored furniture from the kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedrooms.
- National Museum of the Philippines Ilocos (Burgos Museum): Vigan being the heart of the Ilocos region is also host to the national museum holding an overview of the history of the entire area. Housed in an old mansion, inside is a renovated museum which had some interesting history including a history of the wooden loom that Ilocos is well known for it’s weaving.
While there are many other activities to do in Vigan, dont skip a chance to learn a bit of history and check out these two great museums on your way though.
Activities in Vigan
Vigan may be a small city but it’s packed full of so many great things to see and do. I’ll cover the best ones here that I discovered on my visit to Vigan. If you find others, comment below so I can add them!
Activities you can walk to:
Here are my suggestions for a nice walking tour around the city in a logical order from one side to the next.
Crisologo Museum: Start your day by visiting the Crisologo Museum on the far end of the Calle Crisologo. That will get your first big of history in.
Calle Crisologo: Walk down Liberation Blvd to the Calle Crisologo and begin your first steps down the cobblestone streets. It’s here that you can get those famous photos in front of the beautiful doorways or in the middle of the cobblestone street.
Shopping: While walking down Calle Crisologo you’ll see plenty of vendors selling all sorts of colorful clothing, snacks, key-chains and magnets, and plenty of other gifts for you to take home (or as Filipinos call it – pasalubong).
Vigan Cathedral: As you get to the end of the street you’ll reach the Vigan Cathedral built in the 1800’s with a predominately Baroque design and a beautiful bell tower just nearby.
Plaza Salcedo (Dancing Fountain: This is by far the most surprising find in Vigan as the Plaza Salcedo used to be a bit of a barren concrete plaza. Now it holds a large pond with hundreds of shooting water fountains to create a beautiful show every night at 7PM. You can watch a video of this amazing show below:
Vigan City Hall and Ilocos Provincial Capitol: Surrounding the Plaza Salcedo are the City Hall and Capitol buildings which is a very typical setup of a plaza in the Philippines to have all government buildings at the city center.
Vigan and Ilocos City Signs: Right at the front of the dancing fountain you’ll see two signs both for Vigan and Ilocos which you can get your photos in front of as proof you were here 🙂
Burgos Museum: Just behind the Ilocos Provincial Capitol building you’ll find the Burgos Museum for your last bit of history for the day.
All of the above activities as well are free and should only take you about 2-3 hours to do.
Activities you’ll need a tricycle for:
To get to the remaining activities in the city you should hire a tricycle driver for. The great news is it doesn’t cost very much to go around with one. Here are the 4 places just nearby Vigan that you definitely have to check out.
To do all 5 activities below you can hire a tricycle for about 500PHP (About $10 USD) for 1-4 people.
Pagburnayan Jar Factory: While this may not be the most exciting thing for some, I love the arts so I found it really awesome to see the potters using a pottery wheel that you have to push with you foot to get it spinning. I highly suggest to try their local sweet wine as it was quite good tasting.
Hidden Garden: I suggest getting here by lunch time to have some great food. Not only is it a really great restaurant in Vigan but also has a beautiful “hidden” garden with plenty of trails to get lost in and take photos. They even have a lovers corner 🙂
Mindoro Beach: Most people who go to Vigan don’t know that they have a beach as its not quite developed yet. The water is nice and refreshing if you’re looking to get your vitamin-sea.
Baluarte Zoo: My favorite part of the entire Vigan experience is the Baluarte Zoo. Not only are there plenty of really interesting animals to walk around and see but my favorite part is the animal show which happens daily at 10AM, 2PM, and 4PM. During these shows different animals perform tricks and they invite guests to be surprised and hold different animals including snakes, lizards, bear cats, sugar gliders, and more!
You can also travel up to the top of the hill to the Safari Gallery which has stuffed and preserved animals from around the world that Chavit Singson (the owner of Baluarte) hunted in his travels around the world including elephants, polar bears, lions, and much more.
Bantay Bell Tower and St Augustine Church: Before leaving the city, your trip wont be complete without climbing the Bantay Bell Tower. The beautiful tower rises up over the whole city and you can climb to the very top to see the ocean on one side and the city skyline on the other. A stop inside the St Augustine Church next door is also nice to see the pearl white archways and golden alter.
All of these activities as well are free of charge to get in, however, many of them ask for donations to maintain the structures.
Must try food in Vigan
Every city you visit has their own specialties and Vigan is no different. Overall I really love the food in Vigan. Their portions are good, the price isn’t too high, and the taste is exceptional no matter where you go.
Here are my personal top 5 must try food in Vigan:
- Empanada: No matter what time of day it is, if you’re passing by Irene’s place on Calle Crisologo you better pick up the most tasty empanada you’ll ever try. It’s stuffed with egg, longganisa, and papaya and is delicious!
- Ice Cream: No matter where I go, I always try the ice cream and in Vigan where it’s always hot they have no shortage of ice cream vendors on every street corner. You can get it in avocado, mango, chocolate, ube, and more flavors.
- 4-Cheese Pizza: While you can find pizza everywhere in the world, there are certain places that just get it right and Cafe Leona’s 4-cheese pizza is definitely to die for!
- Fresh Sugar Cane Juice: As you walk down Calle Crisologo, you’ll see a fresh sugar cane juice vendor and it’s the most refreshing treat as the sun shines down on the cobblestone street.
- Bagnet: While I’m not a big fan of fried food, my Filipino friends absolutely love bagnet. This is a deep fried crispy pork belly and is very similar to a Filipino dish lechon kawali.
Where to stay in Vigan
Vigan is a developed city and has no shortage of accommodations for you to stay in each with their own unique style and charm.
If you’re looking for more of a luxury hotel, I suggest staying at the Ciudad Fernandina Hotel also located at the heart of Vigan.
For both locals and foreigner looking for a beautiful city to visit, head on over to Vigan soon to learn about Filipino culture, food, architecture, and entertainment.