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!
- 1 Spanish architecture and history
- 2 Activities in Vigan
- 2.1 Activities you can walk to:
- 2.2 Calle Crisologo
- 2.3 Shopping
- 2.4 Vigan Cathedral
- 2.5 Plaza Salcedo (Dancing Fountain
- 2.6 Vigan City Hall and Ilocos Provincial Capitol
- 2.7 Vigan and Ilocos Signs
- 2.8 Activities you’ll need a tricycle for:
- 2.9 Pagburnayan Jar Factory
- 2.10 Hidden Garden
- 2.11 Mindoro Beach
- 2.12 Baluarte Zoo
- 2.13 Bantay Bell Tower and St Augustine Church
- 3 Vigan Travel Guide
Spanish architecture and history
If you want to know more about the city, there are two great museums to check out. They offer both Vigan city history, Illocos regional history, and general Philippines history.
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.
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.
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).
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 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 🙂
All of the above activities as well are free and should only take you about 2-3 hours to complete.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
Vigan Travel Guide
If you want more information on Vigan read my full guide here.