Took us 7-8 hours drive from Manila to this place. The road trip going up north is an experience as you witness vast lands welcomes you on you first 3 hours on the road but can be tiresome seeing fleeting images as our car passes by for the next 3 hours. After countless stopovers for restroom and cigarette breaks, we then arrived in Vigan.
We were tired and weary from the travel, but the sight of the heritage houses, the gallop of the horses’ shoes against the cobblestone road, the smell of garlic and townfolks walking calmly along the streets brushed away our gnarly feeling and we begin to feel giddy inside.
Incredibly exceptional among other cities here in The Philippines as compared to other towns, because of the town’s preservation of old Vigan.
One of the oldest towns in the Philippines, Vigan is a Spanish-colonial fairy tale of Molave wood mansions, cobblestone pavements and clattering horse-drawn carriages or as we call it Kalesa.
Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and South-East Asia.
The truth about this Unesco World Heritage site is a little more complicated. Vigan is the finest surviving example of a Spanish colonial town in Asia, but outside Crisologo and a few surrounding blocks, it’s a noisy Filipino town as well.
You may find it easier to appreciate the places where history is alive, where you can smell the aroma of freshly baked empanadas wafting past antique shops, pottery collectives, and capiz-shell windows.
Vigan has maintained its authenticity in its grid historic urban layout and use of open spaces. Local conduct commerce at the lower floors and uses the upper levels as their residences. The consciousness of the need to preserve authenticity has significantly increased since the site was inscribed. protection practices that have developed organically over the last three centuries are now being re-introduced, making use of a substantial reserve of traditional building crafts that have survived.
The city is approximately 406 KM or 252.277 miles from Manila. You may opt to take your own car or hop on a bus. We highly recommend riding the Partas Lines. Check their latest rates here:
The Gordion Hotel (1,950php/2 pax or 39USD) is pretty popular since they’ve been in business since the 1950’s. They have a total of 21 rooms and they’re able to maintain their old Filipiniana ambiance. Furnishings, fixtures, and beds are well kept. Props also for their wonderful customer service and they’ve been in business since the 1950’s making them a tenure in the hospitality industry . They have a total of 21 rooms and they’re able to maintain their old Filipiniana ambiance. Furnishings, fixtures, and beds are well kept. Props also for their wonderful customer service
You may book via Travelbook.ph as shown on the upper right part of this article. Travelbook.ph shoulders the 12% VAT on your hotel bookings! Guaranteed cheap prices and you earn points that you may later be used for your future travels. Don’t have a credit card? you can also pay at the hotel of your choice when you arrive.
Address: Crisologo, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
Cobblestone roads, Kalesa and Filipiniana-Spanish built houses. Take a step back time through this street.
Bantay Bell Tower
Address: Bantay, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
It’s just the same as other bell towers. Nothing extraordinary about this one to be honest, but its back history is pretty interesting. It is the bell tower of Saint Augustine Parish Church, known as the Bantay Church. The Bantay Tower serves as a watchtower for pirates back in the Spanish Colonial era which gave its name ‘Bantay’ (watcher or to guard). It was established back in 1950 and is one of the oldest in the Ilocos region.
Address: A. Reyes St, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
the birth place of Father Jose Burgos, one of the 3 priests of GOMBURZA. The Crisologo Museum was established after Floro Crisologo’s death. He was shot inside the St. Paul’s Cathedral with the museum devoted to his legacy. Entrance is at 20php. Open from 8:30am-4:30pm.
Address: Liberation Blvd, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
The iconic pottery place in the city. Its name, Pagburnayan, comes from the root word burnay. It refers to the hand-crafted earthenware pots made from Vigan. Bantog clays these are called. They’re dug from the western barangays of the city and they’ve been sourcing their materials from that area since Chinese immigrants came to Vigan City and established the craft.
is a local zoo owned by Gov. Chavit Singson. No entrance fee. He has impressive collections of exotic animals.
Free-admission, 100-hectare zoological park with a gallery of the Chavit’s safari hunting trophies. The zoo is open from 6am-6pm.
The Baluarte also houses a butterfly sanctuary.
The Hidden Garden
Address: Katipunan St, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, Philippine
Smack right in the middle of Vigan is a hidden garden (literally). They have a restaurant inside, potteries and vast collection of flora and fauna. Pretty relaxing most especially fro 5pm onwards as the sun is about to set down, the temprature starts to get a bit colder and they’ll open their amber lights. They’re open from 8am-8pm. Link to their official website here.
St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral
Part and parcel of the UNESCO World Heritage stamp that encompasses the whole city, Vigan’s St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral stands as one of the town’s most prominent landmark. It sits in front of Plaza Salcedo where the dancing fountain is located. On its right is Plaza Burgos; while on its left sits the Archbishop’s Palace of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia.
We travel for food. Food in Vigan or in Ilocos has always been delectable and comforting. In Vigan there are a lot of cafe and restaurants to choose from so just take your pick, but here are the MUST try the food when you’re in this place.
The Bagnet (of course) of Lampong’s Restaurant, 28 Crisologo Street, Vigan.
Boiled and deep fried pork perfectly pairs well with steaming white rice and side of vinegar or shrimp paste.
The Pinakbet Pizza of Cafe Leona, Mena Crisologo St, Vigan
Aside from serving traditional Ilocano cuisine, some restaurants in Vigan, like Cafe Leona, offer unique takes on the staples with their fusion dishes.
The Vigan Longanisa of Grandpa’s Inn, Bonifacio, Vigan
Vigan Longanisa is a small and plump native sausage, that has a strong garlic flavor. Usually eaten with garlic rice and side of fried sunny side up egg.
The Empanada of Irene’s Emapanada, Salcedo Street, Vigan
A delicious patty stuffed with grated green papaya, toge or mung bean sprouts, shredded carrots, whole egg and skinless Vigan longganisa. Deepfried. Sinful, but it is worth it.
Here’s a complete list of restaurants and cafe in Vigan City: Directory of Dining & Entertainment Establishments
Vigan brings images of antiquated houses, cobbled narrow streets, calesas and friendly faces peering out of large windows, a place where time stalls. Walk its cobblestoned street at night where the street lights glimmer like amber that creates a nostalgic mood in Sepia color.
This place feels different in a good way. It is a reminder how grand things were back then and that reminder can co-exist with the present.
The Philippines’ only UNESCO World Heritage City, the charming town up north of Manila is festive yet peaceful. Go for its architecture, its calesas, the food or for the quaint souvenir shops. The old ladies in their corner store shops calling you out nicely and with a soft tone of their term of endearment ‘Ading’ which means -younger sister/brother- Ilocano’s know the value of hard work, they are appreciative people and warm. Go to Vigan also for its people and they will welcome you with open arms. Experience the place in its entirety. As we always say, go forth and wander and be a storyteller when you return home.
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