Anyone who loves heritage houses, cobblestone streets, colonial Spanish architecture, and history in general will surely love to explore Vigan City. Vigan is the capital of the province of Ilocos Sur in the northern part of Luzon. One of the most visited spots in this part of the country, the city is known for its Spanish colonial towns that remain well-preserved and intact up to this day. As such, it was recognized as one of the New 7 Wonders Cities in 2015 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
Aside from the historic aspect, Vigan City is a haven for foodie and crafters too as tourists can get first hand experience in loom weaving and pottery.
This brief guide to Vigan City will let you know how to get there, what to do, eat, and drink, where to stay, and must-see spots.
Best Time to Visit
It’s best to visit the Philippines during the dry season. Dry season in the Philippines spans from November through April. These are the summer months in this country.
Be aware that temperatures and humidity levels are particularly high in April and May.
The best time to be a beach bum and explore the islands is from March to May.
TIP: This guide recommends that booking for Vigan City summer trips should be done as early as possible, at least a month before your travel dates, since resorts get fully booked early.
The period from June to October is the rainy (wet) season and is best avoided due to the high possibility of typhoons. The typhoons can not only be destructive, but most tours and activities are cancelled under such circumstances. Transportation via plane and boat is also seriously impacted as well. This happens frequently so beware!
This guide recommends traveling to Vigan City in April-May or in November-December, just before and just after the rainy season. This will likely bring fewer crowds, yet pleasant weather, and is also a great time to score a travel deal.
Plug commonly used is Type A but Types B and C are used as well. Bring A to B adapter(s).
There are many ways to get here depending on your starting point. This guide recommends using the following online tools to identify all the available options and cost for each while in Vigan City: Rome2Rio and PHBUS. The following are the major ports of entry for this destination.
The following are the modes of transportation available in Vigan City …
SEE & DO
The following is your guide to places to see and activities to enjoy while in Vigan City.
1 | Explore Calle Crisologo
The most photographed street in Vigan, Calle Crisologo is known for its cobblestone pavements and old Spanish structures. These structures used to be houses of wealthy families during the Spanish colonial period but most of them have been converted into inns, cafes, and shops selling items such as accessories, furniture, antiques, and other souvenir items.
You can explore Calle Crisologo either on foot or through a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) ride.
2 | Go on a food trip
Ilocano cuisine is known for their tasty and unforgettable dishes. Vigan, being the capital of the province, is therefore a great destination for food lovers. Calle Crisologo alone is lined with cafes, restaurants, and eateries of various sizes and types serving delicious foods that will surely satisfy your gastronomic endeavours.
Make sure not to leave Vigan without trying their Vigan longganisa and empanada – they’re two of the best foods the city has to offer.
3 | Experience kalesa ride
Complete your trip back in time with a kalesa ride through Calle Crisologo and other heritage sites in the area. The rate of kalesa ride is around $10 USD an hour and may vary depending on your destination or itinerary.
4 | Visit museums, ancestral houses, and mansions
What is a heritage city without ancestral houses and mansions? There are several of them in Vigan and if you’re into these kinds of things, you’ll surely be in for a treat. Start with the National Museum of the Philippines Ilocos Complex where Padre Burgos House and the old Ilocos Provincial Jail are located. Both structures are now being used as museums and treasure troves of memorabilia of two prominent people in Philippine history: Padre Jose Burgos, one of the three martyr priests and Elpidio Quirino, the 6th Philippine President.
Syquia Mansion, one of the oldest bahay na bato (stonehouse) in the city, also operates as a museum showcasing family heirlooms and artifacts. Other ancestral houses turned into museums in the city include Crisologo Museum and Arce Mansion where you can rent traditional costumes for photo sessions.
5 | See the dancing fountain show at Plaza Salcedo
After a glorious day of exploring this historical city, cap off your night with a light and water show at Plaza Salcedo fountain area. Lasting for about 30 minutes, the show features a mesmerizing dance of vibrant laser lights and water. You can catch the show everyday, 7:30 PM during Mondays to Saturdays and 8:30 PM on Sundays.
6 | Take photos of Vigan Cathedral
Grace your social media timeline with photos of the historic Vigan Cathedral. Canonically known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Vigan Cathedral is a centuries-old church of Earthquake Baroque architecture. Inside and outside the church are beautiful embellishments inspired by Neo-Gothic, Romanesque, and Chinese. Despite going through some renovations to preserve the structure, Vigan Cathedral remains as splendid as it was before.
Across the cathedral is Plaza Burgos, another spot for more photo sessions or just chill and observe the surroundings.
7 | Relax at Vigan Hidden Garden
Relax amidst the presence of colorful tropical plants and flowers at Vigan Hidden Garden. Located a few kilometers from the heritage sites, Vigan Hidden Garden is a spacious area filled with potted plants and carved wooden sculptures. Inside is a restaurant, coffee shop, and souvenir shop.
8 | Learn Vigan traditional arts and crafts
One’s trip to Vigan isn’t complete without seeing the weavers and pottery makers. Loom weaving and pottery are traditional arts and crafts of Vigan and are a huge part of their livelihood. You can try how a loom is used to create inabel, a traditional woven fabric known for its strength and colors. You can also get your hands dirty molding clay at Pagburnayan Jar factory.
9 | Inspect the black sand of Mindoro Beach
Mindoro Beach is one of the few beaches in the Philippines with jet black sand, not the brownish black sand common in most parts of the country. The sand’s color is attributed to iron ore or magnetite caused by mining in the area. Facing the West Philippines Sea, Mindoro Beach has strong currents and large waves so remember to swim with caution.
10 | Nearby Destination
Just outside the city of Vigan is the town of Bantay where the famous Bantay Tower is located. It is located on a hilltop and originally used as a watchtower for the enemies during World War II. From the tower, one can see the whole town of Bantay and Vigan City.
NOTE: The Vigan Longganisa Festival occurs annually in Vigan City every 22 January…
EAT & DRINK
The following is your guide to the flavorful food to enjoy and restaurants to try while in Vigan City.
1 | 1995 Studio Cafe
1995 Studio Cafe serves local and Western favorites including pizza, chicken wings, and calzone with a local twist. They also serve coffees, teas, smoothies, cakes, and of course Ilocano dishes. The place may be small but the food quality is really great.
2 | BarTech
Named after the local term bartek which means to be drunk, BarTech is a great spot to enjoy alcoholic drinks and music. It is also the only restaurant in Vigan that offers an eat-all-you-can dinner buffet. Must-try is their bagnet longganisa meal.
3 | Cafe Bigaa
One of the oldest restaurants in the city, Vigan Plaza Hotel’s Cafe Bigaa used to be a gastropub that has developed into a restaurant that it is today. While their specialty are Ilocano dishes such as Vigan longganisa, bagnet, igado, and sinanglao they also serve traditional dishes with a Western twist like longganisa pasta and paella Ilocandia.
4 | Cafe Leona
Cafe Leona is one of the most remarkable restaurants in the city as they serve Ilocano dishes with Italian and Japanese fusion such as bagnet maki and pinakbet pizza. Located in the touristy area of Calle Crisologo, the restaurant’s facade blends in with the Spanish era architecture. It also offers outdoor seating for anyone who wants to enjoy their meal while watching the horse-drawn carriages passing by.
5 | Cafe Uno
With its great ambience and cozy setup, Cafe Uno is a great place for dates and late night conversations. It is famous for its cakes and pasta and is also a favorite breakfast spot for tourists as it offers different kinds of silog (portmanteau of sinangag and itlog or fried rice and egg) meals. The cafe serves local dishes like kare-kare and bagnet sisig and if you’re feeling adventurous, try their exotic dishes adobo nga abuos (mountain ant eggs) and tokak (deep-fried frogs).
6 | Hidden Garden
Also called Lilong and Lilang, the restaurant is located in Vigan Hidden Garden hence the more popular name. Aside from great ambience due to the greenery of the surroundings, the restaurant boasts of cozy bamboo and wood setup and of course, good quality food. It is a Filipino restaurant that serves dishes using the ingredients sourced locally. The servings are quite large yet reasonably-priced so the restaurant is great for groups of family or friends who want to enjoy the place over good food.
7 | Irene’s Vigan Empanada
What is a trip to Vigan without trying the city’s most famous delicacy from the best? When it comes to empanada, the best one that offers it is Irene’s. This humble spot at Calle Salcedo takes pride in its empanada that uses 100% rice flour and is made using a recipe that has been handed down for generations. In addition to the original fillings which are pork longganisa and bagnet, the menu has grown and now includes other fillings such as adobo flakes, beeg, chicken, crab, sisig, and tuna.
Irene’s Vigan has become so popular that they’ve branched out in Pasig, Manila.
8 | Kusina Felicitas
While it’s not located in Calle Crisologo, Kusina Felicitas still showcases the Spanish era charm the city is known for. The restaurant is in a heritage house built using 18th century materials, particularly the bricks. It specializes in authentic Ilocano dishes and also offers dishes from other parts of Northern Philippines. Must-try are pinakbet with bagnet and pipian na manok.
9 | Rhyss & Robin’s Food Hub
If you are looking to take a break from Ilocos cuisine while in Vigan, Rhyss & Robin’s Food Hub is where you need to be. This homey yet quaint food hub serves an all-day breakfast menu such as pancakes and waffles as well as sandwiches and milkshakes. They also serve other dishes like chicken poppers and beef penne. Reasonably-priced good quality foods and with good setup, Rhyss & Robin’s Food Hub will surely give you your money’s worth.
10 | Tessie’s Restaurant
Who says you can’t enjoy good foods while on a tight budget? Tessie’s Restaurant will prove that you don’t always need to pay much to make your tummy happy. This two-storey carinderia-style eatery serves Filipino foods including silog meals. The cost of food serving ranges between $1 USD to $3 USD so filling your tummy will never cause a big dent to your budget. Must-try are siopao and lomi with kimchi.
KNOWN FOR: Empanada and Vigan longganisa
WHERE TO STAY
There are many different types of accommodations available in this destination ranging from hostels to luxurious resorts. The following is your guide to our top choices for each range in Vigan City.
1 | Escolta’s Homey Lodge (Budget)
2 | Hotel Veneto de Vigan (Mid-Range)
3 | Hotel Luna (Luxury | Resort)
This guide recommends using the following sites to conduct research online of where to stay in Vigan City or for a specific destination:
Book your room with these trusted online booking sites. Booking online in the Philippines almost always guarantees the best price and a room when you arrive. We use these sites frequently to get the best prices and enjoy convenient bookings. Click each of the buttons below to find the best place for you at the lowest rates:
TIP: Escolta’s Homey Lodge is the best property to experience this destination.
Use the chart below to get an idea of how much to budget daily. Actual amounts will depend on YOUR travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages … some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less. Prices are in USD.
A bed in a hostel dorm costs from 350 PHP ($7 USD), but smaller dorms can cost from 500 PHP ($10 USD). For a private double, prices start around 700 PHP ($14 USD).
Most budget hotels begin at 700 PHP ($14 USD) per night for a double room and usually include free wifi and breakfast. For a three-star hotel, prices begin around 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night. AirBnB is also widespread throughout the country, with private rooms starting from as little as 500 PHP ($10 USD) per night. For entire apartments, expect to pay at least 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) per night.
Resorts and luxury accommodations vary greatly from 1,400 PHP ($28 USD) to 5,000+ PHP ($100+ USD). However, there are some really nice resorts and luxury accommodations which are surprisingly affordable.
Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 50 PHP ($1USD). For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 100 PHP ($2 USD). For a meal at a mid-range restaurant with drinks and table service, expect to pay from 200 PHP ($4 USD). Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Filipino food. Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher cost. Western food (burgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 200 PHP ($4 USD) for a meal and drink.
Fast food like McDonalds will cost around 200 PHP ($4 USD). A beer at the bar will cost around 50-100 PHP ($1–2 USD).
A week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300-600 PHP ($6-12 USD) per person. However, food in this country is so inexpensive, and kitchens & refrigerators are hard to come by, I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss!
There are many modes of transportation available in the Philippines and each varies greatly.
Public Transportation is cheap. Bus services on the islands are inexpensive. Local buses (called jeepneys) are the most common type of transportation in towns and cities. The fare is usually between 7-25 PHP ($.20–.50 USD).
On islands without a bus system, a taxi or tricycle is the only form of transport with fares starting at 50-500 PHP ($1-$10) USD for short trips.
Taxis are everywhere, and they’re very cheap. Most fares shouldn’t cost you more than 500 PHP ($10 USD) around town.
To get between islands, you’ll need to take a boat or to fly. There are ferries that connect the island together since they aren’t too far apart but, generally speaking, flights are the most realistic option.
Flights between islands usually cost about 2,000-3500 PHP ($40-70 USD). However, this isn’t the cheapest way to travel. It’s only recommended if you have limited time.
Attractions & Activities
Most attractions and activities in the Philippines are pretty cheap. Most attractions throughout the area are FREE to enter, though some of the more well known and popular ones cost 5-100 PHP ($.10-$2 USD) to enter.
Depending on the activity, most day tours only cost around 1,000-1,500 PHP ($20-30 USD), oftentimes less. You have more bargaining power if you go with a group. If you are expecting to do some climbing, remember to pack some warm layers. It gets cold at the top!
Other activities such as Island Hopping, scuba diving, helmet diving, swimming with whale sharks, jungle trekking, canyoning, ATVs, jet skis, wakeboarding, cruises, parasailing, horseback riding, cultural experiences, and tours can cost as much as 1,250-5,000+ PHP ($25-100+ USD).
The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. Learning to scuba dive usually costs about 15,000-20,000 PHP ($300-400 USD), but often includes FREE accommodation for the duration of the course, which lasts three or four days.
Always book your tours and activities when you arrive. Stick to travel agents who are selling on the ground. If a travel agent won’t negotiate with you, move on to the next until you find one that will. Booking tours online is almost always more expensive.
Typical Costs in Vigan City in 2021:
The following is some of our best advice on traveling to Vigan City. Learn what you need to know BEFORE you go!
Tips & Hacks
he following are our Top 10 Tips when visiting this destination in the Philippines:
- Be aware that a tourist VISA is only 30 days. You can extend it upon arrival, or within the first 30 days, for an additional 30 days for a fee of approximately 3,000 pesos.
- Don’t buy into the fear factor. The Philippines has an unjustified reputation of being a dangerous place. It’s true there are security guards everywhere, but that is to deter theft.
- Manila is NOT the Philippines. Get outside of the cities to see the real Philippines.
- Don’t over plan. Boats, buses, and even airplane schedules are notoriously unreliable. Be flexible.
- Check the weather. The weather varies greatly throughout the Philippines daily.
- Typhoons can have a huge impact on your plans. Account for this when planning your trip.
- It’s not cool to raise your voice or show outward frustration in public.
- Be polite at all times. Realize that your country’s sense of humor may be different from Filipino humor and take this into account when interacting with Filipinos and while in public places.
- Things move at a slower pace. Accept it … don’t get frustrated … but do account for it.
- Don’t drink the tap water… but stay hydrated! Save money by buying large bottles (6-10 liters) of water and using it to fill your water bottle or hydration bladder in your backpack.
For a complete list of our travel tips & hacks, check out the following guide and be sure to download a FREE copy for yourself.
The Philippines has its own currency called the Philippine Peso. Banks, ATMs, and money-changers can be found on the island. If you are exploring the neighboring islands or provinces, make sure to bring enough cash that will last until the next time you get to an ATM or bank since most tours, transportation, and budget accommodations only accept cash.
Health & Safety
While overall the Philippines is a safe country to visit, as is Vigan City, you need to use common sense just as you would in any country, especially when traveling, and in a city, town, or area you are unfamiliar with.
Consult your hotel or resort front desk as they are more likely to give you reliable information than a random stranger on the street. Be careful when approaching strangers and selective about who you approach. Always pay attention to your gut feeling and follow it.
There are many things to consider when traveling in order to stay safe … things that we may not be accustomed to during our normal everyday lives. The following are articles about tips on how to stay safe while traveling in the Philippines:
- 6 Common Accidents to Avoid
- How to Beat the Heat in the Philippines
- Taxi Safety Tips: Dos and Don’ts
- Motorbike Safety Tips
- Beach & Ocean Safety Tips
- Sun Safety Tips
Staying fit & healthy can be challenging when traveling in the Philippines.
The tropical Philippines climate requires you to prepare for illnesses that you may not normally be accustomed to.
The following are our Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy while Traveling in the Philippines:
- Maintain a Balanced Diet
- Stay Hydrated but Only Drink Bottled Water
- Get Plenty of Rest
- Allow Your Body Time to Adjust
- Keep Active
- Sanitize Often
- Be Aware of Food Safety Concerns
- Take Your Vitamins
- Practice Safe Sex
- Be Prepared Should You Get Sick
You need to have a local-based SIM card in order to stay connected when in the Philippines. Network giants such as Globe and Smart have SIM cards you can use to make calls, send text messages, and also to connect to the Internet. A SIM card costs around 50 PHP ($1 USD) and usually comes with a FREE load worth 50 PHP ($1 USD). You can buy a card containing a code you can enter on your phone to replenish your load or buy an electronic load that is available almost anywhere in the city.
While you may not have problems with signal strength when in the city, it is not always the case when on islands or in remote areas of a province. So when arranging for transportation pick up, say when renting a boat to take you to and pick you up from the island, it would be best that you make it clear what time you need to be picked up before the boatman leaves.
Recommended Travel Apps
Apps for smartphones and tablets can be useful both before you leave and while you’re traveling. Most are available for iPhones and Android phones.
- Grab (taxis/ride shares)
- Angkas (motorbike ride-hailing)
- WhatsApp (phone calls)
- Skyscanner (flights)
- Rome2Rio (transportation)
- Agoda (accomodations)
- Booking.com (accomodations)
- AirBnB (accomodations)
- Traveloka (flights, accomodations, activities)
- Klook (attractions & activities )
Be certain to download and set up apps BEFORE leaving on your trip to make certain each is installed and working properly.
For our complete list of travel apps that we use and recommend while traveling in the Philippines, checkout our checklist below. Download a FREE copy for yourself as a PDF.
Trying to decide what to do when traveling to a destination for the first time can be a bit overwhelming given your lack of familiarity with the place along with all of the available options.
We’ve created the following itinerary to help simplify the process and ensure that you get the most out of your trip. Although we provide a 7 day itinerary for this destination, it can always be adjusted to fit the length of your trip.
The secret to a successful and stress-free trip is to start by using a packing list. This will reduce anxiety from the start and ensure that nothing important is forgotten when packing. To make this process easy for you, we’ve created a detailed packing list. Click the link below to download it for FREE now.
Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you do not leave anything behind.
Things to Remember
This guide recommends to take note of the following while traveling in Vigan City or in the Philippines in general.
There is a nationwide ban which prohibits smoking in public places including indoors, the streets, on sidewalks, in restaurants , and on public transportation, requiring smokers to use designated smoking areas. Selling tobacco to and purchasing from or for minors is also prohibited. Violators are subject to fines (up to 5,000 PHP | $100 USD) and even 4 months in prison.
The minimum legal drinking age is 18. Alcohol such as beer and hard drinks can easily be bought in grocery and convenience stores. The most common alcoholic beverage is beer, generally served cold. Local alcoholic drinks include tuba (coconut wine which is usually very strong) and potent moonshine-like clear liquors made from sugar or fruit. Imported beer, wine, and name brand hard alcohol are available but expensive.
Drugs are illegal in the Philippines. Don’t use, buy, or sell any non-prescription drugs while in the Philippines … not even marijuana. It is considered an especially heinous crime to buy from, for, or sell drugs to children. The penalties are severe … up to and including death.
Public nudity is illegal in the Philippines and is not tolerated. Most locals consider it offensive. There are laws which prohibit provocative and erotic clothing and swimwear, therefore carefully consider your clothings and swimwear choices to make certain they are not too revealing.
Foreigners & Expats
If you are not a Filipino citizen, remember that you are a guest when visiting this country … be certain to act accordingly. Respect the people, their customs, and the environment and wlidlife. You can be deported and banned … so behave … but have fun and enjoy all that this wonderful destination has to offer.
Don’t Forget …
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