Attractions

What To See and Do in Vigan City

Written by Patrick

There’s more to see and do in Vigan City than just wander through its cobbled streets.

Vigan City, the capital of the province of Ilocos Sur, is a beautifully preserved Spanish colonial town in the northern part of Luzon.  It is one of the most visited spots in this part of the country and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and one of the New 7 Wonders Cities in 2015.  Vigan City is known for its cobblestone streets, well-maintained ancestral homes, and unique cultural heritage.

Here are some of the top attractions and activities to see and do in Vigan.

Calle Crisologo in Vigan City

Caption: Calle Crisologo in Vigan City

This most photographed pedestrian-only street is the heart of Vigan and a must-visit for any tourist.  It is known for its cobblestone pavements, horse-drawn carriages, and old Spanish structures lining the street.  These structures used to be houses of wealthy families during the Spanish colonial period and have been converted into inns, cafes, and shops selling various items such as accessories, furniture, antiques, and others.

READ MORE: Calle Crisologo

2 | Experience Kalesa Ride

Horse-drawn carriages called Kalesa in Vigan City.

Caption: Horse-drawn carriages called Kalesa in Vigan City

Complete your trip to this historical spot with a kalesa ride through Calle Crisologo and other heritage sites in the area.  A horse-drawn carriage, kalesa is a fun and relaxing way to see the sights and soak in a bit of Vigan history.

3 | Explore the National Museum of the Philippines Complex

Padre Burgos Museum in Vigan City

Caption: Padre Burgos Museum in Vigan City | Image Source

The National Museum of the Philippines Iloco Complex comprises three museums – Padre Burgos Museum, Old Carcel Museum, and Magsingal Museum.  Padre Burgos Museum, built in 1788, was the home of the martyr priest and now features his memorabilia and old furniture and other items representing an old lifestyle.

The Old Carcel, on the other hand, features memorabilia of Elpidio Quirino, the 6th President of the Philippines.  Quirino was born in the Old Carcel back during the time it was used as a town jailhouse wherein his father served as warden during the Spanish era.  The largest building in the complex, Old Carcel is also home to 14 paintings of Basi Revolt, a revolt in 1807 which revolved around the Ilocano’s love for basi, or sugarcane wine.

Magsingal Museum was originally built as a convent in the late 18th century and then later on used as a school during the American colonial period.  It was opened as a museum in 1982 and became a National Cultural Treasure in 2010. 

4 | Go on a Food Trip

Local sausage called Longganisa in Vigan City.

Caption: Local sausage called Longganisa in Vigan City.

Ilocano cuisine is known for their tasty and unforgettable dishes.  Vigan, being the capital of Ilocos Sur, 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 endeavors.  Indulge in crispy bagnet (deep-fried pork belly), a Vigan staple, or savor poqui poqui, a hearty eggplant and shrimp stew.  Don’t miss the unique Vigan empanada, a savory pastry-filled with vegetables, meat, and egg.  Wash it all down with refreshing local drinks like basi (sugarcane juice) or locally brewed coffee.

Try the Vigan longganisa, too!

5 | See the Dancing Fountain Show at Plaza Salcedo

Plaza Salcedo in Vigan City

Caption: Plaza Salcedo in Vigan City

Plaza Salcedo transforms into a magical spectacle every night with its dancing fountain.  The show features synchronized sprays of water illuminated by colorful laser lights.  This free nightly show (starting around 7:30 pm) is a delightful way to end your day in Vigan.  Find a spot on the bleachers or around the reflecting pool, and be mesmerized by the dancing water as it paints vibrant patterns against the historic backdrop of Vigan’s architecture.

6 | Know More About Traditional Arts and Crafts

Pottery in Vigan City

Caption: Pottery in Vigan City

Vigan boasts a rich tradition of arts and crafts, passed down through generations and reflecting the city’s unique cultural heritage.  The crown jewel is abel weaving, where intricate handloom techniques transform cotton and local fibers into stunning, colorful fabrics made into shirts, table runners, and even blankets.  You can try how a loom is used to create inabel, a traditional woven fabric known for its strength and colors.

If that’s not enough, you can also immerse yourself in the pottery-making district of Pagburnayan. Watch artisans work their magic, shaping the clay and firing it in traditional kilns. You can even try your hand at making a pot, a unique and memorable experience.

7 | Enjoy Fresh Air at Mindoro Beach

Mindoro Beach in Vigan City

Caption: Mindoro Beach in Vigan City | Image Source

Less than 10 kilometers away from Calle Crisologo lies Mindoro Beach.  This beach isn’t your typical paradise with sugary white sand or the brownish black sand common in most parts of the country.  The sand’s jet black 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 swimming might not be for everyone.

Void of fancy restaurants in the area, Mindoro Beach offers a laid-back atmosphere perfect for relaxation.

8 | Find Vigan Hidden Garden

Hidden Garden in Vigan City

Caption: Hidden Garden in Vigan City | Image Source

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.

9 | Take photos of Vigan Cathedral

Vigan Cathedral

Caption: 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.  The exterior features large buttresses while inside 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.

10 | Visit other attractions outside Vigan City

Bantay Tower

Caption: Bantay Tower

Just outside the city 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.

Getting to Vigan may take time and effort but you will not regret it.  The city isn’t just a destination; it’s a journey back in time with a touch of modern charm. So, come explore the captivating streets, embrace the warm hospitality, and discover the magic that awaits you in this UNESCO World Heritage City.

READ MORE: Vigan City Visitors Guide

About the Author

Patrick

Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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