Top 16 Tourist Spots and Best Things to do in Vigan, Ilocos Sur
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(Vigan City, Philippines) — Vigan is the capital of Ilocos Sur and a Spanish colonial town founded in the 16th century. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its strong cultural elements influenced by Spanish and Chinese culture. Its river used to be a trading post before the Spanish colonization. Chinese traders used to frequent Vigan to have their goods exchanged with gold, beeswax, and other products from the Cordillera region.
Today, Vigan is a clear picture of how it used to be in the old days when life was slow and not too many people have heard of the city yet. The well-preserved cobblestone streets remain to be one of the most visited attractions of Vigan but there is still so much more to see when you visit.
Here are 15 activities you shouldn’t miss when in Vigan.
Walking Tour of Calle Crisologo
The name of this famous spot in Vigan comes from the family name of Mena Crisologo; a politician, poet, writers, and playwright. The cobblestone street is well-preserved and lined with touristy spots like hotels, bars, souvenir shops, and cafes. There are no vehicles passing this street hence the perfect way to take photos of sturdy Spanish architectures. The place is open 24 hours so there’s no need to rush just to get there.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Vigan is an old Jar factory which is locally called Pagburnayan. Pottery or Burnay making is already considered a dying tradition, the last pot maker or Pagburnayan may not have his successor in the future. Burnay are earthen jars with small openings while those with bigger mouths are called wangging.
Eat at Café Leona
Named after the poetess Leona Florentino, this café is world-famous and used to be her own ancestral home. It became a restaurant and continues to wow patrons with their longganisa and bagnet offerings. Tourists swear that they’ve had the best breakfast experience in the café. Besides Filipino foods, they also serve Japanese, Italian and Thai cuisine. The café is located in Calle Crisologo.
Visit Mestizo River
This river has been the gateway of trading in the old days for Ilokanos and their foreign guests. A great way to know the history of the river is through the Vigan River Cruise which lasts 45 minutes that details its discovery and how it is to this day. Joining the cruise lets you enjoy nature and learn some things about how Vigan started. Bring sunblock with you on this trip.
Abel-Iloko Weaving Community
Vigan is known for its traditional Abel cloth which is a woven product beloved by many for its quality and appearance. You can have a rewarding experience when you visit an Abel showroom where you can learn about the craft, get to know the craftsmen and buy these traditional products for souvenirs. Some of the most notable Abel shops are Rowilda’s and Cristy’s. Abel-Iloko products are shawls, blankets, table napkins, blouses, and placemats.
Visit the Bantay Bell Tower
This bell tower sits on top of a hill overlooking Bantay, Vigan, hence the name. Bantay Bell Tower stands beside the St. Augustine Parish which is one of the oldest churches in Ilocos Sur. Visitors can climb the bell tower and enjoy the open skies of Vigan. Tourists who didn’t climb the tall structure can take postcard-worthy shots instead.
Explore Baluarte Zoo
Chavit Singson, a local politician established Baluarte to promote animal conservation. It’s located in a big area of rolling plains and hills where the owner’s house is also located. Different animals from the Philippines and abroad can be found in Baluarte. There’s an animal museum and an interactive wildlife show for guests to see in Baluarte.
Experience Vigan Kalesa Ride
A Kalesa ride is synonymous to Vigan. It’s a means of transportation in the old days and a way to roam around Vigan in a fashionable and touristy way. There are plenty of kalesa (horse carriage) in Vigan and it wouldn’t be hard to get a ride to your destination. You can choose to ride for an hour or arrange to be brought from destination to destination for a couple of hours.
Visit The Syquia Mansion
This ancestral home is where the late President Elpidio Quirino lived with his wife. The house belongs to his wife’s family. The ancestral house features high ceiling rooms and hard floors as wells as wood carvings, antique wood furniture, and porcelain pieces. Visitors will also see the paintings of Quirino and his family member, one of which is made by Fernando Amorsolo. Read more about Syquia Mansion.
‘Bahay na Bato’ Father Burgos House
Padre Burgos of the Gomburza trio during the Spanish colonization used to live in this house. It now has been turned into a museum where visitors can see antique farming and weaving equipment and photographs of famous people in Vigan. The bedroom of Padre Burgos is still intact complete with his writings essentials.
Try Ilocos Sinanglaw
Sinanglaw is a local dish made of beef and its innards and flavored with onions, ginger, garlic and kamias (used as a souring agent). It also uses bile for some bitterness. It’s much like pinapaitan and a perfect accompaniment to beer. The best stalls in Vigan to go to for a taste of Sinanglaw are the ones near Padre Burgos.
Try Ilocos Empanada
This empanada is the orange and tasty version of the classic pastry bread also available in other countries. What sets Ilocos Empanada apart is its ingredients. The meat used is Ilocos longganisa along with other ingredients like mung beans, papaya and kesong puti (white cheese). Stalls selling Ilocos Empanada are aplenty so it’s easy to buy this snack which you can munch on while going on a walking tour.
Antique and Jewelry Hunting
The rich history of Vigan has allowed it to amass a huge collection of antiques and jewelry which some stores there are now selling. Patient tourists can find old coins, clothes and other antique items they can take home from this journey. One of the best sellers of antique stores in Vigan is the miniature antiques they’re selling.
Visit Crisologo Museum
The late Congressman Floro S. Crisologo and his wife is the owner of this once ancestral home. He was assassinated in St. Paul’s Cathedral and after his passing; his wife turned their home into a museum. The museum is free of charge but they accept donations for maintenance. Visitors can see clothes, antiques, etc. which belonged to the late solon. There’s one thing though, visitors can’t touch the memorabilia but picture taking is allowed.
Black Sand Mindoro Beach
Any visitor will be in awe with Mindoro Beach’s black sand. There are some strong currents on this beach so swim cautiously. Its color comes from the iron ore or magnetite which actually glistens if you’ll look closely. This is the reason why some parts of the beach aren’t black because the black sand used to be mined illegally but never the less the beach is still amazing.
Visit Arce Mansion
Play dress and be like an Ilustrado in this ancestral house turned into a museum. The museum serves dinner to guests while dressed up. How cool is that? You get to live in a bygone era while at Arce Museum. Aside from that, you can expect to see really old wood floors, antique furniture, and paintings.
Vigan’s heritage never ceases to amaze local and foreign tourists. It’s also the Philippines’ pride and a well-preserved location for people who wish to know true history and experience what it’s like to live there even for just a few minutes.
Prepare yourself to be amazed at the wonderful attractions of Vigan and take a good memory home with you.
Let us know if you have other interesting things to do in Vigan City that you want us to include on this list. Safe Travels!
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