Locally known to nicknames such as the Queen City of the South or the Gateway to A Thousand Journeys, the City of Cebu is the oldest city in the Philippines which made it have a very rich history and cultural significance. The city also serves as the access point to hundreds of tourist destinations just on the Cebu Island alone. In the city center, you will find a lot of heritage sites which dates back to the Spanish colonial era and there’s even a whole fort which served as a stronghold for the colonists back then.
Mactan-Cebu International Airport
You will first arrive in the very stylish Mactan-Cebu International Airport. It just recently beat Singapore’s Changi Airport, winning the World Architectural Awards for its design.
From the airport, you can visit the monument of Lapu-Lapu. He is considered to be the first hero of the Philippines. He successfully fended off the much more advanced Spanish invaders, killing their leader, Ferdinand Magellan, in the process.
His actions alone delayed the invasion of the Spaniards by 44 years. Ultimately though, the Philippines still ended up in their hands. The Philippines was ruled for more than three centuries by the Spanish until the Americans took over. This was followed by the Japanese during World War 2, finally gaining the long awaited independence back in 1946.
These events led to a diverse and unique cultural identity of the inhabitants. Every major island has their own language, customs, and signature cuisines. As such, Cebu City serves an important cultural hub since it is located in the center of the Visayan Region.
Cebu Island is home to the world’s finest beaches. It ranks just second to Boracay Island, which is also located in the Philippines, in the world ranking for the most beautiful beaches in the world. Therefore, it is almost a sin to skip the fine white sand beaches of Moalboal on your first trip here.
What Do You Like Best About Your City
The most wonderful thing in Cebu City is that the majority of the people will help you with a smile. As a bonus, almost every one of them speaks English so you will never lose your way unless you get really unlucky.
Despite the fact that most of them are living below the poverty line, Cebuanos, the local term for those who live in Cebu, emits this positive and cheerful vibe that is really helpful in calming your nerves if you ever feel anxious for visiting this unknown place.
Best Walk in Cebu City
From your hotel, book a grab and tell the driver to drop you off at Casa Gorordo in Parian. Be sure to put sun block as Cebu stays generally hot except during rainy seasons. This is the first stop of our walking journey.
Casa Gorordo is a newly renovated museum. You can find antiques and memorabilia from the Spanish colonial period and the other time periods in the city. You need to pay for an entrance fee, which costs about 70 Philippine Pesos if you are a foreigner. From here, you will join others for a guided tour and have a trip in time to catch a glimpse of how people in Cebu City lived back then.
Yap-Sanchez Ancestral House
From Casa Gorordo, you can then go to Yap-Sanchez Ancestral House, which is located in Mabini Street. It also has a guided tour, which costs 50 Philippine Pesos. It is a well preserved ancestral house that serves as some sort of time capsule for the family that used to live there.
After your trip through time, you can now proceed to the next destination which is the center piece of Parian. Just across the ancestral house is a majestic monument with no clear front or back parts – the Heritage of Cebu monument. A monument made of concrete, brass, and steel that depicts the important moments in the history of Cebu.
Our last stop in Parian is a warehouse just across the monument in Zulueta Street. There is a museum inside a warehouse called the Jesuit House Museum. Although its location does not sound to be the most appealing place to be, it’s actually quite a cozy with some unique ambiance inside.
After your journey in Parian, you may now proceed to our next destination which is located quite some distance away just straight ahead in Osmeña Boulevard.
Basilica Minore del Santo Nino and Magellan’s Cross
Probably the most well known church in Cebu, the basilica is considered to be the center of Cebu’s faith where the biggest religious event in Cebu happens every year. It has a very a huge interior adorned with beautiful paintings and statues of saints and is always full of people praying to Cebu’s patron saint, Santo Nino, who is the child version of Jesus Christ.
Just beside the basilica is another historical landmark known as Magellan’s cross. It is said that in that exact place is where Magellan planted a cross which signified the start of the widespread conversion to Christianity in Cebu and the whole Philippines.
Plaza Independencia and Fort San Pedro
Our last stop is Fort San Pedro located in Plaza Independencia. From Magellan’s Cross just go straight ahead to find a park called Plaza Independencia. You can relax for a while and enjoy the green scenery and the occasional sightings of very sweet couples as you try to catch your breath.
Behind Plaza Independencia is a triangular shaped structure known as Fort San Pedro. To go in, you need to pay an entrance fee of 30 Philippine pesos. Inside, you can find actual weapons used in the Spanish colonial era, such as cannons and bayonet rifles. From here, you can either go Colon Street to explore some more or rest up and enjoy the bustling night life of the city later.
Best Restaurants in Cebu City
Since you are in Cebu, it’s highly recommended that you try out the local cuisines. The best places are Lantaw Native Restaurant or Golden Cowrie. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can dine in at Sugbo Mercado. There are food stalls after food stalls with different famous street foods from the Philippines, Japan, and Korea, among others.
Best Music/Festival in Cebu City
The Sinulog Festival is definitely the biggest and wildest festival in Cebu, if not the whole Philippines. Remember the streets mentioned in the tour earlier? You won’t even recognize them anymore due to the sheer volume of people flooding them. You’re not even safe as an innocent bystander as people will come up to you and put face paint across your face or clothes without any warning. The party goes even harder at night where communities do make shift clubs in the middle of their neighborhoods. They blast different kinds of loud music as if competing with each other. The local government even suspends classes for students the next day to allow them to rest.
Sinulog Festival happens every third week of January and if you want to visit at that time. But be prepared for hiked up prices for tickets and hotels.
Best Night Life in Cebu City
When the sun goes down, you can go to General Maxilom Avenue. It’s called Mango Avenue by the locals, to go clubbing or get pissed off drunk. On Mango Avenue, there are so many clubs to choose from so if you really want to, you can try the so called club hopping.
Best Day Trip Out of Cebu City
Cebu City is the access point of the whole Cebu Island. In a sense that every tourist spots in the island can be reached via Cebu City. You have a vast range of options from sunbathing on the white sands of Moalboal, to swimming with whale sharks in Oslob. You can even try canyoneering at the multi-level falls of Kawasan. If you want to go hiking, you can conquer the peaks of Dalaguete or even visit some rare animals in Cebu Safari located at Carmen.
The thing with Cebu is you can go back and visit it so many times and probably would still not have enough time to try all of the tourist attractions it offers. You can even go to other island regions of the Visayas like Bohol via boat from Cebu.
Something that not many tourists would know about Cebu City
Cebu City is the home of SM Seaside Cebu. It’s the ninth largest shopping mall in the world, with a floor area of over 470,000 square meters. At present, it houses more than 700 stores with a lot of room for more. Touring the whole mall with the intent of visiting every store would most probably take you the whole day, if not more.