Located in the Visayas region, Cebu City is a bustling city that is comparable to Manila, often a pitstop for tourists on a layover at Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City. It’s also a popular rendezvous point for travelers looking to visit other islands in the Province of Cebu.
What is unknown to most travelers is that the city is home to historical landmarks that go way back 16th century, as well as business hubs and shopping malls, that make it worthy of a day or two of your Cebu itinerary.
Below are some of the best things to do in Cebu City.
Visit Cebu Taoist Temple
One of the best things to do in Cebu City is to wander around Taoist Temple, where you can meditate and pray in silence. Built in the 1970s by the Chinese community, the multi-tiered temple offers a panoramic view of the city. On clear days, some say you can see the island of Bohol.
Please note that they follow a very strict dress code, as with any other place of worship. Sleeveless tops and jean shorts are not allowed so dress appropriately.
Learn about Philippine History at Museo Sugbo
There is a lot to explore with four galleries inside Museo Sugbo, which is housed in what used to be Carcel de Cebu (Cebu’s provincial jail). The former jail was the same prison where Katipuneros were held without trial during the revolution.
The museum houses archeological artifacts and political portraits, including the Philippine presidents and their signatures engraved in a 24-karat gold-plated metal.
There is a small entrance fee to the museum, cheaper if you’re a student.
See Magellan’s Cross
Magellan’s Cross is one of Cebu’s most important historical sites. It is believed to be the same cross that Ferdinand Magellan planted in the city to mark the propagation of Catholicism.
This may be just a replica of the original cross, though. Some say that the original cross has long been destroyed, while some claim that it is the same cross but has been remade over time.
It is still worth the stop as it’s near Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu, a beautiful church that holds centuries’ worth of history.
Light a candle at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu
Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu is the country’s oldest Catholic church. It is believed to be first built in 1566 and has been renovated over the centuries.
You don’t have to be a Catholic to appreciate its beauty. The façade has a beautiful stone texture that is reminiscent of that in Intramuros, Manila—a blend of Romanesque and neo-classical features.
Explore Fort San Pedro
Close to Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu is Fort San Pedro, a military defense structure said to be the oldest and smallest fort in the country. It houses a museum with Spanish artifacts including old photographs, paintings, and more.
Step inside the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House
According to sources, the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House was built between 1675 and 1700, making it one of the oldest homes in the Philippines. The house is made from coral and wood, a delicate mixture of Chinese and Spanish features.
You’ll see a lot of angels, saints, and other antiquities that will make you feel like you’re back in time.
Enjoy Larsian’s grilled street food
After a visit to Yap-Sandiego House, walk less than a kilometer to Larsian—a street food hub for the best ihaw-ihaw (grilled food) in the city.
Larsian is open all week, with a variety of stalls offering grilled pork and chicken as well as seafood. It is a popular spot among locals and tourists alike.
Walk past Colon Street
Colon Street is considered the first and oldest street in the Philippines. It was built by the Spaniards who arrived in Cebu back in the 1500s and named it after the explorer Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus).
The historical street is now lined with universities and shopping malls.
Try Cebu’s famous lechon
A visit to Cebu is incomplete without trying its famous lechon (roasted pig). The best lechon is always a conversation starter, but some of the best include Rico’s Lechon, CnT Lechon, and House of Lechon.
Shop in Cebu IT Park
Visit the vibrant neighborhood of Cebu IT Park, home to some of the best shopping and dining in the city. It is similar to BGC in Taguig City, with its lush gardens, upscale shops, and a wide selection of restaurants.
What is Cebu City famous for?
Also known as the Queen City of the South, Cebu City is the port capital of Cebu Province. It is home to business hubs, as well as historical landmarks from the 16th century, and is surrounded by small islets making it a popular starting point for beach hopping in Cebu. The city is also one of the best places to try Cebu's famous lechon (roast pig).
Where to Stay in Cebu City
I stayed at the Marco Polo hotel, which cost about PHP 4,000+/USD 70+ per night. The view from my hotel room was great, as well as stargazing from the rooftop bar come nighttime. I particularly enjoyed the breakfast buffet because they had a lot to choose from.
Marco Polo hotel is about an hour’s travel from Mactan-Cebu International Airport. You may have to check out early especially if you have another flight.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Cebu City? I’d love to hear suggestions in the comments below.
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