A trip to Ilocos won’t be complete without a stop at the UNESCO world heritage site of Vigan. From cobble-stoned streets to the most delicious Empanada, the city has a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy. If you’re headed to the province, be sure to check out this list of top things to do in Vigan.
In case you aren’t familiar with the Filipino delicacy, Longannisa is pork fat and meat encapsulated in pork intestine. While several provinces have their own vairants, Vigan reigns supreme with its salty variant that’s best paired with vinegar. You can take a bite out of this at Cafe Leona along Calle Crisologo.
- Location: Cafe Leona is at #1 Calle Crisologo, Vigan City
- Operation Hours: 10am to 12am
- Highlights: While eating vigan longannisa is a treat in itself, being able to eat at Cafe Leona takes it to another level. The ancestral home turned restaurant isn’t much of a looker anymore, but its the food that has had the patrons coming back for more the past 19 years.
- Activity Tips: Try to come in before the lunch rush as the 100-seater restaurants does tend to fill up quickly, especially during tourist seasons.
- Contact Details: +63 77 7222212
Once you’ve gotten your stomach full, it’s time to burn off the longannisa with a stroll along Calle Crisologo! Lined with ancestral homes from the Spanish period, the cobble-stoned area is the only World Heritage City in the Philippines inscribed by UNESCO.
- Location: Mena Crisologo St., Meztizo District, Vigan City
- Operation Hours: 24 hours (though some establishments may not always be open)
- Highlights: If you get tired of walking around, you can take a kalesa ride to really add to the whole Spanish era feel. A ride can cost you around P150.
- Activity Tips: Visit during the early morning or the late afternoon to avoid the scorching heat of the sun. That, and the rising or setting sun gives off a soft glow making Calle Crisologo more picturesque than it already is.
- Insider info: During the Spanish colonial period, the street was known as Calle de Escolta de Vigan with only the wealthiest families living there. During the American occupation, it was Washington Street and then was finally named Calle Crisolo to honour Vigan’s first provincial governor, Meña Crisologo.
Filled with grated green papaya, bean sprouts, mono, shredded carrots, meat and egg, the street food is hard to miss when in Vigan. More often than not, you’ll find tourists and locals alike carrying this orange treat around. Tourists usually flock over to the Empanada Stalls at Plaza Burgos.
- Location: The Empanadahan is located at Jacinto Street, Plaza Burgos. While both Insiang’s and Irene’s Empanada can be found at Calle Salcedo corner Calle V. de los Reyes (both along Calle Crisologo)
- Fee(s): P30 to P50
- Highlights: If you’re friendly enough and the locals are in an accommodating mood, chances are you’ll be able to make your own empanada at one of the stalls.
- Activity Tips: Empanadas are best eaten hot and with vinegar from Ilocos. You can also opt to have a vegetarian variant of the empanada, or ask that you get a double serving of egg, meat or both!
- Insider info: Locals swear by empanadas sold at Insiang’s and Irene’s along Calle Crisologo.
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During the Spanish colonial period, the loom was a common fixture in local households. Using their hands and feet to operate the wooden loom, Filipinos used it to weave Ilocano textiles, helping produce patterned and plain cloths used for clothing or household items.
Today, the practice is alive and well in less than five barangays in Ilocos Sur, which is why the government is making it a point to re-educate the younger generations about it.
For your first stop, head over to Rowilda’s located at the second floor of Dominique Panela’s home. Having trained at the Design Center of the Philippines, he started the weaving business in 1975 and has a shop that neatly displays runners, placemats, messenger bags and more.
You can then head over to the Vigan Public Market and Calle Crisologo where there are several more stalls that sell beautifully designed woven blankets, bags and more.
- Location: Dominique Panela’s home is in Brgy. Camanggaan, Vigan. The Vigan public market is along Jose Singson St., Vigan City and Calle Crisologo is located along Mena Crisologo St., in Meztizo District.
- Operation Hours: Vigan Public Market (5am to 7:30pm), Stores along Calle Crisologo start closing by 8pm.
- Activity Tips: Apart from the places mentioned above, you can also check out Barangays Mindoro and San Pedro. Barangay Mindoro is known for weaving blankets with beautiful geometric patterns while San Pedro has its own unique design, as well.
- Insider info: Abel weaving produced such fine textiles that they were major exports during the Spanish galleon trade – in fact, they were at par with Spain’s then weaving industry.
A must-do when in Vigan is to head over to the Pagburnayan where burnay jars are made. These are handmade earthenware pots that are supposedly stronger than terracotta pots. What makes these pots so special is that not only is the locally-sourced clay stomped on by a carabao, but the pot is made on a manually-petaled rotating disk that requires to men to operate it. One guy spins the base with his foot, while the other molds and forms the pot.
- Location: Vigan Burnayan is along Gomez St. cor. Liberation Boulevard, Vigan City
- Highlights: Sometimes, guests are able to help mold the pots. Whether by helping pedal the rotating disk or by molding the actual pot itself.
- Activity Tips: Bring extra clothes and water. The area is dusty and if you plan on molding a jar, a change of clothes would be great as it tends to get grimy and dirty.
- Insider info: Ruby’s Pottery and RG Jar Factory are two of the major burnayans in Vigan. For Ruby’ you can usually find the owner, Fidel Antiporda Go, chatting with visitors as he makes his jars. On the other hand, RG Jar Factory is just as entertaining and sits right across Ruby’s.
While there is no shortage of museums or places that you can learn about Vigan’s heritage, another means you can do so is by taking a river cruise along Mestizo River. The 40-minute boat ride makes use of an audio guide to tell visitors about Vigan’s history, all the way back to when it was founded during the Spanish colonial period.
- Directions: From Vigan’s poblacion area, ride a tricycle to Celedonia Garden in Beddeng Laud (P30). You will see a sign board “This way to River Cruise”, simply follow the signs until you see staff and approach them.
- Fee(s): P100
- Highlights: There are 5 life-sized tableaus that are meant to be visual presentations of what the audio guide is talking about. You also get to pass by five barangays and may get to see people waving at you as you cruise along.
- Activity Tips: Feel free to talk to the boat assistant if you don’t understand anything. Sometimes, the boat’s engine may be too loud so there may be instances when you don’t hear the audio guide.
- Insider info: You cannot have the river cruised sped up or slowed down, the boat is driven at a speed that is in sync with the audio guide. That way you pass by the correct display as the audio guide is speaking.
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Dubbed the Malacañang of the North, the Syquia Mansion was built in 1830. It was the former home of late President Elpidio Quirino and also served as a venue for several government meetings. It is a great example of a “bahay na bato”, a home built with a stone on the first floor. And the second floor built with wood.
- Location: Quirino Boulevard cor. Salcedo Street, Vigan City
- Fee(s): P20
- Operation Hours: 9am to 5pm (closed on Tuesdays)
- Highlights: The mansion is home to several paintings: a replica of the Spolarium done by Juan Luna’s assistant and three Amorsolo paintings.
- Activity Tips: Check out the secret hallway where servants had to pass so that they could get from one room to another without being seen by house guests. These hallways were called Alipin sa Giligid.
- Insider info: There is a vase at the second floor that was gifted to the Quirino family by the then Emperor of China. If you look at the bottom of the vase, you can see the official seal which backs up its authenticity.
Arce Mansion is another ancestral home turned museum – with a twist! While you can go around and enjoy the beautiful house with all its memorabilia from the Spanish occupation, what takes the cake is that you can actually dress up like individuals from days gone by.
- Location: 87 Quirino Boulevard cor. Abaya Street, Vigan City
- Fee(s): Guests are charged P150 for the costumes; P1,500 per person for the costume, photo shoot, dinner and prints (good for a minimum of 5 people)
- Highlights: There are tons of costumes to choose from chinese immigrants, gobernaorcillos, dons and donas. Make sure you dress up like a character from Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and take photos wherever you can.
- Activity Tips: While it may be easier for the girls to dress up (their costumes are adjustable). Guys might find it harder to find the right pants size, also Arce doesn’t provide shoes. So, it’s advisable that guys bring their own slacks and wear leather shoes to ensure that they have the whole look together.
- Insider info: Guests can partake in Arce Mansion’s special dinners in their garbs – all the while enjoying authentic Ilocano dishes.
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Enjoy a fun experience and check out other tourist spots to visit, restaurants to try and more in Vigan. Discover cheap hotel deals and cheap flights from carriers like Philippine Airlines, AirAsia, and more with Traveloka!