Vigan City is a charming city that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. You can walk across cobblestone streets, surrounded by ancestral houses during the 16th-century Spanish-colonial period, or take a kalesa ride across town. It is also one of the six Unesco World Heritage Sites in the Philippines and also one of the New7Wonders Cities. This city in Ilocos Sur receives hundred thousands of visitors annually, some here for overnight experiences while others are on a day trip from exploring the nearby Pagudpud and Laoag areas.
The most popular attraction in Vigan City is Calle Crisologo, but stay longer and you’ll discover the rest of the wonders of Vigan. Here we’ve compiled the best Vigan tourist spots and things you can do in this heritage city.
Note: As of May 2023, a few of these Vigan attractions are still under re-construction due to damages from a strong earthquake the year prior, including Vigan Cathedral and Bantay Church Bell Tower. Arce Museum, Syquia Museum, and Ilocos Sur Adventure Zone are also temporarily closed. Please check their respective pages for updated information.
- 1. Calle Crisologo
- 2. Vigan Cathedral
- 3. Bantay Church Bell Tower
- 4. Vigan City Museum
- 5. Ilocos Museum Regional Complex
- 6. Plaza Burgos
- 7. Eat Ilocos empanada
- 8. Pottery making
- 9. Visit other house museums
- 10. Visit a bagnet farm
- 11. Witness the art of traditional weaving
- 12. Buy inabel products
- 13. Riverside dining at Pinakbet Farm
- 14. Shop at the public market
- 15. Enjoy a beach day at Sta. Catalina
- 16. Ilocos Sur Adventure Zone
- 17. Baluarte Resort and Mini Zoo
- 18. Attend the Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts
- How to get from Manila to Vigan
- Where to stay in Vigan
- What to read next:
1. Calle Crisologo
Of the numerous Vigan tourist spots, Calle Crisologo is perhaps the most popular. This heritage street spans half a kilometer and features a cobblestone street and ancestral houses. The Spanish-era ancestral houses feature traditional architecture, including multiple doors at the ground floor and large open layout on the top floors.
During day time, Calle Crisology turns into a busy tourist area with souvenir shops, food carts, and various restaurants. Here you can buy different pasalubong such as woven bags and wallets, inabel cloths, and food — such as vigan longganisa, bagnet, and other local delicacies.
The best time to visit Calle Crisologo is during weekdays, when there are fewer tourists around. You can take your time taking photos in its streets and corners. Stay up late until 11PM to capture the beautiful night lights. Some photography experts prefer the hours before dawn, when it is still dark but the sunlight is slowly seeping through the sky.
Book your own Vigan private tour via Klook.
2. Vigan Cathedral
Just a short walk from Calle Crisologo is the Vigan Cathedral. Also known as St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral, this beautiful heritage church is a prominent landmark in Vigan City and a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Vigan City.
It was originally built in 1574 as a small chapel, which was then remodeled into a new structure in 1790. It features Baroque architecture with influences of Chinese craftsmanship, as evidenced by the fu dogs or lion in its outermost doors.
You can visit the church to see its impressive façade, attend a mass, or appreciate its rich cultural and architectural history.
3. Bantay Church Bell Tower
Also known as Bantay Campanario, the Bantay Church Bell Tower is one of the most important landmarks in Ilocos Sur. Built in the 1590s, the bell tower stands at 33 meters tall and was constructed using bricks and lime. It stands on top of a hill and served as a lookout post for the towns of Bantay and Vigan and also functioned as a belfry for the adjacent St. Augistine Church. Due to its location, it also has panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Guests at the Bantay Bell Church Tower can climb it to see the view and learn about the tower’s historic and significance in the region.
Note: As of 2023, entering and climbing the tower is not allowed due to the damages from the recent earthquake. However, guests can still visit the area and take photos of the tower from outside.
4. Vigan City Museum
One of the most recently opened Vigan tourist spots is the Vigan City Museum located at the Vigan Conservation Complex. It is the first interactive learning museum in the city, showcasing the tradition, culture, and architecture of the city.
Here you can find religious displays, important historical figures, original designs of the ancestral houses during the Spanish colonial period, and local artwork. Its interactive sections include a cubicle where you can sing-along with a hymn, a platform where you can design your own ancestral house, and more.
5. Ilocos Museum Regional Complex
Vigan is all about history, and what better place to get to know this city better than the Ilocos Museum Regional Complex? This museum complex is home to the family house of Padre Burgos — one of the GomBurZa martyr priests — and the late president Elpidio Quirino.
This Vigan tourist spot is managed by the National Museum of the Philippines and so the entrance is free for everyone.
6. Plaza Burgos
Plaza Burgos is one of the three open plazas in the main tourist area in Vigan City. This plaza is named after Padre Burgos of GomBurZa. Here you can take a walk, stop in the eateries for a plate of okoy or ilocos empanada, and walk to the nearby Vigan Church and the Dancing Fountain of Vigan in Plaza Salcedo which operates at night.
7. Eat Ilocos empanada
One of the best things to do in Vigan City especially for first-time visitors is eating ilocos empanada!
Ilocos empanada originated from Vigan — it’s a deep-fried pastry filled with a mixture of grated unripe papaya, bean sprouts, ground meat, and egg, all wrapped in a bright orange-colored dough made from rice flour and atsuete (annatto seeds). It is served with vinegar dip.
Ilocos empanada is served in different eateries and restaurants in Vigan City. We visited the eateries in Plaza Burgos where an old lady allowed us to take photos of her making ilocos empanada from scratch. But the best empanada I’ve tried is in Irene’s Vigan Empanada (located along Salcedo St.). This modest eatery serves traditional ilocos empanada as well as other variants (crab, chicken, tuna, etc.) and add-ons. I recommend ilocos empanada with cheese. It is so good!
8. Pottery making
Another fun activity that you can do in Vigan is pottery making.
Pagburnayan (or pottery making) is a traditional industry in Vigan. The word “pagburnayan” comes from the Ilocano term “burnay,” which means “earthenware jar.” The pottery-making process in Pagburnayan is a unique and labor-intensive craft that has been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years.
In pagburnayan, potters use a foot-powered potter’s wheel to shape clay into various forms, such as jars, vases, and plates. The clay used in the pottery-making process is sourced from nearby rivers. It is shaped and then fired in a traditional wood-fired kiln to harden. Pagburnayan jars are particularly renowned for their beautiful earthy appearance, durability, and resistance to cracking.
There are two pagburnayan jar factories that you can visit in Vigan: RG Jar Factory and Ruby Factory. We visited RG Jar Factory and then the staff showed us the traditional kilns, the pottery machines, and the finished products. We even tried hands-on pottery making!
I love molding clays and so it is one of my favorite things to do in Vigan City. The other one that I’ve tried is in Zambales: the difference between the two is the pottery in Zambales actually teaches you how to shape and mold the clay, while in RG Jar Factory you can tell the guide what you want to make and they will be the one to mold the clay for you.
9. Visit other house museums
Aside from the Ilocos Museum Regional Complex, there are other museums you can visit in Vigan City. Three must-see mansion-turned-museums include the Arce Museum, Syquia Mansion, and Crisologo Museum.
Arce Museum is offers a one-of-a-kind experience. Fans of Maria Clara and Ibarra will rejoice, since this museum allows you to dress up in traditional attire and even attend a dinner with servers garbed in uniform for an immersive experience. Meanwhile, Syquia Museum is an ancestral house owned by the late president Quirino and his wife, and Crisologo Museum is a house owned by the late congressman Floro Crisologo, who was assassinated while attending mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
10. Visit a bagnet farm
Off the usual Vigan tour itinerary, did you know that you can visit a bagnet farm in Vigan City? We visited the bagnet farm in San Julian, just several minutes away from the town proper. Here they prepare chunks of pork, boil them for 3 hours and then fry them for at least 3 times — producing the crispy skin that bagnet is known for. Of course, we didn’t miss this opportunity to eat freshly cooked bagnet!
These fried bagnets are made and sold by JKLC’s Vigan, a store owned by Cecil Chan and her husband. It is located at the town proper just beside Hotel Felicidad.
11. Witness the art of traditional weaving
Experience cultural immersion in your Vigan tour by witnessing the art of traditional weaving. This practice is done in different areas in the Ilocos Region.
The weaving process involves using a handloom to create intricate patterns and designs on various fabrics, like cotton and abel or inabel (which is an Ilocano term for “to weave” or “woven”). The threads used are often dyed with natural materials, such as leaves, barks, and roots, to achieve vibrant colors.
There are a few handloom weaving centers that you can visit in Vigan City. We visited Cristy’s Loomweaving, where you can see local weavers at work and buy finished inabel products, including towels, blankets, pillowcases, placemats, bags, wallets, and more.
12. Buy inabel products
Inabel woven products are one of the best souvenirs from Vigan City. These include handbags, towels, blankets, pillowcases, placemats, and even clothes.
You can buy inabel products at souvenir shops along Calle Crisologo. For premium-quality inabel items, I recommend visiting Tienda Verda along De Los Reyes St. and Tela de Bonita, which is sold at the reception area in Hotel Felicidad.
13. Riverside dining at Pinakbet Farm
One of the best eats you can find is located several minutes away from Vigan City proper — Pinakbet Farm. This alfresco restaurant is located beside a river and a farm where they source most of their ingredients.
Enjoy pinakbet, bagnet, and grilled chicken and fresh tilapia — all served with KBL (kamatis, bagoong, and lasona). This restaurant also hosts a local dance and musical performance to serenade its customers while eating.
I highly enjoyed eating kamayan-style at this restaurant and recommend it to you as well!
14. Shop at the public market
Although not a usual tourist destination, the Vigan public market is an interesting place to visit and buy pasalubongs from. The market is located about 20 minutes by foot from the town proper; you can also ride a tricycle for easy transport.
At the public market, you can eat traditional Ilocano dishes, buy local vegetables and fruits such as kamias, bottles of vinegar and bagoong, and — of course who would miss the vigan longganisa and bagnet?
15. Enjoy a beach day at Sta. Catalina
Sta. Catalina Beach is one of the most underrated tourist attractions in Vigan City. It’s located several minutes away from the town proper and features a long shoreline with fine, gray sand.
This beach is frequented by locals during weekends, so if you want to go for a quiet beach trip, schedule your trip on a weekday. There is also a resort here if you wish to stay overnight.
16. Ilocos Sur Adventure Zone
Located within Vigan City, Ilocos Sur Adventure Zone is an outdoor adventure park offering a variety of activities ideal for adrenaline-seekers, nature lovers, and families looking for a fun day out.
These include a giant swing, kayaking, wall climbing, rappelling across the river, and rock climbing at the rocky landscape of the Banaoang mountains. You can also appreciate the view of the old and new bridges built across the tranquil Abra River.
17. Baluarte Resort and Mini Zoo
Baluarte Resort and Mini Zoo is a 100-hectare property of rolling plains and hills, famously owned by former governor Chavit Singson. It is one of the most popular tourist spots in Vigan City, with families visiting animals in the zoo and exploring the museum inside.
HOWEVER, this is a place that I personally do not recommend. Baluarte is known for keeping exotic animals and one of the activities here is taking pictures with a tiger. Across Southeast Asia, taking selfies with big cats is considered unethical because oftentimes the tigers undergo harsh regimen and are sedated to remain docile. In fact, even the dating app Tinder has banned profile photos with tiger selfies, in concern for animal rights.
Moreover, while the museum in Baluarte features impressive display, there are merely there as trophies. Unlike other museums, it does not seem to promote wildlife care and preservation.
18. Attend the Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts
The Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts is a cultural and religious festival in Vigan, held every first week of May. It celebrates the religious feast day (Feast of Apo Sto. Cristo Milagroso), traditional inabel weaving, and the life of the first Filipino leader, Isabelo de los Reyes.
This festival holds different exhibitions and activities, including the “Abel Iloko Fashion Show,” “Kalesa Parade,” “Bagnet Festival,” and the highlight of every festival in the country — a streetdancing competition.
This event is a must-visit for anyone interested in joining festivities and learning about the region’s cultural heritage. Since the festival takes several days, I recommend booking your hotel in advance and looking at the festival itinerary so you can schedule your visit depending on what activity you want to witness.
How to get from Manila to Vigan
Here are the commuting details from Manila to Vigan:
- Option 1: Take a bus from Pasay or Cubao to Vigan. Travel is around 8-9 hours.
- Option 2: There are no airports at Vigan City. You can take a flight from Manila to Laoag City. Then ride a bus from Laoag to Vigan City; travel time for the bus ride is around 2 hours.
Where to stay in Vigan
There are several ancestral hotels in Vigan City. Here are some of the best Vigan hotels:
- Hotel Felicidad. A charming hotel located just a short walk away from Calle Crisologo. Read our review.
- Hotel Luna. The first museum hotel in the Philippines, featuring beautiful rooms, a gallery with original artworks from local artists including Juan Luna, and a pool.
Has this article about the best Vigan tourist spots been helpful to you? If you have other recommended things to do in Vigan, let us know in the comments section below!
What to read next:
Visiting the Ilocos Region? Read the rest of our articles!
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Katherine Cortes is a long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).