Kalesa tour in Vigan City
Guides and Itineraries,  Philippines

7 Things to Do in Vigan on Your First Visit

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One of the popular weekend destinations from Manila, the postcard-perfect city of Vigan has something for everyone. It has beautiful cobblestoned streets that reverberate with centuries of Spanish-Filipino history, delicious food, and interesting sights and activities.

If you’re a first-time traveler to this UNESCO World Heritage city, stepping foot in Vigan may feel like venturing into a time machine!

It is already my second time in Vigan City, and I can tell you with confidence that this trip is even better than the first! I had more time to appreciate the food, the sights, and — perhaps the best of all — I had a great time doing a photo walk in Calle Crisologo! (I’ll share the tips below.) This city is one of those places that you can visit again and again and still have a good time.

Are you excited like me? Here I’ve have listed the essential things to do in Vigan City on your first visit.

Kat in Calle Crisologo early morning
Early morning at Calle Crisologo.

Let’s begin at the heart of Vigan’s old town. The famous Calle Crisologo is a symbol of the city’s Spanish roots, with its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture painted in white hues, and ancestral homes — some of which have been transformed into carefully preserved museums, art galleries, and even bed-and-breakfasts.

Of course, you’ll also see plenty of souvenir shops and eateries along the street as well. In fact, this stretch is perhaps the busiest part of Vigan City!

But it’s also the most instagram-worthy spot in Vigan, so take this opportunity to take amazing snaps! Plan your outfit and poses to save time.

The best time for a photo walk is at night (10PM or later when there are fewer people) or early morning (around 5:30 or 6AM), when the streets are empty, the lamp posts are still on, and the gentle morning light makes everything look great in photos!

2. Go on a kalesa ride

Kalesa tour in Vigan City
Start of our kalesa tour!

A visit to Vigan wouldn’t be complete without a kalesa tour. Enjoy exploring the streets of Calle Crisologo and other nearby attractions in a traditional horse-drawn carriage. It’s touristy, yes, but it’s also fun and even the clip-clopping sounds add to the experience. Plus, you can sightsee in an unhurried pace!

Your kalesa driver could also offer tidbits about the important attractions in Vigan, as well as local lore.

Whether you want an immersive experience or simply want to explore without getting tired (I’m talking to you millennials and older, we know you want a relaxed tour), a kalesa ride is something you should experience on your first trip to Vigan.

3. Dine at the Hidden Garden

Group photo at Hidden Garden in Vigan
With other content creators.

A visit to Vigan isn’t complete without indulging in classic Ilocano dishes. And what better place to do that than the Hidden Garden?

The Hidden Garden offers alfresco dining, with large areas filled with different species of shrubs, plants, and trees. Enjoy pastries, silogs, and traditional Ilocano dishes (such as pinakbet, pork igado, bangus sinigang, and more), surrounded by greenery and serenaded by live music performances and the happy chatters of fellow diners.

If you love bagnet, they also offer different types of bagnet meals like bagnet silog, bagnet sinigang, and more.

This restaurant can get very busy on peak hours, but worry not — they have large seating spaces even for groups and there are parking spaces at the adjacent lot to leave your vehicle in.

4. Visit the Vigan City Museum

Vigan City Museum - one of the must-visit tourist spots in Vigan City
Vigan City Museum.

 The Vigan City Museum is one of the newest museums in Vigan City, located inside the Vigan Conservation Complex. It’s a great place to learn about the history of Vigan.

The museum is divided into three areas, focusing on: the city’s religious roots, history (especially during the Japanese occupation), and architecture pertaining to the types of ancestral houses found in the city. There are also interactive displays, such as a digital screen where you can design your own house.

The museum is open from 9AM to 4PM daily, except on Mondays.

5. Try the empanada at Irene’s

Kat with Vigan empanada
At Irene’s.

As the day progresses, indulge in a crispy, savory treat at Irene’s.

This casual eatery has achieved a legendary status for its traditional Vigan empanada. You can watch as the vendor makes the empanada from scratch — stuffing it with a mix of vegetable fillings, longganisa, and egg yolk — before deep-frying it to golden perfection.

If it’s your first time in Vigan City, try the regular Vigan empanada with sukang Iloko for extra zing. I personally prefer the cheese variant and it’s what I recommend to those who are not typically fans of empanada. You can also try their okoy, which are mini-shrimp fritters fried to crispy perfection.

Note: There are two branches of Irene’s in Vigan City, one in Calle Crisologo and another in Salcedo Street.

6. Watch the Dancing Fountain

Vigan Dancing Fountain
The Dancing Fountain.

One of the free things you can do in Vigan City is to watch the Dancing Fountain in Plaza Salcedo, which turns on every night at 7:30 PM. It lasts for 30 minutes.

Watch as jets of water move with classic and modern beats and light weaves patterns in the air. The show creates a fun spectacle that delights everyone, from children to seniors.

I’d been here twice already and what’s interesting to me is that each show is different, so it will feel like you’re always something new.

There are plenty of spots to watch the Dancing Fountain. Just note that some areas might get you wet!

7. Stay at Hotel Luna

Hotel Luna - where to stay in Vigan City
Our room at Hotel Luna.

Hotel Luna is a hotel that I won’t hesitate to recommend. I love it and would come back in a heartbeat!

This hotel is considered the first museum hotel in the Philippines, with original artworks from celebrated local artists like Juan Luna, among others. It features luxurious rooms and suites, with modern toilets that will make you feel like you’re in Japan (I’m talking about those toilets that come with complex buttons!).

There is also a pool, a rooftop bar, and a restaurant that serves breakfast buffet.

What better way to end your tour in Vigan by enjoying a rejuvenating sleep at a beautiful, Spanish colonial-era hotel?

P.S. Another hotel that we recommend is Hotel Felicidad.


Don’t forget to buy your pasalubong before you leave Vigan City! Vigan longganisa and bagnet are popular food items to take home. And yes, you can take them on flight on your carry-on as long as they are properly packed!

These activities are a must-do for first-time tourists to Vigan City. If you’re looking for other activities, check out our guide on the Best Tourist Spots in Vigan City.

Watch a clip of our recent Vigan City tour here:


Weekend stay at Vigan City. It’s my second time and I was still wowed at how pretty Calle Crisologo is esp at night and early morning! Thank you to DOT x Cebu Pacific for this tour! #OneIlocosSur #FindTheOneInRegion1 #lovethephilippines


How to get from Manila to Vigan City

By air: The easiest way to get from Manila to Vigan City is by air.

The closest airport to Vigan is the Laoag International Airport. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have direct flights from Manila to Laoag City. From there, ride a bus or charter a private vehicle to Vigan City, which is about 2 hours away.

By land: Alternately, you can go on an overnight bus from Manila to Vigan City via Partas, Viron Transit, GV Florida, or Farinas Bus lines. Travel time is about 8-10 hours.

Book your Vigan City tour

For a hassle-free visit to Vigan City, you can book a tour via A&A Express Travel & Tours. They were our tour provider and Ms. Arlene is a warm, knowledgeable guide who can help you navigate the beautiful city of Vigan City.

Disclaimer: Thanks to DOT Region 1 x Cebu Pacific for sponsoring this tour. As always, thoughts and opinions are my own.

What to read next:

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