Cebu Cathedral, Cebu, Philippines

How to spend a day in Cebu City

Cebu City is located on the island of Cebu, part of the Central Visayas Region, of The Philippines. It’s the oldest city in the country, the first Spanish settlement and was once the capital of the Philippines before Manila. It is the second-largest metropolitan city after Manila based on population, economy and land area. Cebu City is also considered the birthplace of Christianity in the Far East. During my visit here, I explored the main area of Colon Street and visited several museums, a Cathedral, Basilica and Fort. I spent a couple of days here and wandered around the city at a leisurely pace, however, you can easily see all of the main sights in one day.

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Important Notes

  • Visa – British Nationals can enter the Philippines without a visa for an initial period of 30 days. However, as I stayed for 5 weeks I got a  tourist visa from the Philippine Embassy which allowed me to stay for up to 59 days. For the most up to date information, consult the Philippine Immigration website here.
  • Immunisations – some are required, check out my go-to website for up to date information: https://nathnac.net
  • Safety – I felt relatively safe whilst I was in Cebu City, exercise usual caution around looking after valuables and being safe alone or at night.
  • Currency – Philippine peso (PHP)
  • Language – Filipino is the national language which is the standardized variety of the Tagalog language, as well as English. I also spoke with several Filipinos especially in Cebu who spoke Cebuano. There are 4 indigenous languages (including Tagalog and Cebuano) with around 10 million or more native speakers and a further 8 languages with around 1 to 3 million native speakers. As a general rule though as a tourist – most people can speak English.

Getting there

After spending a few days in Manila, I flew to the island of Cebu, which took around 1 hour 30 minutes. Using Sky Scanner I checked the best prices and flight deals and managed to find a bargain with a low-cost airline. I landed at Mactan-Cebu Airport, located in Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island, a part of Metro Cebu. It takes around 45 minutes to an hour to reach Cebu City from the airport, depending on traffic. I chose to use Grab to reach my hotel and it cost 420 PHP (around £6 or £7).


Accommodation

After checking through booking.com, I decided on Happy Nest Hostel. Located on a side street a short walk away from a lot of the main attractions. Although it wasn’t very close to any restaurants where I could find vegan food. One day I took a grab to a vegetarian restaurant I found through the Happy Cow app, but it was quite costly paying for the grab there and back. So I then used the Grab app to order food, it was great! The hostel has a communal space with tables and chairs so I could eat there once my food was delivered.


Booking.com

Getting around

If you stay in the centre of Cebu City then you will easily be able to reach the main attractions walking on foot. However, if you wanted to explore some other sights in Cebu including ‘Tops’ a viewpoint around 30 minutes away by car, or the Taoist Temple which is a little closer to Cebu City, then you can easily get a Grab.


Magellan’s Cross

There is controversy around whether this cross is the original or simply a replica. The original is said to be encased in this larger wooden cross we see today (to protect it from vandalism). The history behind Magellan’s cross is that it was planted by famed explorer Ferdinand Magellan, to mark Europe and Catholicism’s first contact with the islands. It is located just in front of the Basilica Del Santo Nino.

Fort San Pedro

Is a military defence structure built by the Spanish under the command of Miguel López de Legazpi, first governor of the Captaincy General of the Philippines. Originally the fort was simply made of wood, however, in the 17th century, this was replaced with stone in reaction to Muslim raiders.

Fort San Pedro, Cebu, Philippines
Fort San Pedro, Cebu, Philippines

The structure we see today was built in 1738 and is a triangular formation, the oldest in the whole of The Philippines. Once you enter there is a small museum inside and a large green.

Basilica Del Santo Nino

The basilica was founded in 1565 by Fray Andrés de Urdaneta, and Fray Diego de Herrera. It is the oldest Roman Catholic church in the country. The basilica is built on the location where the image of the Santo Niño de Cebú was found during the expedition of Miguel López de Legazpi.

Basilica Del Santo Nino, Cebu City, Philippines
Basilica Del Santo Nino, Cebu City, Philippines

Pope Paul VI made the church a basilica in 1965, and declared it to be “the symbol of the birth and growth of Christianity in the Philippines”. For more information around opening times and schedules, please visit the official website here.

Opposite the Basilica Del Santo Nino, Cebu City, Philippines
Opposite the Basilica Del Santo Nino, Cebu City, Philippines

Cebu Heritage Monument

This monument is quite spectacular, in that it is a myriad of different scenes and sculptures, depicting different moments in time, in Cebu. Materials used include concrete, bronze, brass and steel, and the construction began in 1997 and it was finished in 2000.

The sculptures were built by local artist Eduardo Castrillo. The significant structures in the monument are the Basilica del Santo Niño, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the Saint John the Baptist Church, the Magellan’s Cross, and a Spanish Galleon.

Cebu Heritage Monument, Cebu City, Philippines
Cebu Heritage Monument, Cebu City, Philippines

The scenes depicted in the Heritage Monument are the baptism of Rajah Humabon, a procession of the Santo Niño, a Roman Catholic mass, and the Battle of Mactan between Lapu-Lapu and Ferdinand Magellan.

The persons depicted in the monument include the late president Sergio Osmena Sr. and Blessed Pedro Calungsod. Take some time at this monument and wander around the entire structure to pick out all of the significant structures, scenes and people.



Casa Gorordo Museum

Casa Gorordo is a historic house museum, located in the Parian District, You’ll find a well-preserved example of a traditional Filipino house, known locally as ‘Balay Nga Tisa’. The house was built in the 1850’s and the Gorordo Family moved in, in 1863, an important year for Cebu, in which it opened itself up to world trade.

Casa Gorordo Museum, Cebu City, Philippines
Casa Gorordo Museum, Cebu City, Philippines

The museum encapsulates what life was like during this era in the Philippines, and showcases not only the house but also several furniture items and decoration. When I visited I was able to join a tour with an English speaking guide who provided us with a fantastic tour. The building is air-conditioned and well maintained and makes for a very interesting enjoyable visit.

Jesuit House Museum

Similar to Cash Gorodo, Jesuit House Museum is another example of a traditional Filipino house, although having visited both, I would say that Case Gorordo provides a more enjoyable experience. Jesuit House is now used as a storage facility for construction and it was unclear even as I entered that I was in the museum. There isn’t any air conditioning and the items and interiors have not been restored and preserved as well as Casa Gorordo. At only 30 PHP however, if you have time, then it’s worthwhile stopping by.



Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House

This is one of the oldest residential homes in The Philippines, built in around 1680 and constructed using wood and coral stone. The house was originally owned and lived in by Don Juan Yap and Doña Maria Florido with their 3 children: Maria, Eleuterio and Consolacion. The house has been carefully looked after over the years and houses authentic Cebuano furniture, antiques and religious objects.

Yap-San Diego Ancestral House, Cebu City, Philippines
Yap-San Diego Ancestral House, Cebu City, Philippines

Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral

The building is designed in a Baroque-Rococo style, and features, floral motifs, Phoenixes and images of Saints Peter and Paul. However, the structure has not always been so pretty and ornate. The cathedral was originally constructed in 1595, which during this time appeared as a simple timber building with nipa palms. 

Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Cebu, Philippines
Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Cebu, Philippines

Over the centuries the cathedral has taken many different forms, requiring reconstruction and repair work, which have been delayed by invasion and revolution. The Cathedral suffered colossal damages during the 1945 World War II bombings which left only the façade, walls and belfry still intact. Later in 1993, the Cathedral is rebuilt to what we see today, in readiness for a visit from Pope John Paul II. 



I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my trip to Cebu City, and that I’ve given you some inspiration for your own visit to Cebu, for what to see and do. If you have any questions or queries, please do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

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How to spend a day in Cebu City

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