Do you sometimes wish you can travel back in time? Have you always wondered how people from centuries back lived their lives? Are you interested in the beauty of colonial architecture? You don’t need a time travel machine to be able to achieve these things. In the northern part of the Philippines is a city that feels trapped in time. The stone streets are lined with houses that give a glimpse of the colonial era. This place is Vigan City in the northern province of Ilocos Sur.
Vigan City Philippines
History geeks, architecture geeks and food enthusiasts will all have fun touring Vigan. The fastest way to go here is through the Laoag International Airport, located in the nearby province of Ilocos Norte. From there, it is almost a two-hour land trip to Vigan City.
When to Go
The best time to visit Vigan City is during the months of January to March. During this period, you won’t have to worry about the scorching heat during summer, which can be unbearable for some. You also do not have to worry about dangerous typhoons that hit the Philippines during the latter part of the year. As a bonus, these months are considered to be off-peak months, so rates for hotels are generally cheaper.
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What to See
• Calle Crisologo – This street is the central attraction of Vigan City in the Philippines. Walk these cobbled streets and you will feel like being transported during the Spanish colonial period, with picture-perfect old houses characterized by red tiles, thick stone walls and huge wooden doors. Take a closer look in these houses and you will see how intricate their designs and architectures are. This place is especially splendid at night, with the old streets radiating in the night. You can also buy all kinds of stuff here, from local woven fabrics to antique pieces of furniture.
• Vigan Church – This is another remnant of the Philippines’ Spanish colonial past that is worth visiting in the Vigan City. This place of worship was built by Augustinian friars around 1790, and follows an architectural style known as “earthquake baroque.” It still has the exuberance and grandeur of the Baroque style of architecture, but made even sturdier to withstand earthquakes.
• Bantay Belfry – If you want a panoramic view of the entire Vigan City, this is the place to go to. This towering structure sits on a hill, and can be climbed through some challenging flights of stairs. It is also historically and architecturally significant, built during the Spanish colonial era with baroque elements.
What to Do
• Ride a Kalesa – The best way to go around in style around the city of Vigan is on a local horse-drawn carriage, known in the Philippines as the “kalesa.” This was the only mode of transport during the Spanish colonial era, so riding on this carriage will make you feel more just like the old times.
• Try your hand at local Pottery – Outside the city proper, you might be surprised to see the thriving pottery industry in Vigan. Locals from Vigan have been creating excellent jars since the pre-colonial times. You can try your hand at crafting your own earthenware using clay and the manual, old-fashioned way of molding the jars. Just get ready to get your hands dirty.
• Witness the lights and sounds show – At night, the Plaza Salcedo right in front of the Vigan Church comes alive with lights and sounds. Locals and tourists alike gather around the Dancing Fountain to watch the colorful show to the tune of popular anthems. Stay away from the fountain if you don’t want to get wet.
What to Eat
• Ilocos Empanada – This one is a local favorite, with bits of egg, bean sprouts and sausage inside a wrapper, deep fried to an orange perfection. This dish is salty, fatty, oily and simply indulgent—best eaten after being dipped in some vinegar.
• Vigan Sausage – Another local favorite, this sausage is very tasty because it contains plenty of garlic and other spices, mixed with lean meat.
Feature image credit: hectorlo