They say you wouldn’t get to know a certain place by simply visiting its tourist destinations for a few days. They say you have to stay and live with locals to learn everything about their culture and history. They say you have to eat like a local, hangout like a local, go to places like a local, and look like a local. But I have spent a quarter of my life in Cebu City and there are still a lot of things that I don’t know about my own locality, my own city, much more of my own country. You see, people will always have something to say; it’s up to you if you let them determine what you want to do with your life, with your travel plans, with your goals. So focus on the things that truly matters. Visit what interests you. Travel at your own comfort.
In case you’re spending a day or some few hours in Cebu City, don’t feel obligated to visit those faraway beaches and waterfalls. Being in Cebu City is already an achievement on its own. Make the most of your trip and visit nearby areas that will allow you to learn as much about Cebu’s culture, heritage, and geography. Here are some places that you can visit around Cebu City in less than 8 hours:
As the “Cradle of Christianity” in the country, Magellan’s Cross plays a big role in the history of the Philippines. This is believed to be the cross planted by the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, upon his arrival in the island of Cebu. Legends say that the original cross can miraculously heal sickness so people began chipping it away. Because of this, the officials of the local government decided to encase the cross in another wooden cross made from tindalo to protect it from further damage. In addition, it has been housed in an octagonal pavilion – also called as “kiosk” to further protect it from the damaging weather condition of the country.
Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño
Built in 1565, Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño is by far the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the country. It hosts the most famous religious icon in the country – the statue of the child Jesus, Sr. Sto. Niño – the gift given by Ferdinand Magellan to the wife of King Humabon, Queen Juana (Amihan or Humamay). Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño is located just beside Magellan’s Cross.
Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
Located just several meters from Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is another religious structure built during the Spanish colonization. It has a whitewashed façade with a majestic Holy Door. Inside the cathedral, one can see the impressive pipe organ with wooden frames in the balcony and several saints and martyrs in the altar.
Note: If you wish to learn more about the cathedral’s history, feel free to visit the Cathedral Museum across it. You may also get up close and personal with the former ruler of Cebu – Rajah Humabon – in his statue just across the museum.
Cebu Heritage Monument
The Cebu Heritage Monument is a gigantic representation of the significant events in the history of Cebu – from precolonial ruling of Rajah Humabon, to the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan, Spanish revolution, battle of Mactan, Spanish Galleon, image of Sr. Sto. Niño, and statues of President Sergio Osmeña and San Pedro Calungsod. The Cebu Heritage Monument came into realization through the efforts of local artist, Eduardo Castrillo and the late senator, Marcelo Fernan.
Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House (Casa Gorordo)
Right across the Cebu Heritage Monument is an ancestral house built in the late 17th century. This was the house of the family of Don Juan Yap and Donya Maria Florido. The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House was preserved and carefully restored in order to keep the long-held tradition and culture of Cebu’s finest district – Parian. It holds contemporary artworks, antique pieces, and life-sized religious icons.
Note: If you want to visit another residence that would showcase Cebu’s history, you may take a few steps and go to Casa Gorordo Museum – a house built in 1950s owned by Alejandro Reynes y Rosales. It is a concrete example of a Spanish colonial house with tiled roofs and large frontyard.
Fort San Pedro (Plaza Independencia)
Long before it became a tourist spot and activity area for Cebuano locals, Fort San Pedro was a triangular functional military defense structure constructed by Spanish and Cebuano laborers. Fort San Pedro is the oldest and smallest fort in the country with watchtowers and cannons installed around the corners.
Note: Plaza Independencia is the huge garden and plaza area located in front of Fort San Pedro. The centuries old acacia trees found in the plaza have witnessed the evolving phases of Cebu’s history.
After going around the city proper, spend the rest of your time marveling the city from afar – from the highlands point of view.
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If you want to fulfil your dream of visiting the Great Wall of China, get such vibes by visiting the Philippine Taoist Temple. Marvel the intricate oriental architecture of this temple which is open to worshippers ad sightseers. Learn about Taoism and the role played by the early Chinese community in the history of Cebu. Guests may take part in their ritual by praying to their gods – washing of hands, taking off of one’s pair of shoes, and dropping two blocks of wood inside the chapel. As it is a place of worship, follow guidelines given by the guards and respect restrictions on dress codes and camera usage.
Temple of Leah
Dubbed as the Taj Mahal of Cebu, Temple of Leah is an ancient Roman inspired architecture built in the highlands of Cebu. It is a shrine dedicated to the late wife of Teodorico Soriano Adarna, Leah Albio-Adarna. Despite the ongoing construction, it is consistently flocked by many visitors because of the remarkable structures found inside the 5,000 square meter land area – marble fountain, granite floors, Grecian statues adorning the corners, two golden lions standing on both sides of the main stairs leading to the nine-foot bronze statue of Leah.
FRIENDLY TIP: After sending you to Temple of Leah, you may not ask the habal-habal drivers to wait for you and bring you back to the city proper. To save from spending some money for ‘waiting time’, you may directly hire another habal-habal driver to bring you back to the city proper.
Tops of Cebu
Literally on top of Cebu City, Tops of Cebu (Tops Lookout) is a fortress-like city viewing deck located in the highest part of Busay. The place offers beers and snacks, which will totally allow you and your friends to hang out and bond more with each other. The place is very serene and romantic; hence, a perfect place for couples, friends, and families.
FRIENDLY TIP: I don’t recommend visiting Tops of Cebu at daytime. There’s actually nothing much to see; you’ll only end up basking under the stinging rays of the sun. Make the most of your visit and hangout at Tops of Cebu at night. There plays a live band, the city lights are then visible, and the mountain breeze will totally soak you up on a chilly vibe.
Sirao Flower Farm/ Sirao Garden
Fondly called as “Little Amsterdam”, Sirao Flower Farm and Sirao Garden are two competing flower farms located in the highlands of Cebu City. It is a perfect place to get numerous colorful photos for social media posts with celosia flowers, sunflowers, bicycles, windmills, fountains, picket fences in the background.
FRIENDLY NOTE: If going there on your own, make sure to haggle well with the habal-habal drivers in JY Square Mall, as they love to prey on first-time travelers.
ADD-ON: 10,000 Roses
The 10,000 Roses Café and More is probably one of the places that tourists would like to visit in Cebu. But please be informed that though it is part of Cebu, it is not located in Cebu City. But in case you finish early in your Cebu City tour, maybe you can still accommodate visiting this instagram-worthy tourist spot.
10,000 Roses is located in Cordova, Cebu. It features 10,000 artificial while, LED roses that lights up from dusk till late at night. The café where it is located requires a P20 entrance fee for those who wants to take photos and marvel these beautiful array of artificial flowers. It is best to visit the place at night.
NOTE: Please be reminded that it can literally get crowded around the 10,000 roses because of the mass number of people that visits and hangs around the café. Nonetheless, if you still want to witness this beautiful sight, make sure to visit this remarkable spot!
You see? You don’t have to spend months and years in Cebu to know how its history, its geographical landscapes, its culture, its people, and its bountiful natural resources. Sometimes, even an eight-hour tour around the city is already so much of an experience – a learning experience that can forever be embossed in the hearts of those who took time to get to know the Queen City of the South.
Have you been to a quick trip to other places as well? How was it? Have you been to these places in Cebu? Share your thoughts here below or follow daily adventures in this city on my Facebook and Instragram accounts!
See you soon on trails!