As we arrived in Cebu City, we realized that although it is the 5th most populated city in the nation, it isn’t as overwhelming as Manila. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of traffic here as well. However all the tour options that we found made it clear that you could easily see all the main sights in just one day!
We had to plan it well though, in order to make our kids thrilled about it. We wanted to avoid group tours. So after a lot of bargaining with one of the million tour companies, we got a great deal for a AC van for 8 hours. The tour included both the downtown as well as the mountain area. What this means is that you have a driver for 8 hours, however if you want more information about the places you visit, you need to look it up or hire a guide. We picked the first option!
Come along for the ride and enjoy Cebu City with us!
Where did we stay? During out time here in Cebu City we picked Crown Regency Hotel & Towers. It is in the center of town and offers a play area for kids, as well as a few restaurants and other actives as for all ages. They are in the process of renovating parts of the hotel so some parts were closed.
Cebu Taoist Temple
First stop of the day was in Beverly Hills, a high-end neighborhood in Cebu, to visit the Cebu Taoist Temple. It was built in 1972. The entrance to the temple is a replica of the Great Wall of China and with its elevation of 110 metres above sea level, it has a beautiful view of the city. The 81 steps to get to the top represent the 81 chapters of Taoism scriptures.
The temple is open to everyone, worshipers and non-worshipers. There is a popular ritual that people do when praying the gods to grant one’s wish. They wash their hands, go inside the chapel barefoot and drop two blocks of wood. If the blocks are both facing up then one can make a wish. If not then it is not yet the time for the wish to be granted.
Sirao Flower Garden
As you drive further out of the city and more into the valley you will find this beautiful place. Also known as “Little Amsterdam”, this is one of the biggest bloom parks of the city.
The owners of the farm started planting flowers to to be harvested and sold on All Soul’s Day. However a couple of tourists found the farm, shared the photos on social media and brought new attention to the place. As more and more people showed up, an entrance fee became necessary in order to maintain the environment. In fact all the visitor walking around were ruining the place. Today it is one of the main tourist attractions. People came here form all over the place to take photos in the pictorial garden.
Celosia is the main flower grown on the farm. The name comes from the Ancient Greek word “kḗleos” which means “burning” and it refers to its flame-like flower heads.
We loved the park! We stayed way over time exploring all the different corners of the garden and all its decor. It was without any doubt our favorite stop of the day!
Entrance fee: ₱50 per adults, ₱25 per kids and seniors
Temple of Leah
The temple of Leah was built by Teodorico Soriano Adarna in honor of his late wife Leah Albino-Adarna. He spent over 80 million pesos to create a place that would represent his undying love for her. The story behind it reminds me a bit of India’s Taj Mahal, however this temple if much more recent. In fact it was constructed in 2012. The doors to tourists were opened in 2015, but it is still under construction today.
What amazed us most was the beautiful location, which overlooks the whole city. Our kids loved running around the enormous square while we sat and enjoyed the panorama!
Entrance fee: ₱50 per person
If you need a bit of fresh air or simply want to enjoy Cebu’s panoramic skyline, just take a drive up to Tops Lookout. This is a great spot at 600 meters above Cebu City. You can stop at the cafe or simply take advantage of the picnic areas to eat your lunch. It is also a great place to go when the heat becomes unbearable in the downtown area.
Entrance fee: ₱100 per person
Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu
Basilica Minore del Santo Niño is the oldest Roman Catholic church established in the Philippines. It was built on the same spot where the image of the Sto. Nino de Cebu, a statue depicting the Child Jesus, was found in 1565 by Spanish explorers. It was built in 1565 by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi as the San Augustin Church.
Inside of the Basilica you can find a statue of the Santo Nino. The statue was given to Queen Juana of Cebu by Magellan to celebrate their conversion to Christianity. The statue traveled with Magellan from Spain to the Philippines, making it the oldest Catholic treasure in the islands.
The line to see the statue was extremely long, on the day we were there, so unfortunately we did not have a chance to see it.
One of the most important historical landmarks here in Cebu City is the famous Magellan’s Cross. This was the Christian Cross that Portugese and Spanish explorers were ordered by Magellan to plant at their arrival in the Philippines. It represents the birth of Christianity in the Philippines.
The Cross is in a little chapel close to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. It is believed that the original cross is actually inside a wooden cross made of tingalo wood, however some believe that the original was destroyed at Magellan’s death.
Fort San Pedro
Fort San Pedro is said to be the oldest and the smallest fort in the Philippines. Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, a Spanish conquistador who founded the earliest Spanish settlement in Cebu, initiated the construction of the fortress. The original fort was made of wood. It was then replaced in the 17th century with a stone fort to repel Muslim raiders.
Today’s fort was built in 1738. It is the oldest triangular bastion fort in the country. It has two sides facing the sea and the third side is facing the land. The sides facing the sea were safeguarded with cannon and the front with a strong fence made with wood. Its three bastions are named La Concepcion (southwest), Ignacio de Loyola (southeast), and San Miguel (northeast). Fourteen cannons were settled in their locations and most of them are still there today.
Inside you can visit a photographic collection of what Cebu City looked like many years ago.
Entrance fee: ₱30 per person
Cebu Heritage Monument
Cebu Heritage Monument depicts the most important events that happened in the history of Cebu. The sculpture signifies the time of Rajah Humabon up to the beatification of Cebuano martyr Pedro Calungsod. The Cebu Heritage Monument showcases the works of its artist Edgardo Castillo. It was constructed in 1997 and inaugurated in late 2000.
Yap-Sandiego Ancestral house
The Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House is one of the oldest houses in the Philippines. The house was constructed out of coral stones and wood. It was built sometime between 1675 and 1700 and was originally owned by a Chinese merchant named Don Juan Yap together with his wife, Doña Maria Florido. In fact it is said to be the first Chinese house built outside of China. It was built during the country’s Spanish colonial era where the Chinese were required to live in the Parians of a city.
Check out all our other posts about the Philippines here, to get inspiration and ideas for your travels!