The Philippines is renowned for its natural wonders, beaches and marine life. However, the country’s bustling, diverse cities are also well worth exploring. Whether you’re looking for nightlife, fine dining, culture, art, or architecture, you’ll be well served in the urban centers of the Pearl of the Orient. Here, we’ve selected the very best.
The most populous city in the Visayas Islands, Cebu City is known as the “Queen City of the South” due to its significance as a port and economic center. Its location makes it a perfect base from which to explore the beautiful attractions of Cebu Island—as one local respondent on Crowdsourced Explorer said, “you’ll be living in a city which is quite close to famous beach resorts… You can go [from] a city view to a mountain view in a matter of minutes.”
However, there are plenty of attractions to be found in the city itself. There are numerous museums to visit, restaurants serving great local and international dishes, and some of the best hotels in the country. Cebu City is also home to the historic Magellan Cross and Basilica del Santo Niño, both of which are definitely worth a visit.
Beautifully situated amongst the mountains of northern Luzon, Baguio is a truly picturesque destination. It’s a very popular destination during the summer months due to its relatively cool climate, and there are great excursions to be had from the city, particularly to the spectacular Mt. Pulon, the highest peak in Luzon.
The city itself is a delight to explore, full of parks and green spaces—Baguio is particularly well known for its pine trees, leading to its nickname of “City of Pines” (Filipinos love giving their cities nicknames!). According to one resident, “Baguio is a place where everyone can find their inner peace.”
How could you not want to visit a place called the “City of the Living God”—especially when it’s located right in the middle of Palawan Province, one of the most stunning areas of natural beauty in the world? Puerto Princesa is known for its “peace loving people, clean surroundings, beautiful landscapes and stunning views of beaches,” in the words of one citizen, and if you’re looking for a relaxing holiday city, you’ve found it. If you visit, don’t miss out on a day trip to the breathtaking Subterranean River National Park.
Davao City, whose metropolitan area is the second-most populous in the Philippines, is located in the heart of the southern island of Mindanao. It’s known as a clean, pleasant, and law-abiding city. Apart from being the gateway to one of the most beautiful parts of the country, Davao City has some of the best restaurants and hotels in the Philippines, and is the best place to eat durian, even having a prominent public monument dedicated to the notoriously pungent fruit.
The capital of the Philippines is a truly global city, an incredibly densely populated metropolis, with a hectic, bustling atmosphere that can be overwhelming to visitors—especially those who are unaccustomed to the humidity of Manila’s tropical climate. However, the rewards of such a city in terms of culture, nightlife, and cuisine are undeniable. As one local put it, “[the] endless restaurants, malls, and parks… make this city the ideal destination.”
Don’t miss out on visiting Intramuros, the historic walled part of the city that is home to historic buildings from many different eras stretching back to the Spanish colonial period, or checking out the incredible variety of fruits and other ingredients available in the city’s markets.
We’ve just scratched the surface in this article. The Philippines is a complex, multicultural nation that is full of fascinating cities, both large and small. Get some tips from the locals, then go exploring—you won’t regret it.