Cebu’s capital, Cebu City, is bustling but charming, busy but welcoming, and an unexpected feast for the senses. Start on Colon Street, the oldest street in the city (named after Christopher Columbus), situated in the centre of downtown. It’s especially busy in the evenings, but many shops are open during the day and it makes for a lovely and historic stroll.
Fit in a visit to Fort San Pedro, which dates back to 1565 and was built by Legazpi, the explorer who established the first Spanish settlement here. The enclosed garden is particularly nice – quiet and chilled out, particularly around sundown. Another historic must-do is Magellan’s Cross, a crucifix that is said to contain bits of the cross that the explorer planted in Cebu soil in the early 16th century. It’s housed across the street from city hall.
For a stunning view of Cebu, rent a bicycle, jump on the back of a motorbike or take a taxi and head up Mount Busay to Tops lookout point. The photo-worthy vistas are especially good at night when the city lights are twinkling.
When you can’t resist the pull of the beaches any longer, cross one of the bridges to Mactan Island. The glorious beaches on the eastern side of the island are just 15 minutes from the centre of Cebu City, so it’s easy to spend a few hours splashing in the ocean in the middle of your urban explorations.
If you want to stock up on pasalubong (gifts for those at home, a Filipino tradition), head to Taboan Market. You’ll find all kinds of tasty local treats from salted fish and dried squid to dried mangoes and cookies. For those in need of air conditioning, the city is home to plenty of shopping malls, which provide welcome refuge from the heat, along with lots of Filipino food options and shops.
For those willing to venture a little bit further, a trip to Boracay – renowned for its sublime tranquillity, lush greenery and award-winning beaches – is well worth the trip. Cebu also offers the perfect base to explore the wider Visayas region, including the islands of Panay and Bohol.