Also known as the Philippines' Queen City of the South, Cebu is as regal and majestic as its name suggests. For many local and foreign travelers, the over a hundred islands and islets are the province’s biggest draws. Not to mention the beautiful beaches, mountains, and waterfalls. But what many may not know is that the capital city likewise boasts plenty of sightseeing spots. It is definitely far more than a gateway to Cebu's wide array of attractions. So before you leave to frolic at the beach or go chasing waterfalls, here are some of the best places around Cebu City that you can visit in less than a day.
The Culture and Historic Route
A friend introduced me to four of Cebu City's interesting attractions when I was there for a 28-hour visit two years ago. They were located within a short walk from each other so we were able to make the most of our time and finish our unplanned walking tour in just half a day.
1. Casa Gorordo
We went to Casa Gorordo to have coffee and visit the museum in one go. The two-story house and National Historical Landmark, which was a private residence in the past, was home to Cebu's first Filipino Bishop Juan Gorordo.
Taking a peek at what’s inside the gate.
Unfortunately, it was a Monday when we went there and the place is open only from Tuesdays up to Sundays. So we just took some time to admire the old house from the outside and peeked through the gates to get a glimpse of whatever we can see inside. Luckily, there are other spots worth exploring nearby so the trip was not entirely wasted.
Location: No 35 Lopez Jaena, Cebu City
2. Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House
At the gate.
View of the house from the garden.
View from one of the second-floor windows.
Wishing well at the garden.
Our next stop was the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House. The house is said to be one of the oldest Chinese houses built outside of China. More than 90% of the original roofs and walls are still intact. One of the volunteer guides there told us that the house has withstood some of the strongest earthquakes that struck Cebu.
Location: Parian District, Cebu City
Admission Fee: Php50.00
3. Heritage of Cebu Monument
Heritage of Cebu Monument
This monument immediately captured my interest as my friend drove past it on our way to Casa Gorordo. I was glad that it was along the route of our impromptu culture and heritage tour. Heritage of Cebu monument was stunning up close as it was from afar. I love the details and the way all the sculptures seem to blend so well together.
4. 1730 Jesuit House Museum
At the Jesuit House
What the original Jesuit House looked like.
Café on the first floor of this building inside the compound where the Jesuit House is located.
A few meters away from the Yap-Sandiego ancestral house sits the 1730 Jesuit House. I found it interesting how it was “discovered”. According to the story my friend told me, the son of the owner of the property where the Jesuit House stands was a student of the Ateneo de Manila University in the 1980s. One day the said son was looking at a photo of the old Jesuit House in a textbook when he suddenly realized why it looked familiar. It was the bodega or warehouse their family has been using for their business for many generations.
The first and second level of the Jesuit House is made of coral stones. And among its many features are the wood reliefs and floorboards.
Location: 26 Zulueta St, Cebu City
The Scenic Route
Just recently, I was in Cebu for 22 hours and met up with my friend again. The only plan we made before my trip was that she will take me to the vegan cafe she visited a few months ago. But like the last time, we somehow managed to squeeze in some time to see two of the city's attractions. We went on a road trip to the hilly part of the city and enjoyed the scenic views.
1. Temple of Leah
Temple of Leah
The temple and its golden lions.
Temple of Leah mimics the style of ancient Roman architecture. The building is a symbol of "undying love and ceaseless devotion" given how Teodorico Soriano Adarna had it built as a homage to his late wife Leah. It was built in 2012 and opened to the public in 2015. But work on the building continues as some areas are still under construction when we visited.
The awe-inspiring building with its grand Doric columns and the scenic views of lush mountains behind it and Cebu City's urban landscape below it all add to the charm of this popular tourist attraction.
View of the city from the parking area.
Location: Cebu Transcentral Hwy, Cebu City
2. Cebu Little Amsterdam
Welcome sign at the entrance.
At the garden.
Saw this carabao standing still in the midst of the garden.
Approximately 20-30 minutes drive away from the Temple of Leah is the Sirao Flower Garden. The garden, also widely known as the Little Amsterdam of Cebu, is famous for its vibrant red and yellow celosia flowers. Dahlias, gerberas, petunias, sunflowers, and yellow bells also add a kaleidoscope of colors to the hillside property when in bloom. There were not many celosia flowers when we visited though as they were just recently harvested. But we did get to enjoy the sunflowers in full bloom.
Just across the road from the entrance to the flower garden are several stalls selling fresh young coconuts, fruit shakes, and grilled bananas (ginanggang) and corn on the cob. I bought one of the best-tasting avocado shakes I've had so far from one of the stalls there.
Alexis Fresh Fruit Shake stall makes great tasting avocado shake.
Location: Busay, Cebu City
3. Rumah Highlands Hotel
Photo credit: Rumah Highlands Hotel's Facebook page.
Veggie Bulgogi and Tofu Pad Thai at Lima Restaurant.
From Sirao Flower Garden, we finally headed out to Rumah Highlands Hotel to have lunch. Rumah is a roughly 30 to 35-minute drive from the garden and about 10 minutes away from Temple of Leah. It houses a veg-friendly restaurant on the 9th floor where we had our lunch while enjoying the view from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
Brewed local organic coffee.
Vegan mango chia pudding with slices of banana
The hotel is also home to The Detox Bar Cebu which has a wide selection of vegan dishes and treats. We visited the cafe soon after we finished our lunch and had some of their brewed organic coffee and mango chia pudding. The cafe was a perfect spot to relax as its cool and spacious interior refreshed us after spending the whole morning under the heat of the sun. Both the restaurant and the cafe provided great views of the city, the bay, and verdant trees.
At the poolside in the 2nd floor outside The Detox Bar
Location: Rumah Highlands Hotel, Nivel Hills, Busay, Cebu City