A metropolis that retains its aura of romance, Bacolod caters to all kinds of travelers — and is nicknamed the City of Smiles with good reason.
Sprawling sugarcane plantations are the first sight to welcome you to Bacolod City, Negros Occidental in Western Visayas, as your plane lands at the Bacolod–Silay International Airport. This pastoral, idyllic first impression hints at the history of an area nonetheless officially classified as a highly urbanized city: In Bacolod, progress and modernity co-exist with bucolic sugarcane fields and heritage houses that lend the place an air of romance and nostalgia. Both the urban explorer and the traveler who envisions an immersive adventure away from big cities will find something to enjoy in the affectionately nicknamed City of Smiles.
Begin in Metro Bacolod
Some twenty kilometers from the airport lies Metro Bacolod — the greater metropolitan area composed of the provincial capital Bacolod City and component cities Talisay and Silay.
If you stumble upon a public space that looks like a large chessboard with a gazebo at the center, you’re in the Bacolod Public Plaza. This is the epicenter of the MassKara Festival, a Mardi Gras-like celebration held every October that people flock to for its heady party atmosphere. Enjoy colorful parades and the famed street-dancing competitions, and mingle with costumed revelers with their distinctively decorated masks displaying effusively smiling faces.
A stone’s throw away from the plaza, you can choose your own adventure. For the religious or for the history buff, there’s a late 19th-century Catholic church, the papal tower commemorating the 1995 visit of Pope John Paul II, and the Negros Museum. Feeling hungry? There’s nearby Manokan Country, which will fulfill your chicken inasal cravings with grilled chicken marinated in vinegar, calamansi and annatto. Get your fill of hearty beef soup at one of the humble cansi houses at the city’s Chinatown. Feast on seafood and satisfy your sweet tooth with one of the city’s many sugary treats — the Negros region produces about half the country’s sugar output, after all.
About 8km north of Bacolod City lies Talisay, which boasts a highland resort and the ruins of an ancestral mansion. To the east of Talisay, about 25km from Bacolod City, is the beautiful Silay, renowned for streets lined with well-preserved heritage houses. Known as the “Paris of Negros”, Silay saw culture and the arts flourish, fueled by wealth from the sugar economy that began booming in the late-1800s. Sugar barons built splendid mansions that still stand today and which have been declared official heritage landmarks by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Take a tour inside Balay Negrense, built by sugar-industry pioneer Yves Leopold Germain Gaston, or in any of the other houses that are open to the public, to get a fascinating glimpse of a different time.
Sights around Bacolod
If you’d like to nurse some coffee and chill near the river, driving about 40km south will take you to Bantayan Park in Bago City. Don’t expect anything fancy, but it is charming and quaint: you’ll see huts offering snacks and native coffee along the waterfront promenade. While you’re in the area, don’t miss the Spanish colonial house-turned-museum that was home to the city’s hero. The south also offers its share of picturesque beaches, including Sugar Beach in Sipalay.
Willing to go on a longer road trip? Bacolod offers access to Mount Kanlaon, the highest point in the Visayas, and which is located nearly 100km southeast of Bacolod City in Canlaon City. Check with local authorities beforehand, though, as the mountain is an active volcano. If you’re not up for a hike, visiting the national park and enjoying mountain resorts in the area are other outdoorsy options. Canlaon City also has a century-old tree that is worth checking out.
By Hannah Dormido, as of January 2020.
Avenue Suites Hotel and Spa, 12th Lacson St; +63 34 435 7777. A value-for-money boutique hotel with large, comfortable beds. $$$
Go Hotels Bacolod, Lacson St; +63 34 441 0506. Conveniently located 30 minutes away from the airport and behind Robinsons Place Bacolod. $$
L’Fisher Hotel, 14th Lacson St; +63 34 433 3731. A four-star hotel offering a range of accommodation types, from regular deluxe rooms to suites. There’s also an on-site spa, pool, and fitness center. $$$
MO2 Westown Hotel, San Juan St corner Luzuriaga St; +63 34 709 8899. A downtown hotel located 15 minutes away from Robinsons Place Bacolod by car. $$$
O Hotel, 52 San Sebastian St; +63 34 433 7401, +63 917 300 8001, +63 998 548 8440. Walking distance from the central wet market, public plaza and the San Sebastian Cathedral. $$$
Nature’s Village Resort, Talisay City; +63 34 495 0808. A modern resort with the majestic Mount Marapara as its backdrop. $$$
Seda Capitol Central, North Capitol Rd, corner Lacson St; +63 34 703-8888. A four-star business hotel in the city center offering 154 rooms, a signature restaurant, a roof-deck bar, a swimming pool, a gym, function rooms and meeting rooms. $$$
Sugarland Hotel, Araneta Street; sugarlandhotel.com. Get a taste of the sugar baron life at this hotel, where hacienda–living meets modern amenities. $$
The White Hotel, 42 Burgos Ave. This heritage house-turned-B&B has an annex for those who don’t mind sharing a room. $-$$
Aboy’s Restaurant, Liroville Subd, Singcang; +63 34 435 2340. Bestsellers at this Filipino restaurant include the blue marlin, grilled scallops, and sinigang na managat or red snapper, among others.
Aida’s, Manokan Country, Fr M Ferrero St, corner Rizal St. Serves up some of the best chicken inasal in Bacolod City.
Bacolod 18th St.Palapala Seafood Grill & Restaurant, Aguinaldo St., Cor 18th St.; +63 34 433 9153. Visit for a much-needed seafood feast!
Bar 21, 21st St, corner Lacson St; +63 34 433 4096. Serves up a richer, fine-dining version of pork organ soup, or batchoy.
Calea Pastries & Coffee, 1/F Robinsons Place Bacolod, Lacson St; +63 34 441 0505. This legendary sweet spot is known to make some of the city’s finest cakes. You can’t go wrong with the marshmallow ice-cream cake and the white-chocolate cheesecake — or any of its other delectable offerings, for that matter!
Chicken House, 24th Lacson St; +63 34 434 9405. Another establishment that’s famous for its chicken inasal.
El Ideal Bakery, Brgy III, 118 Rizal St; +63 34 495 4430. Set in the ground floor of a 1920s-era home, this no-frills restaurant has served classic Negrense baked goodies for generations. Try the sweet, chewy piyaya patties along with tasty mango tartlets.
Felicia’s Pastry Cafe, Doll Bldg, 6th St; +63 34 433 6586. Indulge in sans rival (a dessert cake made with layers of buttercream, meringue and chopped cashews) in a variety of delectable flavors, such as peanut brittle, mocha and salted caramel.
Imay’s Bar and Restaurant, 6th Lacson St; +63 34 434 5113. For Filipino favorites like crispy pata — deep-fried pig trotters or knuckles — and baked talaba.
Malaspina Inasalan, L N Agustin Dr, Malaspina St, Brgy Villamonte. Chicken inasal so tasty and affordable that locals and tourists alike flock here for their fix.
May’s Organic Garden, Sitio Aning, Brgy Pahanocoy; +63 34 431 3800. A place to learn about organic farming and indulge in Ilonggo cuisine, Filipino food and organic produce.
Museum Cafe, Gatuslao St; +63 34 433 4764. Make your way here for a Western-inspired menu of open-faced sandwiches and fresh juices.
Nena’s Chicken Inasal, Bantayan Park, Bago City. An open-air restaurant where locals enjoy chicken inasal and other grilled treats like isaw.
Pendy’s Snack Bar, Lacson St; +63 34 434 0269. Head here for mouthwatering flaky pastry filled with custard cream and topped with sugar known as napoleones. If you’d like to take some home, visit the shop the day before you leave — they’ll gladly have them ready for pick-up before you go.
Rau-Ram Café, Prk Marapara 1 Zone 2, Brgy Bata; +63 34 707 0255. Sample Vietnamese cuisine like banh mi and com chien fried rice, along with other Asian-fusion dishes.
Sharyn’s Cansi House, C-58 Narra Ave, Capitol Shopping Center; +63 34 433 1374; fb.com/sharynsbacolod. Visit this restaurant for the best cansi, the llonggo version of bulalo with a tangy sinigang flavor. Other must-try dishes are the bakareta and lechon kawali.
Terrasse Bistro, F114, The District, Ayala North Point, Talisay City; fb.com/terrassebistrobacolod. Helmed by noted chef Nico de Asis Millanes, this classy restaurant is ideal for a high-end dining experience. Order the Kitayama wagyu prime rib and squid carbonara.
Virgie’s Homemade Products, 59 San Sebastian St; +63 34 434 1588. Sample a mind-boggling array of baked sweets, from durian chips to mango jam, at this popular store.
1966 Cafe and Restaurant, Mabini St. cor Bonifacio St, Bago City. If you find yourself in Bago City, enjoy a cup of cappuccino or matcha latte here. It also serves burgers and pastas, among others.
Campomanes Bay, Sipalay; +63 908 646 7495. Campomanes Bay is an excellent site for water sports like diving, boating, kayaking and jet-skiing.
Campuestohan Highland Resort, Sitio Campuestohan, Brgy Cabatangan, Talisay City; +63 34 702 0964. Plenty of family-friendly activities abound, such as swimming, horseback riding and ziplining.
House of Mugs, San Gabriel Subdivision, Brgy. Balingasag, Bago City; +63 950 165 4915; fb.com/houseofmugsph . A humble home transformed into a mug museum with more than a thousand mugs. It’s usually open from Monday to Saturday but check the Facebook page for updates.
Laguerta, Home Of The Vintage Glasses Museum, Brgy Sum-ag; +63 917 309 8895. Here, you’ll find American florist Tomas Casiano’s gorgeous collection of glasses in different shapes, sizes and colors. Call the shop to see if it’ll be open on the day you plan to visit.
Lakawon Island Resorts and Spa, Cadiz Viejo, Negros Occidental; +63 998 154 4988; https://lakawon.com.ph/. Bask in a luxurious holiday in this 16ha white-sand island resort.
Magikland Park, Brgy Guinhalaran, Silay City; 0921 202 6871, 915 320 7782, 63 34 445 3847; magiklandpark.com. A new leisure and theme park inspired by local culture and folklore. The whole family can enjoy fun rides as well as galleries, cultural exhibitions and events.
Mambukal Mountain Resort, Murcia; +63 34 473 0610. A mountain resort with hot sulfur springs, a biplane, a lagoon and viewing decks. Trekking to Mambukal’s seven waterfalls is a must.
Museo Negrense de La Salle, University of St La Salle, Gate 1; +63 34 434 5998. An intriguing museum that features an extensive collection of religious art pieces, as well as a textile gallery.
Negros Forest and Ecological Foundation, South Capitol Rd; +63 34 433 9234. Learn more about endangered endemic animals of the Negros-Panay Faunal Region, such as the Visayan warty pig and Visayan spotted deer.
Negros Museum, Gatuslao St. A woefully under-visited gem, this museum showcases local art, artifacts and handicrafts. Visit the Museum Café for delicious snacks after.
Negros Showroom, 9th St; +63 34 433 8833. Pick up beautiful souvenirs such as woven bags made of water lilies, abaca slippers and other accessories made in the region.
The Ruins, Talisay City; +63 34 476 4334. While away a few hours exploring the grounds of this stately mansion, which once belonged to a sugar baron. It was destroyed during World War II, but has since been restored. Guided tours are available.