San Jose Church, Iloilo (Photo: Lester Ledesma)

Where to stay

  • Circle Inn Hotel & Suites, Iznart St, Maria Clara; +63 33 508 0000; A comfortable hotel boasting a modern Asian aesthetic.
  • Days Hotel Iloilo, 4/F The Atrium Mall, Gen Luna St; +63 33 337 3297; Provides easy access to the city’s shopping districts and ferry terminals.
  • Go Hotels Iloilo, Robinsons Place Iloilo Complex, Ledesma St corner Mabini St; +63 33 335 3376; A pleasant, value-for-money hotel with a 24/7 front desk and free WiFi.
  • Seda Atria, Pison Ave, Atria Park District, Brgy. San Rafael, Mandurriao; A four-star hotel with contemporary guestrooms, a fitness center, a lounge, and a rooftop bar.
  • Sheridan Boutique Resort, Buray, Oton; +63 33 396 0033; A sophisticated four-star resort with an outdoor infinity pool and watersport facilities.

Where to eat

  • Amalfi Cucina Italia, The Avenue Complex, Glicerio Pison Ave, Mandurriao; +63 33 329 5289. One of the best Italian restaurants in Iloilo, serving up a variety of pizzas, pastas and steaks.
  • Breakthrough, Santo Niño Sur, Villa Arevalo District; +63 33 337 3027. One of the best restaurants for fresh seafood. Favorites include the garlic buttered scallops, fresh oysters and aligue (rice fried with crab fat).
  • BullJack Talabahan, Coastal Rd; +63 912 832 2050. Feast to your heart’s content on seafood dishes like fresh steamed talaba (oyster) and buttered shrimps.
  • Buto’t Balat Restaurant, branches at Jaro Plaza, SM Delgado and Diversion Rd; +63 927 546 9000. Serves regional specialties and seafood dishes like baked oysters.
  • Madge Café, Rizal St, La Paz. Sip on freshly-brewed coffee from native beans at this quaint café located in the bustling La Paz Public Market.
  • Mama’s Kitchen, Osmena St, Arevalo; +63 33 336 0713. Purchase boxes of the best chewy cookies made from local ingredients, in flavors like cashew and mango.
  • Netong’s Original Special La Paz Batchoy, La Paz Public Market, Luna St corner Huervana St, La Paz; +63 33 396 9449. Treat your tastebuds to one of the best batchoys (offal and noodle soup) in town.
  • Pirates, Smallville Complex. A popular restaurant-bar where you can unwind with a drink to the sounds of a live band.
  • Ponsyon by Breakthrough, Plazuela de Iloilo, Benigno Aquino Ave, Mandurriao; +63 33 337 3027. A Filipino restaurant that serves local dishes like sizzling bulalo (soup with beef shank and marrow), buttered scallops, aligue rice (fried rice cooked with crab fat) and more.
  • Punot Restaurant, Riverside Boardwalk, Diversion Rd; +63 33 320 9893. Serves modern Ilonggo dishes, such as liempo (grilled pork belly) chips.
  • Roberto’s, J. M. Basa St. Queue up at this local institution for its famous siopao (steamed buns with fillings like chicken and pork), along with other snacks like meatballs on a stick.
  • Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood Restaurant, Sto. Nino Sur, Arevalo; +63 33 337 1360. Dishes on the menu include native lechon manok (roasted chicken) and talaba (oysters).
  • Ted’s Oldtimer Lapaz Batchoy, Benigno Aquino Ave, Mandurriao; +63 33 320 1945; Another joint that specializes in authentic batchoy (noodle soup with offal).

What to do

  • Calle Real, J.M. Basa St. This historic street — declared a heritage zone by The National Historical Commission of the Philippines — is lined with restored buildings that were constructed during the Commonwealth era. We’d recommend visiting on a Sunday afternoon from 3pm onwards, as the street is closed to vehicular traffic then.
  • Camina Balay Na Bato, Osmeña St, Villa Arevalo District; +63 33 336 3858. Visit this Illongo heritage house, where you can take a historical tour that includes a taste of some heavenly tsokolate (hot chocolate) with toasted mamon (sponge cake).
  • Casa Mariquit, Isabel St, Jaro. A historic house that used to be the home of former Philippines Vice-President Fernando Lopez.
  • Dinagyang Festival. Celebrated every fourth Sunday of January, this festival showcases the colorful history, passionate devotion and fun-loving spirit of the Ilonggos.
  • Guimaras Island. A mere 20-minute ferry ride from Iloilo City, this island is home to picture-perfect beaches, waterfalls and islets, as well as what are said to be the world’s sweetest mangoes — no kidding! A moderate hike to the top of Mt Diguman will get you an incredible 360-degree panorama, which takes in Panay and Negros Islands.
  • Guimbal Church, National Highway. Also known as St. Nicolas of Tolentino Parish, this 400-year-old church is made of yellow sandstone and coral stones, and is one of the oldest churches in the country.
  • Iloilo River Esplanade. Enjoy gorgeous riverside views along this landscaped promenade, especially during sunset.
  • Isla de Gigantes, Carles Town. While the journey from the city center to this province will take you about five hours, you’ll be duly rewarded with beautiful seascapes and white sand beaches.
  • Jaro Cathedral, Seminario, Jaro. This historical landmark, built in 1864, is one of the oldest churches in Iloilo. The image of Our Lady of the Candles on its facade was canonically crowned by Pope John Paul II when he visited the city in 1981.
  • Miag-ao Church, Miagao. This Roman Catholic church, built in 1797, is widely regarded as one of the best examples of Baroque churches in the Philippines. With walls of solid coral several meters thick, it’s easy to see how this church has stood on this site for over two centuries. It has also been bestowed UNESCO World Heritage status.
  • Museo Iloilo, Bonifacio Dr, Iloilo City Proper. Drop by this museum, which has exhibits on prehistoric Chinese traders, the long Spanish era, and the changes brought about in the American years. Artefacts like stone age native pottery, weapons, fossils and jewelry are on display.

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