By Explorer Pierra Calasanz-Labrador –
Cebu, also known as the Queen City of The South, is an excellent introduction to the many wonders of the Philippines – from a bustling modern metropolis to historical charm and seaside bliss, and always, always, with a generous helping of Filipino hospitality. Here’s some of the best things to do in Cebu over a 2 day itinerary, so you get the most out of Cebu on a weekend getaway.
Cebu Itinerary: Day 1
On arriving at Mactan Island, where the airport and most resort hotels are located, downtown Cebu is roughly an hour’s drive away (insist on a metered taxi fare before beginning your trip).
First up on your Cebu itinerary, get your bearings over a leisurely brunch at the Abacà Baking Company (or simply A Café), which reputedly serves the best all-day breakfast in Cebu. You can’t miss it at the Crossroads Mall, literally at the centre of things in the city. While at the Crossroads, get a taste of the art scene at the hip Qube Gallery as well as HoliCOW (Holistic Coalition of the Willing), a shop featuring furniture exporters who champion the use of sustainable indigenous materials.
Then hit the streets and take in the beautiful, historic churches around town. Visit the restored Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral along Mabini Street, as well as the Cathedral Museum nearby. A few minutes away on foot, via P. Burgos Street, lies the Basilica del Santo Niño de Cebu.
As you emerge from the Basilica, head toward the iconic Magellan’s Cross (just around the corner via P. Burgos Street) for the obligatory tourist selfie. Meanwhile, at the picturesque Taoist Temple, perform rituals to divine an answer to your burning question or simply enjoy a good view of the city.
On the afternoon itinerary, stop for merienda (mid-afternoon snack) at the ubiquitous Bo’s Coffee or enjoy a decadent Chocolate High Tea at the charming The Chocolate Chamber along President Quirino Street, featuring treats made from premium local tablea (discs of cocoa powder) by renowned chocolatier Raquel Choa. Don’t miss the hibiscus-flavoured hot chocolate!
Then burn off the calories by partaking in the national sport, shopping! With access to great natural materials and skilled artisans, Cebu is a stellar place to score homegrown finds. A favourite pit-stop is Anthill Fabric Gallery, a retail shop/social enterprise that creates contemporary fashion using indigenous handwoven fabrics. Visit the furniture showroom of Filipino designer Kenneth Cobonpue and join his illustrious clientele, which includes Brad Pitt.
And for classic edible Cebu souvenirs, head to Taboan Public Market at Pahina Central to get food like dried fish, dried mangoes and biscuits. Just be ready for a fishy smell that might stick to your clothes.
Relish a cosy dinner at Abaseria Deli & Cafe along President Quirino Street, which serves up Filipino comfort food (try the bangus belly, lechon kawali, tinolang manok with coconut milk, and durian chocolate cake). Score bottled local delicacies and handicrafts on your way out!
For an authentic street vibe, head to the town plaza Fuente Osmeña Circle and look for Larsian, a 24/7 street food arcade for a grilled feast of BBQ, puso (Cebuano-style cooked rice), and beer for less than P100 (about US$2). Impress the locals by requesting, “Usa ka beer, palihog” (one beer, please – then repeat as needed!).
Witness the Cebu nightlife and trawl the happening J. Ave Superclub and Alchology, both at Mango Square Mall along Juana Osmena Street. For a chill alternative, grab a pack of beer, slip on a jacket and hang out at Tops Lookout, which offers a bird’s eye view of the city (about a 20-minute taxi ride from downtown Cebu, or more adventurous souls can opt to ride a habal-habal/motorcycle – make sure to negotiate your waiting fee as well).
Cebu Itinerary: Day 2
Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu
Fuel up for another jam-packed day at French bakery/diner Tymad Bistro along Maria Luisa Road for sweet and savory pastries (beignets, pain du chocolat and kouign amann).
Inject some adrenaline in your Cebu itinerary with some of the more exciting things to do on the island. Zip lines, rollercoasters, and sky walks at the Sky Experience Adventure, right at the heart of the city at the Crown Regency Hotel and Towers. Or for a natural high, head out to Big Q’s Mountain Horseback Riding Adventure, where both beginners and advanced riders can enjoy a river-trekking adventure – still within city limits!
Witness the beauty and heritage of the central Cebu mountain range atop mountain ponies accompanied by expert trail guides, while non-riders can enjoy various activities such as birdwatching, picking flowers or swimming at the waterfalls.
Of course, you can simply opt to have a itinerary-free itinerary in Cebu by fully enjoying enjoy your beach resort: snorkel, go island-hopping or snooze under the palm trees and soak up the blissful vibe of the tropics! If you aren’t booked at an oceanfront resort, day trippers can enjoy the beach for a minimal fee at Hadsan Cove (disclaimer: don’t expect paradise!), or better yet, venture about three hours south to Moalboal for an idyllic white sand retreat.
The contenders for the must-try Cebu food known as lechon (roasted suckling pig) include: the authentic home-cooked lechon at the Carcar Public Market, the delectably crunchy at CnT Lechon, the spicy version at Rico’s Lechon or the touristy Zubuchon, which Anthony Bourdain proclaimed had “the best pig ever” on No Reservations. Can’t decide which to try? Simply ask your host or cab driver to take you to their favourite one!
Be sure to treat yourself to the Philippine Hilot, a traditional massage using heated banana leaves to detect areas of imbalance, administered with the inimitably gentle Filipina touch. Most spas offer Hilot, but beauty insiders attest that the service at Amuma Spa at Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort is top-notch when it comes to Cebu spas.
Come sunset, close off that Cebu weekend getaway itinerary with a seaside chill, with a cocktail in hand, at the Ibiza Beach Club at Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu, where you can also partake of an authentic Balearic churrasco grill while watching Las Vegas-style live entertainment.
For a sophisticated send-off, enjoy the California-Mediterranean inspired cuisine at the award-winning Abaca Restaurant, located at the Abaca Boutique Resort, Mactan Island, before catching your flight back home.
Best Time to Visit
Best Time to Visit Cebu
Cebu is fun to visit all year round, but every year on the third Sunday of January the entire population spills onto the streets for the Sinulog Festival, a wild, colourful and crazy dance party in honour of the Santo Niño.
Where to Stay
If you’re here to chill or honeymoon, book a beachfront hotel on Mactan Island. Enjoy ‘barefoot luxury’ at the Mediterranean-inspired Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu or a local touch at Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort.