A Cultural Experience: 10 Best Things To Do In Iloilo City, Philippines

things to do in iloilo city philippines
| 4 min read

Iloilo City is the perfect destination for those who are wanting to have a taste of the Philippines, but can only afford to stay in one place. Iloilo is recognized as the “Heart of the Philippines” with its rich history, sumptuous local food, colorful festivals, and breathtaking sceneries. It is true that the Philippines has a diverse culture - each region is a unique experience - but Iloilo is the best place to give you a sneak peek of what Filipinos are all about.

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Iloilo, Philippines Iloilo, Philippines Iloilo, Philippines
Eager to see old churches and other beautiful buildings? If you're visiting Iloilo soon, note that fully vaccinated travelers entering Iloilo are only required to present their vaccination cards and one valid ID. Partially vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers are required to present one valid ID and a negative RT-PCR test result issued no earlier than 72 hours from the date of travel.

Explore historical sites

1. Calle Real

Where better can you start exploring historical sites than a street full of them? Calle Street, or officially known as J.M. Basa Street, is considered Iloilo’s historic center. This is where you can find buildings that date back to the 1800s, withstanding various natural calamities such as floods, typhoons, and earthquakes. Most of the buildings were restored recently and you can clearly see the Western influences on the buildings’ architecture in this street.

Calle Real is like a museum with the amount of history that is found there, the only difference is, it is still full of life and still functions as Iloilo’s venue for commerce and trade.

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2. Camiña Balay Nga Bato: An Ilonggo heritage house

Camiña Balay Nga Bato
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user FroyR used under CC BY-SA 4.0

You can find plenty of ancestral houses in Iloilo City, one such house is the Camiña Balay Nga Bato, which showcases the Ilonggo Heritage. This heritage house, which was built in 1860 by Fernando Avanceña, now functions both as a museum and a house of the 6th generation of the Avanceña clan. They offer a house tour for visitors so you can see the antiques they have inside their home, including a traditional weaving loom. They also serve you local food such as their famous tsokolate (chocolate drink), and pancit molo during the tour, so that’s definitely a plus!

If you do plan to visit, reservations are required to be made a day before so that they can prepare the food.

Camiña Balay Nga Bato

Address: 20 Osmena St., Villa de Arevalo, Iloilo City

Price: from 150 PHP (3 USD) per person

Opening Hours: 8am - 6pm

Contact: Mobile: +63 9217386491/+63 9173055355 Home: +63 0333363858/+63 0333365075

Facebook: Camiña Balay Nga Bato

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Try out some of the local food

3. Netong's La Paz Batchoy

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Heidigutierrez used under CC BY 3.0

One of the best ways to get to know a place and its culture is through its food. One popular dish that came from Iloilo is La Paz Batchoy, a noodle soup that uses noodles, parts of pork, beef, and chicken as its ingredients. Naturally, as La Paz Batchoy originates from Iloilo, you can find a lot of stores that serve this dish. It is debatable who pioneered this dish, but one of those claiming to be the original makers of the said dish is Netong’s Original Special La Paz Batchoy. This eatery can be found in La Paz Public Market, and they also serve other Filipino dishes other than La Paz Batchoy.

Netong's Original Special La Paz Batchoy

Address: La Paz Public Market, Luna cor. Huervana st., La Paz, Iloilo City

Opening Hours: 7am - 7pm

Facebook: Netong’s Original Special La Paz Batchoy

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4. Seafood at Breakthrough Restaurant

Food Prawns Fish
Source: Pixabay

Seafood dishes are definitely a must-try for an archipelago like the Philippines! One of the most popular seafood restaurants in Iloilo is the Breakthrough Restaurant, which is said to serve some of the best local seafood dishes in Iloilo. You can find aquariums and ponds inside the restaurant, where you can see where the restaurant gets its main ingredient for their dishes. Other than their food, the Breakthrough Restaurant also gives you a view of Guimaras, a neighboring island, and a dose of sea breeze since it is located near a beach.


Address: Villa Beach, Barangay Sto. Niño Sur, Arevalo, Iloilo, Philippines

Opening Hours: 9am - 9pm

Contact: +63 0333373027/ +63 0333364755

Website: Breakthrough

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See the beaches

5. Gigantes Islands

A hidden paradise - Isla De Gigantes Islands, Philippines
Source: Photo by user 2il org used under CC BY 2.0

If you will be spending a lot of time in Iloilo City, you should check out the Gigantes Islands. It is a group of islands located 5 hours away from Iloilo City, and offers its visitors breathtaking works of nature such as beaches and rock formations. If you’re looking for a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city and tourist hot spots, the untouched beauty of the beaches of Gigantes Islands is for you. The islands are only accessible by boat, with Bancal port being the fastest and most convenient jump-off point. If you do plan on traveling within the islands, it is much better to charter a boat for your use.

There are plenty of islands to explore, and here are some of them up next:

Gigantes Islands

Access: Passenger boats leaving for Gigantes Norte (North) is at Bancal Port, while passenger boats leaving at 2pm daily for Gigantes Sur (South) is at Estancia Port. Another way is to rent a boat to go around the islands.

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6. Cabugao Gamay Island

Cabugao Gamay
Source: Photo by user SIPAT: View from ... used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Cabugao Gamay Island takes on an interesting shape, with most of its area filled with vegetation and rock, and surrounded by clear waters. At its northern tip, you can find a white sandbar beach.

Cabugao Gamay Island

Address: Gigantes Islands, Carles, Iloilo

Access: 20 to 30 minute pumpboat ride from Brgy. Lantangan in Gigantes Sur.

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7. Antonia Beach

Beach Beautiful Blue
Source: Pixabay

Antonia Beach is another beach that can be found in Gigantes Islands. The waters surrounding this island are not only perfect for swimming but also give its visitors a stunning view of the the beach and the water surrounding the island. Fascinating rock formations can also be found on this beach.

Antonia Beach

Address: Gigantes Islands, Carles, Iloilo

Access: 30-minute boat ride from Brgy. Lantangan in Gigantes Sur

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8. Tangke Saltwater Lagoon

Floating Happiness at Tangke Salt Water Lagoon Iloilo
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Emman Asuncion Fo... used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Unlike the other two mentioned above, Tangke Saltwater Lagoon is a pool hidden in Isla de Gigantes Sur. It is like a hidden gem lurking among the rock formations that surround this lagoon. A short climb is required to reach the lagoon, and it is definitely worth it to feast your eyes on the beautiful, clear, shallow waters of the lagoon and the naturally-formed rock formations surrounding it.

Tangke Saltwater Lagoon

Address: Gigantes Sur, Carles, Iloilo

Access: Boat ride from Estancia Port

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Experience a festival

9. Dinagyang Festival

Dinagyang Festival Warrior
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Bernardo 'Berniem... used under CC BY 3.0

Festivals are one of the ways Filipinos celebrate tradition and religion. One of the most famous festivals in the Philippines is the Dinagyang Festival, which is in Iloilo City. Dinagyang Festival is a thanksgiving celebration for the the child Jesus, Sto. Niño. The festival is celebrated during the fourth weekend of January, but activities are held throughout the whole month, such as the Dinagyang Ati performance, and a fluvial procession in Iloilo River.

Dinagyang Festival

Price: Free

Contact: +63 333372172

Website: Dinagyang Festival

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10. Paraw Regatta Festival

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Another festival in Iloilo is the Paraw Regatta Festival. This festival holds various activities that celebrate the Ilonggo history and culture and give tribute to the legacies of the local families of sailors and boat makers. However, the highlight of this festival is a race between seafarers, using their Paraws or sailboats in the straits between Guimaras Island and Iloilo City. This is held during the third weekend of February.

Paraw Regatta Festival

Address: Tatoy’s Manokan, Sto. Nino Sur, Villa, Iloilo City

Facebook: Paraw Regatta Festival

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Immerse yourself in the culture

Iloilo City offers its visitors a dose of Filipino culture, from its history and food, to the festivals that celebrate Filipino culture and history, to its natural landscapes. Visiting Iloilo City will definitely be an immersive experience for anyone who decides to visit this heart of the Philippines.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Clarence loves travelling and experiencing different cultures from around the world. She has been to several countries in Asia and Europe and has gone several times to the US, and still counting....Read more

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