Authored by Diane Wuthrich
Baguio, also known by the nicknames, the “City of Pines” and the “Summer Capital of the Philippines”, is a popular destination for good reason.
Known as a resort town in the Northern Luzon region of the Philippines and located over 5,000 feet above sea level, Baguio is blessed with cool mountain weather. The refreshing climes, pine-scented air, and mountain life in Baguio makes it an ideal respite for weekend getaways and during the hot summer months.
Baguio is also a great road trip destination. In the past, it would take roughly 7 hours by road to reach Baguio from Manila. These days, thanks to improved infrastructure, it’s a scenic 4-5 hour drive from Manila. If you can’t take a private vehicle, Victory Liner Bus has a daily shuttle from Cubao, Manila to Baguio.
So, pack your layers and cosy jackets – these are the 5 things you shouldn’t miss while in Baguio:
1. Visit Baguio’s historical landmarks.
Baguio is known for its rich historical significance, having been established sometime during the 1840’s by the first Spanish colonizers of the country. It originally functioned as part of their early settlements, but during the 1900’s the Americans took over. Baguio served as the backdrop to several significant events in Philippine history, including the bombing of the Japanese on 1941.
Several prominent historical attractions are still around in Baguio today. Get a glimpse of life in the past by visiting Camp John Hay, Burham Park, Mines View Park, The Mansion, Session Road, the Baguio Cathedral, Lion’s Head, and the home of Filipino revolutionary Emilio Aguinaldo.
2. Get cultural.
The arts scene in Baguio is alive and thriving. Baguio is home to the Cordillera tribes, highlanders who are extremely skilled in creating beautiful woven cloths, wood carvings, paintings, baskets, and even ethnic food. Many of the tribes’ handmade work adorn the walls of local galleries, hotels, and restaurants.
Don’t miss out on the BenCab Museum, the home and workshop of renowned Filipino artist Benjamin Cabrera. The BenCab Museum is one of the most authentic cultural experiences in Baguio; a multi-level house filled with genuine Filipino art. The Erotica Gallery and bulol (Ifugao rice god) collection is certainly captivating, as well as the various artefacts of Cordillera tribesmen.
The BenCab Museum also has a private forest and garden area – there’s lots to explore to fill up an entire day. Other notable artistic centres to check out include the Tam-Awan Village, Arko Ni Apo, Ifugao Woodcarver’s Village, Cinematheque Baguio, VOCAS, The Baguio Botanical Garden, and Arca’s Yard (which doubles as a restaurant with a breathtaking view of the Cordillera mountain range).
3. Shop Baguio’s fresh produce.
Strawberry-picking is an activity that is synonymous to Baguio. The high elevation is conducive to growing some of the most delicious and sweet strawberries you’ll ever get your hands on. Take half a day to visit the strawberry farm located just a few minutes away from the city centre (take note of the strawberry picking season which runs from November to May). Trinidad Valley where you can hand-pick your own strawberries and other vegetables from a farm to purchase and take home.
If you love cooking or food in general, don’t miss out on the Baguio public market. It’s one of the cleanest wet markets in the whole country, with a dizzying array of fruits and vegetables as well as other delicious edibles that are locally produced. Shop till you drop – the Baguio public market’s fresh produce will only cost you spare change; more than a fraction of what you’d pay at home. Several vendors also sell a wide array of Baguio souvenirs, so you can consider the public market to be a one-stop shop for food and handicrafts. Because of the perishable nature of most goods here, your best bet is to visit the market the day on, or before, you leave.
4. Eat your heart out in Baguio’s many restaurants.
The culinary scene in Baguio is just so good that it’s not uncommon for travellers to return time and again for the food alone. If you ask me, the best way to start off any trip to Baguio is by sipping a hot cup of decadent cacao. Head over to Chocolate de Batirol for this, located at the Igorot Park.
You won’t run out of fresh salad options because it’s everywhere in Baguio, so that’s a given. Other noteworthy restaurants worth stopping by include:
– Hill Station
– Secret Garden
– Lemon and Olives Greek Taverna
– Café in the Sky
There are so many options for food in Baguio, but it’s best to plan out your dining itinerary before your visit because some of them are spread out. I personally think that few things in life are better than being bundled up in the mountains and feasting on scrumptious food in good company!
5. Warm up with a drink.
Baguio’s after-hours scene can hardly be referred to as nightlife, because it’s more like grabbing-a-beer-in-a-dive-bar kind of place. That being said, Baguio appeals more to those enjoy dive bars and the such. However, one place does stand out – that’s the Baguio Craft Brewery. It’s the only craft brewery in all of Baguio where you can choose a local beer from 18 taps. They also have an excellent selection of pub food to complement your beer.
Baguio’s “nightlife” is a hodgepodge not just of dive bars but also the odd live jamming session. If there are two things Filipinos love to do and can do well, it’s drinking AND singing. There are many extremely talented bands to check out. Other popular watering holes include Rumours, Café Yagam, Beans Talk, and Red Lion Pub.