Iloilo City is a force to be reckoned with, as far as business, leisure, and culture are concerned. In fact, it has been declared one of the most livable cities in the whole country.
It then comes as no surprise that tourism in the vibrant City of Love is on the rise. So if you’re one of many who want to visit Iloilo City, look no further than this full guide to making the most of its rich history, cuisine, and nightlife—even if you can only stay for the weekend.
HOW TO GET THERE
Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and AirAsia offer several flights from Manila to Iloilo daily. The flight takes around an hour. There are flights from Cebu, General Santos, Davao, Puerto Princesa, and even Hong Kong and Singapore to Iloilo International Airport.
Take the earliest flight (4:25AM or 6AM ETD from Manila) to arrive early and make the most of your trip. This will also help you avoid the traffic congestion from the airport at peak times. The city proper is around 20-30 minutes from the beautiful and modern airport, accessible by taxi, jeepney, bus, or private vehicles.
There are direct ferry routes and Ro-Ro connections on the Philippines’ nautical highway between Iloilo’s various ports and major cities around the country, including Cebu, Bacolod, Guimaras, Manila/Batangas, Dumaguete, and Palawan. Check 2GO Travel/SuperCat, Ocean Jet, FastCat, Weesam Express, Negros Navigation, Montenegro, and F.F. Cruz for schedules.
If you’re traveling from Manila or Batangas, we recommend taking the ship departing the night before you intend to be in Iloilo, so you arrive by morning, ready to kick off your adventure.
There are buses and PUVs that could take you from nearby provinces and towns to Iloilo City, usually at Tagbak Terminal. Taxis and jeepneys are available from here.
GETTING AROUND IN ILOILO CITY
The best way to get around the city is by cab or jeepney. If you have the Grab mobile app, their GrabTaxi service is available. The city also promotes the use of bikes, in an effort to improve the growing traffic problem (no thanks to narrow roads and Ilonggos’ preference for driving large SUVs and trucks over commuting).
If you’re touring a lot of areas in one day and you’re in a big group, best to rent a van. Usual rates are P2,500 for 10 hours, with P250/hour overtime fee. Gas may or may not be included in the cost, depending on the service provider. You may want to have the van pick you up from the airport before the start of your tour, then drop you off after your second day in the city.
DAY 1: ILOILO HISTORY, SIGHTSEEING, AND NIGHTLIFE
7AM - Arrive in Iloilo
8AM - Leave bag at hotel
There are several options for stays in Iloilo City depending on your budget and preferred location.
Embracing a sense of nostalgia, The Mansion Iloilo is a convenient choice. This iconic heritage landmark is located in the heart of the city.
Check out our exclusive, best-priced offers with The Mansion Iloilo here!
More budget-conscious travelers, especially families and big groups, may prefer District 21, Diversion 21, and Smallville 21, or Injap Tower Hotel (one of the tallest buildings in Western Visayas, offering amazing views!). All are close to the city’s best shopping, dining, and drinking spots.
9AM - Have the best siopao for breakfast at Roberto’s
One of the most popular food you can try in Iloilo is actually found in an unassuming Chinese restaurant in old downtown Iloilo.
- The smallest one is called Jumbo and it lives up to its name.
- Their biggest variant is called Queen, filled with bacon, Chinese sausage, chicken and pork adobo, salted egg, and more.
- You can dine in the restaurant but most people just line up for siopao to go.
- There’s a long line for siopao anytime you visit Roberto’s, so it’s really best to start your Iloilo food trip here early before they run out of Queen.
- Why not bring home siopao as pasalubong?
J.M. Basa St., Iloilo
(033) 335 0484
(033) 337 1595
Daily, 8AM to 7PM
10AM - Explore Old Downtown Iloilo
Drive or walk along the city’s historic center to admire the beautiful arcade-type sidewalks and old buildings from the 1800s, with glorious architecture the city is endeavoring to restore.
- Calle Real (now J.M. Basa Street) is the city’s old central business district. Here you’ll find Regent Theater, once called Cine Palace, the oldest existing theater in the country; and the first shopping center in the Philippines.
- Plaza de Libertad was the last stronghold of the Spaniards, where they ended their 333-year rule in the Philippines. Take a photo by the old train engine from Panay Railways, constructed in the 1900s to span various parts of Iloilo province all the way up to Roxas City and ceased operations in 1980s.
- Beware of pickpockets in this area!
- If you’re there on a Friday, stop by the New Iloilo City Hall for a quick tour of the Iloilo City Gallery to get to know the city better. Don’t forget to take a photo wearing a Dinagyang headpiece! Then go up to the rooftop for a 360-view of the city and Guimaras and a closer look at the Lin-ay of Iloilo—a statue of a lady with symbols for what Iloilo City is known for on her pedestal: education, sugar cane, rice, and fish. You must also swing by Gen. Luna St. for a photo at the regal-looking Old Provincial Capitol, Casa Real, the center of government back in 1901.
12NN - Seafood lunch at Breakthrough Restaurant in Villa
Go to the main branch of Iloilo’s best seafood restaurant so you can enjoy your most satisfying seafood feast by the beach—without much damage to your wallet.
- Pick your own fresh crabs and have it cooked any way you want. We recommend the garlic butter sauce.
- Also order prawns or pasayan, steamed or cooked in sweet chili sauce, as well as baked oysters and scallops.
- While fresh seafood is the main attraction, their bestselling lechon is just as crave-worthy.
- Watch for vendors carrying small bamboo cups strung from a stick on their shoulders—these contain kalamay-hati, or sticky sweet native molasses, similar in taste to coco jam. Eat it straight out of the container with your fingers or a spoon as palate cleanser.
Breakthrough Restaurant, Villa
Villa Beach, Barangay Sto. Niño Sur, Arevalo, Iloilo
(033) 337 3027
2PM - See the third oldest Sto. Niño image in the Philippines
On your way back to the city, stop by Sto. Niño de Arevalo Parish in Villa, Arevalo to see the Sto. Niño the Spaniards brought here in 1581.
Sto. Niño de Arevalo Church
Arroyo St., Villa Arevalo District, Iloilo
2:30PM - Visit Molo Church and the “Athens of the Philippines”
One of the Philippines’ most beautiful, gothic-style churches is found in St. Anne’s Parish, facing Molo Plaza.
- Molo Church is dubbed the “feminist church” of Iloilo because of the all-female religious images it houses.
- Single women can supposedly pray here to meet a partner.
- Molo Plaza features statues of Greek gods and goddesses, supposedly to mark how Molo is dubbed the “Athens of the Philippines,” what with the educational institutions there during Spanish times and because it produced a lot of great professionals, public officials, and justices.
St. Anne’s Parish
San Pedro St., Molo, Iloilo
(0948) 068 2064
3PM – Pasalubong shopping and dessert at Molo Mansion
This once abandoned heritage house has been restored into a tourist attraction and souvenir shop, with a quaint al fresco cafe.
- Cross the street from Molo Plaza to another Instagram-worthy spot: the former Yusay-Consing Mansion’s sprawling grounds with a life-size ILOILO marker, beautiful facade, and grand front steps.
- The souvenir shop at the ground floor is managed by SM’s Kultura, where you can find local handicrafts, woven fabrics, statement bags and accessories, hats, jewelry, souvenir shirts, and the ubiquitous ref magnets and key chains.
- After shopping, walk to the quiet cafe at the back lawn, where you can kick back with a steaming cup of good local coffee, freshly brewed the traditional way.
- For your belated dessert, sample their one-of-a-kind blue ternate flower-flavored ice cream—it’s delicious.
Locsin St., Molo, Iloilo
(033) 320 9602
Mondays to Saturdays, 10AM-8PM
4:30PM – Burn some calories with a sunset stroll along Iloilo River Esplanade
Locals and tourists alike flock to this popular city landmark to jog and walk.
- It’s not unusual for you to see locals dancing or doing yoga and other forms of exercise in one of this landscaped path’s many nooks.
- You can rent one of the pedal boats that take you around a portion of the Iloilo River, one of the cleanest urban rivers in the world.
- Perfect for families, especially those with little children, it also features an expansive play area.
- There are Instagram spots aplenty, from the beautiful plants and mangroves lining the walk to the river that sparkles golden during sunset—especially taken from one of the bridges that connect the riverbanks. You’ll find the iconic I AM ILOILO marker here, too!
- Should you need a bite to eat, there’s Riverside Boardwalk, a row of must-try restaurants that face the Iloilo River and Esplanade. But save your appetite for the next item on this guide.
Iloilo Riverside Esplanade
Senator Efrain Treñas Blvd., Mandurriao, Iloilo
7PM – Chicken dinner at Tatoy's Manokan and Seafood Restaurant
This famous Ilonggo restaurant has a new branch at Atria Park District—you don’t have to go all the way back to the main branch in Villa Arevalo!
- Bisayang lechon manok (charcoal-roasted native chicken) is their best-selling dish.
- They also offer cheap yet generous servings of fresh seafood like prawns or pasayan in buttered garlic, baked scallops, and kinilaw; and local favorites crispy pata and lechon.
- P250 to P350 per pax
Tatoy's Manokan and Seafood Restaurant - Atria Park District
Brgy. San Rafael, Mandurriao, Iloilo
(0927) 874 3848
8PM – Walk around Shops at Atria and have coffee at Madge Cafe—it’s gonna be a long night
Ilonggos love coffee, which you’ll notice from Iloilo’s many cafes. So while you’re already in Atria Park District, try Madge Cafe’s beloved local brew—filtered while adding evaporated milk.
- While the iconic branch is in La Paz Public Market, you’ll enjoy the comfortable setting of their branch at Shops at Atria, the Ayala Mall of Iloilo.
- Their desserts and coffee selections are the best way to cap your dinner.
- Loyal customers have their own mugs with their names on it—just look at the display.
- To kill time before your night out, walk around the well-manicured grounds of Shops at Atria as you check out more restaurants, cafes, and stores. On weekends or special occasions, you can look forward to free entertainment and events.
Madge Cafe - Shops At Atria
Atria Park District, Donato Pison Avenue, Mandurriao
9PM – Bar-hopping: Atria - Donato Pison Ave. - Smallville - City Times Square
And so it begins. Iloilo CIty’s exciting bar scene is growing as fast as the city, with many different areas to drink and be merry. We crafted a suggested route:
1st Stop: Straight Up, Seda Hotel
While at Atria, head up to one of Iloilo City’s best and most popular rooftop bars at Seda Hotel.
Sit at the al fresco area and order your first margarita, which you can sip while you enjoy the music and panoramic view. Free peanuts!
2nd Stop: Donato Pison Avenue
Within walking distance from Seda, you’ll find rows of restaurants, bars, and cafes that face each other along Donato Pison Ave., allowing you to hop from one to the other.
One of the most popular spots here is Brewery Gastropub, offering delicious gourmet comfort food that you can pair with a bottle or two from their selection of over 100 beers from around the world.
Craving bar chow? You can’t go wrong with Five Spiced Pork Belly, Pork Sisig, and Flammkuchen (German hand-rolled pizza).
Try local brews like Guimaras Gose, a tart beer flavored with Guimaras mangoes, and in-house brews like sweet Iloilo Pale Ale.
Not a beer drinker? Try their aged craft cocktails or choose from their list of whiskey and other spirits.
3rd Stop: Smallville
Iloilo City’s original nightlife district is of course on the agenda. The hippest restaurants, bars, and clubs in town are still located here. While it’s within walking distance from Donato Pison Ave., better just cab it.
The Avenue Complex is a popular spot in the area that features bars, cafes, restaurants, and a club where you can cross-order.
Bourbon Street has strong cocktails and a good selection of wine that you may pair with their yummy ribs (if you have room!).
Amalfi Cucina Italiana offers more wine and Italian cuisine.
Mojave Grill & Steakhouse has great margaritas and Latino fare.
4th Stop: City Time Square
Still have energy for more? Take another quick cab ride across Diversion Road to this new lifestyle hot spot. It’s popular among the younger set for a wide variety of unique restaurants, bars, cafes, and events on its landscaped grounds.
Fat & Tipsy offers inventive cocktails and bar chow you can enjoy while listening to live entertainment or an upbeat DJ set.
Bull & Barrel is a cozy pub where you can enjoy buckets of beer on the cheap.
Want to videoke? Hi-Fi Family KTV has a touchscreen song list, wireless microphones, and 24 spacious KTV rooms available for a consumable amount.
Atria Park District, at Donato Pison Ave., Mandurriao
Westgate Building, Donato Pison Ave., Brgy. San Rafael, Mandurriao, Iloilo
The Avenue Complex at Smallville
Donato M. Pison Ave., San Rafael, Mandurriao, Iloilo
City Time Square
Gaisano City Center, Mandurriao, Iloilo City
DAY 2: ILONGGO ART ATTACK AND FOOD TRIP
8:30 AM – La Paz Batchoy for breakfast at Netong’s Original La Paz Batchoy
Cure that hangover by slurping hot, robust, and fatty batchoy at the place where it originated: La Paz Public Market.
- There are several restaurants that claim to have created the first and best batchoy, but for visitors, we recommend Netong’s Original La Paz Batchoy .
- Don’t worry, the branch in the market is air-conditioned.
Netong’s Original La Paz Batchoy
Inside La Paz Public Market, Luna cor. Huervana Sts., La Paz, Iloilo
(033) 396 2189
Daily, 7AM – 7PM
9:30AM - See the miraculous Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria at Jaro Cathedral
Visitors frequent the outdoor terrace of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles to pray to the only female image in a Spanish-era church filled with male religious statues.
- According to folklore, this miraculous image of Virgin Mary was found by fishermen in Iloilo River. It used to be small yet heavy but has grown so big, they had to move it to a raised pedestal outside the cathedral.
- From this terrace, you can also take a good photo of the cathedral’s 270-year-old belfry, which stands across the street at Jaro Plaza.
Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral
Plaza Rizal St. Jaro, Iloilo City
(033) 329 2345
10AM – Sweets shopping at Biscocho Haus
A trip to Iloilo will not be complete without hoarding confections from one of its most popular pasalubong shops.
- Best known for local confections like the famous biscocho, pinasugbo, barquillos, galletas, and butterscotch of Iloilo.
- It has various stores and kiosks around the city, but the main one is close to Jaro Cathedral.
- They charge for boxes, so if you’re not gifting an entire box of pasalubong to someone, just bring eco-bags—you’ll easily fill all of them with delightful Ilonggo sweets.
P200 – P500
33 Lopez Jaena St, Jaro, Iloilo
(033) 329 0862
10:30AM - Ghost hunting and history appreciation at Casa Mariquit
Tour this 200-year-old ancestral residence in Jaro for a trip down memory lane with a bit of thrill.
- This beautiful yet eerie home belonged to the wife of the former Vice President of the Philippines, Fernando Lopez Sr.
- Admire the well-preserved memorabilia and furniture.
- Look for photographs whose subjects’ eyes seem to follow you around.
- Some claim that if you take a photo of the mosquito net-covered bed of the house’s deceased mistress, you might see her shadow, reclining or sitting up in bed.
- Visit the prayer room with a strange magnetic pull and the chilly basement.
Santa Isabel St., Jaro, Iloilo
12NN - Pancit Molo for lunch and ancestral home tour at Camiña Balay Nga Bato
Hit more than two birds with one stone house (pun intended) at this museum with a restaurant and shop.
- This beautiful 150-year-old heritage residence reportedly serves the best Pancit Molo in town. Call ahead so they can prepare lunch for you.
- Soak in more of Iloilo’s rich history and culture from the Camiña clan’s collection of furniture and memorabilia.
- You can also shop unique pasalubong like tablea, batirol for making chocolate, and native woven fabrics here.
P200/pax entrance fee includes tour, tsokolate de batirol (hot chocolate), homemade biscuits, and a bowl of Pancit Molo.
Camiña Balay nga Bato
Osmena Street, Arevalo, Iloilo
(033) 336 3858
2:30PM – Get artsy at Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA)
This new 3-story building has 3,000sqm of space that features five exhibit rooms and a merchandise shop.
- The first floor houses The Hulot Exhibit, dedicated to exhibitions of local and international artists.
- The Gallery is at the second level, allocated for rotating shows, like those highlighting the Ilonggo art scene, Filipino sculpture, and influential international artists.
- Located on the third floor is the Adoracion Valencia Gallery, where you can appreciate the personal collection of ILOMOCA’s primary donor, Edwin Valencia, named after his mother who influenced his love for the arts.
- Blackbox theater The Box is meant for performance art, theater productions, and workshops.
Entrance fee is P100 for regular visitors, P80 for seniors, and P50 for students.
Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA)
Casa de Emperador Building, Festive Walk Parade
Iloilo Business Park, Mandurriao, Iloilo
Tuesdays to Sundays, 10AM - 7PM
5PM - Food trip at Festive Walk Parade
Take your pick from a diverse selection of dining spots that line the 1.1-kilometer-long, 22-meter-wide shop-and-dine strip.
- Sample local and international cuisine from different food trucks at the weekend night market while enjoying live entertainment in a festive street fair setting beside ILOMOCA.
- If you’re looking for a fancier wining and dining experience, take a seat at Farm to Table. It serves local and international dishes with fresh ingredients mostly sourced from local farmers and the largest selection of local and international wines you can find in a restaurant in Iloilo.
- Another Instagrammer’s haven, snap away at the open spaces, landscaped areas, and public art here.
- It’s a stone’s throw away from the iconic Iloilo Convention Center, so you might want to walk off your food truck finds to take a few photos.
Festive Walk Parade
Iloilo Business Park, Mandurriao, Iloilo
OPTION A: End Iloilo food trip here if flying back tonight
OPTION B: Continue if flying back the next morning
8PM: Experience Iloilo’s Central Park
Cap off your Iloilo food tour at the city’s newest food park, located right outside Iloilo Business Park!
- Upcycled container vans were turned into two levels of resto-bar stalls where locals and tourists can unwind, drink, and dine on sandwiches, nachos, burgers, and rice meals on the cheap.
- If you still want to videoke, they have their own here: Mixx KTV!
Central Park Iloilo
Aleosan Rd., Mandurriao, Iloilo
TIPS FOR FLYING OUT OF ILOILO
Take note of the options we offered for the last hurrah of your weekend Iloilo City visit. To fully maximize your trip, take the latest flight out (ETD is 8PM to 9:50PM for Manila-bound flights) or take an early morning flight the next day (6:15AM is the first flight to Manila).
Allot at least 30-45 minutes for travel time before you’re scheduled to check in for your flight. Don’t forget to ask the airport crew at the check-in counter if you need to pay the P200 terminal fee; most of the time, it’s included in your airfare.
Planning a trip to Iloilo? Check out our travel guide here.
For exclusive offers and stories about local travel, sign up for Deal Grocer!
More stories from this section
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Be the first to know our latest stories and exclusive offers