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Beyond the Tourist Spots: Alternative Things to Do in Baguio

by Jean Arboleda

A few hours’ drive from the hustle and bustle of Manila is Baguio City, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines, and a bustling highland retreat that boasts cooler temperatures, a rich cultural heritage, and scenic natural attractions.

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But what if you’ve been to all the popular landmarks and have done all the tourist-y activities? You’ve biked around Burnham Park, you’ve taken a photo with the Lion’s Head, and you’ve scored great deals at the night market. You probably think that you’ve tried everything the Summer Capital of the Philippines has to offer.

If you’re looking for your next local trip, put Baguio on the list—even if it's your nth time to visit! Its ever-changing urban landscape has something for everyone, and there’s so much more to see and do here beyond the run-of-the-mill tourist spots. In fact, if you let it, Baguio just might surprise you.

For the coffee lovers


The best way to stay warm in this cool weather is to cozy up to a nice hot cup of coffee. Try Arca’s Yard, a family home turned cozy café along Ambuklao Road. From the balcony, you can enjoy the spectacular panoramic view as you sip on your Benguet black coffee; or, if you prefer a more peaceful spot, there’s a secluded mini-library upstairs.

True coffee connoisseurs will also tell you that the coffee beans harvested in the Cordilleras are some of the best in the country. Make sure to drop by Garcia’s Coffee and bring some home as pasalubong gifts. They have Kalinga, Sagada, and Benguet varieties, as well as flavored coffees for those looking for something on the sweeter side. Imagine the smell of freshly brewed coffee waking you up in the morning—heaven!

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Arca’s Yard
777 Tiptop, Ambuklao Road
(074) 442 9706 / (0929) 325 1868

Garcia's Pure Coffee
Hilltop Street, Hangar Market
(074) 423 5377
Open daily, 6:00 AM - 8:00 PM

For the foodies

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Gastronomic options and culinary gems abound in the City of Pines. Locals will always recommend Forest House Bistro & Café for classic, no-fail comfort food, such as their signature Homemade Bagnet (crispy pork belly, served with papaya chutney and bagnet salsa), and perfectly tender Salpicado Australian (marinated tenderloin beef cubes).

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For the meat lovers, make your way to Canto Bogchi Joint on Kisad Road. One of the most popular establishments within the now-defunct Ketchup Food Community, Canto serves some of the best ribs you will ever have in your life. Their famous Lomo Ribs (grilled pork BBQ ribs, served with homemade BBQ sauce and mashed potatoes and gravy) will keep you coming back for more. The best part is that a whole slab only costs ₱470!

Forest House Bistro & Cafe
16 Loakan Road
(074) 447 0459
Open from Sundays to Thursdays, 11:00 AM - 9:00 PM;
Fridays and Saturdays at 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM

Canto Bogchi Joint
32 Kisad Road
(0917) 899 9954
Open from Mondays to Thursdays, 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Fridays to Sundays 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM

For the artists

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The most eclectic little corner of Baguio City may well be the Ili-Likha Artist Village, an evolving and labyrinthine complex that houses several artist-run restaurants and hosts regular art workshops. Renowned filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik developed this as a sanctuary for local artists, and every inch of it celebrates and showcases the rich culture of the Cordilleras. Rainbow mosaic tiles, wooden sculptures, repurposed materials, and framed paintings line this vertical treehouse and one-of-a-kind art gallery. You can also enjoy the wide variety of organic restaurants inside, from the vegetarian options at Lihim ni Maria, to the fresh sausages and burgers at BrrrGrrr Bistro. Navigate the uneasy terrain to the Balanghay ni Ikeng theatre, housed under a giant ark towering over the structure, and home to the Cinematheque Baguio where you can watch indie films and documentaries.

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Did you know that one of the best museums in the country is in Baguio? The BenCab Museum houses National Artist Benedicto Cabrera’s collection of his own works, as well as those of other Filipino masters and contemporary artists. The striking black-and-white 32 Variations of Sabel, arguably one of his most famous works, is on display in the outdoor patio. Other indigenous artifacts of the Cordilleras are also on display, from the carved wooden bulul pieces, to tribal hunting weapons, to the hagabi benches on different levels of the museum. After you’ve gone through all the galleries, you can also enjoy the beauty of the surrounding farm and garden—there’s an eco-trail winding through the mini-forest across the building—or have lunch at Café Sabel on the ground floor.

Ili Likha Artist Village
32 Assumption Road, Barangay Kabayanihan

BenCab Museum
Km. 6 Asin Rd, Tadiangan
(074) 442-7165
Open from Tuesdays to Sundays, 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM

For the history buffs

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Some say that the best view of the city is from the outdoor patio of the abandoned Diplomat Hotel atop Dominican Hill…if you’re brave enough to enter, that is. This haunted ruin, dating back to 1915, was once a retreat house and seminary. During World War II, it briefly served as a refuge for those fleeing the war, until the Japanese forces bombed and eventually took over the building. It was then converted into a hotel in the 1970s, which was when rumors started swirling about strange sounds and headless apparitions. Many claim that these are the restless spirits of those who were tortured and killed there during the war.

These days, you can book a ghost-hunting tour that will take you there at night, so you can learn more about this historical landmark while getting an extra chilly breeze.

Diplomat Hotel
Dominican Hill, Diplomat Road

For the adventure seekers

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If you’re looking for a different kind of adrenaline rush, head on over to Camp John Hay for some fun outdoor activities at Tree Top Adventure Baguio, where you can enjoy some extreme thrills while enjoying the breathtaking views. Want to feel like a superhero, albeit a heavily harnessed one? Fly like Superman 150ft from the ground, or do it standing up a la Silver Surfer. If you’re a bit clumsy and just want to enjoy the dizzying heights, grab a seat on the Canopy Ride and just chill up in the air for a half hour or so. And while you’re here, you might as well take the plunge (literally) and experience their most extreme activity: the Tree Drop adventure, where you are suspended 60ft up in the air and then released into free fall for a few blissful seconds.

Tree Top Adventure
Camp John Hay, Loakan Road
(074) 442-0800
(0932) 744 9594 / (0932) 783 2137
Open daily, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

So, which out-of-the-box activity will you try on your next trip to Baguio?

Find more Baguio travel inspiration when you check out our Travel Guide.

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About Jean
Jean Arboleda will try anything once. She has, at different points in her life, worked in government, telecommunications, social media, music, gaming, and tech. On any given day, she would rather be reading, preferably surrounded by puppies. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @jeanarboleda.

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