Baguio City, the country’s summer capital, is undoubtedly one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines. “The City of Pines” is always a top destination for vacations and weekend trips because of its proximity to Manila and cooler climate.
While a lot has changed here over the years, there are still lots of scenic spots reminiscent of the Baguio of the old, parks and flower gardens, a great range of places to eat, top hotels and city comforts. Here are 10 essential Baguio experiences for first-time visitors.
1. Go Strawberry-Picking
You can’t go to Baguio without feasting on strawberries. Grown in farmlands around Benguet, fresh strawberries (and products like strawberry jam, strawberry wine etc.) are the most popular souvenirs from Baguio City.
If you’re traveling with kids, you can let them experience strawberry-picking at the La Trinidad Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad on the outskirts of Baguio City. The best time to visit in order to harvest strawberries is from March- April. But aside from strawberries, you can also find lovely flowers and green, leafy vegetables in the farm. There’s no entrance fee to explore the farm, but it costs P350 per basket for those who want to pick the strawberries themselves.
2. Go Sightseeing
There are a lot of tourist attractions, landmarks and scenic spots for sightseeing around Baguio City, from parks, gardens, museums, camps and cultural villages. The most popular attractions for first-time visitors include Camp John Hay, Burnham Park, Wright Park, Mines View Park, Baguio Cathedral, The Mansion, Baguio Botanical Gardens, Tam-awan Village and the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to name a few.
One of the newer landmarks that you can visit to or from La Trinidad is Stobosa (3 sitios comprising Stonehill, Botiwtiw, and Sadjap of Barangay Balili), a cluster of colorful houses inspired by the Favela Paintings of Rio de Janiero, Brazil. The design was conceptualized by Tam-Awan Village artists and executed with the help of locals.
3. Visit Camp John Hay
Camp John Hay is one of the most popular recreational areas and tourist destinations in Baguio, with several lodges, restaurants and parks. Popular landmarks here include the Cemetery of Negativism, Bell House and the amphitheater where you can walk among beautiful flowers in bloom.
For those looking for something fun to do aside from just sightseeing, the Treetop Adventure inside Camp John Hay has several thrilling rides that you can enjoy including the Superman Ride (zipline), Canopy Ride, and Tree Drop (harnessed free fall).
4. Go biking and boating at Burnham Park
Aside from horseback riding, one of the highlights of Baguio trips is boating in Burnham Park. The park has become crowded of late and is not as pleasant as it once was, but it still appeals to a lot of tourists and first-time visitors, with family-friendly activities like biking and boating available.
At the center of the park is an artificial lake that’s pretty shallow, but is large enough for families to hop rented rowboats and do a few rounds around the lake. Boat rental costs about P100, with a guide/rower fee of P50 for those who don’t want to row themselves.
5. Appreciate art and nature at the BenCab Museum
The BenCab Museum houses the permanent collection of Philippine National Artist Benedicto Cabrera (BenCab) in several galleries, as well as venues for art shows and exhibitions. The museum displays beautiful Cordillera art pieces, sculptures and paintings and also contains a farm and garden eco-trail below the museum which showcases the typical indigenous architecture of the Ifugao, Kalinga and Bontoc.
A river passes through the property, with cascading waterfalls on one end. The hill and mini forest across, which features an eco trail, is also the source of fresh spring water used in the museum and farm. While you’re here, you can also enjoy a meal at Café Sabel, overlooking the forest and duck pond. The restaurant makes use of vegetables and herbs sourced fresh daily from BenCab’s organic farm.
6. Stop by the Ili-Likha Artist’s Village
Another place you can appreciate modern Cordillera art right in the middle of the city is the Ili-likha Artist’s Village, an art and food hub / treehouse restaurant hidden near the busy Session Road in Baguio.
This evolving space conceptualized by film director and writer Kidlat Tahimik is built around overgrown trees and makes use of discarded materials, broken tiles and old bottles in its design. There are a number of food stalls here serving interesting eats like blabacua,
7. Go ghosthunting
Many places in Baguio have become associated with ghost stories and urban legends. For fans of horror flicks, thrill-seekers and paranormal enthusiasts looking for something different to do in the City of Pines, visiting haunted houses and sites is kind of a thing to do especially around Halloween. There are many ghost stories surrounding areas like Teacher’s Camp along Leonard Wood and the former Diplomat Hotel on top of the Dominican Hill.
The Laperal Mansion or the Laperal White House along Leonard Wood is another site believed to be haunted because of the mysterious deaths of each member of the Laperal Family and the deaths and devastation in the house during World War II.
8. Enjoy Baguio’s great eats
Baguio is a great destination for foodies, with many restaurants serving Western and Filipino dishes that make use of fresh vegetables and fruits. Top Baguio restaurants include Cafe by the Ruins, Good Taste Cafe & Restaurant, Hill Station, Oh My Gulay Artist Cafe, O’Mai Khan Mongolian Barbecue & Hotpot and Vizco’s (for Strawberry Shortcake) to name just a few.
If you want to sample traditional Cordillerean dishes like Pinikpikan, etag (sun-dried smoked meat) and pinuneg (sauteed ibaloi sausages), visit The Farmer’s Daughter. This native restaurant near Tam-awan Village serves simple home-cooked regional cuisine centered on smoked meats, fresh vegetables and native wines.
First-time visitors to Baguio always make it a point to try Strawberry Taho (silken tofu with strawberries) and fresh strawberry Ice cream. There’s also “sundot kulangot,” small portions of kalamay (glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk and brown sugar) encased in small coconut-like casings, a local delicacy.
9. Go shopping for souvenirs
If you’re looking for affordable and quality jackets, boots and clothes, you’ll enjoy hunting for bargain finds at the ukay-ukay shops that sell secondhand and surplus clothes, shoes and accessories. Other popular stops for souvenir-shopping include Good Shepherd (jams and preserves), woodcraft shops (sculptures and furniture), Easter Weaving Room (native textiles and traditional clothes) and the Baguio Public Market (coffee beans, fresh vegetables and packaged food products).
10. Enjoy fresh home-brewed beers from Baguio Craft Brewery
I’ve noticed that all my “10 Things to Do” lists seem to end in beer. I wonder why. But seriously, if you love beer, no trip to Baguio is complete without passing by Baguio Craft Brewery for fresh and unique home-beers like Lagud Strawberry Beer, Rolling Fog Wheat Ale and Zigzagger IPA.
A new addition to Baguio Craft Brewery is the SpeakEasy by BCB, Baguio’s first secret hidden bar, where you can enjoy wines, cocktails and whiskeys in a unique atmosphere.
Photo by Martin San Diego for Northbound Magazine
- Azalea Hotel & Residences Baguio
- The Manor at Camp John Hay
- Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Bagiuo
- Bloomfield Hotel