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The Philippines' oldest city and former capital, the former Spanish settlement of Cebu has developed into a thriving regional center of trade and tourism. Located in the Central Visayas region, at the heart of the Philippine archipelago, Cebu City was once visited by the legendary explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who died in neighboring Lapu-Lapu. A major monument to Magellan can now be found in the city - one of several historical sites in Cebu that include churches, forts and museums, showcasing the area's rich colonial and Catholic heritage. Cebu's Mactan Island, which is linked to the city by bridges, is a haven for leisure travelers with beaches, resorts and water sports. And with the Philippines' second busiest airport connecting Cebu to many international cities, the city’s attractions are now closer than ever. Book now at Best Western’s hotels in Cebu and discover everything this destination has to offer.
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Magellan's Cross and Magellan Shrine
Ferdinand Magellan, the famous Portuguese explorer, became the first European to set foot in the Philippines when he visited Cebu in the 16th Century, as part of the first ever circumnavigation of the globe. The Magellan's Cross was symbol of Christianity planted by Portuguese and Spanish explorers upon Magellan's arrival in Cebu on 15 March 1521. It is housed in a small chapel. Later that year, Magellan was killed in the Battle of Mactan and he is now commemorated with a memorial tower, the Magellan Shrine, located close to the site on Mactan Island where he is believed to have died. Magellan's co-navigator, Juan Sebastian Elcano, eventually completed the circumnavigation in 1522
Guests seeking a break from the city should head across the bridge to Mactan Island, which offers plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation. While it is highly developed, Mactan is also lined by white sandy beaches and turquoise seas, making it feel like a tropical retreat. Guests can enjoy a series of activities that showcase the island's coastal wonders, including diving and snorkelling trips, sun-bathing, sailing and water sports. There is also an aquarium - the only such attraction is the Visayas region - which houses a range of sea creatures native to local waters, including exotic fish, water snakes, sea horses, jellyfish, reef sharks and turtles.
Cebu’s cathedral and basilica
As the Philippines' oldest city and the first place colonized by the Spanish, Cebu has a long and deep Catholic heritage. One of the country's first churches was built in Cebu in the 16th Century on the site of the present day Basilica del Santo Nino, which was completed in 1740. Guests can visit the basilica and its on-site museum, which was established in 1965 and houses church documents dating back to the 17th Century, antique furniture and other religious artifacts. A short distance away, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral had to be rebuilt after World War II but still features the classical architecture of Spanish colonial churches.
Fort San Pedro
Fort San Pedro is a major defensive structure built by the Spanish to defend Cebu in the 16th Century (although the present structures dates from 1738). Similar to Fort Santiago in Manila in terms of its triangular design, Fort San Pedro (or “Fuerte de San Pedro” in Spanish) faces the sea and features walls that are more than six meters high and 2.4 meters thick, with towers that rise nine meters. Contained within this fortress however, is a delightful walled garden that provides a wonderful retreat from hustle and bustle of downtown Cebu. The fort also contains a series of historical images and artifacts.
Cebu Taoist Temple
Visitors searching for Cebu's Chinese heritage should not miss the city's Taoist Temple. Nestled on the side of a terraced hill 300 meters above seal-level, this eye-catching complex is relatively recent (it was built in 1972) but offers a spectacular collection of colorful attractions. The temple itself features a pagoda-style roof and includes several prayer halls, a library, souvenir shop, wishing well and a series of viewing areas. The approach to the temple has 81 steps, representing the 81 chapters of Taoist scriptures, and the temple’s entrance was designed to resemble the Great Wall of China. Cebu Taoist Temple is open to both worshipers and non-worshipers.
Ayala Center Cebu
One of Cebu's largest shopping malls, the Ayala Center is located in the center of the Cebu City Business Park. Since it first opened in 1994, the mall has expanded to become a major lifestyle destination, with a new terraced restaurant and bar area having been created in 2008 and an additional retail wing added in 2013. It is now a major attraction for the city, handling approximately 100,000 people daily. Global fashion labels with a presence in the Ayala Center Cebu include Lacoste, Mango, Topshop and Benetton, while tech gear can be found in a series of electronics outlets. Other brands include Accessorize, Swatch and The Body Shop.
Things to do in Cebu City