Magellan's Cross - Cebu City Tourist Attractions

12 Must-Visit Historical Landmarks in Cebu in 2024

Looking to have a more meaningful visit to Cebu? Getting to know the history of the island is a must! In this guide, we highlighted the historical landmarks in Cebu that you should put on your itinerary.
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Looking to have a more meaningful visit to Cebu? Getting to know the history of the island is a must! In this guide, we highlighted the historical landmarks in Cebu that you should put on your itinerary.

Portuguese navigator and explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his 270-men crew first stepped foot in Cebu in March 1521, the start of Spanish occupation. But Cebu’s history goes beyond the occupation as it was already the center of trade in what is now the southern Philippines, dealing with traders from Malaysia, Burma, India, China, Japan, and other parts of Asia.

👉Book your private transfer in Cebu City and Mactan here!👈

A lot of the preserved historical sites in Cebu were from the Spanish occupation. Nevertheless, there’s so much you can learn about Cebu’s history and the Philippines in general by visiting these places.

Let us begin to redefine your Cebu experience. Here are 12 of the must-visit historical places in Cebu City:

1. Magellan’s Cross

Magellan's Cross - Cebu City Tourist Attractions
The structure housing Magellan’s Cross, one of the most significant landmarks in Cebu City

The birth of the largest religious domain in the Philippines lies in the heart of Cebu City. Just in front of Cebu City Hall on the grounds of Plaza Sugbo along the stretch of P. Burgos Street stands the stone kiosk where the original Christian Cross was planted during the arrival of Spaniards in the country.

An expression of faith comes for free as you can witness a historical beginning at this spot without spending anything. Candle vendors are also around the area that you can light up to offer your prayers. You may buy these candles in different colors for around 30 PHP (~0.50 USD).

Should you desire to take a photo, make sure to include the ceiling of the pavilion’s interior. It depicts the baptism of Rajah Humabon and his household by Fr. Pedro Valderrama and the planting of a wooden cross by Ferdinand Magellan.

👉Book your 3-day Cebu highlights tour here!👈

2. Fort San Pedro

Fort San Pedro Cebu City Philippines
The entryway to Fort San Pedro in Cebu City

What’s a trip to Cebu without walking a trip down memory lane? Cebu City is indeed a city of history with the preservation of military defense structure in Cebu, Philippines. Fort San Pedro was built by the Spanish invaders under the command of Miguel López de Legazpi, the first governor of the Captaincy General of the Philippines. Inside you can see canons and bunkers that were used by the military in the past.

With just 30 PHP (~0.50 USD) as an entrance fee, you will be able to witness the remnants and what it was like during World War II. In the middle of a bustling city, just inside the Plaza Independencia at A. Pigafetta Street, visit this Instagrammable historical site that will enliven your spirit.

👉Book your private rediscovery Cebu City tour here!👈

3. Basilica del Santo Niño

Basilica del Santo Niño Cebu City Philippines
The baroque-inspired altar of the Basilica del Santo Niño in Cebu City

From the Magellan’s Cross, you may be able to just walk to a block at D. Jakosalem Street, Osmena Boulevard where you can find the oldest church in Cebu, a pilgrim center that Cebu City is famously known for. 

The Basilica houses the image of Santo Niño which is surrounded by rich architectural interpretation of a Christian Faith. The exact location of the church is where Legazpi’s Spaniard troupe discovered the image of Santo Niño.

This church welcomes thousands of devotees every year to celebrate the Fiesta Señor which is a prelude for a celebration of the festival of all festivals, the Sinulog Festival. Just like faith is offered free, you don’t have to pay for any entrance fee just to get in instead, you may also just buy candles from vendors around, as well as avail prayer booklets, or any religious art forms that are being sold around the church.

👉Book your Cebu City hillside tour here!👈

4. Plaza Independencia

Plaza Independencia is one of the most popular historical sites in Cebu.

When you’re in Cebu City, you don’t have to travel far to visit a heritage site from one to another. Plaza Independencia is just as historic as Fort San Pedro. The moment you step foot at Fort San Pedro’s exit, you will be greeted by the Philippines’ Spanish Colonial era square plaza that served as grounds for military training in the 1600s. 

The plaza is known for its spacious park surrounded by luscious acacia trees where you can find shade to relax and rest. Surrounding the plaza is a monument and several obelisks that would remind us of the love that the people before us have served to obtain freedom. This park is open to the public for free! 

👉Book your private transfer in Cebu City and Mactan here!👈

5. Yap-San Diego Ancestral House

Yap-San Diego Ancrestral House - Historical Landmarks in Cebu City
The Yap-San Diego Ancrestral House is one of the last surviving old houses in Cebu City that was built in 1600s.

Just a few steps from the Plaza Independencia, in the neighborhood of Barangay, Parian Cebu City, stood the ancestral house that gives you a glimpse of both Chinese architecture during the Spanish colonial era. 

Yap-San Diego Ancestral House will give you the feel of being in a historical drama transpiring in the 1600s. Visit this one of the old ancestral houses that will serve you a Chinese and Spanish-infused structure made of wood and coral stones. 

With just a 50 PHP (~1 USD) entrance fee, you will be directed to an overview of what it is like to live in the past.

👉Book your Cebu City and Mactan twin city tour here!👈

6. Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral

Cebu Cathedral - Cebu City Tourist Spots
The grand facade of Cebu Cathedral in Cebu City

Cebu City is known for its relevance during the Spanish colonization specifically on the birth of Christianity hence the dominion of Roman Catholicism. Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is one of the first churches in the Philippines, besides the Basilica del Santo Niño.

It is dedicated to St. Vitalis and was built near the fort in April 1565 by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, Fray Andrés de Urdaneta, and Fray Diego de Herrera.

Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is known for its wide religious structure that has been refined over the years. It is located on Mabini Street, Cebu City, and just a few steps from the city downtown.

👉Book your 3-day Cebu highlights tour here!👈

7. Heritage of Cebu Monument

Heritage of Cebu Monument - Historical Places in Cebu City
Heritage of Cebu Monument is a famous historical landmark in Cebu City.

A mere walk in Cebu City is a grand revisit of its historical relevance. Imagine witnessing majestic statues that will cost you zero pennies. 

The Heritage of Cebu Monument is a walk of art that can be found in the middle of Barangay Parian. 

The scenes depicted on the monument translate to the time of Spain’s colonial rule over the country up to the recent beatification of Pedro Calungsod, the Cebuano martyr. You may take a pose or two to remember this historical landmark.

👉Book your private rediscovery Cebu City tour here!👈

8. Jesuit House Museum

Jesuit House Museum Cebu - Historical Sites in Cebu City
Jesuit House Museum Cebu is one of the oldest houses in Cebu hidden in a warehouse.

In the same area in Barangay Parian, you may want to take a side trip to Museo sa Parian commonly known as Jesuit House Museum. Its interior is like a portal of the Spanish colonial era that has infused Chinese and Spanish architectural designs.

Be reminded of how Jesuits lived in the past as you may take a stroll of one the oldest houses in the Philippines. With tickets costing 50 PHP (~1 USD), each corner is worth more than a penny knowing that its rich story will leave it imprinted in your mind. More than just a side trip, you are educated with its glorious story.

👉Book your Cebu City hillside tour here!👈

9. Colon Street

Colon Street - Historical Landmarks in Cebu City
Colon Street is the oldest street in the Philippines.

Never wrap up your Cebu City travel without a stroll of the oldest street in the Philippines, Colon Street. From groceries to the most affordable jewelry, various food choices, and more of the most unexpected selections can be found in the whole stretch of Colon Street. Its accessibility is within reach since all jeepneys coming from any corner of Cebu City will go straight to the heart of the bustles and hustles. More than just a street, Colon is named after Cristóbal Colón famously known as (Christopher Columbus). 

👉Book your 3-day Cebu highlights tour here!👈

10. Carmelite Monastery

Carmelite Monastery Cebu - Heritage Sites in Cebu City
Carmelite Monastery is one of the most famous churches in the Philippines.

Pope John Paul II Avenue (Juan Luna Avenue) in Mabolo, Cebu City is where the famous Carmelite Monastery is known to house the late Cory Aquino when she sought refuge after the People Power Revolution.

It is a chapel with vibrant and charming colors and the home to Carmelite nuns who are believed to be spending their time behind the walls of the convent. 

Devotees would light up a candle and offer their prayers in the monastery while souvenirs are also available outside in whatever form you may desire it to be.

👉Book your private rediscovery Cebu City tour here!👈

11. Museo Sugbo

Museo Sugbu - Historical Landmarks in Cebu City
Museo Sugbu is one of the must-visit heritage sites in Cebu.

Indeed, Cebu City is home to the most historical sites in the country. What was once called Carcel de Cebu, or the Provincial, is now one of Cebu City’s main attractions. 

If you are a fan of exhibits and galleries, this may be the one you are looking for. Museo Sugbo has six galleries in total that you may explore and ponder while taking a snap of two. 

The ticket price is at 70 PHP (~1.5 USD). Its accessibility is made for travel since it is right on the highway of M. J. Cuenco Avenue.

👉Book your private transfer in Cebu City and Mactan here!👈

12. Mactan Shrine

Mactan Shrine - Things to Do in Mactan, Cebu
The Lapulapu Monument and Magellan Marker inside Mactan Shrine in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu (Photo by Mario Manlupig / CEBUINSIDER.COM)

When you’re in Cebu City, you may just want to hop off to a jeepney, a ferry, or even a motorcycle to get to its neighboring city, Lapu-Lapu City. To complete your heritage walk, wrap up your trip with a visit to the famous Mactan Shrine.

The shrine pays homage to the bravery of Lapu-Lapu, the Datu of Mactan, who led the battle against the Spaniards led by explorer Ferdinand Magellan, hence the historic Battle of Mactan. 

Mactan Shrine is believed to be the exact location of this scene. As it requires no entrance fee, celebrate your patriotism with this surreal statue.

👉Book your Cebu City and Mactan twin city tour here!👈

Your Complete Travel Guide to Cebu City

Be sure to include some of these heritage sites in Cebu in your itinerary. Your trip will truly be worthwhile as you discover more of Cebu and the Philippines.

If you are still preparing for your trip to Cebu, check out our range of travel guides:

If you have questions about your trip to Cebu, let me know in the comments. We’ll get back to you ASAP.

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Cebu Insider Team
Cebu Insider Team

Cebu Insider aims to deliver accurate and up-to-date Philippine travel guides to digital nomads, expats, full-time travelers, and remote workers.

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