Bacolod, often referred to as the “City of Smiles,” is a vibrant and culturally rich destination in the heart of the Philippines. With its warm and welcoming atmosphere, Bacolod offers an array of activities and attractions for travelers of all kinds. From exploring historical sites to indulging in delectable cuisine and experiencing the city’s legendary hospitality, Bacolod promises an unforgettable journey for those seeking a taste of Philippine culture. In this article, we will take you on a tour of the best things to do in Bacolod, unveiling the city’s true charm and inviting you to discover why its smiles are so infectious.
1. The Ruins
The Ruins in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, is more than just a historical site; it’s a poignant symbol of love and resilience. Often referred to as the “Taj Mahal of Negros,” this magnificent structure was built by sugar baron Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson in the early 1900s as a testament to his enduring love for his Portuguese wife, Maria Braga. However, during World War II, the mansion was deliberately set ablaze to prevent it from being used by Japanese forces. Remarkably, the strong skeletal structure still stands, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens and illuminated by night, creating a mesmerizing sight.
The Ruins isn’t merely a relic of the past; it’s a destination filled with stories, history, and charm. The structure itself is a blend of Italian and neo-Romanesque architectural styles, featuring impressive columns, intricate latticework, and decorative motifs. Visitors can take guided tours to learn about its history, explore the lush gardens, and dine at the on-site restaurant. The Ruins is especially enchanting in the evening when it’s illuminated, creating a romantic and picturesque atmosphere that makes it a top attraction in Bacolod and a must-visit for history enthusiasts, photographers, and anyone seeking a unique and captivating experience.
2. The Negros Museum
The Negros Museum in Bacolod stands as a cultural gem in the heart of Negros Occidental, offering visitors a deep dive into the rich history and artistic heritage of the region. Housed in a beautifully restored Spanish-era building, the museum showcases an extensive collection of artifacts, art pieces, and historical memorabilia that tell the story of Negros. As you step inside, you’re greeted by a captivating journey through time, from pre-colonial Negros to the Spanish era, American period, and the struggles and triumphs of the Negrenses.
The museum’s exhibits are a celebration of Negros’ diverse cultural tapestry. You’ll find galleries dedicated to fine art, ancestral relics, and interactive displays that bring to life the vibrant traditions and history of the region. Notable highlights include the works of Negrense artists, traditional costumes, and the stirring portrayal of the Sugar Revolution, a significant chapter in the province’s history. The Negros Museum is not only an educational treasure but also a cultural hub, often hosting art events, workshops, and activities that enrich the local community and engage visitors. It’s a place where the past meets the present, fostering an appreciation for Negros’ unique heritage.
3. Bacolod Public Plaza
Bacolod Public Plaza, often referred to as the “Heart of Bacolod,” is a vibrant and historic open space situated at the city center of Bacolod in the Philippines. This picturesque park has served as a focal point for both locals and visitors since its establishment in the early 1920s. The plaza is surrounded by significant landmarks, including the San Sebastian Cathedral, the Palacio Episcopal, and the Bacolod City Hall, making it a central hub of cultural and civic life in the city.
Bacolod Public Plaza offers a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere, with well-maintained gardens, fountains, and statues adorning its green spaces. It’s not only a serene place to unwind but also a venue for various events and gatherings. The plaza comes alive during festivals and special occasions, hosting vibrant parades, concerts, and cultural activities. At night, the area is illuminated with enchanting lights, transforming into a picturesque and romantic destination. It’s a must-visit spot for anyone exploring Bacolod, providing insight into the city’s cultural, historical, and contemporary life.
4. San Sebastian Cathedral
The San Sebastian Cathedral, often called the Bacolod Cathedral, is a remarkable religious and architectural landmark in the heart of Bacolod City, Philippines. Constructed in the late 19th century, this cathedral boasts a striking combination of Gothic and Neo-Romanesque architectural styles, making it an exquisite sight to behold. Its twin spires, intricate rose windows, and towering facade captivate both the faithful and admirers of art and history.
As a place of worship, the San Sebastian Cathedral serves as the spiritual center for the predominantly Catholic population of Bacolod. The grand interior features towering arches, beautiful stained glass windows, and an ornate altar, creating a serene and contemplative atmosphere for those who visit. Beyond its religious significance, the cathedral is a symbol of Bacolod’s rich heritage and is often a focal point during significant cultural and religious events. It stands as a testament to the enduring faith and artistry of the people of Bacolod and is a must-visit attraction for travelers interested in history and architecture.
5. The Capitol Park and Lagoon
The Capitol Park and Lagoon is a verdant oasis nestled in the heart of Bacolod City, serving as a serene escape from the bustling urban life. This sprawling park, with its vast lagoon and beautifully manicured gardens, offers a refreshing retreat for both locals and visitors alike. At the heart of the park stands the magnificent and stately Provincial Capitol of Negros Occidental, a striking white edifice that exemplifies Neoclassical architecture and is beautifully illuminated at night, creating a picturesque scene.
The park provides a perfect backdrop for leisurely strolls, picnics, or simply unwinding amidst lush greenery. You’ll find benches and shaded areas, ideal for relaxation, while the lagoon attracts families for paddle boating and leisurely outings. Throughout the year, the Capitol Park and Lagoon host various events, making it a focal point of Bacolod’s cultural and civic life. This serene and picturesque park is a testament to the city’s dedication to preserving green spaces amid urban development, and a visit here offers a soothing and visually pleasing experience.
6. Bacolod City New Government Center
The Bacolod City New Government Center is a modern architectural masterpiece that symbolizes progress and innovation in the heart of the city. This government complex, located in Barangay Bata, is not only a hub for administrative functions but also a marvel of contemporary design. The centerpiece of the complex is the impressive New Bacolod City Hall, a towering structure that seamlessly blends form and function. Its sleek lines, grandeur, and efficient layout reflect the city’s commitment to efficient governance and public service.
The Government Center’s expansive grounds are beautifully landscaped, featuring lush gardens and open spaces. It’s a place where residents can come to relax, take leisurely walks, and enjoy the refreshing environment. With the New Government Center’s architectural grandeur and its role as a center for civic activities, it has become a point of pride for Bacolod City and a must-visit for those who appreciate modern urban planning and design.
7. Balay Negrense
Balay Negrense, also known as the Gaston Ancestral House, is a living testament to the opulent history and culture of Negros Occidental. This well-preserved ancestral home, located in Silay City, stands as a window into the past, allowing visitors to experience the elegance and grandeur of the sugar baron era. Built in the early 1900s, Balay Negrense boasts distinct Spanish colonial architecture, with its wooden structure, wide verandas, and capiz shell windows. A tour of this heritage house offers a glimpse into the lifestyle and heritage of the prominent Gaston family, who played a significant role in the sugar industry’s success.
Upon entering Balay Negrense, visitors are welcomed by meticulously preserved antiques, period-appropriate furnishings, and memorabilia that narrate the history of Negros Occidental. The house also features a lush garden, which adds to the overall charm of the property. As a heritage site, Balay Negrense serves as both an educational institution and a reminder of Negros’ vibrant past, making it a cultural gem that offers a profound and enriching experience for history enthusiasts and tourists alike.
8. Panaad Park and Stadium
Panaad Park and Stadium, often referred to as the “home of Negros football,” is a sprawling sports and recreational complex in Bacolod City. This multi-purpose facility serves as a hub for various sporting events, cultural festivals, and leisure activities. The highlight of the park is the stadium, which has a seating capacity of over 15,000 and is often the venue for thrilling football matches and other sports competitions.
Apart from the stadium, Panaad Park features a lagoon, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, jogging tracks, and tennis and basketball courts. It’s also home to the Panaad Sa Negros Festival, a grand annual event that showcases the rich culture and traditions of Negros Occidental. With its expansive green spaces and recreational amenities, Panaad Park and Stadium is not only a haven for sports enthusiasts but also a vibrant center for community events and celebrations in Bacolod.
9. Mambukal Mountain Resort
Nestled in the scenic Murcia municipality, just a short drive from Bacolod City, the Mambukal Mountain Resort is a natural haven that offers a wide array of attractions and activities. Surrounded by lush forests and adorned with numerous waterfalls, the resort is a perfect destination for those seeking outdoor adventures and relaxation. The resort’s main attraction is the seven-tiered Mambukal Falls, which is accessible through a trekking trail that offers a refreshing journey through the tropical rainforest. Along the way, you’ll find hot sulfur springs, a butterfly garden, and a wall-climbing facility.
Mambukal Mountain Resort also provides accommodation options for visitors, including cottages and guesthouses, so you can extend your stay and fully enjoy all that it has to offer. With its cool climate and beautiful natural scenery, this mountain resort is a haven for nature lovers, hikers, and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life in Bacolod.
10. Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Biodiversity Conservation Center
The Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Biodiversity Conservation Center, located near Bacolod City, is a vital hub for environmental conservation and education in the region. This center is dedicated to preserving the rich biodiversity of Negros Island, a place known for its unique and endemic species. Visitors can explore the center to learn about various conservation efforts and get a close-up look at some of the island’s rare and endangered flora and fauna.
The center’s facilities include a rescue and rehabilitation area for wildlife, botanical gardens showcasing indigenous plants, and educational exhibits to raise awareness about the island’s fragile ecosystems. It’s an ideal destination for eco-enthusiasts and families looking for an educational yet enjoyable experience. With its mission to protect and restore Negros’ natural heritage, the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation plays a pivotal role in the ongoing conservation efforts within the region.
11. Lakawon Island
Lakawon Island, often dubbed the “Emerald Isle” of the Philippines, is a tropical paradise just off the coast of Bacolod. Accessible by a short boat ride, this stunning white-sand island is a haven for beach lovers and sun-seekers. One of its standout features is the breathtaking sandbar that appears during low tide, creating a serene and picturesque setting for relaxation and water sports.
Lakawon Island offers various water-based activities, including snorkeling and kayaking, making it a water sports enthusiast’s dream. The TawHai Floating Bar, which is said to be the largest in Asia, is another major attraction on the island. It’s an ideal spot to savor a refreshing cocktail while enjoying panoramic views of the crystal-clear waters. Whether you’re looking for a serene escape or a lively beach adventure, Lakawon Island is a must-visit destination that captures the essence of tropical beauty in the Philippines.
12. Campuestohan Highland Resort
Nestled in the cool highlands of Bacolod, Campuestohan Highland Resort is a delightful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. This family-friendly resort is known for its scenic mountain views, thrilling amenities, and a serene ambiance. The resort offers various accommodation options, from cozy cabins to large group lodges, making it an ideal place for families, friends, and even corporate events.
What sets Campuestohan apart is its array of adventure activities, including zip-lining, rope courses, and a massive swimming pool area. The resort’s picturesque landscape features beautiful gardens and whimsical statues, creating a fairytale-like atmosphere. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing retreat or an adventure-packed getaway, Campuestohan Highland Resort promises an enjoyable and memorable stay amidst Bacolod’s lush highlands.
As we conclude our tour of Bacolod, it’s evident that this city has much more to offer than just smiles – though those smiles are genuinely captivating. Bacolod’s blend of rich history, sumptuous food, and the warm embrace of its people creates a unique experience that lingers long after your visit. From the iconic Ruins to the mouthwatering flavors of its cuisine, Bacolod is a city that combines heritage and contemporary living, welcoming every traveler with open arms. So, whether you’re exploring the streets, savoring local delicacies, or immersing yourself in the city’s history, Bacolod’s allure is undeniable, leaving you with beautiful memories and the desire to return.