Must-Visit Museums in the Philippines to Learn about History, Culture & Art

Must-Visit Museums in the Philippines to Learn about History, Culture & Art

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National Museum of the Philippines and the Motag Living MuseumPhotos by the National Museum of the Philippines and the Motag Living Museum

Sprawling across over 7,000 islands of Philippine geography are pristine beaches and marine sanctuaries. But besides the beautiful beaches in the Philippines, there are cultural museums spread throughout Luzon tourist spots, Visayas tourist spots, and Mindanao tourist spots.

These world-class museums in the Philippines showcase the country’s rich culture and history. With 300 years of Spanish colonization,  several heritage provinces have witnessed wars and other cultural activities in the Philippines.

During your museum visit, you’ll get introduced to the country’s colorful culture that is evident in Philippine festivals, arts, and food with Pampanga as the top culinary tourism destination in the Philippines. Amid the lush greenery are breathtaking Philippine mountains that are home to tarsiers, and diving spots, which serve as a natural habitat for whale sharks. 

The best time to visit the Philippines is during the dry season, from December to May. While the Philippines is usually sunny all-year-round, there are days when visiting museums is one of the best rainy season activities/destinations. Read on to find out what awaits you in the famous museums in the Philippines.

Luzon Philippines Museums

For first-time travelers, your gateway to the Philippines’ top tourist destinations is Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) or Manila Airport, one of the Philippine airports located in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. It is located on the island of Luzon, the country’s largest island, home to notable spots like Palawan’s stunning beaches and the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio.

National Museum of the Philippines (Manila)

Aerial view of the National Museum Complex in ManilaPhoto by the National Museum of the Philippines

Recognized as the best museum in the Philippines, The National Museum (Pambansang Museo) of the Philippines is a neoclassical building that holds the best repository of historical artworks in the Philippines. Within the complex are three museums worth visiting: 

  • National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural HistoryRepurposed in 2018, the National Museum of Natural History showcases notable Philippine flora and fauna exhibits such as the Tree of Life and Rainforest Diorama. Its biggest attraction is the skeleton display of Lolong, the Philippines' largest crocodile held in captivity.

  • National Museum of Fine Arts

National Museum of Fine ArtsPhoto by the National Museum of the Philippines

Established in the early 1920s, the National Museum of Fine Arts features priceless masterpieces of famous Filipino artists such as Guillermo Tolentino and Félix Resurrección Hidalgo. Inside, you can find the Spoliarium painting by renowned 19th-century Filipino painter Juan Luna.

  • National Museum of Anthropology

National Museum of AnthropologyFeaturing the cultural artifacts in the Philippines, the National Museum of Anthropology is home to ethnographic materials and agricultural tools such as baskets, textiles, and weapons. The museum showcases portraits of indigenous women and their livelihood, including a collection of jars and treasures.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar (Bataan)

A pebblestone path in Las Casas Filipinas de AcuzarPhoto by Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

Surrounded by century-old homes, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is the first-ever heritage resort and museum featuring 22 colonial mansions reminiscent of 17th-century Hispanic-Filipino history. It is situated in Bagac, Bataan where historical events happened, including the World War II Death March.

Some of the homes were replicas reconstructed brick by brick, including the Casa Cagayan and Hotel De Oriente, the Philippines’ first luxury hotel in Binondo. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is one of the romantic places in the Philippines, where couples can have a lavish dinner under the stars while being serenaded by live kundiman.

Ayala Museum (Makati)

Ayala Museum Photo by Ayala Museum

Nestled at the heart of the central business district in Makati City, Ayala Museum is among the private museums in the Philippines filled with art galleries. Inside one of the modern museums in Manila are several artworks of Fernando Amorsolo, the first-ever recognized National Artist of the Philippines.

This elegant museum in Metro Manila showcases the Diorama Experience or the visual narration of ancient and contemporary historical times with exquisite and intricate wood-carved installations made by craftsmen from Paete, Laguna.

BenCab Museum (Baguio)

Exhibit inside BenCab MuseumPhoto by the Department of Tourism

With its chilly ambiance, Baguio, or the City of Pines is among the best places to visit in the Philippines. If you’re heading up north, drop by BenCab Museum included in Baguio tour packages. This cultural museum in the Philippines is notable for its art show venues, galleries, and exhibitions.

The museum holds National Artist Benedicto Cabrera’s (BenCab) annual collection of paintings, historical photos of the Philippines, and artworks depicting Cordillera and its indigenous people.

Pinto Art Museum (Rizal)

Pinto Art MuseumPhoto by the Department of Tourism

The Pinto Art Museum is a famous art museum in the Philippines located in Antipolo City, a popular weekend getaway destination just 1.5 hours away from Manila. It is hailed as one of the world’s most Instagrammed places, so make sure you don’t miss it when booking day tours near Manila.

As one of the popular museums in Antipolo and tourist spots in Antipolo Rizal, it showcases Filipino artist Antonio Leaño’s architectural design and owner Dr. Joven Cuanang’s vast collection of local art. Visitors can take endless selfies at the museum’s labyrinth-like corridors and scenic lounges. It also houses one of the must-visit Antipolo coffee shops.

San Agustin Museum (Intramuros, Manila)

San Agustin MuseumPhoto by the San Agustin Museum

For those planning to take Manila tours, make your day tours in Manila special by strolling along the walled city of Intramuros. Apart from exploring the cobbled streets and architectural landmarks in the Philippines, your historical Intramuros Manila tour comes with a visit to the San Agustin Museum, one of the UNESCO heritage sites in the Philippines.

San Agustin Church is among the country’s oldest Catholic structures, which holds a monastery and museum. It features ecclesiastical art such as crucifixes, antique furniture, wooden statues, and altars.

Aguinaldo Shrine and Museum (Cavite)

Aguinaldo Shrine and Museum in CaviteThis national shrine in Kawit, Cavite served as the site for the Philippine declaration of independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. As one of the historical shrines and museums in the Philippines, the Aguinaldo Shrine and Museum feature antique furniture intricately designed with motifs of the Philippine flag.

The shrine was also the ancestral birthplace of Emilio Aguinaldo, the Philippines’ first president. Currently, the museum showcases an interactive hologram of the former president and 2D wall exhibits depicting Philippine history.

The University of Sto. Tomas Museum of Arts and Sciences (Manila)

UST Museum's main galleryPhoto by UST Museum

Established in 1869, the University of Sto. Tomas Museum of Arts and Sciences is the oldest existing museum in the Philippines. It showcases cultural artifacts, including those preserved for more than 300 years.

Inside are ethnographic materials, memorabilia, religious images, oriental ceramics, and paintings from the 17th to 20th centuries. Hung on the walls are paintings and murals of Filipino artists such as Carlos “Botong” Francisco, Galo Ocampo, and Vicente Manansala.

Palawan Special Battalion WW2 Memorial Museum (Puerto Princesa)

Vehicles on display at the Palawan Special Battalion WW2 Memorial MuseumPhoto by Palawan Special Battalion WW-II Memorial Museum

One of the historical landmarks in Puerto Princesa City is the Palawan Special Battalion WW2 Memorial Museum, which was established in honor of Palawan’s local hero and guerilla soldier Dr. Higinio Mendoza Sr. who lost his life fighting against the Japanese troops. 

The museum also commemorates a thousand guerillas, known as the Fighting 1000 or Palawan Special Batallion who fought with Mendoza during the Second World War.  Inside the museum are war relics such as bombs, bayonets, ammunition, and actual vehicles used back then.

Visayas Philippines Museums

Several Philippine tourist spots are nestled in the Visayas Island group, the central region in the Philippine archipelago. It consists of seven large islands, including Cebu, Bohol, Masbate, Negros, Samar, and Panay. Notable destinations like Boracay’s White Beach and the stunning geological formation of Chocolate Hills in Bohol are here.

Motag Living Museum (Aklan)

Tourists join interactive exhibit at Motag Living MuseumPhoto by Motag Living Museum 

Besides the world-famous beach of Boracay, there is a hidden cultural gem in Aklan province, the Motag Living Museum. This first-ever interactive museum in the Philippines lets you immerse in the traditional livelihood of Aklanons when the island was the main producer of dried fish, tobacco, kopra, and rice.

The living museum, a Bahay Kubo built with bamboo tadtad, was inspired by the Open Air Museum Ballenberg in Brienz, Switzerland, and interactive museums in South Korea. Upon arriving at the museum, farmers dressed in patadyong or local farming costumes will welcome you inside the hut where elder women grind rice and weave baskets.

Balay Negrense Museum (Silay)

Balay Negrense MuseumPhoto by Balay Negrense Museum

Negrense Museum or Balay Negrense is the former abode of Victor Fernandez Gaston, a sugar baron in the 19th century. It is located in Silay City, dubbed as the Paris of Negros Occidental due to its well-preserved European-inspired structures, that you can visit in Bacolod tours.

The Bahay-na-Bato residence soon turned into a lifestyle museum with 12 bedrooms and two floors. Its house pillars and floorboards are made of ironwood or “balayong”. Surrounding the spacious garden are flowers, old trees, and a water fountain with memorabilia, antique items, and clothes from the 20th century.

Museo Sugbo (Cebu)

Museo Sugbo's entranceMost cultural and historic attractions in Visayas are found in Cebu, the Queen City of the South, or the oldest city in the Philippines. One of which is Museo Sugbo, also known as the Cebu provincial museum, which is included in our Cebu City tour and Cebu tour package.

Museo Sugbo used to be Carcel de Cebu or the provincial jail of Cebu. In 2008, the local government inaugurated Cebu Provincial Museum as the repository of the Cebuano heritage. Inside the museum are signatures of former Philippine presidents engraved in gold-plated metals. You can also find ceramics from the 1600 San Diego shipwreck.

Camiña Balay na Bato (Iloilo)

Camiña Balay na Bato's casa mayorPhoto by Camiña Balay nga Bato in Iloilo

Iloilo is home to the Islas de Gigantes, one of the best islands in the Philippines. Aside from scenic countryside sights, the province also showcases iconic historical museums in the Philippines. Among the remarkable sites included in your Iloilo tours is the Camiña Balay na Bato, an ancestral house and museum in Iloilo.

The name, Camiña Balay na Bato, means “house by the river” and is the former residence of Fernando Avancena and his wife Eulalia Abaja. Inside the living museum is a dining area where you can feast on Ilonggo delicacies such as Pancit Molo (wonton soup) and hot chocolate with Biscocho or local biscuits.

The Negros Museum (Bacolod)

The Negros MuseumPhoto by The Negros Museum

Constructed in 1987, the Negros Museum features contemporary historical art in the Philippines displayed in Bacolod City where the colorful MassKara Festival is held. This attraction is among the notable destinations included in our Bacolod tours.

The Negros Museum depicts the Negrense lifestyle and culture through precious possessions and items loaned from ancestral houses of the province. There is a souvenir shop inside the museum where you can purchase memorabilia and keepsakes.

National Museum Bohol (Bohol)

National Museum Bohol's facadePhoto by National Museum Bohol

Being a haven of natural wonders, Bohol is home to the famous Chocolate Hills that are part of our Bohol tour packages. When exploring the province, don’t forget to check out other scenic Bohol tourist spots included in our Bohol tours. Among the must-visit historical attractions here is the National Museum Bohol, featuring a vast artwork collection of Boholano artists.

The museum used to be the site of the Provincial Capitol Building in 1860. However, it was reconstructed due to the 2013 earthquake. The museum gives insights into Bohol's prehistory times. It also houses the relevant works of the National Artist for Sculpture, Napoleon Abueva.

Casa Gorordo (Cebu)

A room in Casa GorordoOne of the museums in Cebu worth a visit is the Casa Gorordo, a two-storey house named after Juan Gorordo, the first native Cebuano bishop. The ancestral residence was built in the 19th century, and served as a home to the four generations of the Gorordo family from 1863 to 1979.

Inside are antique furniture, household items, paintings, decorative artworks, and farming tools. You can also find wooden carvings and plant cultivating tools used during the Spanish era.

Mindanao Philippines Museums

Known as the Philippines’ second-largest primary island, Mindanao is a mountainous region where you can find the conservation area for the Philippine Eagle, the country's national bird, in Davao City or Mindanao’s largest city.

D’Bone Collector Museum (Davao)

Dolphin skeleton in D’Bone Collector MuseumPhoto by D' Bone Collector Museum Inc.

Not only does Davao serve as a sanctuary to vast living species, but also serves as a repository of animals in skeletal form. Over 700 specimens of bones of various animals around the world are displayed at the D’Bone Collector Museum, the first of its kind among the local museums in the Philippines.

Opened in 2012, the museum was owned and managed by an American bone collector named Darrell Dean Blatchley. Some of the animal remains were collected from Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, and Canada.

Capitol University Museum of Three Cultures (Cagayan de Oro)

Artifacts inside Capitol University Museum of Three CulturesPhoto by Capitol University Museum of Three Cultures

Set inside the prestigious campus of Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro, the Museum of Three Cultures preserves the significant cultural and historical artifacts of the Muslim Maranao and other indigenous tribes in Northern Mindanao.

The museum is divided into three parts: a Gallery tour, Art exhibitions, and a Souvenir shop. Inside you can find rare antiques, furniture, jewelry, musical instruments, and weapons. There is also a section dedicated to the Lumad arts and crafts.

Davao Museum of History and Ethnography (Davao)

Dive into the cultural heritage of Mindanaoans at the Davao Museum of History and Ethnography, one of the famous museums in Davao. It features priceless artifacts, including a giant fossilized clam from Samal Island, trade jars, burial urns, handicrafts, and pottery.

As an ethnic research center, this museum also gives a glimpse of Davao’s historical timeline that is still relevant to this day. There are also plenty of dioramas depicting the life and healing rituals of the Bagobo tribe.

Balangay Shrine (Butuan)

During the Spanish era, trading in the Philippines was actively rampant. Balangay or the first wooden boats in Southeast Asia were mainly used for trading in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. 

The Balangay Shrine was built to preserve the remnants of the pre-Hispanic watercraft, dating back to 320 AD. Inside the museum are wooden coffins found in the same location as the Balangay boat. No other Balangays were excavated elsewhere in the Philippines, aside from the other one displayed at the National Museum in Manila.

Explore the Best Museums in the Philippines

National Museum

If you’re looking for date ideas or indoor recreational activities in the Philippines, start booking vacation packages for couples in the 5-star hotels in the Philippines and go museum-hopping to learn more about the country’s rich cultural heritage, one of the reasons why you should visit the Philippines.

When booking a hotel in the Philippines, enrich your experience with Philippines long packages and go for an extended stay in the hotels in the Philippines. Find affordable rent a car in the Philippines for a convenient transfer from hotel to airport, and discover exhilarating travel packages to the Philippines to make the most of your trip. 

Tour the Philippines with your loved ones and see the best places in the Philippines for family vacation when you book all inclusive family vacation packages. For Philippine tour packages and travel promos, visit Guide to the Philippines, an accredited Philippine travel agency. Don’t forget to check out the latest Philippines travel requirements for a hassle-free vacation.

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