Travel to Bacolod City in Negros to find out why this so-called The City of Smiles is a top destination in the Philippines. Learn everything you need to know about it in this ultimate travel guide.
Bacolod City is known as The City of Smiles, because of its local Rio Carnival-like MassKara Festival that features colorful masks with smiling faces.
Located in Negros Occidental, many of its most affluent resident’s wealth date back to the Spanish era, when the sugar industry was a booming business during the colonial period.
Remains of magnificent mansions such as the “Ruins” give you a glimpse of how the genteel class of the past used to live in Bacolod.
Apart from the cultural and heritage attractions of Bacolod City, the food served at restaurants in Bacolod are on another level and are the highlights of a Bacolod tour.
Their chicken inasal (roasted chicken) is legendary for its lip-smacking scrumptiousness; their Napoleones puff pastry is what custard-filled dreams are made of, and fresh seafood can be enjoyed year-round at affordable price points!
Sports and recreational activities give Bacolod a reputation as the country’s sports capital, where it continues to produce outstanding athletes and host important sporting events in football, boxing, golf, martial arts, and others.
You can also enjoy the warm Bacolod weather and visit nearby resorts and beach destinations to get a better appreciation of the rich cultural heritage and natural attractions of the region that are waiting to be discovered.
There’s so much to see, do, and eat in Bacolod City! Bookmark this travel guide if you’re planning a trip to The City of Smiles soon.
Dry season in Bacolod is from the months of December to May. October is a busy month in Bacolod City because this is when the famous MassKara Festival is celebrated annually.
International and local visitors flock to the city during this time of the year, so it’s a great time to book a tour to join the festivities. The name is a combination of two words, “mass” meaning “many people” and “kara” which is the Spanish word for face.
The month of February is a great month to visit if you want to experience their Chinese New Year festival called the Bacolodiat festival, where you’ll witness a parade of lanterns and cultural show.
Want to attend the “mother of all fiestas” in Negros province? Go there in April, which is when the Pana-ad Festival is held. It is considered to be a Thanksgiving celebration to Divine Providence to reinforce their faith in exchange for a good life.
Held at the Panaad Park, it is a huge spectacle that is participated by 13 cities and 19 provincial towns, which is why it is widely accepted as the mother of all provincial festivals.
Photo by Philippine Airlines
Bacolod City is easily accessible by air, sea, and land depending on where you’re coming from. Here are your travel options.
The Bacolod International airport is located in Silay City and 15km away from Bacolod city, about 20-30 minutes away by car. Local flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) and local budget airline Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) offers daily flights coming from most major cities within the Philippines.
If you opt to travel by ferry boat, ships dock at the BREDCO port in Bacolod City. There are trips from Manila and nearby province of Iloilo. 2Go Travel boat from Manila to Bacolod has 4 trips per week with a travel time of 20-24 hours. Supercat 2Go Travel boat sails from nearby Iloilo to Bacolod 4 times daily for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Ceres bus transport travels from Cebu to Bacolod daily. Travel time will last between 7-11 hours, depending on your point of origin in Cebu.
To see the sights along with neighboring towns (beaches, resorts, diving areas), Ceres public buses, private vans and taxis are available as well.
Located in front of the downtown Bacolod Public Plaza, the San Sebastian Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic church of the city. The church was built in the late 19th century, and its building materials are made of coral stones from guitars and hardwood all the way from Palawan.
You will find The Bandstand at the center of the Bacolod public plaza, which was erected in 1926. There are inscriptions on the walls and roof of the gazebo where you’ll find names of world-renowned classical musicians and composers such as Mozart, Wagner, Beethoven, Wagner and Haydn.
The Provincial Capitol and Lagoon, which is the seat of the Negros Occidental provincial government, is housed within a building that features a Romanesque neo-classical design. This harkens to the glorious past of the province as the Sugar Bowl of the Philippines, where its residents enjoyed considerable wealth and prosperity brought about by the booming sugar business at the time.
Many of Bacolod’s residents are deeply religious Catholics who proudly practice their faith. In honor of the former Pope John Paul II visit to Bacolod City, Pope John Paul II Tower commemorates the place where he first held mass on February 20, 1981.
Look for the sculpture of the Pope by the entrance of the tower - it is a remarkable 8-foot-tall sculpture made of fiberglass and bronze. Learn about the origins and history of the province by visit Negros Museum. The building was formerly used as the provincial agricultural building in 1925.
Situated at a city between Silay and Bacolod, The Ruins of Talisay City is an ancestral house built at the turn of the century and is recognized as one of the 12 most fascinating ruins in the world.
This mansion was built by sugar magnate Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson in memory of his Portuguese wife Maria Braga and used to be the biggest residential structure at the time. It features neo-Romanesque columns and Italianate architectural design.
Located just 20-30 minutes by land, Silay City is the seat of arts, culture, and eco-tourism in Western Visayas. With 31 houses officially identified as historical landmarks, the Paris of Negros is a major tourist destination that gives you a glimpse of how the wealthy class lived at the turn of the century.
Some of the houses and structures included here are Balay Negrense, Bernardino Jalandoni Museum, and San Diego Pro-Cathedral.
While you’re exploring the rich architectural landscape, don’t forget to visit nearby El Ideal Bakery, the oldest bakery in the city that offers delicious pastries and local delicacies. Try their famous guapple pie and buko pie.
If you have time to spare, why not visit some of the natural wonders nearby? Bacolod City is a great jump-off point to see some of the most breathtaking views and marine life in the Negros province. Mambukal Resort in Murcia features a stream that flows into seven waterfalls, a sight to behold.
If you’re one of those brave souls who enjoy hiking and cliff diving while taking in the grandeur of a large waterfall, the Mag-Aso Falls in Kabankalan city is the place for you. This natural wonder has a large tree trunk that many travelers use as a background for a photo-op.
If you’re children’s book fan, you’re in for a treat! Takatuka Beach Resort is a quirky beach resort that pays homage to Pippi Longstocking, the main character from the famous literary series by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren.
Perth Paradise Resort in Sipalay is a beach resort known for its infinity pool and breathtaking views similar to El Nido, Palawan. Bamboo rafting, beach hopping, and hiking are some of the activities you can do here.
Any Bacolod trip isn’t complete without a gastronomic tour of the best food of Bacolod. Make sure you feast on Bacolod’s famous tasty chicken inasal (or just inasal), their local version of roasted chicken marinated in calamansi (local lime), annato, vinegar, and pepper.
Manokan Country is where you can go for a no-nonsense, open-air experience of eating inasal, which has rows of stalls selling the native delicacy.
Another must-try dish is Kansi or Cansi, a slightly sour soup dish with made with lemongrass, jackfruit, and beef shanks. It’s a cross between two other famous Filipino dishes, bulalo (beef marrow stew) and sinigang (sour soup). Head over to Sharyn’s Cansi House that’s famous for this dish.
Bring home well known native delicacies and Bacolod pastries for your friends and loved ones when you visit Merzci. Don’t forget to make room for these favorites in your luggage: napoleones, butterscotch, piaya and biscocho.
If you’re staying in Bacolod for more than a day, there are accommodations available for your budget and necessities for a home away from home.
If you’re a traveler who only needs a basic room and wants to keep your expenses as minimum as possible, check out these budget-friendly Bacolod hotels.
Mainstreet Pension House
A great budget hotel that offers the basic necessities: clean linens, air-conditioning, heated water, and clean towels. It is centrally located, which is a good jump-off point to go around Bacolod City.
Royal Am Rei
Located near popular Bacolod attractions such as the San Sebastian Cathedral, this is a good place to stay if you want to enjoy the nightlife. Some of the pubs you can visit include Trapdoor Tasting room, Palawud Resto Grill and Bar, Tippy’s Bistro.
Want a more upscale room and hotel amenities? Check out these best value Bacolod hotels.
The Suites at Calle Nueva
This mid-range hotel offers modern air-conditioned rooms with a flat-screen TV, personal safe, microwave, en suite bathroom with hot shower and buffet style breakfast. It’s also conveniently located at the heart of Bacolod City, near major attractions.
Go Hotels Bacolod
This hotel is a good choice for those who want the convenience of having a shopping mall nearby, as Robinsons Place is just a two-minute walk away. The air-conditioned rooms with high-quality bedding have a flat-screen TV, safety deposit box, and a desk.
Willing to splurge for the best rooms and amenities in your Bacolod trip? Here are some tourist favorites for more high-end accommodation.
Seda Capitol Central
For those looking for a luxurious stay with wonderful amenities and a great buffet breakfast, this is a great place to stay in. Located within the Ayala Capitol central complex, it gives you easy access to nearby restaurants in Bacolod. Its air-conditioned rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV, iPod dock, and en suite bathrooms with hot shower and hairdryer.
Staying here includes access to amenities such as the swimming pool and free breakfast. Popular tourist attractions such as the Provincial Capitol, San Sebastian Cathedral, and Capitol Lagoon part are just a walking distance away from the hotel.
We suggest a minimum of 3 days to explore the attractions and activities in Bacolod City center and tours in its nearby areas. Here’s a sample itinerary to help you plan your trip.
08:30 AM - Arrival in Bacolod City
09:00 AM - Check-in at the hotel
09:30 - 12:00 NN - Go sightseeing in Bacolod by visiting The Ruins, San Sebastian Cathedral, Provincial Capitol and Lagoon and many more
12:00 - 01:30 PM - Lunch at Manokan Country
02:00 - 06:00 PM - Continue exploring tourist attractions in the city center like Pope John Paul II Building and Bacolod City Park (Bandstand)
06:00 PM - Dinner
08:30 PM - Hotel, Rest, Sleep
07:00 - 08:30 AM - Wake up, prepare for a long day ahead
08:30 - 12:00 NN - Travel to Mambukal Resort tour and explore the area
12:00 - 01:00 PM - Lunch
01:00 - 02:30 PM - Return to Bacolod City
02:45 - 06:00 PM - Relax, go shopping, or join the Campuestohan Highland Resort tour
06:00 - 07:00 PM - Return trip to Bacolod city
7:00 PM Onwards - Dinner at Sharin’s Cansi, then nightcap at pubs along Lacson St.
08:00 - 09:30 AM - Breakfast and prepare for departure
09:30 AM - Check out of hotel
10:30 - 11:30 AM - Shop for native delicacies to bring home at Pasalubong from Merzci
11:30 - 12:00 NN - Travel to Silay City
12:00 - 01:00 PM - Arrival at Silay City, and lunch at El Ideal bakery
01:00 - 04:00 PM - Explore historical landmarks and ancestral homes, which is the main highlight of a heritage tour in Silay
04:00 - 05:00 PM - Travel to airport
05:00 PM Onwards - Prepare for departure
October can be a busy month due to the MassKara festival, so expect most hotels to be fully booked at this time. It is advisable to start looking for accommodations for a few months in advance to avoid any inconvenience.
Rush hour traffic is between 5-7PM, especially on weekdays. Plan your itinerary to avoid these hours to avoid delays
Look closely at the Capitol Ground and you might find a kilometer zero post.
When riding taxis, insist on using the meter to get a fair price.
Discover the Treasures of Bacolod City
Bacolod City is a great jump-off point to nearby beaches, resorts, natural and heritage attractions, so the usual 3-day trip might not be enough to truly enjoy the wonders waiting to be experienced at nearby areas. If you can, plan for a longer trip to accommodate more in your itinerary.
Don’t forget to set aside lots of room in your belly to enjoy the gastronomic delights of restaurants in Bacolod. Bacolod weather is perfect for a beach trip at practically any time of the year, so don’t hesitate to include this in your Negros province adventure.
Start planning your trip to the City of Smiles. Research Bacolod tours and activities that you can add to your itinerary for a hassle-free adventure.