Where to Eat, Sleep and Shop in Cebu City, Philippines

Would you like to explore the second largest city in the Philippines? Is eating the best food in the Visayan Islands on your bucket list? Do you want to know the best places to hit the shops in the southern Philippines? How about getting some hotel and restaurant recommendations for the area too? If so, read below all our family recommendations for where to eat, sleep and shop in the capital of the Visayan Islands: Cebu City.

Three Amazing Places to Eat in Cebu City

1. Blu Bar

If you ever find yourself in Cebu City, don't miss the chance to experience its finest restaurant: the Blu Bar, a place where culinary perfection and sweeping views collide to make a perfect Philippine dining experience.

Situated on the twenty-fifth floor of the already elevated Marco Polo Hotel, the views across the city are amazing, especially when dusk turns to night. The well-trained staff look after your every need. Its menu (changed every six months to encourage repeat visits) is cooked by an award winning chef and offers something for all meat and fish fans: delicious steaks, tantalising seafood, scrumptious soups and tempting desserts.

Happy hour (between 5-7p.m. every day) is the best time to enjoy two-for-one deals on juices, wines, beers and cocktails. Expect a bill of P5000-P6000 (US$100-120) for two people, including a few drinks - the Blu Bar is reassuringly one of Cebu's most expensive restaurants!

2. Shangri-La's Cowrie Cove

Right on the water in a secluded corner of Shangri-La's sprawling hotel complex, Cowrie Cove Seafood Bar and Grill offers a large range of seafood, meat, vegetables, and deserts. The well-thought-out menu means everyone will find something to like.

Nicely-designed multi-level spaces means the restaurant never feels that full - sit near the bar to hear the nightly tunes spun by the resident DJ or go closer to the water for romance and quietness. If you want to enjoy a few drinks before eating, go early and enjoy two-for-one on house wine and cocktails.

Expect to pay around 500 pesos per entree, 600 to 2000 pesos per main, 300 pesos for desert and 280 pesos for a glass of house wine (hence the recommendation to arrive well before 7pm for happy hour).

3. Scape Skydeck

Offering fabulous views of Marcelo Fernan Bridge and Cebu's skyline, Scape Skydeck is a brilliant spot to try a fusion of international and Cebuano flavours. Go at sunset to experience one of the best cityscape views in the Philippines!

Located on the rooftop of Azon Residences, a residencial condo in Lapu-Lapu City, Scape's friendly staff will be more than happy to keep your wine glass topped up and recommend a dish if you're struggling to choose.

While extensive menus aren't always indicative of quality, Scape manages to serve up a good range of entrees (250 to 350 pesos), passable pizza (300 to 500 pesos), quite scrumptous seafood and meat main courses (500 to 600 pesos), nice deserts (300 to 350 pesos) and plenty of wine, cocktail and beer options too.  

Six Brilliant Places to Stay in Cebu City

1. Marco Polo, Hotel, Nivel Hills

Situated in Nivel Hills, on Cebu Veterans Drive, the Marco Polo Hotel is perfectly located for anyone looking for a bit of respite from noisy, chaotic Cebu. The hotel's beautifully furnished rooms have lovely mountain views and very comfortable beds. The extensive swimming pool area tops off the exterior and offers a great opportunity for quiet reflection or daily exercise. Although the nightly rate is a bit expensive for Cebu (rooms start from US$100 on booking.com), it’s still a fraction of the price of something comparable in UK or Europe. 

Don't miss the chance to experience Marco Polo's iconic Blu Bar for dinner or their delicious breakfast buffet every morning. Check "Discover Cebu -  Indulgence at Majestic Marco Polo Hotel" for more detailed information and photographs about this hotel. 

2. Bai Hotel, Mandaue

Offering its guests a slice of modernity between the bustling cities of Mandaue and Cebu, Bai Hotel is a welcome new addition to Cebu's accommodation lineup. All 668 guest rooms (this is one huge hotel) feature sleek modern designs, comfortable beds and stylish bathrooms. While staying the night at Bai is a bit pricey (a double room currently costs around 6000 pesos/US$120 on booking.com), the rate includes a superb buffet breakfast.

Far more impressive than its rooms, Bai's fabulous rooftop pool is the main reason I'd recommend it over any other Cebu Hotel. Whether it's having a quiet swim before breakfast or catching the crowded sunset vibe, pool life doesn't get any better than this - relax with a beer or stay wet and enjoy dramatic sweeping harbour and city views that just get better and better as darkness falls upon the city below. Once you finish up in the water, try one of Bai's eight-in house restaurants; or if they don't tempt you enough with their gastronomic variety, walk across to adjacent Park Mall's food court for all the chain restaurants you'd expect like McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC. 

3. Cebu Apartment, Ayala

Seems like many people aren't into hotels these days. Airbnb has changed travelling forever and Cebu, like every city around the world, now has heaps of bookable apartments for those who prefer a sense of independence and privacy.

Check out Mae-Ann's Cebu City View Condo on Airbnb for a newly furnished condominium with a minimalist design and enough space for a small family of three. Situated a stone's throw away from Ayala's swanky mall, you can either get breakfast, lunch or dinner there or pick up some fruit, meat, rice and vegetables from the nearby supermarket and cook yourself. That's the magic of renting a nice apartment - you don't have to leave at all! And if infinity pools are your thing, head to the 28th floor for unbelievable views and an uncrowded swimming/sunbathing experience from 6am to 8pm.

4. Best Western Lex, Uptown Cebu

Situated in uptown Cebu, at the intersection of Escario and Juana OsmeƱa Streets, Best Western Lex is ideally located for either business or pleasure trip. Book here if you want a comfortable and impressive room: carpeted floors, large windows with views over bustling Cebu and wonderful bathrooms which include a second flat screen television.

A room here costs from US$58 per night including taxes (unless you find a promo deal). Don't miss swimming in the hotel's pristine pool with a view to die for. The partial roofing allows you to enjoy the pool area even on a rainy day. In short, Best Western Plus Lux is an incredible oasis in the heart of a thriving city. Check "Discover Cebu - Best Western Lux's Oasis" for more information about this hotel.

5. Kiwi Lodge, Mabulu

A Cebu institution, Kiwi Lodge has been serving western clients for more than two decades with their simple clean rooms and free breakfast. Don't hesitate to stay here if you're happy with a basic room for an incredible price (rates start from P1200/US$25 per night on booking.com). You get airconditioning, TV, passable WiFi and private bathroom in all room types, and large family rooms are available for up to three adults at a slightly higher price.

Alongside Kiwi's value for money and friendly staff, its location is a real plus too. Set in the heart of Mabulu, you can walk to SM City in 15-minutes (or grab a taxi) and Ayala isn't far in the other direction too. It might not be quite the institution it used to be, but Kiwi still ticks a lot of boxes and has recently upgraded a couple of its corners to make it a bit more instagrammable too!

6. D522 Kiener Hills Mactan Pod Hotel

If all you want is a box room close to Mactan Cebu Airport, you won't regret booking a space at D522 Kiener Hill Mactan Pod Hotel. Just 20 minutes on foot, or five minutes by taxi, will get you to D522 Kiener Hills complex, where the hotel offers tiny single pods for just P1100/US$22 per night, doubles for P2000/US$40, and a duplex apartment for six at P4200/US$65. Single and double rooms require you to share a bathroom (kept very clean) but the duplex has a private bathroom. Although the free Wifi is decent enough to check Instagram, don't expect anything super fast.

What's really nice about D522 Kiener Hills Mactan Pod Hotel is the ability to avoid taxis completely. Once you've checked in, just wander along the entry road for just over 1 kilometre and you'll soon reach Mactan Marina Mall, where you can change your foreign currency for an excellent rate and indulge in some fast food or a spot of shopping.

Where to "Shop until you drop" in Cebu City

Cebu is definitely a shopper's paradise, especially if you've just spent a few weeks on a remote tropical island without a mall in sight. Take your pick from centrally located SM city, the newly constructed and current favourite SM Seaside, small and convenient (for those staying near Cebu Airport) Mactan Marina Mall, and upmarket and well-designed Ayala Center.

All these malls have huge food courts, cinemas and useful services like foreign exchange counters, and dentist (we recommend Smile Designs), doctor and cosmetic surgeries. If you're from a western country, you'll be shocked how inexpensive treatment is and how professional and competent surgery staff are. In contrast, electronic goods tend to be more expensive and a few months or even years behind the range available in the west. For example, very few drone models were available in Cebu during my last visit, and those they had were vastly overpriced.

Follow in our footsteps

– If you want to stay overnight in Cebu City, it's easy to find somewhere on arrival. Alternatively, if you care about your accommodation experience, book ahead using Agoda.com, Booking.com or Airbnb.com.

– These days there are heaps of apartments on Airbnb.com if you're looking for somewhere self-catering or more comfortable for a longer stay.

– It's pretty easy to arrange tours further afield - (i) ask your hotel/resort (ii) book with an online tour operator like Cebu tours (iii) hire a car or car with driver and do everything independently.

– Download Grab taxis onto your cellphone if you want to enjoy cheaper and friendlier taxis. It shouldn't cost much more than P150 to get to Ayala or SM Mall from anywhere in Cebu using Grab.

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