While it is considered a highly urbanized city with a government separate from the province, Iloilo City is fundamentally the economic, cultural, educational and tourist center of Iloilo. Along with nearby Guimaras, the city forms the Metro Iloilo-Guimaras metropolitan area.
Iloilo City lies on the southern coast of Iloilo province,
The city's history traces back to pre-colonial times as the center of Madja-as, but written history states that Iloilo originated from the town of Oton, an outpost founded by Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Raids by Chinese and Moro pirates forced the relocation of the outpost to Villa Rica de Arevalo (present-day Arevalo). During the 1700s, Iloilo boomed through its local sugarcane industry, that leaves its mark on historic estate houses. As the Spanish Empire begins to crumble, Visayan revolutionaries during the early days of the Philippine Revolution established the capital of the Federal State of the Visayas in Iloilo City until its dissolution in 1898.
The city fell into the hands of the United States in the aftermath of the Philippine-American War, and it became an important Protestant mission site, with the establishment of Protestant universities, like the Central Philippine University. The supposed conversion of the Catholic-majority Ilonggos to Protestantism are protested by both the Ilonggos and American Catholics, resulting to changes in American colonial policy in the city.
Iloilo City is badly devastated during the Pacific War, resulting to the destruction of the Central Philippine University along with many parts of the city. The city's postwar rebuilding is slow, followed by Ilonggo emigration, but the entry of major retailers have helped boost its economy.
Iloilo City has a tropical wet and dry climate, with two distinct seasons: dry season between December and May and wet season between June and November. Average temperatures vary little by time of year; daytime highs are between 29.7 °C (85.5 °F) and 33.1 °C (91.6 °F), and nighttime lows run between 22.7 °C (72.9 °F) and 25.1 °C (77.2 °F). Annual average humidity is 80%, so it can be uncomfortably hot during the day.
Iloilo International Airport (ILO IATA) serves the city of Iloilo and the province of Iloilo. It receives flights from Cebu, Davao, Manila, Puerto Princesa, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Singapore, Hong Kong, Cuyo and Sipalay. Airlines that use Iloilo airport are: Air Juan, Air Asia, Philippines Airlines and Cebu Pacific.
A seat in an air-conditioned minivan costs ₱50 from the airport to the SM City Iloilo Mall, and ₱70 from SM City to the airport.
The terminal fees at Iloilo airport are ₱200 for domestic flights and ₱700 for international flights.
Pumpboats are used for traversing the waters between Guimaras and Iloilo city.
- Cokaliong and Trans Asia sail to and from Cebu City six times a week with fares from ₱800 (one way).
- There are four ferry lines (fast craft) that sail from Iloilo to Bacolod many times every day:
- Ocean Jet
- Weesam Express
- 2GO Travel
- Fast Cat - from ₱200 one way.
- Milagrosa shipping lines Sail to Cuyo and Puerto Princesa one time per week.
- There are Ceres Liner Buses heading north from the Tagbak Bus Terminal to Roxas, Kalibo, Caticlan, Manila.
- There are Ceres Liner buses heading east from the Iloilo Antique bus terminal going to San Jose de Buenavista and Antique
- Fast vans also run between Iloilo and Caticlan taking 5 hours. and Iloilo and San Jose taking 2 hours.
White cars with the Taxi sign on top. The best service are often offered by Light of Glory or GDR taxi. They drive fast but as relatively safe as possible.
Dubbed the unofficial national transport system, it's an automobile, with some resemblance to a Jeep vehicle, that has a long leather bench for people to sit on down the length of each side. It's everywhere in the city and each jeepney has a set route to follow.
Don't take this if you're in a great hurry as the drivers can sometimes decide to wait in the loading areas for 5–10 minutes.
By tri-sikad or tri-cycle
Cycles mean motor bike while sikad means a manual bike. It's the method of transportation for small, tight roads in barangays and the outskirts of the city. It can be more expensive than the Jeepneys.
- Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral (National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles). The only Catholic cathedral in Western Visayas, built in 1864. It is the seat of Jaro Archbishopric (comprising the Metropolitan Ecclesiastical Province of Western Visayas). The Cathedral, which is dedicated to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, is famous for its Shrine of Our Lady of Candles which, according to pious tradition has been miraculously growing. The devotees of the Blessed Virgen, who invoke her under this title of "Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria" come in thousands during her feast day, 2 February. The image was canonically crowned by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, during the Roman Ponriff's visit to Jaro in 1981. Until the present, the miraculous image is the only sacred icon in the Philippines ever crowned by a pope.
- Campanario de Jaro (Jaro Belfry/Jaro Bell Tower). One of the few belfries in country that stands apart from the church. It was constructed by the Spaniards to serve as a watchtower to monitor Muslim invasion from Mindanao. The colonial structure was ruined by an earthquake in 1948 and was restored decades later, in the mid-1990s. The Jaro Belfry will undergo a new retrofitting this year to be financed by the Dept. of Tourism.
- Palacio del Arzobispo. The official residence of the Archbishop of Jaro. It is located southwest of the Jaro Cathedral and of the Jaro Plaza.
- The Shrine of Sto. Nino de Arevalo. Houses the miraculous image of the child Jesus in the Philippines. It is considered as the third oldest image in the country as it dates back to 1581.
- The Black Cross. a 12 ft (3.7 m) long century-old cross at Santa Cruz Chapel in Villa Rica de Arevalo was used to be the cross enshrined inside the Jesuit chapel located at the same spot it was founded by a local farmer.
- St. Anne's Church (Iglesia de Sta. Ana). Found at the Molo district, It is a Gothic renaissance church made of coral rock, located 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from the city. It was completed in the 19th century. The church, which is also referred to as the "Church of Women" because of the statues of women saints that decorate its pillars, was visited by Jose Rizal on his way to exile in Dapitan, Mindanao.
- Jaro Evangelical Church. The first Baptist Church in the Philippine Islands established by the Northern Baptists (now American Baptist Churches) in 1900.
- St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary. The first institution of higher education in Western Visayas. Following the Papal Bull of Pope Pius IX, dated 27 May 1865, the Dominican Bishop Mariano Cuartero, OP, the first Bishop of Jaro, laid the foundation of this seminary in 1869, in honor of St. Vincent Ferrer.
- Villa Lizares. Now the Angelicum School Iloilo, it was once the mansion and villa of the Lizares Family. The Lizares mansion was sold to the Dominican Order of the Philippines in the late 1970s, and is now the seat of Angelicum School Iloilo, a private, Catholic school run by the Order of the Preachers (Dominicans). The Angelicum is a popular landmark visited by local folks every Christmas because of the display of Christmas lights that decorate the Lizares Mansion – its oldest building being the main feature of the panoramic view of the school.
Historical and cultural sites
- The Crown Monument of Queen Isabela II. On the east side of the plaza. Erected in 1896, the monument holds the replica of the crown given by Queen Isabela II of Spain to Iloilo, which symbolizes the friendship of Spain and Iloilo.
- Plaza Libertad. Also known as Plaza Alfonso XII. The central park of the city proper district of Iloilo. It is a National Historical Institute site for its contribution to the Philippine liberation and freedom. Within the environs of the plaza are the City Government Center of Iloilo, the San Jose de Placer parish church, the heritage buildings such as the Masonic Temple, Lacson Ancestral House, the Botica Lacson ruins, the San Jose Catholic School of the Agustinian Fathers, Iloilo Plaza Hotel Building (now Land Bank of the Philippines), the Campos Building, and nearby the Ker and Company Limited Heritage Building and the Ynchausti Mansion (old COA Building).
- Calle Muelle Loney (Iloilo Promenade). The old river port of Iloilo named after British Consul Nicholas Loney, who is considered the father of the Philippine sugar industry. The 3.5 -km old river port is protected by the Island of Guimaras from typhoons and it is one of the safest harbours in the Country. It is also considered as one of the major port in the country having established and opened to international market since 1855.
- Iloilo Customs House (Casa de Aduana de Iloilo) and the Sunburst Park. Also called as Iloilo’s “Aduana”, the Customs Building in Iloilo was built during the American colonial period. It is the biggest custom house in the Visayas and Mindanao Region or outside Manila. The architecture of the Iloilo Customs house is similar to the Bureau of Immigration building in Intramuros, Manila, which is characterized by a tall tower rising at the center of the building. The Iloilo Customs is located in Muelle Loney St. and Aduana St. along the Iloilo River, which also serves as a lengthy harbor. The view from the tower of the Iloilo Custom’s House is breathtaking. One can clearly see an overview of the Iloilo River Port, Iloilo’s DownTown Area or popularly known as "Calle Real", and Guimaras Island in the distance. A proposal from Mayor Jed Mabilog to revive the Sunburst Park fronting the Custom House is being studied. If the plan pushes through the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand which stands at the park area will be transferred along Mulle Loney Drive beside the Custom House.
- Calle Real. The Iloilo City Heritage and Cultural District old buildings that were constructed in the Commonwealth era in Calle Real, Iznart, Aldeguer and Guanco were declared as a heritage site of Iloilo by the National Historical Institute. Also known as the downtown area of Iloilo City.
- Museo de Iloilo. The repository of Iloilo's cultural heritage.
- Casa Real de Iloilo (Old Iloilo Provincial Capitol). The building has undergone a lot of renovations and additions from the time it became the seat of the civil government of Iloilo in 1901, used as a military garrison by Japanese Imperial Forces during World War II. It was once the venue of the Vin d'honneur (wine of honor) of the 117th Philippine Independence Day led by Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III, the first Vin d'honneur outside Malacañang Palace.
- Jaro Heritage and Cultural District. The old section of the city boasts of the colonial mansions and Hispano-Filipino houses of the Ilonggo sugar barons and elite families during the Spanish regime.
- Don Fernando Avanceña Ancestral House (The Avanceña Balay na Bato). Built in 1860, it is the ancestral house of the Avanceña - Melocoton clan of Iloilo. Its famous descendants are the Avanceña Sisters (Jovita and Ramona) - founders of Colegio de St. Ana, Chief Justice Ramon Avanceña, Dona Rufina Avanceña and Don Crispino Melocoton.
- Don Donato Pison Chimney Monument, Atria Park District, Mandurriao, Iloilo City..
- Casa Mariquit. The ancestral house of Dona Mariquit Lopez, the matriarch of the Lopez Clan of ABS CBN. It also serves as a museum of the late Vice President Fernando Lopez, the husband of Dona Mariguit and the partriarch of the Lopez Clan.
Parks and wildlife
- Iloilo River Esplanade. A well-landscaped linear park along the banks of the Iloilo River.
- Plaza de la Villa Rica de Arevalo. 6 km (4 mi) southwest of the city proper. It is 2nd capital of the Alcaldia of Panay and known as the flower garden of Iloilo.
- Fuente Arroyo (Arroyo Fountain). A classy and stylish water fountain depicting a neoclassical design situated in front of the Casa Real de Iloilo or the Iloilo Provincial Capitol, also considered as the kilometer zero point of Panay Island.
- Iloilo City Wetlands and Bird Sanctuary, Brgy. Hinactacan, Lapaz.
- Nelly's Garden and Mansion. The Lopez Heritage House or otherwise known as the Nelly's Gardens is a national heritage house built in 1928 located at Jaro, Iloilo by an Ilonggo statesman Don Vicente Lopez and his wife, Doña Elena Hofileña. The mansion was named after the couple's eldest daughter, Lilia Lopez y Hofileña. The house is a classic example of Beaux-Arts mansion with its decorative enhancement largely influenced by Western aesthetics evident on its façade. It is designed to portray the extravagant lifestyle of Iloilo's most affluent families during the American period. In March 28, 2004, it was declared as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute. Nelly's Garden and Mansion is considered to be the mother of all ancestral mansions in Western Visayas.
- Graciano Lopez Jaena Park (Plaza de Jaro).
- El Dorado Waterpark, Glicerio T. Pison Avenue, Benigno Aquino Drive, Mandurriao, Iloilo City (Smallville), ☎ . 08:00-22:00. Cool down. Escape. Relax in El Dorado water park as you experience "Quality Fun Time" with your special loved one, grandiose family or relatives. Chill or simply unwind by the pools that are designed for both kids and adults. You can bring along food and beverages that will give a feast mood for each and everyone.
- Iloilo Sports Complex swimming pool, La Paz. Olympic-size swimming pool. ₱50 per person.
As with most Philippine city and towns, there are many festivals celebrated in Iloilo City annually. Arguably, the Dinagyang Festival is the primary and most important festival of the city.
- Dinagyang Festival: January annually. A spectacular festival in honor of the Sto. Nino, also one of the most popular festivals in the Philippines, streets are filled up with people as dancers dance and as music plays, colors and sound of the festival brighten up the atmosphere.
- Feast of the Sto. Nino de Arevalo: January annually. The Feast of the Sto. Nino de Arevalo is a religious fiesta in honor of the 3rd oldest (1581) image of the child Jesus in the Philippines held every 3rd Sunday of January at the district of Villa de Arevalo. A religious procession around the town center is held on the "bisperas ng pista" attended by thousands of the devotees. And on the day of the fiesta, a high mass is celebrated in honor of the Sto. Nino de Arevalo with the Archbishop of Jaro as the main celebrant. Other festivities includes, the coronation of the fiesta queen and fireworks display competition which is being held on the night of the fiesta.
- Feast of Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria: 2 February annually. Jaro's celebration of the Feast of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Our Lady of the Candles), the Patroness of Western Visayas, every February 2. The religious celebration, which is well known in the Philippines and in some parts of Asia, is also an occasion of more secular events like the pageantry of the daughters of the rich Spanish-Filipino families in the District during the coronation of the Jaro Fiesta Queen, and the international cockfighting. Eucharistic celebrations in honor of the miraculous image starts at dawn until noontime to accommodate thousands of devotees that flocked the national shrine. The grand procession follows in the afternoon with the coronation of the fiesta queen in the evening of the fiesta.
- Valentine's Day in the City of Love: 14 February annually. Considered as the second busiest holiday in the City of Love, the Valentine's Day is a favorite event for the Ilonggos to spend the day to eat and dine with their special someone or with the entire members of their family. The highlight of this event is a mass wedding by the City Mayor to hundreds of couples in a civil ceremony. The event is organized by the City Government through the Red Lions and Pag Ibig Fund.
- Paraw Regatta Festival: February annually. The Paraw Regatta is a race among seafarers on colorful sailboats called Paraws (the oldest traditional seacraft in Asia) in the Iloilo Strait between Guimaras Island and the city of Iloilo. The present-day Paraw managed to maintain its original design from the sailboats of the first settlers from Borneo who were in search of a peaceful home in 1212 AD. Surviving centuries, the paraws have become a vital part of the Filipino seafaring life. The first race started in 1973 with the mission to preserve the historic value of the paraws. It is held every 3rd weekend of February at Villa Arevalo District in Iloilo City. The event has grown from being a boat race to a festival with various interesting and exotic activities.
Shopping malls & supermarkets
- Gaisano Malls & Gaisano Supermarkets., J C Zulueta St & Luna Street., ☎ . 09:00-21:00.
- SM Mall & Savemore Supermarkets & Alfamart. 09:00-20:00. all part of the SM group. higher price..
- Robinsons Mall & Robinsons Supermarkets & MiniStop (two malls Ledesma street and in Jaro).
- Mary Mart Mall. 08:00-20:00. has internet cafes lower price.
- Iloilo Super Mart, Mary mart Mall. 08:00-20:00. There are six Iloilo super marts in Iloilo.
- City Malls., Cipiz Road Tagbak & Fort San Petro drive. 09:00-21:00. There are two city malls in Iloilo one is next to the Port.
Good restaurants in Smallville: Pirate's bar which has a wrecked ship attached to its façade as a design. It's a bit dim inside but it adds to the relaxed atmosphere. They also have a dance club beside the main building. The club has laser lights and great speakers, just be aware that it can get quite congested with cigarette smoke. Annex is for those who love to karaoke.
For local delicacies, you can try the famous biscocho from the aptly names Original Biscocho Haus. There are several branches and stalls around the city, but the main branch is near the Jaro Plaza.
Krua Thai also has some tasty foods. Almost everything on the menu is good and it's a refreshing break from the typical Ilonggo cuisine. A little bit further is Boardwalk which has a few of restaurants. Notably is Paprika where there is almost always a live band performing. They have a selection of sea foods. The B Place is a bar with a relaxing view of the river as well as the cool breeze moving through the place. The food is again typical of bars in this area.
Beside Smallville is Uncle Tom's which have excellent Spareribs, Steaks, Fried Chicken, Baby Backribs and the best of all: Ox Tongue. Their gravy is very tasty and the you can tell that the chicken was well marinated and seasoned. Along the highway you can find Dos Maria's where they serve pizzas that are big; having a diameter of around 20 or more inches. Though the pizza is big the taste is generic and really unsatisfying. Afriques is an Italian themed restaurant with a touch of Ilonggo flavor. They serve a variety of pizza and pasta-type dishes, most of which are extremely delicious. The pizza is tasty but it's crust can be better. Most of the dishes are served in generous portions especially the sauces. They have two locations: one near Plaza Libertad, General Hughes street and the other beside of Hotel del Rio. Ted's Batchoy is arguably the best Batchoy shop in iloilo. Batchoy is a mix of noodles and pork Chicharon along with some spices and a tasty broth. It's very good and filling espcially if you're very hungry. It's one of Iloilo's native dishes.
- [dead link] Bavaria Restaurant, 113 Seminario Street (near the Jaro Plaza), ☎ . 07:30-00:30. Bavaria restaurant has been in operation for 13 years and has become a popular spot for families and get-togethers. German cuisine; serves real German Weizenbeer and European sauasages. US$2-20.
There are a number of Karaoke, Beerhouses and Strip Clubs in the city. However, these tend to be unsafe for tourists. The safest and cleanest venues to enjoy the city's night life are found in Smallville. There are different bars and restaurants with a wide menu and good drinks to choose from. It's near SM City Mall in Mandurriao.
- MO2 Ice Bar, Glicerio T. Pison Ave, Benigno Aquino Drive, Mandurriao (Smallville Complex), ☎ . 18:00-late. Billiard hall. Mo2 Ice has dancing and grooving to the speckle of laser lights. Accommodates a variety of music genres. The MO2 annex has a number of family KTV rooms. They have two types of karaoke rooms: the smaller can seat around 2-6 people while the big room can seat 10-15 people withcomfortable couches, good food especially the appetizer when you tie it with the local beer and a vast collection of songs to choose from. Beside The Annex is M02. The bar that launched Smallville. They have drinks and food. Local beer is good while the food is typical of bar food.
- Northview Inn, Cnr MacArthur Drive (National Rd) and 8th St, Balantang Jaro (East side of the Hwy to Zarraga, about 5 km out from the centre of Iloilo City) ☎ +63 33 503-2282, +63 917 500 7242 email@example.com A new B&B style of lodgings where the owners have taken a lot of care in selecting furniture, fixtures and fittings. Very clean but a shared shower room/WC with hot water. Rooms are large and nicely furnished. Free (intermittent) Wi-Fi. Excellent value at ₱450 single, ₱650 double air-con.
- Eros Tavellers Pensionne, General Luna Street, ☎ . Small a/c single /double rooms with own bathrooms and cable TV. ₱510/590.
- Family Pension House, General Luna Street, ☎ . Fan rooms with own bathroom. From ₱400/night.
- Ongbun Pension House, Ledesma cor. Quezon St. Fan/AC single/double rooms with bathroom and cable TV. Free wifi all rooms and free drinking water. ₱350/495/580.
- Madia-as hotel, Aldeguer St, ☎ . Fan/AC single/double rooms with bathroom. All rooms have cable TV. 500/585/650.
- Sarabia charter pension house, ☎ . A/C single/double rooms with own hot water bathrooms and cable TV. ₱500/700.
- Budget inn, castilla el 98 jaro, ☎ . A/C single/double rooms with own bathrooms and cable TV. WiFi at lobby. ₱600/800.
- Valeria Hotel, 35 Valeria Extension, ☎ . A/C single/double rooms with own bathrooms and cable TV. Has free wifi. ₱600/700.
- River Queen Hotel, Bonifacio Dr, ☎ . Fan rooms with own bathrooms. From ₱600.
- 88 Plaza Hotel, Delgado Street, ☎ . A/C single/double rooms with own bathroom. From ₱530..
- Queens Pension House, Commission Civil Street, ☎ . A/C double room with own bathroom and cable TV. ₱600.
Mid-range over ₱700
- Mo2 Westown Hotel, Glicerio T pison Avenue, ☎ . From ₱1800.
- Smallville 21 Hotel, Smallville Commercial Complex Diversion Road, ☎ . 60 rooms.
- Highway 21 Hotel, General Luna Street, ☎ . From ₱875.
- Iloilo City Inn, 113 Seminario Street Jaro (near Jaro Plaza), ☎ .
- Fourseason Hotel, Delgado-Fuentes Street.
- Iloilo Business Hotel, Smallville Business Center. starts at ₱2100.
- Eon Centennial Plaza Hotel, Jalandoni Street, ☎ .
- Century 21 Hotel, Quezon Street, ☎ .
- Anhawan Beach Resort & Spa, J C Zuleta Street Poblacion south Oton, ☎ .
- Days Hotel Iloilo, Gen Luna Street, ☎ .
- Western Visayas Medical Center. Aleosan Road. Phone 33-3212841.
- Bureau Of Immigration Iloilo Office. 2nd floor. Customs House Building. Aduana Street.