Naga City is an independent component city in the province of Camarines Sur, Philippines. Many of the attractions in Naga City are rooted to its rich colonial history, and dependent on its magnificent landscape. As the third city after Manila and Cebu to be granted status as a Spanish royal city in the Philippines, Naga has retained its regal charms since its establishment in 1575.
This metropolis remains to be a primarily devout Catholic city. Naga has the Basilica Minor (built in 1981), the Peñafrancia Shrine (built in 1710), and the Porta Mariae (a commemorative arch erected in 2010) dedicated to its patron, the Our Lady of Peñafrancia. The Porta Mariae is quite a sight, and could be considered as the Arc de Triomphe of the Bicol Region. The city has several other churches that reflect its Spanish influence, both in history and architecture, including the San Francisco Church.
Naga also has a number of plazas dedicated to distinguished Filipino statesmen, including Rizal, the country’s national hero. Among those worth visiting are Plaza Rizal, Plaza de Nueva Caceres (from the city’s old name as Ciudad de Nueva Caceres), and Plaza Quezon (for the former Philippine president). There’s also Plaza Quince Martires (dedicated to 15 martyrs executed by the Spanish) and Plaza Barlin (for one of the 15 martyrs, Msgr. Barlin).
Do not be fooled, however, by its long-standing Catholic devotion and deep regard for history. Tourism in Naga City has continued to boom over the years because people flocked to the city, not only to view its beautiful old churches and plazas, but to have fun as well. With its proximity to Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC), a frequent destination of people looking for alternative water adventure, Naga has definitely gained popularity as a tourist stop. At the famous Magsaysay Avenue, posh hotels, trendy restaurants, hip coffee shops, and other hangout places are lined up like giant gift boxes in perfect wrappers. Stylish and well-heeled locals and tourists alike frequent this avenue to dine and relax, and sometimes to just be seen.
Apart from its heritage and commercial sites, Naga’s natural beauty also attracts tourists. With the majestic Mt. Isarog providing a stunning backdrop, eco-adventurers come here to enjoy mountain climbing and bird watching, and take a dip at the waterfalls and hot springs. Mt. Isarog, a dormant volcano declared a national park in 1937, has a thick forest with 16 rivers and more than 30 waterfalls. The mountain provides life to myriad species, including humans, as it is a primary water source. The Naga City Ecology Park, meanwhile, is a sprawling 12-acre development of lush greenery that showcases exotic flowers and trees, a topiary maze and garden, and a mini-forest. The park’s pavilions and lawns are perfect for picnics and tranquil strolls. The Malabsay Falls, Nabontolan Falls, and Panicuason Hot Springs Resort are also among the city’s best-kept secrets.
Naga is also an epicure’s dream destination, as Bicolano cooking is among its many attractions. Restaurants, food stalls, and specialty dining places for every taste and budget can be found in this city. Signature Bicolano dishes are spicy and rich, often cooked with coconut milk. Snacking, a huge part of Filipino culture, is also delightful in Naga. The city is famous for its original toasted siopao (steamed buns of Chinese origin, toasted to perfection), and the loglog or kinalas, flavored hot soup made of noodles and chopped meat.
There are also a number of hotels in Naga City, ranging from the budget to the lavish. A handful of hotels in Naga City are located in the busy Magsaysay Avenue. Tourists, and even locals, check-in at these lodgings to experience the privilege of having a friendly hotel staff at your service.
Whatever a tourist’s reason may be for setting foot in this beautiful city, be it by chance or by deliberate decision, the many attractions in Naga City will definitely inspire wonder and admiration.