Vibrant street markets in Cebu – experience authentic Philippines 21

Traveling is not always pretty. Sometimes the reality is not tastefully designed, safe and clean. The street markets in Cebu are dirty, smelly, crowded and noisy. They will irritate your nose, eyes and you might get robbed, but you will get to experience authentic Philippines. And this is where I also find the beauty of the country, in the true places like that. You may spot beautiful handicrafts, and flowers vendors, skilfully presented fruits and vegetables and taste the weirdest foods ever. In the fake world, where machines took over so many activities, it’s interesting to see the Filipino’s daily life and the street markets in Cebu are great opportunity for that. You can get lost in a narrow dirty street, spoil you taste buds with new meals and experience the authentic Philippines like a local.

Soup on the street of Cebu, Philippines. Huge pot with meat soup on the wooden fire.

Soup on the street of Cebu. It may look disgusting to some of you, but this is their true, simple life.

Visiting the street markets in Cebu City

I love to visit street markets whenever I travel. There is the vibrant life happening, the real people and simplicity. Markets in Asia such as Myanmar or Thailand, in the Middle East such as Iran or Turkey, were my favorite places to visit in the cities. Moreover, shopping locally while traveling supports small producers and farmers from the region. It’s a great way to help the economy, and you are sure to get the fresh products at the best prices. By supporting local businesses, you help them to survive, feed their families and pay the bills. The street markets in Cebu are lively, full of colors and kids running around and saying “Hi”. The live of authentic Philippines is just there on the dirty streets and smelly corners.

 Dirty kids in the Philippines. Streets of Cebu.

Kids running on the streets of Cebu will accompany you on the markets, saying hello and waving at you.

The streets markets in Cebu which I present, are all in downtown area. Once you get to see the historical sites such as fort, St. Nino Basilica and Magellan’s cross, the markets are in a walking distance. Chock full of everything you can imagine and get the best prices in Cebu. You can see what people eat here, what kind of jobs they have, what types of entertainments and how polluted is the country. This can be a great visit of the authentic Philippines and discovering the culture or a big disappointment if you don’t like going off the beaten path.

Street food in the Philippines. Street market with seafood and traditional Filipino meals in Cebu.

Street food near Colon Street

Street food in Philippines, street market in Cebu. Lady selling traditional Filipino food.

Colon Street – the oldest street in the country

Man making handmade stamps on the street market in Cebu City, Philippines.The historical street in Cebu which got the name from Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) and it’s considered the oldest street in the Philippines. The Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived here to establish a colony in 1565 and planned a town structure. Before, Colon was the center of business, very good shops and offices. It was also where all the happenings took place such as social and cultural events. The street witnessed the rise and fall of the economy and political competence over the years.

Nowadays, Colon Street is dirty and ugly, but you can get things in the great prices from clothes to fake GUCCI bags and other goods. You can see the real life, traffic and the vendors not only in the shops but also on the sidewalk, street, moving around, simply – everywhere. You may encounter pickpockets so be careful of your belongings.

Coming from the St.Nino Basilique towards Coron street, you may notice the street with food stands all along with traditional Filipino food. Delicious soups, sea foods and meat, all good looking and very cheap. This is where I tried the shrimps and squid in the black sauce as well as for the first time the sea grapes – sea weed which you eat raw. Quite an interesting experience, worth trying. Another surprise was waiting in the kitchen…

Taboan Market – a danggit lovers paradise

This public market is a paradise of Cebu delicacies. The first one is dried fish, which you can see in every form and size possible. The smell is disgusting but such an interesting experience to see skilfully displayed dried spinefoot or rabbitfish, which is popularly known as the danggit. Cebu is considered to produce the best danggit in the country and the Taboan Market is the best place to get it in the reasonable price. Mounds and basketfuls of dried fish offer a variety of choices, sizes and shapes. You can also get a dried mango there. The smell of the dried fish sticks to your clothes after some time, so be sure that you don’t have other plans then a shower, after visiting Taboan Public Market.

Dried fish on Tabuan Market in Cebu. Street markets in Cebu is the best way to discover the real Philippines.

Dried fish called danggit is a delicacy in Cebu.

Dinggit in Tabouan Market in Cebu City. Paradise for dinggit lovers in the Philippines.

Dried fishbons on Tabouan Market.

The second delicacy you can find on Taboan Market is the Cebuano chorizo and other meat packed in the colons for barbeque. Famous Cebuano chorizo you can find on every street barbeque in Cebu city. On Taboan Market you can even see men packing meat unbelievably fast, like machines. If you are looking for a local experience that is definitely the place to be, make shopping and try to talk with Filipinos which are very hospitable and friendly.

Spicy Choriso in Cebu City on Tabuan Market.

Chorizo of Cebu you will see on every street stand with barbeque.

Carbon Market – the biggest farmer’s market in Cebu

VIbrant street market in Cebu - Carbon market is the biggest street market in Cebu.

Carbon Market

Carbon Market is the biggest one and the oldest farmer’s market in Cebu. Typical Filipino market with vendors selling all possible goods. Here come all the fruits and vegetables from the farmers of Cebu. Walking from the city center you will first come across the flowers market. On the other side hand made baskets from Bohol, straw bags and plates. Such a great hand work as well as unique and cheap souvenir from the Philippines. Plenty of stands with beautiful flowers for bouquets and funeral arrangements. Later you will see fruits, veggies, fresh fish and sea food, clothes, shoes and whatever you can imagine. There are chickens, eggs, cocks for fighting and butcher’s shops.

This is place for local people, and you will see dirty kids playing around, they wanted me to take pictures of them all the time. Be aware, that you will be the only tourist there, so keep an eye on your belongings. You enter the markets in Cebu are your own risk.

It happened that I was there 2 days after a fire which destroyed the houses nearby. Over 600 families were left without a house. All the buildings were just black, and people were trying to clean the mess. That disaster was really sad to see. People are so poor there, living simple life with the very basic things and conditions.

Girls having shower on the street of Cebu, Philippines.

After the fire, the street became a bathroom for those who lost their houses.

Raw Sea grapes on the street market in Cebu.

First time I tried raw sea grapes here in Cebu.

Flowers for sale in Cebu.

Flowers market is part of the Carbon Market in Cebu.


Street food in Cebu to experience the authentic Philippines.

Street food in Cebu is the best way to experience the authentic Philippines. Sea shells on the sticks in one of them.

Playing checkers in the Philippines.

Playing board game on the Cebu street.

Tobacco shop in Cebu.

Selling tobacco on the street market in Cebu.

Experience authentic Philippines

Trash in the river in the Philippines. Experience authentic Philippines.

One of the many rivers in Cebu city. All look like a garbage bin.

The Philippines is not just the white sand beaches and turquoise waters which I showed you from the Palawan Island or Siquijor. The country also struggles with overpopulation. This neighbourhood made me see the poverty of people in the Philippines. Houses from wood or some simple materials looked terrifying. So were the dirty kinds playing around and asking for money.

If Manila sounds to big, busy and intimidating for you, and you would love to see some true Philippino city, Cebu will be great choice. Not to mention the paradise beaches, tiny islands and waterfall the island has to offer. Cebu City is surely one of the cities in Far East, you should visit.

I cannot describe the shock when I came to see the rivers passing through the city, all looked like a garbage dump, so black and stinky. Huge population does not help the poverty problem and the pollution. That’s the reality of the Philippines most of the tourist don’t see hiding on the paradise islands. Seeing this kind of pictures makes me focus even more on responsible tourism practices and giving my bit to the world.

When traveling in the Philippines keep in mind, that waste you produce during your trip, may end up in the river like that, later in the ocean. There is no recycling in the Philippines so trash usually ends up on the landfill site which are numerous in the country. Moreover, corruption and addiction to single-use plastic products are another reasons why Philippines are the third largest ocean polluter in the world.

The Philippines generates 2.7 million tonnes of plastic waste per year and 20 per cent of it ends up in the ocean. That’s terrifying! As travelers in the Philippines, we contribute to those numbers, therefore it’s important that we produce as less waste as possible during our trip. Even if you are not traveling to the Philippines and thinking that this problem is far away from you, be aware, that countries such as Canada, Australia or Hong Kong ship their rubbish to the Philippines. Smelly landfills of trash look bad, right? And the Philippines cares more about money than esthetics. Trash from UK and US started to land in the Philippines as well, after China banned their deals of receiving trash shipments. We usually don’t think about where is our waste going, but when we become conscious, the facts are shocking.

Polluted rivers in the Philippines.

Pollution in the Cebu River.


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21 thoughts on “Vibrant street markets in Cebu – experience authentic Philippines

  • Anda

    Cebu looks like a food paradise. So many food markets and so much appealing food! I don’t think I could resist trying some of each of those dishes.It’s sad to see how much poverty is in the Philippines. Those dirty areas are appalling!

  • umiko Silalahi

    Coming from Indonesia, I can say that this is actually where you can see the real Philippines. These are the real life of the majority of the Filipino. It’s great that you thought about visiting the street market where you can see and learn about them. By the way, dried fish is very popular in the South East Asian countries. They taste really good but my American husband dislikes them. lol.

  • Jane Dempster-Smith

    It is such a shame that the rivers are so polluted with garbage. We will hopefully make it to Cebu this year and we love markets, so thanks for the list. Also the tip about pickpockets. I have never seen raw sea grapes so your photo was intriguing. Thanks.

  • Jane Dempster-Smith

    I love visiting markets when I visit places. Cebu’s markets looks amazing and well worth the visit. Thank you for the warning re pickpockets etc. It is such a shame that the rivers are polluted with garbage. Thanks for sharing.

  • Raghav

    I love street markets and they are typically the best places to get a sense of how a city or place is. Your photos capture the bazaars of Cebu really well, but sad to see all the pollution. We have a similar issue in India that everyone is trying to tackle. I especially like how you have cauptured the foods as well as the people so well in a natural way.

  • Lisa

    I think it’s great that you went to the market there, I can imagine it was quite an experience. I can see it’s dirty, but maybe ‘nasty’ is quite harsh a word. For these people, they don’t see it that way, and the level of poverty there makes it difficult to change it. I think it’s good to see another side to the places you visit, and those sea grapes look really interesting. I pray that these people have a better future and a far more hygienic environment.

  • Manjulika Pramod

    Real travel can be messy and smelly, so its absolutely okay to say that travel is not always pretty. Those who love to do the offbeat and look for such local flavors, this was quite a read. You have shared simple and lively description of the markets. Personally, I like going to vegetable, fish, cloth markets or old areas in new places. It tells so much about the local people. I have never been to Philippines so this was really insightful. Carbon Market would be my favorite.

  • Clarice

    Thank you for featuring our beautiful city. Your post is really authentic and makes you see the “real” Cebu. Though I don’t really recommend some places for tourists due to security issues. Glad you included a warning that they have to keep an eye on their belongings.

  • Bhushavali N

    Somehow I relate the words in your first para, very much to my country, India as well! Haha…
    I’m do visit street markets sometimes when traveling. More often than not, I’m worried of spending too much there, so I avoid! Yeah, that’s me!!!
    Cebu street markets look interesting. Those young kids are so adorable! Sea grapes is intriguing…

  • Diana

    I love getting off the beaten path and seeing how locals truly live, so I love all the spots you highlighted. For Carbon Market, do you know if there are any guided tours available, and would you recommend going there with a guide since you mentioned that tourists will really stand out there since it’s all locals who go there? Thanks!

  • Darryl

    Nice article but please considering using other words besides “nasty” in the future, as unfortunate an area may seem would you go up to these children and men and women and say “you live in such a nasty place”. I know it’s an online article that these people may not everr see, but it is still a harsh word for people’s homes and lives.