About 135km north of San Fernando in La Union lies the old Spanish town of VIGAN, an essential stop on any swing through the northern provinces. It has become a bit of a cliché to describe Vigan as a living museum, but the town does really justify the description. Vigan is on the UNESCO World Heritage list for two reasons: first because it represents a unique fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning; and secondly because it is one of the few reasonably intact European trading towns in Southeast Asia.
One of the oldest towns in the Philippines, Vigan lies on the western bank of the Mestizo River and in Spanish times was an important political, military, cultural and religious centre called Nueva Segovia. In the old town, with Plaza Salcedo and Plaza Burgos on the northern edge and Liberation Boulevard to the south, there are streets and pavements of cobble stones and some of the finest old Spanish colonial architecture in the country, including some impressive homes that once belonged to friars, merchants and officials. Various governmental and non-governmental organizations have joined forces to preserve the old buildings; many are still lived in, others are used as curio shops, and a few have been converted into museums. Vigan's time-capsule ambience is aided by the decision to close some of the streets to traffic and allow only pedestrians and calesas – a ride in one of these makes for a romantic way to tour the town.