Session Road is perhaps the most famous street in Baguio. It was named after the sessions held by the government at the old Baden Powell Hall (now Baden Inn) during the early 1900s. It is now the center of business and leisure in the city. It is divided into 2 parts: the Lower Session Road is a commercial strip where most of the businesses are found like restaurants, shops, and hotels, while the Upper Session Road stretches near SM Baguio to South Drive. A visit to Baguio won't be complete without visiting this area known for its establishments and great bargains.
Anybody who needs a jacket or a sweater to wear in order to stay warm in the cold weather of Baguio City will enjoy browsing the thrift stores in Session Road. The ukay-ukay stores have almost all types of clothes like jackets, sweaters, beanies, jeans, and boots at very cheap prices. Some of them are even of designer brands.
While it is teeming with fast foods and eateries, a must-try restaurant in Session Road is Hill Station, one of the finest in Baguio City. Hill Station is a reminder to tourists about the early history of the city when it was the getaway town of the Americans from the summer heat in the Philippines. The food is a combination of the influences that make up the whole culture in Baguio – Filipino, Spanish, American, and a bit of Japanese.
Being one of the main roads in Baguio, Session Road also becomes the venue of exciting events like parades, music festivals, and bazaars.
To get to Session Road, you obviously need to get to Baguio City first. The city itself is within a landlocked area which can only be reached if you travel by land. Many bus companies like Victory Liner and Genesis Bus have daily trips from Manila to Baguio. On average, travel time takes about four to five hours.
How to Get Around
Once you arrive in Baguio, taking the taxi is the fastest way to get to Session Road. Most cabs in the city are usually compact multipurpose vehicles, which can carry a lot of passengers. Best of all, taxi drivers in Baguio are known for their efficiency and politeness.
Jeeps don’t pass by Session Road itself but most of them end up in the city proper. From there, Session Road is just within walking distance. Be sure to ask the driver to drop you off at the nearest point downtown.
What to See
At the tip of Upper Session Road is the Baguio City Botanical Gardens, formerly known as the Imelda Park. The park is filled with lush greens, which makes it the perfect hideaway from the hustle and bustle of downtown Baguio. Roam around the area where you’ll see some of the natives or Igorot as well as their traditional huts. This calm park is also called Igorot village.
Also in Baguio Botanical Garden is the Japanese - Filipino Peace Memorial Park. This part of the garden has pagoda-like gazebos and Japanese-inspired bridges, but its main attraction is the Japanese tunnel that spans 150 meters. Tourists can pass through the narrow tunnel, which barely fits two people standing side by side.
Mount Cloud Bookshop is also located right along Upper Session Road. It is a popular bookstore in the city where you can find tomes of Philippine literature. The selection is mostly Filipiniana with a few foreign publications, too.
Lastly, Cinematheque Baguio is a one-of-a-kind venue for showing classic and contemporary Filipino films. This establishment is also the venue for film-related workshops.
Events and Festivals
Many tourists flock to Baguio every February to be one with the city’s celebration of the annual Panagbenga Festival—the festival of flowers. The highlight of the festival is the Panagbenga Festival parade, which normally begins at Session Road.
Where to Eat
Cafe Dua is the first branch of the popular Baguio City restaurant, Café by the Ruins. This branch along the Upper Session Road serves as the main bakery and commissary of the main cafe, located along Chuntug Street. The menu at Café Dua is similar the one from Café by The Ruins but with the addition of the slow food specialty selection. Try the restaurant’s lamb satay, forest stream soup and Tann’s burger, and Mrs. Lim’s noodles.
Mario’s beside Café Dua is another favorite restaurant in Baguio. Tourists usually come back for their house specialties: baby back ribs and rack of lamb.
O’ Mai Khan is yet another crowd favorite, which serves mouthwatering Mongolian barbecue and hotpots. It’s the budget-friendly eat all you can buffet makes this restaurant one of the best dining spots in the city.
For fine dining in the city, Hill Station at the Casa Vallejo Hotel is certainly the most well-known. Their salads are made with fresh ingredients, while their mains illustrate diverse influences like the Cambodian coriander and garlic chicken as well as the Moroccan spiced baby back ribs. For dessert, their ice cream palette comes with five delectable flavors—Benguet coffee with chocolate chips, dark chocolate with cayenne, very strawberry, mangro rum, and vanilla cinnamon.
Where to Shop
SM City Baguio is a glitzy spot along Session Road. Considered as the largest mall in North Luzon, this sprawling shopping center is also known for not using an air conditioning system. Nonetheless, Baguio’s cool climate and the mall’s assortment of stores, restaurants, and entertainment options continue to draw in people daily.
Another popular spot for shopping in Session Road is Porta Vaga Mall. Though not really considered a mall, this establishment is known for its stretch of numerous boutiques, stores, and restaurants.
Of course, what’s Session Road without finding some cheap finds in its row of ukay-ukay shops? If you’re looking for highly affordable jackets, scarves, hats, shoes, and accessories, these thrift stores should be your first stop.
Fare: PHP 450.00++
The bus fare from Manila to Baguio costs around PHP 450.00 to PHP 500.00. The fare for a deluxe bus is roughly PHP 700.00 one way. If you’re driving, be prepared to shell out PHP 1,000.00 to PHP 1,500.00 for toll fees and fuel for a one-way trip.
The flag down rate for taxis in Baguio is PHP 30.00, and additional PHP 2.00 for every 400 kilometers or 60 seconds of waiting time. A jeepney ride is PHP 7.00 for the first four kilometers.
Food: PHP 150.00 to PHP 200.00
With the number of dining options available along Session Road, you won’t have a hard time finding the right restaurant to suit your budget and taste. A budget of PHP 150.00 to PHP 200.00 should be already enough for a satisfying meal.
Shopping: PHP 20.00 to PHP 300.00
When buying souvenirs, key chains and ref magnets are available for PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 apiece. Souvenir shirts are also available starting at PHP 150.00. From Session Road, you can make a quick trip to the Good Shepherd Convent where you can buy ube jam, strawberry jams, and other favorite pasalubong items all at less than PHP 500.00 per jar or tub.
Accommodation: PHP 1,600.00 to PHP 4,700.00++
For budget travelers, there are hotel rooms that offer quality accommodations at PHP 1,600.00 a night. On the other hand, there are also hotel rooms that cost as much as PHP 4,700.00 a night.
What’s great about visiting Session Road is that most of the things you can do here don’t have to cost you anything! The entrance to the Baguio Botanical Gardens is free, even the screenings at Cinematheque Baguio. Sometimes, they only charge a small fee of PHP 50.00.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
When dining in restaurants in Session Road, a 10% service charge may be included in your bill. Tipping is not necessary in such cases, but it is a kind gesture. A small amount of PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 should be okay.