Macau is situated on the south coast of China and is an autonomous region. It was a Portuguese territory until 1999. Its a real melting pot of cultures, customs and traditions with easy meets west influences. Macau was a Portuguese colony for 300 years, so the city has a diversity of Chinese temples mixed with Portuguese tiles and Portuguese street names. Macanese food is also a hybrid mix of Chinese and Portuguese food.
Macau is also known as the Vegas of the east with its casinos and Las Vegas style gambling strip. It’s large over the top hotels and casinos are just like the ones in Vegas.
My husband and myself took 2 months out of work the other year and decided to travel to New Zealand, Cook Islands and Hong Kong and decided as we had plenty of time in Hong Kong, we had enough time to do a day trip to Macau.
I didn’t know much about Macau apart from I saw an article in a travel magazine a while back, and thought it looked like somewhere I would like to visit, with all its diversity and quirkiness. I’m really glad we made the time to spend a day in this exciting city. It’s definitely a city with a difference and felt a bit surreal going into glitzy Vegas style casinos when down the street was traditional Chinese houses and shops.
We got up early in the morning and left to get the ferry from Hong Kong which takes about an hour to reach Macau and we spent a full day exploring the unconventional streets and alleys of Macau as well as the luxury casinos.
Sights & Activities
Macau is Asia’s gaming and gambling capital. Macau now has at least 38 casinos, including the Venetian, the Sands, the Wynn, MGM, the Parisian and Hard Rock to name just a few. In the casinos visitors can enjoy a variety of games from basic slot machines to poker, blackjack and roulette etc. The Casinos also have lots of entertainment from dining, shopping, bars and theatre shows.
The Grand Lisboa is the tallest building in Macau and also the most distinctive looking building in Macaus skyline. Macau makes most of its revenue from its casinos as it’s the only legal place in China to gamble.
Many of Macaus casinos are located on the Cotai Strip which was a major land reclamation which joined the 2 islands of Coloane and Taipa. many of the casinos are linked together like in Vegas is really easy to go in and out of each of the casinos via the walkways.
We spent a bit of time in the morning wandering around the Venetian and came back to the casinos to look around some more before heading back to Hong Kong, and did some gambling to see if we could win big, safe to say luck was not on our side and we lost about £30 and gave up.
Guia Fortress is on top of Guia Hill which is the largest hill on the Macau peninsular. It was built between 1622 and 1638, inside the fortress stands Guia Chapel which has stood there since 1622, and Guia Lighthouse which dates back to 1865 and was the first modern lighthouse on the Chinese coast. The fortress was a key factor in preventing Dutch invaders.
We walked up to the Guia Fortress however there is a cable car available. Entrance is free into Guia Fortress and a must when in Macau as you get amazing views across the city.
Leal Senado is one of the most historic buildings in Macau, the building was the seat of Portuguese Macau government. It is located at one end of the Senado Square. It is decorated with beautiful Portuguese blue and white tiles inside and adorned with Chinese lanterns. When wandering around Senado Square pop in to have a look at this historical building.
Pak Tai Temple
Pak Tai Temple is a small and old Taoist temple located on a quiet tree lined square located in the Taipa Village. This temple is really authentic and has lots of incense and beautiful decorations inside. It’s a great place to come and visit and to escape the busy alleyways of Taipa.
Ruins of St Paul’s
The Ruins of St Paul’s is one of Macaus most well known tourist attractions and also one of the main landmarks associated with this small region. The ruins date back to the 17th century. It includes what was originally St. Paul’s College and the Church of St. Paul, and is part of Macaus historical centre and within Macaus UNESCOs world heritage site.
The Ruins make up some of the greatest monuments to Christianity in Asia. Visiting the ruins was really amazing as I have seen so many pictures of the Ruins of St Paul’s, and whenever I had read anything or saw anything with regards to Macau this was a landmark that would always come up as the most associated image with Macau. There is also a small museum and crypt with lots of artefacts and information.
Senado Square is a triangular paved square in the centre of Macaus UNESCO historical site. The square is named after the Leal Senado building which is located directly in front of the square. The Senado Square is a busy hub and attracts lots of visitors. There are many historical and colonial buildings around the square.
St Dominic’s Church
St. Dominic’s Church is located in Senado Square and is a late 16th century Baroque style Roman Catholic Church. It is free to enter into the Church. Located in the bell tower is a museum with lots of religious and sacred artefacts.
St Lazarus Church District & Tap Seac Square
St Lazarus Church District is a beautiful neighbourhood full of colonial and Mediterranean charm. It has lots of cobbled streets and lovely houses. The area has an artsy scene to it and you can spend a bit of time exploring these old streets.
There is also Tap Seac Square which is home to lots of historical buildings dating back to the 1920s. This was one of my favourite areas of Macau as it literally felt so surreal, it felt like we could have been in Europe rather than in China. This area is a must on any Macau itinerary.
Taipa Village is in the oldest and most preserved area of Taipa. Taipa was originally home to local fishermen. The village has traditional shophouses and old cobbled streets, and is a complete contrast to the Cotai Strip nearby. Taipa Village has rich blend of Portuguese and Chinese architecture and lots of Mediterranean appeal. This area gives visitors an insight into the authentic and traditional Macau that once was, and showcases where east meets west in full force.
It’s a few minutes walk to Taipa Village from the casinos so is easily accessible. There is lots to see in this area from temples, churches, historical buildings, shops, gardens, Macanese restaurants and old streets and alleyways.
Food & Beverage
Macanese Food & Portuguese Egg Tarts
Macau has a huge food scene and with its Portuguese influences it has its very own style of cuisine known as Macanese food which is a real mix of Chinese and Portuguese food. Portuguese Egg tarts and pastries are also a huge culinary delicacy which can be found all over the city, and no trip to Macau would be complete with out having a delicious Portuguese egg tart.
Transport & Getting Around
Casino Shuttle Buses & Public Buses
All the casinos in Macau have their own branded shuttle buses and take visitors complimentary to and from the ferry terminals and the other casinos. This is the easiest way to get around Cotai and the casinos. There are also public buses all around Macau which are cheap and regular, however we used the casino shuttle buses and walked around most of Macau, and took a one taxi from the Venetian to the centre of Macau to visit the ruins of St Pauls.
The easiest way of to get to Macau from Hong Kong is by ferry, although while we were there they were building a huge sea bridge linking Hong Kong to Macau which opened just recently, so there may now be alternative modes of transport to get there.
The ferry is quick and easy and cost us about £35 each return in economy with Turbojet. The ferries are really regular from Hong Kong Shueng Wans ferry terminal and run roughly every 15 minutes to Macaus outer ferry terminal, and less frequently to Macau Taipa. There are also several other ferry companies that also run the route from Hong Kong to Macau.
When planning a trip to Hong Kong I would really recommend allowing for a day or two to visit Macau, as it’s truly a city with a difference. Macau is only small it is approximately 11 square miles. If visiting Macau for just 1 day like we did make sure to leave early so you can make the most of a full day.