Choosing a city stopover as part of a Far East holiday or en route Down Under? Can’t decide where to land? Here’s one to pop at the top of the list: Macau. This little peninsula might be lesser known than that bustling metropolis sitting 40 miles to the east, Hong Kong, but it’s a fascinating, heady mix of Portuguese and Chinese culture, dazzling entertainment and world class cuisine.
A Portuguese trading post from the 1550s between Europe and Asia, Macau’s heritage is a spectacular fusion of east and west. Nestled on the south coast of the Chinese mainland, Macau sits on the western bank of the Pearl River Delta. There’s three parts to it: Macau Peninsula, Taipa and Coloane (south of Taipa). Connected by three huge bridges, Macau is a mere 30 square kilometres, so it’s easy to explore top-to-toe in a two- or three-day stopover.
Wondering what to see, do and eat whilst you’re there? Read on for our first-timer’s guide to things to do in Macau.
Things to see
Explore the Historic Centre of Macau
The Historic Centre of Macau is home to over 20 UNESCO World Heritage-listed buildings and monuments reflecting Macau’s unique cultural heritage. The Portuguese and Chinese architecture includes baroque churches, Taoist temples and elegant piazzas. Explore the iconic Ruins of St. Paul’s, the brightly coloured A-Ma temple, the oldest building in Macau, and the pastel-hued neo-classical buildings of Senado Square as you feel as though you’ve been transported back to Europe. Other historic districts perfect for strolling around include the picturesque St Lazarus District with the beautiful Albergue SCM courtyard.
Head for the Heights
At over 330m high, the huge Macau Tower is a perfect place to marvel at the 360 ̊view across the Pearl River Delta. Feeling brave? Walk around the outside of the tower – it’s a mere 233m from the ground. And if that’s still too tame for adrenaline-seekers, there’s a mast climb or the world’s highest bungy jump to enjoy, too! Or take a ride on the world’s first figure-8 Ferris wheel. At 130 meters and 23 floors above the ground, the “Golden Reel” features 17 “Steampunk”-themed cabins, and takes visitors on a 15-minute, jaw-dropping journey around the uniquely-shaped figure-8 track.
Things to do
Museums, galleries… and pandas!
For a tiny peninsular, Macau has a vast number of museums and galleries, so there’s plenty to delight everyone from art-lovers to history buffs. Supercar fan? Visit the Macau Grand Prix Museum (a Grand Prix has been held here every November for over 60 years). Interested in Macau’s diverse history? Head to the Macao Museum. Budding artist? Take a trip to the five floor-high Macau Museum of Art. Or if you fancy a live attraction, head to the Giant Panda Pavilion to meet the residents, Kai Kai and Xin Xin.
Chill out in Coloane
Take a break from the bustling city and head south to Coloane. A charming coastal region dotted with sleepy fishing villages, beaches and green hills, Coloane seems a world away from the energetic hub of Macau Peninsula.
This is the perfect area to gaze at the scenery, wander along the sand, take to one of the hiking trails or indulge in sports, from golf and riding to canoeing and windsurfing. In sleepy Coloane Village, charming Portuguese-style Eduardo Marques Square is surrounded by cafés and restaurants for a leisurely lunch and the beautiful, golden yellow and blue baroque Chapel of St. Francis Xavier is not to be missed.
Fun for Night Owls
Macau may be known for its glitzy, buzzing casinos but there’s more to its night-life than the roll of the dice. Along with a host of cool bars and hot clubs, there is live music and world class shows. The multi-million dollar “House of Dancing Water” is undoubtedly one of the world’s most unique and dramatic productions, developed by the man behind many of Cirque du Soleil’s most spectacular creations. It features breathtaking high dive acrobatics, high-wire stunts and dazzling fountain effects. Meanwhile, acclaimed magician Franz Harary presides over The House of Magic, a magical theatrical extravaganza featuring a stellar, rotating line-up of talented magicians from around the world.
Wander around Old Taipa Village
Step back in time with a stroll around charming Taipa Village, one of the oldest areas in Macau. With narrow streets and hidden lanes, pastel-hued villas, colonial churches and Chinese temples, this area is an exotic fusion of east and west. Heaven for food lovers, local bakeries and street food stalls sit alongside traditional restaurants serving Chinese and Portuguese favourites, as well as cuisine from around the world. The Taipa Houses Museum is a collection of five, neon mint green houses that have been fully restored (complete with replica period furniture) to their former glory. Nestled on a wide, tree-lined street, the houses are a reminder of Macau’s rich heritage, and its importance as a trading post.
Things to eat
It’s not for nothing that Macau is known as a paradise for food lovers. From street food to the best of Michelin-star dining, no-one ever goes hungry in Macau!
When the Portuguese settlers arrived in the 16th century they brought food, not only from their home country, but from all their trading stops en-route to Macau, resulting in a unique Macanese cuisine that combines elements of Portuguese, Indian, South American, Malaysian and African influences with local Chinese traditions. Macanese food is packed full of flavours with recipes passed down through the generations. Famous dishes include African Chicken, a mouthwatering, sweet and savoury blend of chillies, coconut milk, garlic and spices and Gambas à Macao, prawns with white wine, garlic and chilli.
Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese egg tarts)
Deliciously flakey pastry and a creamy, sugary, soft-set custard filling make these little tarts a mouthwatering treat and Macau’s most famous snack. Based on the famous Portuguese pasteis de nata they are found in bakeries all over Macau. The most iconic was launched by an Englishman, Andrew Stow, in Coloane in 1989. We’d suggest buying a couple as it’s impossible to eat just the one!
With 16 Michelin-starred restaurants in a region of only 30 km², Macau has fine dining to please the most demanding foodie. And with two restaurants boasting three Michelin stars each, The Grand Lisboa Hotel is not to be missed. For exquisite French cuisine, the elegant Robuchon au Dôme features gleaming, dark wood furniture, twinkling crystal chandeliers and a breathtaking view over Macau. Or if you love dim sum, head to The Eight for over 40 tantalising varieties and creative Cantonese cuisine. The restaurant is a spectacular, opulent mix of luxe red and black with striking, sculptural chandeliers.
Contact your Travel Counsellor today to plan your trip!