Things to see and do in Macau
Attractions in Macau
Dedicated to the Chinese goddess of the sea known as Mazu, this temple is the oldest place of worship in Macau. Founded before the arrival of the Portuguese, it inadvertently gave its name to the colony – Macau is a corruption of A-Ma Kok (the Bay of A-Ma) – but the current complex dates from the 17th century.
The pleasant Jardim Luís de Camões (Camões Garden) is named after Portugal's favourite poet, active in the 16th century and said to have visited Macau (although this has been disputed). It is, nevertheless, a popular place to exercise or relax.
Colôane Island (Freguesia de São Francisco Xavier)
The larger of Macau's two connected islands, Colôane is perfect for a day trip. Nature trails thread among the hills in Seac Pai Van Park, which also has a walk-in aviary and spectacular views from the A-Ma Statue at the highest point on the island. The best of the beaches is the black-sand Hác Sá, while Colôane village is an atmospheric place with cobbled streets.
The epicentre for casino development in Macau, the Cotai Strip is reclaimed land which has joined together the islands of Colôane and Taipa (hence the name Cotai). It’s where you will find many of the biggest and most opulent casinos – including the Venetian, the Wynn and the Sands. These mega-complexes have helped Macau to race ahead of Las Vegas when it comes to gambling income.
Macau's colourful festivals include the Dragon Boat Festival in June; the International Fireworks Display Contest, which sees 90 countries competing for honours in September/October; and the Macau International Music Festival, which presents works in Chinese and Western styles throughout October.
Gate of Understanding
The massive Gate of Understanding (designed by Charters Almeida), stands at 40m (130ft) high over the Praia Grande Bay. This is a symbolic structure representing the goodwill between China and Portugal.
Guia Hill Fortress
Built at the highest point in Macau, the Guia Hill Fortress dates back to the 17th century and can be reached by cable car or along a walking path which encircles the hill offering views over the city and its bays. Nearby is a fascinating series of wartime bunkers cut into the hill and a small museum telling the stories of those who served here; also note the faded frescoes inside the chapel building, which were uncovered during renovations. The Guia Lighthouse, standing since 1865, is still functional. As well as guiding ships through Macanese waters, its high vantage point is also used to warn the city of impending typhoons.
Historic Centre of Macau
Given UNESCO World Heritage status in 2005, the old city has eight squares and 22 historic buildings. The narrow lanes, markets and sloping cobbles combine the architectural drama of backstreet Porto and the bustling energy, cooking smells and Cantonese dialect of southern China. The focal point is the Largo do Senado, or Senate Square, which holds the Santa Casa de Misericórdia (a Portuguese charitable institution) as well as the Macau General Post Office. Numerous other attractions are found within the old city, including the ruined façade of St Paul’s church.
Kun Iam Temple
Explore the complex of temples known as Kun Iam Tong, the biggest and wealthiest of Macau's temples. It dates from the time of the Ming Dynasty, about 400 years ago, and contains, amongst other works of art, a small statue of Marco Polo. In the garden you can see the granite temple where, in 1844, the first trade treaty between the United States and China was signed.
Lou Lim Ieoc Garden
A good place to get away from the busy streets of Macau, this Chinese-style garden includes lotus ponds and bamboo groves. It was once a private garden but fell into ruin before it was bought by the government in 1974, and restored for use as a public park. Today it’s a popular spot to practice tai chi. Local legend says the nine windy turns in park’s bridge are supposed to confuse evil spirits trying to cross.
The Macau Museum covers the life of Macau and its people from the first settlement to the present day. Set over three floors, it contains a vast collection of historic and social memorabilia (www.macaumuseum.gov.mo). The location, in the Fortaleza do Monte (Mount Fortress), means that the museum also boasts great views.
Enjoy panoramic views - or bungee jump - from the Macau Tower (www.macautower.com.mo), an entertainment and convention centre situated on the waterfront on the Nam Van Lakes. The 338m (1,109ft) tower is one of the tallest freestanding towers in the world, and on a clear day you can see for 55km (34 miles) from the observation deck. Intrepid souls can take a walk around the outer rim while safely clipped to an overhead rail.
The Macau Jockey Club organises flat horse races on the island of Taipa (www.mjc.mo). The Far East's gala motorcycle and Formula III car racing event, the Macau Grand Prix, is held in November (www.macau.grandprix.gov.mo).
Ruins of St Paul's
Part of the UNESCO-listed Historic Centre of Macau, the ruins of the Church of St Paul's (São Paulo), which was built in 1602, are probably the most famous sight in the region. Although on the approach it looks like the building is intact, actually only the façade survived a fire in 1835. It is, nevertheless, an almost-compulsory photo stop on any visit to Macau.
St Dominic's Church
St Dominic’s Church (Igreja de São Domingos), built in the 17th century and renovated in 1997, is one of the most beautiful religious buildings in Macau. A Museum of Sacred Art, on three floors of the renovated belfry, is home to 300 works including sacred Brazilian artwork which together illustrate the history of the Catholic Church in Asia.
The smaller of Macau’s two islands, Taipa is the location of Macau’s international airport. The main point of interest is Taipa Village, a busy place with Chinese shophouses, colonial Portuguese offices and plenty of places to eat (particularly on the Rua da Cunha). Many traditional crafts are still followed in the narrow streets and alleys, and there’s a craft fair on Sundays.
Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) in the USAAddress: 6033 W. Century Blvd. #900, Los Angeles, 90266
Telephone: +1 310 545 3464
Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) in the UKAddress: 45-51 Whitfield Street, London, W1T 4HD
Telephone: +44 020 3375 4058.