See also: Where to stay in Macau
The most densely populated region in the world, Macau is a special administrative region of China. As it was formerly a Portuguese colony, the city still retains its rich Sino-Portuguese culture and heritage and thereby boasts of abundant culturally significant heritage sites. As the city is filled with many pastel coloured residential and public buildings, the city looks very unique.
However, Macau is popularly known all over the world as the Vegas of China or Vegas of East because of its world famous casinos that present super luxury entertainment and gambling scenes that no other place can equal. But there’s definitely much more to it. Its seaside location makes it one of the most naturally beautiful tourist destinations and its cuisines make sure that all the visitors never forget Macau ever. If you intend to spend some quality time in Macau, here’s a list of all the best things that you must do.
Be awestruck by the ruins of St Pauls at Senado Square
The first thing that comes to mind while thinking of Macau is the ruins of Macau’s greatest Jesuit Church located in the city’s most popular corner namely Senado Square. This iconic landmark consisting of a stone façade that was once part of the complex of the 16th century St. Paul’s Cathedral and St Paul’s College is a world heritage site now. As it was burnt down in the first half of the 19th century what remains of it is the beautiful staircase leading to the massive façade. Connected to very crowded and busy roads, it’s quite a popular place for relaxing and resting. It’s really a pleasure to watch the beauty of the façade.
A large number of tourists visit it to click amazing photos and sit and talk while admiring the ambience of the place. If you visit the cathedral during daytime, you’ll be able to explore its museum. However, it looks all the more charming at night when yellow street lights add a vintage effect to it. The other famous attraction of Senado Square is also a world heritage site namely the Mount Fortress. Hike to the top of it and find out various artefacts dating from the 17th century that represent Macau’s history. There’s also a well-known temple commemorating the Chinese deity Ne Zha just behind the ruins of the Church.
Pay your respects at A-Ma Temple
Macau abounds in unique Chinese Temples that stand as a symbol of Macau’s rich history and tradition. The most significant of all Macau’s temples is the 15th century temple known as A-Ma Temple. Dedicated to the Goddess who showers blessings on seafarers and fishermen, it is the oldest Taoist temple in Macau and it is believed that Macau got its name from a mispronounced version of this temple’s name used by Portuguese seafarers who had thought the name of the place was the name of the temple.
Though it is situated close to a bustling street, it has a mystic and exotic look. Composed of six main parts namely the colossal Gate Pavilion, the intricately designed Memorial Arch, the large Prayer Hall, two additional halls called the Hall of Benevolence and the Hall of Guanyin as well as a beautiful Buddhist pavilion, the temple manifests glorious traditional Chinese architecture and reflects the Chinese culture of Confucianism. Statues of lions on either side of different entrances are a unique feature of this temple. While wandering inside the temple premises you’ll notice poems engraved on the walls of the adjacent cliffs.
Go on a day trip to Taipa Village
Located not far away from Macau’s Cotai strip is a fascinating historical place known as Taipa Village. It was formerly an old fishing village. Though it presently consists of old fashioned narrow alleys laden with old style street lamps, restaurants, independent shops, street vendors, colonial villas, colourful markets and some really good casinos, it still retains some elements of its earlier rural setting. Its food street famously called Rua da Cunhna is perhaps one of the best places to try Macanese cuisines. It is the only area in the entire city where you’ll find an authentic picture of old Macau.
To the east of the village lies a hill overlooking the Coloane Island lies Our Lady of Carmel, an old church built in neo-classical fashion in the late 19th century. Walk down through the winding paths lined with gorgeous trees from the hillside Carmel Gardens to Avenida da Praia. You can click amazing photos here. Don’t forget to visit the European styled residences in this area, many of which have been turned into museums like the Macanese House Museum portraying Macanese life of the earlier centuries through mementoes.
Relish the flavours of Macau’s cuisines
Macanese cuisines are unique in the truest sense of the term because it is a mixture of Portuguese and Chinese dishes. However the presence of South Asian influences in Macau’s cuisines aren’t uncommon. Some of the common dishes that the people of Macau frequently eat are almond and salt fish cakes, shrimp noodles, Dim sum, special Macanese prawn preparations and black garlic chocolate.
Other traditional items that you must try are tacho made up of both eastern and western ingredients, minchi; a mixed preparation of beef or pork, cappela; meatloaf baked with cheese and topped with black olives and crispy lemon and fried potatoes with onions served with Worcestershire sauce. You may try some dishes at Restaurant Litoral which is reputed to be “the spiritual home of Macanese cuisine”.
Take a tour of the Historic Centre of Macau
There are a couple of monuments, residential buildings and religious structures dating back from the colonial regime that collectively make up the world heritage site known as the Historic Centre of Macau. Apart from the features of Senado Square and A-Ma Temple, it consists of the St. Lawrence’s Church dating from 1560, the 16th century building called Holy House of Mercy famously known for its arcaded façade, St. Joseph’s Seminary and Church bathed in baroque architecture, St. Augustine’s Church painted with dazzling yellow colour, Sir Robert Ho Tung Library, the European style Dom Pedro V Theatre and the Mughal Barracks representing Mughal influences.
You may also visit a traditional Chinese mansion known by the name Lou Kau Mansion that once belonged to a Chinese merchant and Macau’s 300 year old Municipal Chamber known as Leal Senado Building. Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple had been historically significant in the context of trading. Casa Garden along with the Old Protestant Cemetery are fine examples of colonial remains. Casa Garden was the property of East India Company which has an interesting art gallery and the Old Protestant Cemetery functioned as a burial ground for the non-Catholics.
Hike to the top of Guia Hill
The most interesting of all the sights of the historic centre is the Guia Fortress situated on the Guia Hill. Being a world heritage site it is an important part of Macau’s historic centre. As the fortress is located on the highest peak of the Macanese peninsula offering jaw-dropping views of the downtown landscapes and skylines. The fortress has quite an old chapel, an impressive military fort and the most famous of all, Guia Lighthouse. This fortress was built in the style of Portuguese architecture in the 17th century. The decorative murals in the chapel depict a perfect blending of Macau’s East Asian culture and its western linkages.
Be entertained by Casino hopping
An integral part of the Macau tour is casino hopping. Many consider casinos to be the primary components of a city’s entertainment scene and Macau should be their go to place. Macau’s world famous casinos host a variety of fantastic shows including live music concerts, magic shows, opera, dance, singing and acrobatic performances, and many more. Water art performances and light shows also deserve a special mention when it comes to Macau’s casinos.
So, just be ready to enjoy free drinks while enjoying these shows. You just can’t skip casino hopping at Macau’s main casino strip called Cotai Strip. Some renowned places that you must visit for magical nightlife experiences are The Sands Macau, The Grand Lisboa, the City of Dreams and the most popular one is the City of Dreams. And what goes without saying is the gambling scene is also a big hit here. Hence it is rightly called the Vegas of the East.
Experience bungee jumping at Macau Tower
The Macau Tower with a height of about 338 metre stands as the chief landmark of the city. It can be seen from air, land and sea while one comes to the city or departs from it. You’d surely love to capture this spectacular structure via your camera. However, there’s more to it. Macau Tower is a world famous spot for bungee jumping. If you want to experience an adrenaline rush, master up the courage to jump from a height of about 200m and fly down towards the ground at an extremely high speed. Some famous Korean celebrities have tried it.
Though it is a bit expensive, it’s worth the money as it is once in a lifetime experience. If you don’t have the courage to do bungee jumping despite being an adrenaline freak, Macau Tower has another fun activity for you. You can take a walk on a narrow board around the towers’ highest floors supported only by a suspension rope. You’re definitely going to enjoy it!
Watch the Cybernetic Fountain Show
Asia’s largest manmade water fountain is none other than Macau’s Cybernetic Fountain Show. It exhibits a series of cannons spouting water in such a way that it seems to form a rainbow. The main cannon spouts water as high as 80 metre. It’s a great sight to watch and moreover the laser show featuring reflections of more than 200 coloured spotlights on the water, makes the scene even more magical. And the icing on the cake is this awesome laser show is absolutely free! Also, if you come here during some special occasions like Chinese New Year or Christmas, you’ll see some special arrangements and shows and that too for longer hours.
Find perfect backgrounds for clicking photos at Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf is a brightly coloured huge theme park spread across an area of 111,500sqm representing port cities like Amsterdam, Venice, Miami, Cape Town, New Orleans and a few others. Here you’ll find eateries, shops, nightlife setups, amphitheatre and an impressive amusement park. Its shopping arcade consisting of about 150 shops ranging from top brands to local stores, is equivalent to the world’s famous shopping centres. In fact, if the casinos are left aside, it serves as Macau’s first massive shopping complex. Listed as one of the top entertainment spots. Formerly this place belonged to a fishing community. You’ll be simply awestruck on seeing a replica of an erupting volcano named Vulcania with a height of 40 metre.
You can walk on its platform which is modelled after Tibet’s Potala Palace or feel high-speed thrills while riding its Dragon Quest and River of Fire white-water rides. You’ll also find huge replicas of Aladdin's Fort, a Middle-Eastern fort having amusing rides for kids, Roman styled shopping centre and amphitheatre. Above all, there’s the Colosseum with 2000 seats where crowds gather to watch live concerts and shows. Besides this there’s the Vasco da Gama Waterworld, a special setup for enjoying water-based performances.
Witness the magic of House of Dancing Water
The House of Dancing Water is the heart of Macau’s entertainment scene. Featuring the largest water extravaganza in the whole world, it is Macau’s most acclaimed and successful show. This is also Macau’s longest running show. Situated inside the City of Dreams resort on Macau’s Cotai Strip it is also the longest running show in Macau. It’s such a success that even locals visit it time and again. It was invented by the eminent theatre producer Franco Dragone.
The show runs for 90 minutes and all trained artists perform. The show presents amazing sceneries and backgrounds amidst which world’s renowned dancers and actors put up mind-blowing performances and the most skilled international divers, acrobats and stuntmen perform terrific stunts. The stage changes its form from a solid platform to an enormous pool setting and the performers are equally comfortable with both the settings. It’s a highly energetic show that you’re going to enjoy thoroughly for sure.
Unearth Macau’s maritime history at Macau Maritime Museum
Built in European style and situated on the site where the first Portuguese travellers landed in Macau, Macau Maritime Museum is a finely designed three-storey sail-like building exhibiting the maritime industry’s history of China and Portugal through its displays. It has five sections. The first one has on its display costumes, tools, and replicas of boats used by fishermen.
The second one portrays elements from the historical explorations of the Portuguese people. The third one shows the techniques of fishing and navigation as well as three dimensional replicas of boats, the city Macau and the Guia Lighthouse. The fourth section exhibits the treasures of Macau’s aquatic environment and the fifth one is the museum’s outer space providing great harbour and river bank views.
Be charmed by the beauty of Coloane Village
Coloane Village situated on the southern coast of Coloane is a beautiful place filled with pastel coloured buildings connected through cobblestone streets. Though it doesn’t present scenes as lively as Cotai, its old style setting rendering a vintage aura adds to its charm. Take a tour of the place to take in the heritage sites embellishing a blending of western and eastern culture, walk along the hiking trails to discover Coloane’s natural beauty, dine at the unique seaside restaurants and most importantly just don’t forget to try Macau’s special pastries that Coloane’s bakeries serves the best.
Enjoy some peaceful moments at Hac Sa Beach
Hac Sa Beach, located on the island’s southern coast, is Macau’s largest natural beach and perhaps the most beautiful beach too. It is unique because of its natural black sand after which the beach has been named. Watching sunrise is quite a surreal experience. The beach’s tranquil and serene atmosphere is going to render some of the finest peaceful moments that we often crave for when we go to beaches for sunrise or sunset watching. For its smooth sandy surface it is a favourite destination for both locals and tourists especially during summer. You can laze around here all day and if you still don’t want to leave this place, you can definitely enjoy stargazing at night.
Discover Macau’s ancient lifestyle at Casa Do Mandarim
Casa Do Mandarim is a culturally significant venue that tells a lot about the origin of Macau as it traces Macau’s old history showing the lifestyle of Macau’s early inhabitants and links it with its modern state. The interior of the house has been preserved exactly as it used to be hundreds of years ago and the furniture and decorations stand as mementoes of earlier times. A visit to this place is going to make you travel back in time and leave you pondering upon Macau’s uniqueness.
Pay a visit to Sun Yat Sen Memorial House
A three-storied Mock-Moorish building with spacious verandas, wide staircases, lacquered floors and large courtyards, the Sun Yat Sen Memorial House is the former house of Dr Sun who is considered to be the father of Modern China as he first introduced the practice of western medicine in the country. Constructed in 1912 and rebuilt in 1933, it functions as a museum presenting Dr Sun’s preserved personal properties including books, letters, photos, furniture and even old newspapers. Dr. Sun Yat Sen was a prominent guiding figure of Chinese republican revolution and post-imperial China. The museum, formerly known as The Mansion of Sun, presents an authentic account of many details of his life.
Feel like you’re in Venice at Venetian Hotel and Casino
The Venetian Hotel and Casino is a must-visit venue in Macau. It has been named as Venetian because it contains a huge shopping mall which has been designed in such a way that it looks like the city of Venice. The floors and buildings are modelled after Venice’s cobblestone streets and Renaissance architecture respectively and the ceiling has been painted with blue and white hues so that it looks like sky. And it has also got the most important
Venetian landmark that is a real canal on the waters of which you can enjoy gondola rides. It’s literally a heaven for all the shopaholics as there are all sorts of shops from designer brands to those selling Macau’s local stuff and some really good restaurants where you can relish a delicious meal and classy snacks. Even if you don’t shop from here you’ll have a great time while taking a tour of this place.
Learn about Macau’s long history at The Museum of Macau
If you want to know more about Macau’s past, just head to the Museum of Macau. Founded in the year 1998 and having 2,100 m² large space for exhibition, this museum represents the history of Macau’s colonial past during the Portuguese settlement and preserves objects that reflect the amalgamation of Macau’s Chinese culture and western influences. It is situated close to Mount Fortress and also known as the Macau Museum. The building has a few underground floors and showcases magnificent architecture.
Be amused by the cuteness of pandas at Ecological Park
Seac Pai Van Park is an ecological park that promotes education about the conservation of wildlife and nature. It homes numerous aquatic and land animals but it is mainly known for conserving and nurturing giant pandas. Many tourists flock here to see giant pandas living exactly as they would live in their natural environment. That’s why it is a bit cold inside. So, you may need to bring a jacket or some other warm clothes. You’re definitely going to have a lot of fun here while engaging in playfully interacting with the pandas and other exotic animals.
Attend Macau’s Lotus Flower Festival
Macau hosts and celebrates Macau’s Lotus Flower for commemorating the flower that its national flag features. It is held annually in the month of June for about a week when many visitors hop from one spot where these beautiful lotuses bloom in a row and creates a mesmerizing sight for the eyes to devour. However the main spot is the Carmel Garden. And that’s not all. Another major constituent of this festival are the holey tuber dishes which are only prepared and served by almost all the restaurants and cafes only during this time of the year.
As Macau abounds in parks, museums and temples, it’s really difficult to pay a visit to each of them but if you are planning for a long holiday, it’s not a bad idea to explore all the sites as starting from man-made structures to beaches, Macau’s features are impressively unmatchable and appealing.