A short ferry ride from Hong Kong, Macau is a must-see for fabulous food, fine shopping and great cultural sites.
Through the years, Macao has established itself as a haven for heritage, spellbinding glitz and for being a cultural melting pot, full of charm.
Being a former Portuguese colony for more than three centuries, the Chinese special administrative region now boasts a colourful integration of cultures. Its architecture, art, religions, traditions, food and community reflect the integration of Chinese, Western and Portuguese influences. More than 90 per cent of Macao residents are ethnic Chinese. The remainder includes Portuguese, Filipino and other nationalities. And while Chinese and Portuguese are the official languages, Cantonese is widely spoken in the bustling streets. English is the common language in trade and tourism.
Macao is in Guangdong province, on the western bank of the Pearl River Delta. It’s connected to Gongbei District by the Border Gate (Portasdo Cerco) isthmus.
The region comprises the Macao Peninsula, Taipa, Coloane and the reclaimed Cotai area. Three bridges connect Macao to Taipa.
In 2005, The Historic Centre of Macao was inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List. The best place to experience the city’s spectacular heritage is the historic district.
The most treasured icon is the Ruins of St Paul’s Church, but be sure to visit the Guia Fortress too. Built between 1622 and 1638, the fortress contains the Guia Chapel, originally established by Clarist nuns who resided there before establishing the Convent of St Clare. The Guia Lighthouse, dating from 1865, was the first modern lighthouse on the Chinese coast.
Another highlight is Mount Fortress, once the city’s principal military defence structure. Also not to be missed is the Holy House of Mercy. Established by the first Bishop of Macao in 1569, this institution was modelled after one of the most prominent and oldest charitable organisations in Portugal.
For a reminder of the city’s glorious culture, visit the Dom Pedro V Theatre. Built in 1860, it was the first Western-style theatre in China and is a significant cultural landmark and a venue for important public events and celebrations.
As Macao grows with more reclaimed land, so does the number and diversity of its attractions. Last year, the Nam Van Lakeside Plaza was transformed into Anim’Arte Nam Van, a waterfront leisure hub that combines creativity, leisure, dining and performances. Cultural and creative shops, an arts pavilion, indoor craft market, book market, weekend craft market and a graffiti display area make this a lively place. For a little time out, pedal boats are available on the lake and for dining, there’s the IFT Café on site. There are special performances on the waterfront on weekends.
Another “new kid in town” is the Anim’Arte Taipa. This charming site represents the unique Portuguese architectural style in Taipa. To see its picturesque landscape, stroll through the Portuguese residences along Avenida da Praia, as well as the neighbouring Our Lady of Carmel Church and the garden.
Be sure to look out for the representative five green houses while you’re here. These homes, built in 1921, once served as the residences of senior civil servants. Later, the government decided to revamp the houses completely as a museum site, opened to the public from the end of 1999 as the Taipa Houses-Museum.
In September last year, these five buildings were transformed into the Macanese Living Museum, Exhibitions Gallery, Creations House, Nostalgic House and House for Reception from west to east, respectively. The area now features culture and creativity, outdoor performances and leisure elements, making it a showcase of not only the culture of the Portuguese-speaking countries but of cultures from all over the world.
6 reasons to visit Macao
Eating is a mainstay of life in Macao. From Mecanese and Cantonese street food to rustic Portuguese fare and international fine dining, you’ll be impressed by the variety and quality of the food (and wine) on offer.
From spectacular dance shows to Chinese opera and world-class magicians, Macao has something to please every age group and interest.
Green space is highly valued in Macao. Guia Hill and Taipa both offer pleasant walking and
jogging trails, while the enclave
of Coloane is popular for mountain biking, windsurfing and other aquatic sports.
From colonial squares to ultra-modern towers, Macao has embraced every style of architecture. Sparkling new structures, such as the Grand Lisboa, the Macao Science Museum and The Parisian, fill the skyline.
Perhaps you’re looking for Chinese antiques, a rare bottle of Portuguese wine or an exclusive fashion label? Macao has something for everyone – from flea markets to laneway shops and marble-clad shopping malls.
Whether they are riding in the SkyCab, exploring Pier 16 Macao 3D World, going wild in Warner Bros. Fun Zone or spinning around in Asia’s highest Ferris wheel (Golden Reel) your kids will never be bored in Macao.