Macau is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, located on the southwestern corner of Pearl River. It consist of a small narrow peninsula from the mainland province of Guangdong and the island of Taipa and Coloane, which are joined by an expanse of land that was reclaimed from the sea known as Cotai. Its name is derived from the Chinese Ama-gao, or “Bay of Ama”, from A-Ma, the patron goddess of sailors.
Just like Hong Kong, Macau benefits from the principle of “one country, two systems”. In April 1987, Portugal and China reached an agreement to return Macau to Chinese rule in 1999, using the Hong Kong Joint Declaration between Britain and China as a model. They agreed to provisions under the Basic Law that would ensure the autonomy of Macau for 50 years after the start of Chinese rule.
Known as the “Vegas of the East”, the city is filled with many casinos in both Peninsula and Cotai Strip. It become the most important components of Macau’s overall economy. Due to the Portuguese occupation for more than 400 years, many churches and historical buildings were built under the influence of Chinese and Western architectural design.
Macau International Airport (IATA Code: MFM) served as the city’s airport, situated at the eastern end of Taipa Island. Travelers coming from Hong Kong can either take a HKMO Express Bus from the Element or a ferry from Hong Kong International Airport Terminal 1, Hong Kong Island or Kowloon to Macau Taipa Ferry Terminal in Taipa or Macau Outer Harbour to the Peninsula.
If you are staying in Sands Cotai Central, Venetian, Parisian or nearby in Cotai Strip, do make full use of their free shuttle buses provided from the airport or jetty and they will pick up passengers every 10- 25 minutes. You do not need to be the hotel guest, so just hop on when the bus arrives (More details). The Cotai Connection also allows you connect within other hotels on the island including MGM, Wynn Palace, Galaxy, Studio City and City of Dream, which comes every 15- 25 minutes between 11.30 am to 9.30 pm.
There are also free shuttle buses to the Peninsula, however, you need to make a stop at Sands Cotai Central, Venetian or Taipa Ferry Terminal before switching to another shuttle bus to Sands Macao. Passengers also can take a shuttle bus from Outer Harbour to Sands Hotel and other hotels in Cotai Strip.
All public buses in the city cost between MOP5-6, making it the cheapest and reliable mode of transportation. Taxis are also widely available with flag-fall charge of MOP 19 for the first 1.6 km and MOP 2 for every 260 m thereafter.
Best Time to Visit
Macau has warm and rainy weather conditions with an obvious division between the humid and dry seasons due to its coastal region location. Spring falls between April and June, summer between July and September, autumn between October and December and winter between January and March. The ideal time to visit Macau is autumn time when the weather is not too hot or cold, less rain and no typhoon.
Things to Do in Macau
My trip to Macau was during the autumn period in November with perfect weather and no rain. Most of the highlights in Cotai Island and Peninsula had been covered within my 3-day visit. So, here’s the start off with the things to do in Macau.
Our Lady of Carmo Church
Completed by 1885, Carmo Church became the only Catholic Church in Taipa at the time, designed with Neoclassicism style with an unadorned facade. It is used as a place of worship by Catholics or put forward the mission of preaching. Standing on a hill overlooking the scenic Taipa Village and wetland, this yellow three-story building has turned into an ideal backdrop for a wedding photo shooting and perfect spot to hang out.
This five Taipa houses was built in 1921 that once served as the residences of senior civil servants, namely Macanese families. In 1992, they are recognized as a building complex of architectural value. Later, the government revamped them as a museum site and opened to visitors in 1999. In September 2016, this buildings were re-capitalized them by transforming them into, from west to east, the “Macanese Living Museum”, “Exhibition Gallery”, “Creative Casa”, “Nostalgic House” and “House of Receptions”.
Rua do Cunha
This narrow and bustling pedestrian street in the heart of Taipa village has countless famed of old restaurants that offer plenty of traditional cuisines. This alleys turned into the first car-free zone here in 1983 and begin to get packed with tourists during lunch time. It is a popular place for selling desserts, almond biscuits, egg rolls, coconut flakes, peanut candies and of course, the famous Portuguese egg tart. Taipa Flea Market is held here every Sunday from 11 am to 7 pm with small stalls setting up to sell hand-made items.
Museum of Taipa and Coloane History
This late 19th century complex formerly known as the Municipal Council of the Islands. It displays a collection of findings and relics uncovered from different archaeological excavations and exhibits the history of an early inhabitants.
The museum opens from 10 am to 6 pm every day except Mondays and admission is free.
A Ma Temple
This temple was built to dedicate and worship A-Ma, also known as Mazu, the Goddess of Seafarers and fishermen. According to legend, A-Ma was able to make prophecy in her mortal life and protect traders and fishermen from shipwreck with her mythic power in afterlife.
In consist of the Gate Pavilion, Memorial Arch, Prayer Hall, the Hall of Benevolence, Hall of Guanying and Zhengjiao Chanlin. The variety of pavilion dedicated to different deities in this complex make it an exemplary representation of Chinese culture inspired by Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and multiple folk belief
A-Ma Temple opens daily from from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. with free admission and donation is accepted here.
This traditional residential house was built before 1869, home to a famous ideologist in the modern times and late-Qing celebrity, Zheng Guanying. He completed his acclaimed masterpiece Shengshi Weiyan, literally known as Words of Warning in Times of Prosperity here. As you enter the complex, you would see how it was constructed with predominantly in Chinese style and subtle western influences in its decorative motifs that was initiated by his father, Zheng Wenrui. This marked the period when the mixture of both cultures into its architectural influences.
This complex is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm except Wednesday and is free to enter.
Just a stone throw away is Lilau Square, which means “Mountain Spring” in Portuguese. This place was one of the earliest Portuguese settlement where the ground water of Lilau used to be the main source of natural spring water. The Portuguese popular phrase: “One who drinks from Lilau never forget Macau”. which expresses the locals’ nostalgic attachment to this Square (Be warned NOT to drink the water now, you won’t forget Macau once you have diarrhea the whole week. Gods know how clean is the water now😂)
St. Lawrence’s Church
St. Lawrence’s Church is one of the oldest churches that built in the mid 16th century. It has undergone several renovation and its present appearance and scale was acquired in 1846. It was located uphill overlooking the sea and is believed to protect fishermen, sailors and families staying near the seashore from the storm. Therefore, the church was given its name Feng Shun Tang, known by the Chinese community as “Hall of the Soothing Winds”. Its neighborhood was once lived by fairly wealthy people that explained the building’s scale and wealth of architectural treatment.
This church opens daily from 7 am to 9 pm with free admission.
St. Joseph’s Seminary and Church
This old seminary together with St. Paul’s College were established back in 1728 as the principal base for the missionary work implemented in China, Japan and Southeast Asia. It taught an academic curriculum equivalent to that of a university and in 1800 the Portuguese Queen Dana Maria I conferred on it the royal title of “House of the Mission Congregation” The church itself was constructed later in 1758 and kept one of the most precious religious relics, a piece of bone from the arms of St. Francis Xavier.
The church is open from 10 am to 5 pm expect Wednesdays and entry is free. The seminary is not open for the public to visit.
St. Augustine’s Church
St. Augustine’s Church was first established by Spanish Augustinians in 1591 and maintains the tradition of organizing one of the most popular processions through the city, the Easter Processions that involved thousands of devotees. In the past during heavy downpour, the priests reinforce the rooftops with fan palm leaves. Seen from afar, these leaves appeared to be dragon’s whiskers floating in the wind. The local Chinese named it Long Song Miu, known as Temple of the Long-whiskered Dragon.
Dom Pedro V Theater
This theater was built just next to St. Augustine Church in 1860 with western-style design with the capacity to sit up to 300 people. The venue has survived as a highly significant cultural landmark in the context of the local Macanese community and still function for important public events and celebrations.
Sir Robert Ho Tung Library
The building was built before 1894 and originally the residence of Dona Carolina Cunha. It was later bought by a Hong Kong businessman Sir Robert Ho Tung in 1918 and was used as his retreat. According to his will, the building was presented to the Macau Government and converted into a public library. There is a small garden in the center where you can sit and relax with shady trees around the compound.
Senado Square is one of the most happening place with tourists flock in here to relax, shop, eat and visit the Ruins of St. Paul’s. Built in the 1970s, it was named after Leal Senado Building just opposite the road. It has been the urban center for centuries since the port of Macau was opened for trade.
The Square is surrounded with pastel coloured neo-classical buildings. Either you come here on the daytime or night, you can feel different type of crowd and atmosphere.
St Dominic’s Church
This yellow-walled church was founded by the Dominican Order from Spain in 1587 and used to dedicate to Our Lady of the Rosary. There is a bell tower at the right side of the building has been modified into a small Museum of Sacred Art exhibiting a collection of around 300 artifacts and relics.
This church opens daily from 10 am to 6 pm daily and entry is free.
Ruins of St. Paul’s
Standing in the heart of the old city, the Ruins of St. Paul’s is the highlight of Macau trip. It caught on fire in 1595 and 1601. The church was rebuilt in 1602 and took a massive scale to finish by 1644. During the reconstruction, the walls are covered with bas-reliefs in various patterns, such as chrysanthemum and peony, moon, sun and Chinese inscriptions. In 1835, another fire was destroyed mostly the entire church with the remain of its facade. What you see today is recognizable as the world famous monument.
Walking back of the facade is the Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt where the crypt was originated. Inside contains silver altar pieces, gilded statues and paintings by 17th century Japanese artists showing the Crucified Martyrs of Nagasaki and the Archangel Michael as a samurai.
The Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt opens daily from 9 am to 6 pm except Tuesdays that closes after 2 pm and entry is free. It is advisable to visit Ruins of St. Paul’s to take the best photos before 11 am before the crowd starts to come.
On the uphill near the ruins, this fortress was the city’s principal military defense structure against attack by the Dutch in 1622. It was equipped with cannons, military barracks, wells and an arsenal that held sufficient ammunition and supplies that can hold a siege up to two years. Later, the fortress were taken over as the governor’s residence. Today it houses the Macau Museum that exhibits the life of its people over the past 400 years, focusing on the bi cultural character of the city with different faiths and festivals, social customs, architecture, sports and cuisine.
St. Anthony’s Church
St. Anthony’s Church is also one of the oldest churches in Macau, was originally built with bamboo and wood from 1558 to 1560. It was burnt by fire several times before reconstructed with stones. The present appearance and scale of the Church dates back to 1930 and the venue has been used by Portuguese community for wedding ceremonies. The local Chinese named it Fa Vong Tong which means Church of Flowers.
The church opens daily from 9 am to 5.30 pm.
This hilly, heavily wooded garden is one of the best place to chill and relax after a long walk. Located on a forested hillside in the old part of town, it become a popular place for locals to do their exercise, play chess and cards and have gatherings with friends.
The house in Casa Garden was built in 1770 and was originally the residence of a wealthy Portuguese merchant, Manuel Pereira. Later, it was rented to the British East India Company. Nowadays, the property is the headquarters of the Oriental Foundation and sometimes exhibitions were held here.
The Garden is open from 9.30 am to 6 pm.
Just right next to Casa Garden, this site provides an insight into Macau’s diverse community profile and a comprehensive record of the earliest Protestant community here. The chapel was built here in 1821 which is now referred to as “The Morrison Chapel” to honor Robert Morrison. Several officials from the East India Company and Protestants from America and Britain were buried behind this chapel.
This place opens daily from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Head up to Macau Tower and dine-in at its 360 revolving restaurant with their international lunch buffet (click here for promotions). At 223m above the sea level, you get to enjoy the delightful meal while admire the spectacular view of the Peninsula, Taipa and Zhuhai of mainland China. After filling up my tummy, take the lift up to both indoor and an open-air observation deck to take a clear picturesque of Macau and see other visitors brave themselves with Bungy Jump and Skywalk.
(Their restaurant also offer dinner buffet- more details on Macau Tower)
Kun Lam Ecumenical Centre
Step into the Buddhist Cultural Center, a dome-shaped lotus base features two levels with gallery, books and reference materials of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Built on an artificial island, the statute of Guan Ying stands at a height on 20 meters on top of the center and made with approximately 50 bronze castings with a weight of 50 tons.
This center opens daily from 10 am to 6 pm daily and entry is free.
The trip will be incomplete without visiting the grand casino hotels located in Cotai Strip and Peninsula. While the night is still young, there are hips of fun and exciting entertainment to go around.
The Venetian Macao
Enjoy a gondola boat ride and be amused by the gondolier at the Grand Canals of Shoppes at Venetian Macau. Also, go for some window shopping with variety of outlets selling many international brand of clothing, bags and watches.
The Parisian Macao
Take a wonderful night view of Macau’s very own 162 m high Eiffel Tower filled with lighting themes and audio to make you feel like in Paris.
Hop on their free Skycab ride as it goes clockwise direction around the lake and passes two majestic golden dragons. You can also watch the Performance Lake from below with its beautiful dancing fountains and custom-designed music system.
This outstanding show located inside Wynn Macau of the Peninsula with its magical Golden Tree of Prosperity & Dragon of Fortune. This performance comes with choreographic masterpiece of shimmering sculptural patterns, music, video and light.
The Golden Tree of Prosperity made with over 2,000 branches and 98,000 leaves composed of 24 karat gold leaf and brass leaf will rises from below will appears at the finale of the show, transforms into the vibrant colors of the four seasons.
Must Try-Out Food in Macau
Regardless of how long you stay or how many tourist spots had visited, you will be tempted with its delicious food and dessert in Macau. There can be found close to all the tourist attractions in Taipa and the old city of Macau.
Portuguese Egg Tart
Magraret Cafe– their egg tarts with flaky crust, hidden from one of the busiest pedestrian back alleys located near Grand Lisboa Hotel (Address: 17B R. do Cmte. Mata e Oliveira, Macau)
Lord Stow Portuguese Egg Tart– different version of egg tart with buttery flaky pastry shell, rich in creamy custard filling. There are three branches at Rua do Cunha (address), Venetian Macau and its original shop in Coloane (address).
Chan Kong Kei Roast Duck
With over 50 years of experience in serving one of Macau’s best roast duck, it comes with an distinct flavor and its juiciness that was marinated with special homemade black pepper sauce. Opens daily from 10 am to 9 pm. (Address)
Pork Chop Bun
The name of the food said it all. It comes with bun served with pork chop and has such unique food hard to find elsewhere. There are different version of pork chop bun, so pop by any of this cafes to taste them if you come across those stores: Tai Lei Loi Kei, Sing Lei Cha Chaen Teng and Sei Kee Cafe.
Steamed Milk Pudding
Originated from Macau and spreads across Hong Kong, this steamed milk pudding is a popular dessert steamed with milk, sugar and egg white. It is so creamy and smooth with the right amount of sweetness.
It is served either hot or cold, but the staff had recommend to eat it in cold. They also have choices with additional toppings of red beans or ginger milk custards.
The original shop is located at 381 Av. de Almeida Ribeiro (address), an alley near St Dominic’s Church and another branch at Broadway Macau opposite Galaxy Macau.
- Hong Kong dollar (HKD) is accepted across Macau city.
- Local people don’t or do speak very little English. It is advisable to search any tourist spot in advance, google it and write them down when asking for direction with the locals.
- Do make full use of the free shuttle buses provided in Cotai Strip (Please refer above on “Getting There” and “Getting Around” for more details)
- If you are coming or going to Macau from Hong Kong, there are frequently shared buses and ferries (see “Getting There” for more details).
- Food and drinks in casino hotels can be expensive, yet you can find other small cafes and small vendors in town to eat if you are traveling on a budget.
- Casinos, bus stops and taxi stands are no smoking areas. Offenders are liable to a fine of MOP 1,500.