An hour ferry’s ride from Hong Kong, Macau glitters as the Las Vegas of Asia. It exudes a certain East-meets-West charm beyond its casino city status, making it so much more than a gambling paradise. You’ve got your usual tourist attractions that lure in the crowds, but the autonomous territory of China (and former Portuguese colony) is also flush with beautiful ancient architecture, lush green spaces, and terrific street food.
So if you’re planning a weekend getaway to Macau, here are some of the cool cultural, historical, and culinary things to do in the region.
Bask in Mother Nature’s best
Nature may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think Macau, but the city sure has a green side, and it’s a gorgeous one. For starters, trek the Coloane Hiking Trail to the peak of Alto de Coloane, where you can look out on the South China Sea. If you’re after family-friendly fun, Seac Pai Van Park offers playgrounds and picnic spots for a relaxed lunch before you visit the Macau Giant Panda Pavilion. To catch a break from urban life, head to Hac Sa Beach or Lou Lim leoc Garden for more lovely landscapes.
Find the oldest temple in Macau
An ancient site steeped in culture and history, A-Ma Temple is possibly the most well-known and oldest of its kind in the region. Dating back to 1488, the Taoist structure was built to commemorate sea goddess Mazu, and it’s where Macau apparently got its name from, after a miscommunication between the Portuguese and the natives. There’s plenty to explore on the temple grounds, including intricate architectural elements, pavilions, and a series of halls.
Get a shot of adrenaline at Macau Tower
The towering building, which has watched over Macau since 2001, is one of those tourist leisure spots filled with restaurants, shops, a movie theater, and an observation lounge on the 58th level offering panoramic sights. To get your regular adrenaline jolt, strap on for some of AJ Hackett’s thrilling adventures, including a skywalk, a 17-second sky jump over the cityscape, a tower climb, and the world’s highest bungy jump at 764 ft, where you’ll plunge down the tower and experience a rush of blood to the head.
Go trigger-happy at the flashy casinos
Just because you’re not there to gamble doesn’t mean you can’t have photo fun with the casinos when they’re all lit. Some of the big names include The Venetian Macao, Sands Macao, and Wynn Macau, but feel free to walk around the area on a breezy evening to admire the dazzle and glitz.
Step back in time at Taipa Village
A cultural district just a hop and skip away from the casino stretch, Taipa Village is charming and quaint with its array of heritage buildings, restaurants, museums, and shops. Noteworthy spots to check out include Taipa Village Art Space, Taipa House Museum, Pai Tak Temple, and Rua do Cunha for your fill of Macanese and Portuguese bites (count Portuguese egg tarts, pork chop buns, steamed milk pudding, and street food skewers among your must-tries).
Try museum hopping
For deeper insight into Macau, spend a few hours at its myriad of museums that cover everything from art to culture to history. The Macau Museum is an obvious choice for history buffs to find out more about the city’s origins as a small fishing port, while the Macau Museum of Art proudly displays local traditional and contemporary works from the region.
Visit the historic center
Added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005, the Historic Centre of Macau reveals its East and West influences in its aesthetic, culture, and architecture. Time travel back to the past at the famous Ruins of St. Paul’s, where the façade is all that remains of the 1600s structure on top of a hill, then head to the Guia Fortress and Lighthouse, the latter of which is the first modern one on the Chinese coast.
To continue exploring, swing by the 1800s Mandarin’s House, a sprawling 60-room former ancestral home, followed by the green-and-white Dom Pedro V Theatre, the oldest of its kind in Macau. Other olden landmarks to see include Na Tcha Temple, Mount Fortress, and St. Joseph’s Seminary and Church.
Walk through Senado Square
Bustling in the day and twinkling at night, this popular town square makes for a good stroll through, with its wavy mosaic-tiled ground and neo-classical buildings. Amongst the shops and restaurants that clearly call out to tourists, you’ll find historical sites like the Holy House of Mercy and St. Dominic’s Church, as well as the occasional jolly celebration during festivals like Chinese New Year or Christmas.
Waste a day at the Fisherman’s Wharf
Most commonly known as somewhat of a
letdown tourist trap, Fisherman’s Wharf is admittedly best visited with low expectations – and perhaps only if you have a day to spare. It’s billed as a theme park, but the rides are a tad tacky and neither the shops nor the restaurants offer much to shout about. However, the attraction does feature themed areas and the architectures of Greece, Rome, and China’s Tang Dynasty, so if the idea of a frivolous photoshoot appeals to you, by all means head its way.
Window shop your way through malls
Just as the hotel casinos are fancy, so are their malls and the collection of brands that range from casual to luxurious housed within them. The largest and swankiest is The Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes, where stores line the Venice-inspired canals and their gondolas, with structures designed like they’re straight out of the Renaissance era. Even if you’re not much of a shopaholic, you’ll probably find yourself there anyway – just for the experience.