Macau is not all about gambling, thanks to its unique culture and history, world record-making Macau attractions, and delightful street food. There are truly so many places to see and things to do in Macau. Also known as Macao, Macau is among the most bustling attractions in Asia.
Its old-world charm and Chinese and Portuguese culture and architecture live side by side with the luxurious and modern living of the locals.
Thanks to its widespread popularity in the tourism and casino industries that made Macau a thriving destination in Southeast Asia. The function and location of this island have really attracted a lot of cultural exchanges between the west and the east in the fields of science, arts, and trade.
Read More: 5 Days Macau and Hong Kong Itinerary
With around 20 well-preserved and major historical landmarks, Macau is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also known as “the Las Vegas of Asia” and the gaming capital with many casinos dotted around the island.
Brief History of Macau
Macau is well known to have a rich and long-back history dating back to 221-206 BC when it was ruled by the Qin dynasty. It then fell under Panyu County’s jurisdiction. The first Chinese residents of Macau arrived when people are looking for refuge in Macau during the Southern Song from invading Mongols. Macau did not develop as a leading settlement until the Portuguese came in 16the century.
Is Macau a Country or part of China?
Long story short, Macau is part of China. There is a long and complicated story behind it. Like Hong Kong, Macau has its own passports, currency, and legal system, which are totally separate from China. In fact, the city has its official flag. Generally, Macau operates as a separate city-state, along with foreign affairs.
Macau was among the last surviving colonies of Portugal until 1999. Initially, it was a colony in the year 1557 and was used as a trading post. The Portuguese priests started their journeys into Asia and Macau was the first city where they visited and converted locals to Christianity. The city is known to have Lisbon-inspired architecture in its heritage.
In 1999, the city was handed to China again under the ‘one country, two systems’ policy under which Hong Kong was also given back to China in the year 1997. Macau is assured to have its own currency, the legal system, and immigration laws under the agreement between China and Portugal. According to the agreement, China cannot interfere in the way of living in Macau until 2049. It means China cannot even try to put communism rather than capitalism. Beijing is engaged in defence and foreign affairs. Read more of helpful travel tips to China.
Macau or Macao?
Since 1999 when sovereignty was transferred over Macau to China, the government of Macau accepted both spellings “Macau” and “Macao” in English publications. Both Macau and Macao are used in many government documents and publications written in English, and even in the same paragraph sometimes.
Here are the best things to do in Macau that you shouldn’t miss!
Senado Square is probably the most well-known places to visit in Macau. It is full of heritage sites, shops, restaurants, and several souvenir and snack vendors. The streets here are a bit narrower than normal and the paths are more confusing but you can still navigate along with ease.
You can window shop, taste some delicious dried meat at different food shops, relax at a café, and just enjoy the vibes. The main square is decorated well based on festivals of the season and month and it is simply a picturesque destination for taking great shots. It is also worth to try local food with several shops even having a century or decade-long tradition and history. If you are interested to know more about the history and culture of Macau, you book these Macau World Heritage Excursion: Cotai Strip and Macau Tower or this Macau World Heritage Excursion With Lunch at Macau Tower
Located in Mount Fortress (Fortaleza do Monte), Macau Museum is definitely one of the best Macau tourist attractions. The Mount Fortress was built in the 17th century by the Jesuits and the Macau museum was opened on April 18, 1998.
The fortress is located opposite the St. Paul’s Ruins and was the major military base of the city for around three centuries. The Fortress was then turned into the Meteorological Service in 1965. The Historic Centre of Macau was listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in July 2005 and the Mount Fortress figures one of the major historical monuments of Centre.
The museum has two underground levels and the third level is located on the uppermost level of Fortress where the previous Meteorological Service was placed. The architectural feature of this site and its specific configuration have been preserved and retained well. The Macau Museum is devoted to the culture and history of Macao, having a large number of objects of cultural and historical importance, which display the way of living of several communities, which have housed the city for around the centuries.
Ruins of St. Paul Cathedral
Located in not far from Senado Square, the ruins of St. Paul Cathedral are definitely the most popular historical structure and Macau attractions. It attracts a huge number of visitors every day. The ruins are known as one of the UNESCO world heritage sites.
You could also climb the top of Mount Fortress located next to the ruins, which are yet another world heritage attraction and another activity in itself.
These ruins represent an important part of the history of the city and have a lot of cannons and artefacts dated back to 1600s. If you are done clicking pictures at Mount fortress and St. Paul Ruins, also visit a temple dedicated to Ne Zha, a deity, in the vicinity just behind the Ruins.
No matter how you get to Macau, whether on a ferry, plane or bus, you will always be able to get the glance of the mighty Macau Tower, standing 338m tall towering the city’s skyline. You could admire the great design and architecture of the skyscraper or, if you are brave hearted, take the highest bungee jump in the world from a building.
It is thrilling when you jump over 200m above the ground level and reach the ground at rapid speed. One of the adventurous things to do in Macau! Definitely not for faint-hearted. Even Korean celebs like Apink’s Jung Eunji, Song Jihyo of Running Man, and Lee Dong Wook have tried their courage here.
Along with bungee jumping, you can also relax yourselves while walking around the viewing deck of the tower. If you are an adrenaline junkie, you must visit the Macau Tower. If you would like to visit the Macau tower and enjoy the fantastic view from the summit, you can book this Skip-the-Line: Macau Tower VIP SkyHigh Experience. Once you are at the summit, you can enjoy a great dining experience at their rotating bistro and the walking on the reinforced glass floor by booking this tour: Macau Tower Admission Ticket with Optional Telescope Combo
The A-Ma Temple also deserves to be listed among the interesting places to visit in Macau. It is the oldest Taoist temple in entire Macau as it was built in the late 1400s.
The temple was devoted to Matzu, a patron goddess of fishermen and seafarers. As Macau is a port city, it seems to be justified. According to the legends, Macau is named after a temple when a few seafarers from Portugal misheard the locals’ pronunciation to describe the temple and it became to name the port city.
There are lots of fascinating models and pavilions you can find here and it is also located around the busy street to give off the mystique of hermitage and seclusion. It would not be wrong to pay tribute and pray for a safe journey back to your home.
Venetian Macau and Grand Lisboa
Every time Macau is mentioned, people often imagine the city with the dazzling, flashy lights emanating from several casinos in the city of Macau.
So, we definitely need to mention Venetian Macau. There are many casinos in Macau, most of them are so exciting, lively and interesting that gambling is not the only attraction. Some of the best ones are the Venetian Casino, Grand Lisboa, and Galaxy.
Actually, the Grand Lisboa is among the leading attractions of Venetian Macau as one of the most long-standing and oldest hotels in the city. There are also plenty of tourists stopping by at the hotel due to its lively atmosphere. A lot of popular casinos here in Macau are located in hotels and there are a lot of shuttle bus services available for free between ferry terminals of Taipa and Outer Harbor to and back to the hotels. You can also hop on specialized shuttle buses to reach certain casinos.
So, be ready to visit many attractive casinos (which is quite a strange way) by free shuttle buses. If you have enough budgets to make it home, you may try your beginner’s luck here responsibly.
The Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the famous tourist places in Macau. It has shops, restaurants, and models of well-known structures, such as an excellent view of the waterfront and the Roman Coliseum.
You can have a great time here especially if you have children. There are many themed bars and restaurants serving a delicious menu. Despite the atmospheric feel of the place and themed sections here, Fisherman’s Wharf is definitely lacking in attractions a bit. If you are running short on time, it would be ideal to stop here for dinner or lunch and move on.
Try Portuguese Egg Tart and other popular Macanese Food
Have you done visiting all the above attractions? Why not you try the delicious street food in Macau? In fact, they deserve a dedicated article on them, but meanwhile, let us discuss in brief. Taipa Village is the best place to enjoy the most delicious and authentic street food. Technically, it is not a village. However, it is still older than the Senado Square area.
You can taste some of the local favourites like the well-known pork buns and the Portuguese Egg Tart. You may also visit a store offering durian Musang King ice cream and a lot of traditional Chinese dried meat. It can get crowded more often due to the narrow walkways in this village but the food is truly fantastic and experience is memorable. It is believed that trying the food of a place is the best way to know about its culture and you will definitely find many ways in Taipa Village.
Read More: Where to eat in Macau
Along with the well known Mount Fortress, the Guia Hill Fortress is yet another well-known tourist attraction which plays a vital role in Historic Centre of Macau’s world heritage sites. The fortress houses an old military fort, chapel, and the Guia Lighthouse. Built in the 1600s, the fortress is highly influenced by the architectural style of Portugal, much like the most of architecture in Macau.
Built on Guia Hill, the fortress is located on the highest point of Macau to offer serene views and skylines of the cultural cauldron of Macau. In the chapel, there are several murals, which exhibit the connection of Macau to both east and west Asian roots and are surely worth a visit.
The Mandarin’s House is a direct connection between the historical and humble beginnings of Macau as well as its modern city. Once owned by Qing dynasty scholar and reformist, Zheng Guanying and family, the Mandarin House is a historical landmark and a free museum, which exhibits the history of the city. You will definitely be surprised by the way it is preserved. It will make you feel that you are entering its distant past.
Here are the suggested tours in Macau
So if you are heading to visit this corner of Asia, Macau is definitely a vibrant destination to visit. You will get a great fusion of modern and old culture in the city.
Have you been to Macau?
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