Big on adventure but short on time? These are the 17 must-dos in Macao.
Macao is proof that good things come in small packages. Covering just 30km2, Macao is packed with cultural treasures, gastronomical eats and enough events and festivals to keep you entertained all year round.
Visit the Ruins of St. Paul’s
Located at the top of a hill, the Ruins of St. Paul’s was hailed as the ‘Vatican of the Far East’ during its time. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the Historic Centre of Macao (a collection of 30 locations), the church reflects Macao’s unique ‘east meets west’ past. Chinese craftsmen were involved in the design and construction, as evidenced by Asian characters and iconography adorning the facade.
Enjoy one of the many Events and Festivals
Macao is fast becoming known as Asia’s festival city. It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit, there’s always something happening. Events and festivals worth circling in your diaries include the Macao International Fireworks Display Contest (mid-Sept to Oct), Macao Food Festival (November) and Macao International Parade (December). Aren’t you lucky.
Walk through Senado Square (Largo do Senado)
If you want to get a glimpse of the old Macao, head to Senado Square—the heart of the city. The largest of four public squares in Macao, Senado Square is bustling with activity and features the colourful St. Dominic’s Church and historical Macao Cathedral.
The square is home to fashion shops, popular snack stores and dances during the city’s major festivals.
Feast your senses upon Rua do Cunha, Taipa Village
Where do I go to eat? The question on everyone’s lips, every few hours. Rua do Cunha is Macao’s unofficial food street, running down the centre of Taipa Village. Dressed with bright neon during the night, the street is lined with eateries old and new, and is filled with every dish you could possibly fit on your bucket list.
Take in the view from Guia Fortress
Perched on top of the highest point in Macao, Guia Hill, the Guia Fortress is a 17th century colonial military fort which also features a lighthouse and the Chapel of Our Lady of Guia. Inside the chapel, 100% of its original features are preserved, including frescoes reflecting the city’s Portuguese and Chinese heritage. The cable car ride up there (the shortest in the world) rewards you with panoramic views of the city with hiking trails trickling down from the site.
Sit back and revel in the House of Dancing Water
It’s the most talked-about show in Macao—and for good reason.
It’s got everything you want in an entertainment spectacle. A story of love and villainy, world-class acrobatics and state-of-the-art effects, all performed in a pool that dwarfs an Olympic-sized swimming pool. We guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it. Be sure to book your tickets in advance.
Dine with delight on a Pork chop bun
The pork chop bun is the most popular street food snack in Macao, bar none. The authentic Macanese pork chop bun is simple. It’s a bone-in pork chop on a soft, crispy Portuguese roll. With so many stores making their own version, you’ll just have to try them all to see which one does it for you. A good place to start? The famous Tai Lei Loi Kei in Taipa Village.
Take the kids to the Giant Panda Pavilion
Located inside Seac Pai Van Park (Coloane), The Giant Panda Pavilion is a state of the art facility that houses the stars of the show—giant pandas, Kai Kai and Xin Xin, and their offspring Dabao and Xiaobao! It’s your best opportunity to get close to giant pandas, as well as other species including red pandas, gorillas, monkeys and flamingos. Admission is only a few Aussie dollars.
Go where the Portugese first met Macao: A-Ma Temple (Ma Kok Miu)
A-Ma Temple was built in the year 1488 during the Ming Dynasty and is the oldest temple in Macao. The temple is of historical significance as it is the site where the Portuguese landed in the mid 16th century, and birthed the name ‘Macao’. The temple commemorates the sacred goddess of the sea, Mazu, who blessed and watched over the region’s fishermen. A retreat from the hustle and bustle, the temple contains six main parts to explore with architectural treasures of old down every path.
Tour the Mandarin’s House (Caso Do Mandarim)
Mandarin House is the historical residence and family home of the late Zheng Guanying, a famous Qing theoretician and author, whose readers included emperors, Chairman Mao and Dr Sun Yatsen. Built around 1869, the site is a labyrinth of hallways, tranquil courtyards and over 60 rooms that displays a unique fusion of Canonese and western architecture and style.
Order some African chicken
African chicken is considered by many as Macao’s national dish. It is a chicken curry with a peanut, tomato and chilli based sauce. Strange? Yes. Delicious? Like you wouldn’t believe. African chicken has come to symbolise the meeting of east and west and can be had at a few well-known establishments including Restaurant Litoral, Henri’s Galley and Riquexo.
Stroll through Coloane
A stone’s throw away from the bright city lights, the island of Coloane is where you go for sun, sea and sand. A former fishing port, Coloane is home to many iconic landmarks including the pastel-painted Chapel of St. Francis Xavier (pictured). After you’ve hit the town, you can head to the biggest beach in Macao, Hac Sa Beach, and go for a dip, a hike or a sunset walk on the water’s edge.
Immerse yourself in the Taipa Houses Museum
The Taipa Houses Museum comprises of five pastel green colonial villas, each with its own story to tell. Formerly the residences of Macanese families, the converted houses now serve as museums that display local history and cultural treasures, as well as rotating exhibitions that cover everything from art to architecture to food.
Enjoy the symmetry of the Moorish Barracks
Just around the corner from A-Ma Temple, The Moorish Barracks stand as testament to Macao’s historical links with Goa, another city with a special relationship with Portugal. Not like any other building in the city, the brick and stone neoclassical structure served as a base for Indian soldiers and, today, as an exceptional example of Arabian, Mughai and Gothic architecture blending under one roof.
Ride the Golden Reel, Studio City
It’s the world’s first figure 8 ferris wheel! Sandwiched between the two Studio City towers (Cotai), the steampunk-themed cabins look over Macao, 130m off the ground! If you’re afraid of heights, the fear of missing out on this spectacular ride might just give you the courage you need.
Sample some Serradura
Also known as sawdust pudding, this Portuguese-inspired treat is a layered combination of whipped cream and crumbled Marie biscuit. Coming in all sorts of flavours, Serradura is found just about everywhere in Macau, however Gelatina Mok Yi Kei in Taipa gets our recommendation.