What looks like Portugal, feels like China and acts like Las Vegas? Answer: the exciting city of Macau on the Pearl River delta of southern China. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Macau makes memories for a lifetime!
A Portuguese colony until handover in 1999 (at the same time as Hong Kong), Macau is a wonderful place to explore partly because it is so unexpected. It is surprising to find a bastion of European culture in Southern China, but it is even more unexpected that Macau has the densest population of anywhere in the entire world! With an area of just 32.9 square kilometres (12.7 square miles), it has a population of 650,000 residents and millions of tourists. To put this into perspective, Las Vegas has an area more than 10 time larger with almost exactly the same population!
Everyone “Wynn’s” in Macau!
Macau does not have its own airport but it is still easy to reach. Hong Kong is only 62 km (39 miles) away. You can very easily hop on a ferry and be in Macau in an hour; there are three terminals from which you can leave Hong Kong. There is even a ferry terminal at the airport. Some of the ferry services include the faster hydrofoils that are an exciting way to skim across the waters. Alternatively, you can take a helicopter service from Hong Kong Harbour or the airport. Since October 2018, you can also take a car or bus from Hong Kong on the world’s longest sea-crossing bridge! This 55.5 kilometre bridge (34.5 miles) cuts the road travel time to just 50 minutes.
Once in Macau, here are my top-picks for things to do:
Macau glistens more invitingly than “Lost Wages”
- Casino Hopping – Similar to Las Vegas casinos, Macau’s casinos are so beautiful that the gambling isn’t even the main attraction. The Grand Lisboa is an iconic building and one of the oldest and longest standing hotels in Macau. Beside it stands a new and improved version which is a major landmark and iconic shape. It is designed to be like the open petals of a lotus flower!
Here’s a pro-tip: Take advantage of the free shuttle buses between the hotels. Because so many of the casinos are based in the hotels, it’s very easy to make your way around, day or night!
- Visit the beautiful Senado Square. Before the glitz and glamour of casinos, Macau was a Portuguese trading colony, the evidence of this lies in the stunning architecture. Some of the historic centre’s buildings are UNESCO sites:
- The Leal Senado Building: A senate building dating back to 1784
- The Holy House of Mercy: A museum housing many historical catholic relics
- Dominic’s Church: It was built in 1587 by Dominicans and is the oldest church building in Macau
A good time here is not just a façade!
- Experience the shopping here as well as traditional Chinese restaurants! Herbal medicine shops, high end boutiques and food stalls all adorn this historical square.
- The most iconic structure in this square has to be the ruins of St Paul’s Church. It burned down in 1885 but the remaining façade and front stairway give a glimpse of another time!
Here’s another pro-tip: If you love sunsets, you won’t want to miss golden hour at this site! The sandstone buildings glow pink right before the glittering lights of the casinos come to life as the sun goes down:
Without the Macau Tower, there’s no point to the skyline!
- There are some great beaches in Macau for relaxing when you’re not partying, I really recommend you visit these two:
- Hac Sa Beach – This literally means “black sand” and owes its unique colour to the minerals from the seabed that are washed ashore.
- Cheoc Van Beach – Sometimes referred to as Bamboo Bay, this beach is the perfect place to take a stroll and relax. The waters are warm enough for swimming here all year round!
- Visit the Macau Tower! You definitely won’t miss this amazing landmark, standing at 338m it provides adrenaline junkies some dizzying heights. You can also bungee jump 200m off the tower if you dare!
Macanese cuisine is a legend in itself. The city is recognised by UNESCO as a Creative City of Gastronomy! After your adventures you will need to refuel. Here are my top recommendations on where and what to eat:
- Taipa Village – Delicious and authentic street food awaits in this historical area of the city. Take in the hustle and bustle through the narrow walkways as you discover a mix of Chinese and Portuguese traditional foods. Be sure not to miss out on the famous Portuguese tart, known as ‘Pasteis de Nata’, they are absolutely delicious!
Delicious but de Nata good for the waistline!
- Riquexo Restaurant – You won’t find a more authentic and delicious experience than this! Enjoy this local restaurant and family business that serves the best traditional menu.
- Pork Chop Bun – The Macanese hamburger is seasoned pork in a bun. Try this amazing dish at Tai Lei Loi Kei in Taipa, they are so popular they usually sell out!
The local nightlife in Macau is legendary! While it holds the crown the best gambling in the world, it’s not all there is to do in this city of lights. Here are my top choices for you:
- China Rouge – The sister to my favourite bar in Shanghai, this lounge is a beautiful place to enjoy award-winning cocktails while listening to live music.
- Club Cubic – Enjoy the biggest and most popular nightclub in Macau! It’s based inside the City of Dreams casino.
- Sky 21 Bar & Restaurant – Located at the very top of the AIA Tower, this bar and restaurant is a great place to spend the evening. Enjoy harbour views and a great atmosphere!
Once it’s time to sleep, there are excellent hotels with impeccable Asian hospitality. These are my top hotel picks in Macau:
- Pousada De São Tiago – This hotel was once a Portuguese fortress, and its picturesque decor make for a tranquil stay. Its design has a beautiful Portuguese colonial influence and features a sun terrace and a pool!
- Altira Macau – Tucked away in Taipa, this 5-star hotel is stunning and peaceful! Its wellness areas and spa are outstanding, and its infinity pool features floor-to-ceiling windows, and incredible views.
- Four Seasons Hotel Macau – The hotels design is a perfect blend of Portuguese and Chinese design in an oasis that consists of 5 outdoor pools, including a lagoon! Enjoy Bar Azul within the hotel.
I believe everyone should experience Macau at least once in their life, you’ll be as pleasantly surprised at how quickly you will fall in love with this surprising place!