6 Historical Landmarks to See in Macao

A-Ma Temple
A-Ma Temple | © Blowing Puffer Fish / Flickr
Matthew Keegan

Macao has long been the city where East meets West – rendering it a place of great historical value. It was the first and last European colony in China and represents over 400 years of Chinese and Western cultural exchange. In 2005, the historic centre of Macao was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its heritage is extremely well preserved and offers many opportunities to visit the monuments and landmarks that define this city’s unique and fascinating history.

1. A-Ma Temple

Buddhist Temple

The picturesque A-Ma Temple in Macau during the day
© Blowing Puffer Fish / Flickr
A-Ma Temple is believed to be the temple from where Macao’s name is derived. It’s the oldest temple in the city and is dedicated to the goddess Mazu, protector of seafarers and fishermen. The temple consists of the Gate Pavilion, the Memorial Arch, the Prayer Hall, the Hall of Benevolence, the Hall of Guanyin, and Zhengjiao Chanlin (a Buddhist pavilion). The variety of pavilions dedicated to the worship of different deities in a single complex make A-Ma Temple an exemplary representation of Chinese culture inspired by Confucianism.

2. Mandarin’s House

Building, Museum

Picturesque facade of Manarins House
© Macao Government Tourist Office
Built around 1869, the Mandarin’s House is a remarkable historic residential complex. Occupying an area of 4,000 square metres (43,055 square feet) spread over 60 rooms, a house of this scale in Macao for one family is considered very rare. It was the former ancestral home of Zheng Guanying, an influential author-merchant whose readers included emperors Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Chairman Mao. The house has the characteristics of traditional Chinese period buildings, yet it also features a fusion of architectural influences from Western cultures, making it a unique product of Chinese and Western cultural interchange. The compound features a moon gate, tranquil courtyards, exquisite rooms and a main hall with French windows. Restoration work on the house was completed in 2010, with the basic original image of the complex being presented.

3. Dom Pedro V Theatre

Opera House

Beautiful mint green exterior of the Dom Pedro V Theatre in Macau
© Macao Government Tourist Office
Built in 1858, it’s the oldest theatre in Macao and was the first Western-style theatre to open in China. This striking green and white neoclassical theatre was designed by a Portuguese architect and today remains a highly significant cultural landmark among the local community. It still serves as a venue for important public events and celebrations. Originally, the theatre was a venue for mainly drama, opera, concerts and local high-society activities. It had a stint as a cinema, too, and thereafter became the venue for “Crazy Paris Shows”, featuring adult entertainment. However, the theatre was restored in the late 1980s by the government and was listed as one of the historical buildings of the Historic Centre of Macao, which was listed on the World Heritage list by UNESCO in July 2005.

4. Guia Fortress

Building

Guia Lighthouse and Chapel, located in the Guia Fortress, Macau
© Eduardo M. C. / Flickr
As the highest point on Macao peninsula, Guia Fortress offers panoramic views of the city and is reachable by cable car via the Flora Gardens below. At the top is the stunning Chapel of Our Lady of Guia, built in 1622 and established by Clarist nuns, it has retained almost all of its original features. The murals in the chapel depict representations of both Western and Chinese themes, a perfect example of Macao’s multicultural history. Next to it stands Guia Lighthouse. Built in 1864, it’s the oldest modern lighthouse on the China coast. The Fortress along with the chapel and lighthouse are symbols of Macao’s maritime, military and missionary past.

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