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.
Located in the heart of Macao’s famous town square, the building formerly known as Leal Senado (Loyal Senate) was built in 1784 and was Macao’s first municipal chamber and is still home to Macao’s municipal council. The building is neoclassical in design and has retained all of its original master walls and primary layout, including the courtyard garden in the back. Today the building houses a gallery holding regular exhibitions on the ground floor, a public library storing old foreign books from between the 17th century and mid-20th century, and an auditorium with a chapel. At the back of the building there is a relatively quiet Portuguese-style courtyard with a flower nursery in the shape of a celestial globe and a bust of the Portuguese poet Camoes.
Arguably Macao’s most famous landmark, the Ruins of St. Paul’s is an iconic stone façade, the remains of what used to be the greatest of Macao’s churches – the complex of St. Paul’s College and the Cathedral of St. Paul – built in the 16th century, but burned down in 1835, leaving only its very large and beautiful façade. The church was one of the greatest monuments to Christianity in Asia, and was acclaimed as “The Vatican of the Far East”. Its existence was meant to express the triumph of the Roman Catholic Church through the ornate grandeur of the buildings. At the rear of the façade, a staircase enables you to climb up to the windows to get a closer look at the stone carvings and to enjoy a panoramic view of the city below. The Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt was built at the bottom of the ruins in 1996 and houses many religious artifacts.