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Macau is the original East meets West city, It is small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in its rich culture and history. Here’s our guide to how to get the most out of your visit, even if it’s just for 24 hours, in this truly one of a kind place
The best time to visit Macau is between October and December, when the weather and temperature is more comfortable. The summer months are best avoided as it gets insanely hot and humid. It takes no more than an hour by ferry from neighbouring Hong Kong to reach Macau and both ferry operators departing Hong Kong for Macau are turbo jet and so they get you there pretty quick.
If you’d rather travel in style, there’s also the option of flying by private helicopter. Sky Shuttle Helicopters operates 40 flights a day between Macau and Hong Kong and it’s the fastest mode of transportation between the two cities, taking only 15 minutes. You also get the best views of both the stunning Hong Kong and Macau skylines.
As you step off the ferry or (helicopter) take a taxi to Macau’s most famous landmark, the Ruins of St. Paul’s. The last place you expect to find the remains of an ornate Catholic Church is in China, but that’s what makes this particular landmark so fascinating. It was once dubbed “The Vatican of the far East” and this iconic stone façade are the remains of what used to be the greatest of Macau’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.
In addition to the Ruins, The Historic Centre of Macao, a UNESCO world heritage site since 2005, is home to over twenty locations that represent the unique coexistence of Chinese and Portuguese cultures in Macau, a former Portuguese colony. Among them, the town square called ’Senado Square’ is particularly distinctive because of its wavy black and white Portuguese style tiled paving and the beautiful pastel coloured neoclassical buildings that surround the square.
As you wander through the lanes and hidden alleys of this beautifully preserved area, you can be forgiven for occasionally thinking that you are in Europe, not China. Needless to say, the quaint cobbled streets make for some of Macau’s best photo-ops. Be sure to pay a visit to one of the many local pastry shops that line the streets selling tasty local snacks like almond cookies, peanut candies and jerky. To avoid being swamped by crowds, it’s best to visit this area during quieter times (weekdays rather than weekends).
Hop in a taxi and head to the Macau Tower for some of the best views of the city that Macau has to offer. The tower is perhaps the most outstanding fixture on the city’s stunning skyline. It stands at 338 metres, making it the 10th tallest sightseeing tower in the world, even taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The observation decks at the top are reachable by three high speed glass fronted lifts, where panoramic views of Macau await you. If you’re feeling a bit peckish, the tower is also home to The 360°Café, Macau’s highest revolving restaurant making it an ideal spot to grab a bite to eat while you admire the views. For the fearless among you, Macau Tower boasts the highest commercial bungy jump in the world.
Macau Tower, Largo da Torre de Macau, Macau +853 2893 3339
For lunch, there is no better place to head than the dedicated food street located inside the Galaxy Broadway Resort. Based on a traditional Macau hawker style street market and featuring over 40 food stalls, you can sample a whole host of local specialities and Asian favourites. The street offers great variety amongst its numerous hawker stalls and mini restuarants ranging from local favourites like Macau egg tarts, to the Michelin starred dim sum specialist Tim Ho Wan
It’s a great place to come for a stroll while you browse the different menus and catch the aromas wafting through the air. The cuisine is mostly Chinese, but they also offer Singaporean, Thai, Japanese and Korean food as well as Portuguese. There’s entertainment on offer too in the form of jugglers, stilt walkers, and singing pedicab drivers. A few of the kiosks also sell souvenirs and various arts and crafts.
After lunch, head to the southeast of the Macau Peninsula where you will find the city’s oldest traditional Chinese temple. A-Ma Temple is particularly significant because it’s believed to be the temple where Macau’s name is derived from. Dedicated to the goddess Mazu, protector of seafarers and fishermen from the early 16th century; 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 makes A-Ma Temple an exemplary representation of Chinese culture inspired by Confucianism.
A-Ma Temple, Largo da Barra, Macau, +853 2836 6866
After all that sightseeing, there is no better way to spend the evening than with a first class dinner followed by a world class show. Fortunately, Macau offers both under the same roof. Head to dinner at the two Michelin starred Chinese restaurant Jade Dragon, which is located in the City of Dreams complex. This stunning restaurant offers diners a wonderful world of contemporary Chinese gastronomy. Decorated in Jade, gold and embroidery, it all hints at the lavish nature of age old Chinese luxury and the food is no less impressive. Signature dishes include prime cut barbecue iberico pork, Macau sole, roasted boston lobster with crystal noodle and coriander, and braised vegetable with fish maw.
Following dinner, pop next door to see Macau’s iconic show, The House of Dancing Water. This show is truly a must see. It’s the world’s largest water show and is housed in its own 2,000 seat custom built theatre and cost US$250 million to create. Produced by renowned theatre director Franco Dragone, it’s 90 minutes of mind blowing action featuring some of world’s greatest gymnasts, circus artists, dancers, divers, actors, and motorcyclists. The stage transforms from a huge pool to a dry stage within seconds. The sheer technical brilliance of it will leave you in awe.
From there, if you’re game for more and feel like your luck might be in, then head on over to Macau’s most famous casino, the landmark Venentian Macao. Said to be one of the 10 largest buildings in the world, The Venetian is 980,000 sq metres in total and features 3000 hotel suites, countless restaurants and shops and 500,000 sq ft of gaming floor.
Often dubbed “the Las Vegas of the East”, Macau regularly rakes in six times more per year, in gambling revenue, than Vegas. So, if you’re visiting Macau, it seems only customary that you would try your luck in the casino. The most popular game of choice here is Baccarat and it dominates every single casino.
For those looking to bet big there are VIP rooms where bets can start at as much as one million HKD per hand. When you experience one of the casinos here, it doesn’t take long to realise why Macau is the world’s highest earning gambling destination.
The House of Dancing Water, City of Dreams, Macau +853 8868 6688