Macau is home to some dazzling casinos, but the true character and charm of the city is to be found beyond the casino strip. Here’s our guide to the top ten alternative attractions.
If you need proof that Macau is worth visiting beyond the casino strip, see Coloane. Located just a ten-minute bus ride from the Cotai casino strip, Coloane is sometimes referred to as ‘Macau’s green belt’ and offers a welcome breather from the hustle and bustle of the main town.
Coloane is home to the city’s largest natural green areas: Seac Pai Van Park and Hac Sa Reservoir Park, complete with several hiking trails, Macau’s highest peak, a panda pavilion, heritage sites, and even nearby beaches with great seafood restaurants.
In addition, don’t miss the chance to visit the quaint Coloane Village with numerous Portuguese-style pastel-coloured buildings and heritage sites. The Grand Coloane Resort hotel is the ideal place to stay for exploring all that this oft-overlooked area has to offer.
Grand Coloane Resort, 1918 Estr. de Hac Sa, Macau, +853 2887 1111
Taipa Village is perhaps the best preserved part of town. Located just a five-minute walk from the Cotai Strip, it embodies the spirit of old Macau with its seamless blend of European and Chinese architecture and cultural experiences. Take a wander through the alleys and winding lanes to discover great Portuguese and Macanese restaurants, the village museum, art spaces, Chinese temples, colonial churches, street food stalls and souvenir shops. If you’re looking to experience Macau’s true character and local culture, Taipa Village is the place.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, the Historic Centre of Macau is home to over 20 sites that represent the unique assimilation of Chinese and Portuguese influences. Among them, Macau’s most famous landmark, the ornate Ruins of St Paul’s, the colourful town meeting point: Senado Square, and the city’s oldest temple, A-Ma Temple.
With a culinary legacy dating back over 400 years, Macanese cuisine is considered the world’s first fusion food. Blending both Chinese and Portuguese ingredients and cooking techniques, signature dishes include local favourites like minchi, African chicken and tacho. Generally, Macanese restaurants can only be found outside of the casinos in the local town. This delicious homestyle cuisine is a must-try if you’re visiting the city. For more info, see our guide to the best places to try Macanese cuisine in Macau.
The Macau Science Centre is a beautifully designed facility located right on the waterfront – a worthwhile visit for families, kids and science buffs. The centre is home to five floors of interactive kid-friendly exhibits that allow visitors a hands-on way to explore science. Another highlight is the Planetarium, with around 130 seats fitted with interactive controls, you can enjoy a free trip into space by way of powerful 3D imagery. Don’t miss the observation deck located on the fifth floor, offering sweeping views looking out towards Taipa Island. Alternatively, check out some of Macau’s other museums and galleries in our best of guide.
Macau Science Centre, Avenida Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, Macau, +853 2888 0822
Venture to Guia Hill Municipal Park where you can take a short cable car ride and take in some of the best views in the city. If you walk through the Flora Garden Gate at the foot of the hill, you will find a cable car that takes you to the top. At the summit, in addition to stunning views of the cityscape and beyond, here you will also find the Guia Fortress, one of Macau’s top attractions. Constructed in the early 1600s, the fortress features a fort, a chapel and an adjacent lighthouse. The lighthouse, built in 1864, has special historic significance for being the first Western-style lighthouse on the China coast.
Cable Car, Avenida Sidónio Pais, Macau, +853 28337676
As well as being Macau’s largest natural green area, Seac Pai Van Park houses the Macau Giant Panda Pavilion. For a small entry fee of 10 patacas (US$1.25), you can explore this 3,000-square-metre state-of-the-art facility that is home to giant pandas, Kai Kai and Xin Xin, and their set of adorable twin panda cubs named Dabao and Xiaobao.
In addition, you’ll not want to miss the pavilion’s two red pandas named Luo Luo and Tong Tong. They hang out in the building adjacent to the giant pandas. Daily feeding is around 3:30-4:30pm, a good time to visit as it increases your chances of seeing the pandas active and awake. The pavilion is closed on Mondays, but open in two daily visiting sessions: 10am-1pm and then from 2pm-5pm, Tuesday to Sunday.
Beaches are not the first thing that spring to mind when you think of Macau, but the southern side of Coloane Island is home to beautiful stretches of coastline. The largest and most well known beach in Macau is Hac Sa Beach. In Chinese, it is 黑沙, which means black sand. Once famous for its black sand, the kilometre-long beach has had yellow sand added in order to top up the beach and prevent erosion, but it’s still a great place to come to escape the hustle and bustle of the main city and enjoy some fresh air. The best seafood restaurants are located here, too. There’s also the neighbouring Cheoc Van Beach, smaller and tucked away in a lovely little bay, it’s quieter and a popular swimmer’s beach in the summer months.
Break away from the casinos and discover the greener side of Macau by trying your hand at one of the city’s 13 hiking trails and nature paths. Mostly located in Coloane, the city’s green belt, they offer an alternative way to see the sights while enjoying a spot of exercise. The most popular trail is the 8km Coloane Hiking Trail that takes hikers all the way to Alto de Coloane, the city’s highest point. Here, you can enjoy panoramic views across the South China Sea. Other trails vary in length and difficulty. In addition, there are four family trails, with a favourite being the 2.6km Hac Sa Reservoir Family Trail that culminates with a delightful view of the Hac Sa Beach.
Foodies are in for a treat visiting Macau. In addition to award-winning upscale restaurants, Macau has a variety of popular street food stalls, some of which have even been recommended by the Michelin Guide. Don’t miss popular local specialties like the pork chop bun from street eatery Sun Ying Kei, or almond cookies from street food bakery Fong Kei in Taipa. Similarly, try a delicious bowl of Chinese steamed milk pudding fresh from Yi Shun, the original home of this popular Macau pudding. With a culinary heritage that mixes both Eastern and Western influences, it’s little wonder that Macau was designated a ‘city of gastronomy’ by UNESCO last year. For more on the delicious street eats you can sample in the city, check out our guide to the best street food stalls in Macau.