The Non-Gamblers Guide to Macau

Lose yourself in one of the many secret gardens in Taipa Village © Taipa Village
Lose yourself in one of the many secret gardens in Taipa Village © Taipa Village
Photo of Matthew Keegan
20 September 2018

Whilst Macau has no shortage of glitzy casinos, non-gamblers shouldn’t be deterred; look beyond the neon-lit strip and you’ll discover a city that’s surprisingly diverse.

Don’t be fooled by the ‘Las Vegas of the East’ tagline, there’s more to Macau than its casinos. With unique food offerings, sights to see, and thrilling activities, it’s little wonder the city is developing into one of the most popular travel destinations in Asia. Here’s a little taste of what’s on offer for those looking to bypass the casinos.

Unique flavours

For foodies looking to try unique flavours and lesser known dishes, Macau is a sure bet. Starting with the city’s own native Macanese cuisine – a unique blend of Portuguese and Chinese recipes and techniques – it has a culinary legacy dating back more than 400 years and is regarded as the home of the world’s first fusion cuisine.

Minchi – one of the most popular signature dishes of Macanese cuisine | © Matthew Keegan

Given Macanese cuisine is almost exclusively only found in Macau, you’ll be remiss not to try it when you visit. Despite being lesser known, it’s one of Asia’s best kept culinary secrets and is truly delicious. You can try signature Macanese dishes like minchi (a blend of minced pork, diced friend potatoes, onions and Worcestershire sauce) and African chicken (a Macanese take on piri piri chicken) at local restaurants dotted across the city. We recommend La Famiglia restaurant in Macau’s Taipa Village and also Riquexo, a Macanese cafeteria on Macau’s peninsula side.

Macau egg tart | © cegoh / Pixabay

Meanwhile, for fans of street food, make a visit to Rua de Cunha – located in Taipa Village. It’s a pedestrianised lane with various kiosks selling popular street food snacks like the famous Macau pork chop bun, egg tarts, bakkwa (dried meat), almond cookies and a host of others.

For wine lovers, be sure to make a stop at local wine lounge Macau Soul. Located just around the corner from the popular landmark Ruins of St. Paul’s, Macau Soul offers over 600 different labels of Portuguese wines. It’s the perfect spot to come and unwind with a glass or two after a day spent exploring the city.

UNESCO Heritage

If any city truly deserves its East-meets-West reputation, it’s Macau. A Portuguese outpost for over 450 years, Macau has a much longer European legacy than neighbouring Hong Kong, and its influence is better preserved. The Historic Centre of Macau was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005 with over 20 sites that demonstrate the unique combination of Portuguese and Chinese influences.

Mosaic cobbles of Senado Square, Macau, China. | © Horizon Images/Motion / Alamy Stock Photo

Walking around the city centre, you’ll take in numerous heritage buildings, often in various shades of pastel colours, in addition to the Portuguese-style cobblestones that pave most of the pedestrianised zones. Don’t miss Senado Square, Taipa Village or St Lazarus District that offer up some of Macau’s most attractive architecture and photo ops.

Big thrills

Macau might be tiny (30.8 sq km/11.9 sq miles), but it’s big on attractions. For thrill seekers with a head for heights, you can experience the world’s highest commercial bungy jump from the top of Macau Tower. Operated by world-renowned AJ Hackett, you can take the leap from 233 metres (764 ft) above the ground. They also offer slightly less terrifying activities like a skywalk around the outer platform of the tower and a skyjump, which is similar to a bungy jump, but has a more controlled decent experience.

Enjoy panoramic views from 233 metres above the ground as you walk around the top of Macau Tower | © Matthew Keegan

Take a walk on Macau’s scenic side

For those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground, Macau also has you covered. Why not try one of the city’s 13 hiking trails and nature paths that offer a great chance to break away from the hustle of the strip and discover Macau’s more scenic side. The majority of these trails are located on the south side of Coloane Island, which has earned itself the nickname ‘Green Lung’ for its rolling hills and sylvan forests.

View from balcony at Grand Coloane Resort, Macau | © Matthew Keegan

The 8km (5 mile) Coloane Hiking Trail, is one of the more popular trails, taking hikers to the summit of Alto de Coloane (Macau’s highest point), where they can enjoy panoramic views across the South China Sea. As an added bonus, the world’s tallest statue of goddess A-Ma (Chinese sea goddess) and a stunning cultural village, also dedicated to goddess A-Ma, are located just before you reach the top of the hill.

Visit Macau’s resident giants

Also located in Coloane is Macau’s largest natural green area, Seac Pai Van Park. The biggest attraction here is the Macau Giant Panda Pavilion. For a tiny entrance fee of around HK$10 ($1.27 US/£.10 GBP), the pavilion offers a rare chance to catch a glimpse of two giant pandas, Kai Kai and Xin and their adorable set of twins. It’s also home to a couple of rare red pandas. The 3,000 square metre (32,300 square foot) state-of-the-art facility comprises indoor activity quarters and an outdoor yard, as well as centres for the feeding and caring of the pandas.

Visit Macau’s giant pandas | © Macao Tourism

Take a culture trip

Located just a stone’s throw from the main casino strip, Taipa Village is Macau’s leading destination for culture and heritage and one of its best preserved areas. Here, among its winding lanes and pedestrianised alleys, Macau’s East-meets-West character is on full display. From Chinese temples to colonial churches, to some of the best Portuguese and Macanese restaurants in town, as well as museums, art galleries, and great souvenir shops, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the city’s culture just by taking a walk.

Taipa Village is Macau’s leading destination for culture and heritage | © Macao Tourism

Where to stay

For a complete alternative to the hustle of the casino strip, check in at the more remote and laid-back Grand Coloane Resort. Sandwiched between Macau’s largest golf course and its largest beach, the resort hotel is its own little oasis. Every room has a private balcony (generously sized) that offers views overlooking the South China Sea or the neighbouring Hac Sa Beach (Black Sand Beach).

Spacious private balconies at Grand Coloane Resort in Macau. Caption | Courtesy of Grand Coloane Resort.

You could quite easily while away the hours on the balcony enjoying breakfast, sunbathing, lunch, dinner – all uninterrupted as the outdoor spaces are both spacious and offer great privacy. Seac Pai Van Park, Macau’s largest natural green area, is within walking distance of the hotel as are several hiking trails and a selection of some of the best Portuguese restaurants in town.

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