City Guide: Macao
Macao, located on the south coast of China and a mere jump away from Hong Kong, offers not only a glamourous nightlife for the rich, but also a rich Portuguese heritage. With a total of around 30.5 squared kilometres, Macao isn’t really big for a region with a population of above 650000 people.
Macao is known for its casinos and luxury hotels located in Cotai, but its actual city centre has much more to offer than this: from Chinese temples to Portuguese architecture and cuisine, Macao is an interesting and most likely underestimated destination
In this city guide I will therefore highlight some interesting sites to see on a visit in Macao.
Where East meets West – Historic Centre of Macao
Senado Square – historical square in Macao
Senado Square is Macao’s central point where many events and celebrations take place. It is surrounded by neo-classical buildings, which are spreading a Mediterranean atmosphere. Closeby you also find the former Senate building.
Moreover, you can find the Kuan Tai Temple and the Holy House of Mercy around the square. The Holy House of Mercy was established in 1569 as one of the eldest, Portuguese charities and was majorly responsible for funding a westernized clinic in Macao as well as establish a number of social welfare structures.
Cathedral in Macao
The cathedral, built in 1622, is a short walk away from Senado Square. It was originally constructed with taipa and later in the 18th century restored.
Across the Cathedral there are also a couple of other beautiful and historic buildings to be found.
Ruins of St. Paul’s, Old City Walls and Mount Fortress – Macao’s defensive era
The ruins of St. Paul’s are one of Macao’s major landmarks and a popular picture spot. The ruins once were the façade of the Church of Mater Dei, which was destroyed by a fire in 1835.
Nearby, you can find some remains of the former city wall, which was built around 1569 as part of Portugese’s defense strategy. In the past it was a Portuguese tradition to construct walls around port settlements, such as those in Africa and India.
In addition to this, a fortress was built in the early 17th century. It covered around 8000 square metres and was equipped with extensive military equipment. Today, you can enjoy a great view from up there across the city.
Macao’s Camoes Garden
From the St. Paul’s ruins we made our way towards Camoes Garden. This is one of Macao’s oldest and largest parks.
Originally this belonged to the house of a Portuguese merchant, but was later gifted to the government which utilized it to commemorate the poet Luis de Camoes. Camoes Garden is a little green oasis in Macao, which is frequently used by locals for morning exercises or meeting friends.
Dom Pedro V Theatre
Dom Pedro V Theatre is a beautiful western-style theatre, which has been well-preserved and is still in use today.
St. Lawrence’s Church
This church was build by the Jesuits in the mid-16th century and is one of the three oldest churches in Macao.
Due to its location at the southern coastline, families of Portuguese sailors prayed for the safe return of them at this church. It thus soon also became known as the Feng Shun Tang (Hall of the Soothing Winds).
Mandarin’s House – Chinese architecture in Macao
Mandarin’s House was built in the mid-19th century as a traditional Chinese residence. It was home to Zheng Guanying, a prominent literary figure.
The house is made up of several courtyards and different Chinese and Western architectural elements.
A-Ma Temple – worshipping in Macao
Lastly, we visited the temple near the sea. This temple already existed before the city of Macao was established. It consists of different pavillons dedicated to worship – moreover, it is inspired by Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and different folk beliefs.
During our visit it was very smoky there due to the many incense sticks used by the people coming here.
The artificial Macao – The Venetian, the Parisian and casinos
In the Cotai Strip, most luxury hotels and casinos are located. The two most prominent ones, being the Venetian and the Parisian. All hotels are connected through a big mall, with plenty of shops and food courts. Towards the Venetian you find the canals and boats typical for Venice as well as houses resembling the Venetian houses.
Additionally, in front of the Parisian you find a copy of the Eiffel tower. Both hotels have light shows and many other venues offer additional events, such as for example at the City of Dreams. While we didn’t opt for any of those, I am sure there is a plethora of great choices for a night out aside of gambling at one of the many casinos!
Our overall impression of Macao
We were very positively surprised by how many things you can see and explore in Macao. As we only had a day to spend doing sightseeing and were also still jet-lagged after our journey to Asia, we did not get to see everything. The historic centre that we explored by walking, however, was already very inspiring and it was nice to see how well preserved many sights were. Moreover, sightseeing was very easy as there were no entrance fees and apart from the St. Paul’s ruins, the number of tourists was relatively low. All in all, Macao is definitely worth a visit – not just for gambling and shopping, but for experiencing the mixture of Chinese and Portuguese heritage!