There is more to Macau than just its casinos. Here’s how you can explore the world beyond the obvious.
1. A-Ma Temple
The name Macau is thought to be derived from the name of the temple. One of the oldest and most famous Taoist temples of Macau with beautiful tiled roofs, it was built in 1488 and dedicated to Matsu, the goddess of seafarers and fishermen. Firecrackers to scare away evil spirits are exploded at the entrance. Lion dances are performed during weekends.
2. Senado Square
In the heart of Macau, the bustling Senado Square with its old-world charm is a pleasure to walk around in. A civic hub for centuries, it now has an elegant fountain, trees, benches, cafés and space for public events. Pastel-coloured neoclassical buildings spell Mediterranean, while the active participation of the local Chinese community reflects the multi-cultural dimension of the Macau society.
3. Ruins of St. Paul’s
Perceived as Macau’s “Acropolis”, this imposing carved-stone façade of St. Paul’s, with a grand staircase, stands in the heart of the old city. Designed by an Italian Jesuit with the assistance of Japanese Christian stonemasons who had fled persecution in Japan, it was the first church and college of Jesuits in China. Built in the early 17th century and destroyed by fire in 1835, the ruins are now Macau’s most famous landmark with UNESCO World Heritage status. The original crypt of the church contains silver art pieces, gilded statues and paintings by 17th century Japanese artists.
4. Mount Fortress and Macau Museum
Built by the Jesuits as their headquarters at the same time as St. Paul’s, the Mount Fortress provided an effective defence against attack by the Dutch, and was later used as the governor’s residence. A museum now carved out of this fortress without disturbing the original structure, showcases Macau and its people over the past four centuries emphasising the bicultural character of the city. Their “Time Corridor” features the paths through which the two civilisations had advanced before their first encounter in the 16th century.
5. Giant pandas
Nestled against a hill in Coloane Island, the Seac Pai Van Park houses gifts from Mainland China to Macau, two five-year-old rare giant Pandas — Kai Kai (male) and Xin Xin (female). Fun to watch these fuzzy creatures eat, play and roam about in their individual enclosures dotted with streams, cascades, shrubs, rocks and toys.
6. Macau Tower
From the Tower’s observation deck and revolving restaurant, Macau city and Pearl River delta look magnificent. Bungee jump, Skyjump, Skywalk and Tower Climb are on offer. One can go up the elevator (338 metres) and look down through the glass, or watch someone prepare for bungee jumping.
7. Taipa Village
Chinese shop-houses, Portuguese-style offices, small temples and a former firecracker factory occupy the narrow streets and alleys of this busy and colourful village. Overhanging flower baskets and old-fashioned street lamps make it an ideal place to stroll around, and the numerous restaurants along the Rua da Cunha (Food Street) are popular destinations for Portuguese, Macanese, Chinese and Italian cuisines. Koi Kei Bakery has the best almond cookies.
8. Coloane Island
This is Macau’s countryside with green hills and valleys, traditional villages and beach-lined bays. Sports facilities include tennis courts, swimming pools, windsurfing, golf and go-carting. Its two focal points are the chapel of St. Francis Xavier and the Taoist temple dedicated to Tam Kung.
9. Guia Fortress and Lighthouse
As the highest point on the Macau Peninsula, the 17th century Guia Fortress provides panoramic views of the city, China and nearby islands. At the top, the 15-metre western style lighthouse (the oldest on the China coast) is still a beacon for ships. The stunning Chapel of Our Lady of Guia retains Asia’s most valuable mural paintings.
10. Local cuisine
When the Portuguese arrived in Asia, they brought foodstuff and cooking ideas from their settlements in Africa, South America and India, as well as from their home country. These were combined and adapted by the local Chinese to create a truly international cuisine. Must try: African chicken, goat cheese with bread and honey, clams cooked in wine, charcoal grilled fish, cod fish balls etc. For dessert, nothing can match egg tarts and Serradura.
Getting there: Direct flights to Hong Kong from major Indian cities
Visa: Not required for Indian citizens.
From Hong Kong to Macau: Ferry is a good option. Through check-in, baggage collection at final destination. No formalities at Hong Kong airport. Direct access to the ferry terminal within the Hong Kong airport.