BEST Things to do in Macau, China: Top Travel Attractions in Macao

Today’s feature city guide from Asia covers some of top attractions worth considering while visiting in Macau, China including checking out Senado Square and the Ruins of Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Top Attractions in Macau

Feeling well rested after going to bed several hours earlier than normal, we felt a jolt of adrenaline about exploring the historic areas of Macau located on another island from the hotel we were staying at.

Fortunately, our hotel offered ‘free’ transfer service from Cotai to the Macau Peninsula.

Audrey Bergner That Backpacker posing at Senado Square in Macau, China

We literally went from an island filled with nothing but luxury casinos to a more historic area that featured historic Portuguese inspired architecture, cobbled walkways and a plethora of people.

As soon as we got outside of the transfer bus, Audrey marveled, “I feel as though I’m back visiting more relatives in Brazil or wandering around in Portugal.”

Senado Square in Macau China with a fountain spewing in all directions

History Of Macau For Visitors

Macau, a Special Administrative Region of China, is a unique blend of Portuguese and Chinese cultures, with a fascinating history dating back over 4000 years. As the first European colony in Asia, Macau was under Portuguese rule for over 400 years, becoming a major trading center and a hub for Chinese-Portuguese cultural exchange. Today, the legacy of Portuguese colonization is still visible in the city’s many colonial-era buildings and landmarks, which have been beautifully preserved.

One of the most recognizable landmarks in Macau is the Ruins of St. Paul’s, a 16th-century church that was destroyed by fire in the 19th century. Despite its partial destruction, the ruins are an impressive sight and have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The adjacent Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt displays religious artifacts and offers insight into the history of the church.

Another popular attraction in Macau is the A-Ma Temple, the oldest temple in the city and a symbol of Macau’s spiritual roots. Dedicated to the goddess of seafarers, the temple features a mix of Chinese and Portuguese architectural styles and is a beautiful example of the city’s cultural fusion.

Macau is also known for its thriving gambling industry, earning it the nickname “Las Vegas of Asia”. Casinos are a major draw for visitors to Macau, with many of them offering luxurious amenities and world-class entertainment. The Venetian Macao is the largest casino in the world and features a replica of the canals of Venice, complete with gondolas and singing gondoliers.

In addition to its casinos, Macau is a food lover’s paradise, offering a unique cuisine that is a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese flavors. One must-try dish is the Macanese egg tart, a delicious dessert that is a staple in Macau. Other popular dishes include Portuguese-style baked rice and African chicken, a dish that originated in Macau and features a flavorful blend of spices and herbs.

Macau is also home to many festivals and events throughout the year, including the Macau Grand Prix, the Macau International Fireworks Display Contest, and the Macau Arts Festival. These events offer visitors a chance to experience the culture and traditions of Macau and are a testament to the city’s vibrant and diverse cultural scene.

In terms of transportation, Macau is easily accessible by ferry from Hong Kong or by plane. The city’s ferry terminal is conveniently located in the Macau Peninsula and Taipa Island, with frequent ferry services operating throughout the day. Additionally, Macau has its own international airport, with direct flights to and from major cities in Asia.

Overall, Macau is a destination that offers something for everyone, from its rich history and culture to its thriving entertainment industry and culinary delights. It’s a place that’s definitely worth exploring for travelers who want to experience the best of both Chinese and Portuguese cultures.

Senado Square

The first place we visited was the Senado Square (Portuguese: Largo do Senado; Chinese: 議事亭前地). With pastel colored buildings, Portuguese white & black pavement and a series of red lanterns, this place was a collision between East meets West.

Prior to Macau becoming the ‘Las Vegas’ of Asia with its plethora of casinos, Senate Square was the epicenter of the former Portuguese Colony of Macau.

As the Historic Centre of Macao (Chinese: 澳門歷史城區; Portuguese: O Centro Histórico de Macau) it is one of twenty locations featuring the melting pot of Chinese and Portuguese cultures in Macau.

As a street photographer this was the perfect location for me to people watch while snapping some candid portraits.

One thing we noticed almost immediately is that the signs in the city are written in both Chinese and Portuguese.

Even though Macau has been a Special Administrative Region of China since 1999, it has still retained its Portuguese influence from several centuries of colonial rule.

Man sitting down to eat Macanese cuisine

Macanese Cuisine

As we walked past the main square we started to branch off into a narrower alley where we were inundated by the exotic smells of Macanese delights being peddled by shop owners and hawkers alike.

Some of the most popular Macanese foods we sampled included Egg Tarts, Almond Cookies and Porkchops in buns.

Macanese cuisine is a mix of Portuguese, Chinese and SE Asian ingredients forming one of the more distinct fusion style cuisines in all of Asia.

After taking the time to gormandize on Macanese treats, we continued our ascent towards the imposing Ruins of Saint Paul’s Cathedral ((Portuguese: Ruínas de São Paulo, Chinese: 大三巴牌坊).

Considered as one of the most famous landmarks in all of Macau, these ruins are the place where most tourists pose to take a shot and/or purchase a postcard to send home.

Audrey Bergner That Backpacker holding a refreshing cup of Pearl Milk Tea in her hand in Macau, China

Before climbing the stairs to reach the top of the ruins, we first treated ourselves to a refreshing Pearl Milk Tea.

The heat and humidity of Macau in late August was on par with the weather we had been experiencing in SE Asia for several months.

Ruins of Saint Paul's Cathedral in Macau, China

Ruins Of Saint Paul’s Cathedral

This was distinctly different from the time I first visited back in February, 2008 when I could walk for kilometers on end without breaking a sweat.

Built from 1852 to 1602 by the Jesuits, Saint Paul’s Cathedral was one of the grandest churches in all of Asia.

Destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835, the southern stone faced features intricate carvings.

Canon on top of Mount Fortress overlooking the Grand Lisboa

Mount Fortress

Finally we legged it up to Mount Fortress (Portuguese: Fortaleza do Monte; Chinese: 大炮台) for impressive 360 degree panoramic views of the city.

Fortaleza do Monte (Portuguese for Mount Fortress, also Monte Forte, officially Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora do Monte de São Paulo, in English: Fortress of Our Lady of the Mount of St. Paul; Chinese: 大炮台)

Cannons remain, some pointing directly at some of Macau’s most monumental casinos, including the Grand Lisboa.

Overall, our late morning and early afternoon excursion was a fascinating glimpse into Macau’s past with hints of modernity and riches flashing in all directions from the peak of Fortaleza do Monte.

Audrey Bergner That Backpacker posing high atop Mount Fortress in Macau, China

How To Take The Ferry From Hong Kong To Macau

Taking a ferry from Hong Kong to Macau is an exciting and convenient way to travel between these two bustling cities. The journey is not only affordable but also offers some stunning views of the surrounding sea and skylines. Here’s a detailed guide on how to take a ferry from Hong Kong to Macau and make the most of your trip.

The first step is to choose a ferry operator. There are several options to choose from, including TurboJET, Cotai Water Jet, and Macao Dragon. Each operator has its own schedule, so make sure to check their websites to compare prices and timings. It’s recommended to book your ticket in advance, especially during peak travel periods, to avoid any inconvenience.

Once you have purchased your ticket, head to the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, located in Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island. You can easily get there by taking the MTR to Sheung Wan station and using Exit D. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or bus. The terminal is a modern facility, complete with restaurants, shops, and currency exchange services.

Before boarding the ferry, you’ll need to go through immigration control. Make sure to have your passport and any necessary travel documents ready. The immigration process is usually quick and efficient, but it’s important to arrive early to avoid any delays.

Once you’ve cleared immigration, proceed to the designated boarding gate and board the ferry. Most ferries have comfortable seating areas, and some even have food and beverage services. As you embark on the journey, sit back, relax, and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Hong Kong and Macau skylines. Make sure to bring your camera and capture some memorable moments.

The ferry ride takes about an hour, and once you arrive at the Macau ferry terminal, you’ll need to go through immigration control again. After that, you can either take a taxi, bus, or shuttle to your desired destination. The Macau ferry terminal is also a modern facility, with plenty of shops and restaurants to explore.

Overall, taking a ferry from Hong Kong to Macau is a memorable experience that should not be missed. It’s a convenient and affordable way to travel between these two bustling cities, offering some stunning views of the surrounding sea and skylines. So, make sure to add this to your itinerary for an unforgettable trip to Hong Kong and Macau.

Top Things To Do In Macau

Macau, also known as the “Las Vegas of the East,” is a unique destination that offers a fascinating blend of Chinese and Portuguese cultures, stunning architecture, and exciting entertainment options. Here are some of the top things to do in Macau that you won’t want to miss.

  1. Visit the Historic Centre of Macau Macau’s Historic Centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site that offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history and unique cultural heritage. Take a stroll through the charming streets and admire the beautifully preserved buildings, such as the Ruins of St. Paul’s, the Macau Cathedral, and Senado Square. The architecture is a fusion of European and Asian styles, reflecting Macau’s colonial past.
  2. Try Your Luck at the Casinos Macau is famous for its casinos, which attract millions of visitors each year. From the grandeur of the Venetian Macao to the elegance of the Wynn Palace, there are plenty of gaming options to choose from. Even if you’re not a gambler, it’s worth taking a tour of these opulent resorts to see the luxurious décor and impressive entertainment offerings.
  3. Take a Stroll at Fisherman’s Wharf Located on Macau’s outer harbor, Fisherman’s Wharf is a waterfront entertainment complex that features shops, restaurants, and amusement park rides. Take a leisurely stroll along the marina, enjoy the picturesque views, and take in the sights and sounds of this vibrant area.
  4. Taste Macanese Cuisine Macanese cuisine is a unique fusion of Chinese and Portuguese flavors, resulting in a delicious and eclectic mix of dishes. Don’t miss out on trying the famous egg tarts, African chicken, and Macanese-style Portuguese codfish. Many restaurants in Macau offer authentic Macanese cuisine, including Riquexo and A Petisqueira.
  5. Visit the A-Ma Temple One of the oldest and most significant temples in Macau is the A-Ma Temple, dedicated to the goddess of seafarers. This stunning temple complex is located on a hilltop and offers spectacular views of the sea. Visitors can explore the beautiful gardens, admire the intricate architecture, and learn about the temple’s rich history and cultural significance.
  6. Take a Ride on the Macau Tower The Macau Tower is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and offers visitors the opportunity to experience breathtaking views from its 338-meter-high observation deck. For the adventurous, there’s the Skywalk, which allows you to walk around the tower’s outer rim, or bungee jumping for the ultimate adrenaline rush.
  7. Enjoy the Cotai Strip The Cotai Strip is a stretch of reclaimed land that is home to some of Macau’s most luxurious resorts and entertainment venues. Marvel at the grandeur of the City of Dreams and the Wynn Palace, watch the spectacular fountain shows, and indulge in some high-end shopping at The Shoppes at Four Seasons and The Parisian Macao.
  8. Visit the Macau Museum The Macau Museum is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in the city’s history and cultural heritage. Located in the heart of the city, the museum offers interactive exhibits and displays that showcase Macau’s history, from the early Portuguese colonization to the present day.
  9. Watch a Show Macau is home to some of the world’s most spectacular live performances, such as the House of Dancing Water and the Sands Cotai Theatre. These shows feature world-class performers, stunning special effects, and breathtaking choreography.
  10. Go Shopping Macau is a shopper’s paradise, with plenty of high-end shopping options to choose from. Visit The Shoppes at Four Seasons, The Parisian Macao, or the upscale shops.

Must Try Foods In Macau

Macau is a city that offers a fascinating blend of Portuguese and Chinese culture, and this is reflected in the cuisine. The city is famous for its fusion of Chinese and Portuguese flavors, and there are a variety of unique dishes that visitors should try during their stay.

One of the must-try foods in Macau is the famous Portuguese egg tart. This sweet pastry is made with flaky puff pastry and a rich custard filling, and it’s a staple in any bakery or cafe in the city. Be sure to try one fresh from the oven to experience the perfect texture and creamy filling.

Another must-try food is the pork chop bun. This local favorite features a juicy pork chop served on a soft bun, and it’s the perfect combination of sweet and savory. The pork chop is marinated in a flavorful sauce, and the bun is toasted to perfection.

For those who love seafood, Macau offers an array of unique dishes. The most famous is the salted cod, or bacalhau, which is a Portuguese staple. In Macau, the cod is often served with vegetables and potatoes, and it’s a delicious and filling meal.

Another seafood dish to try is the crab congee, which is a savory rice porridge made with fresh crab meat. The rice is cooked slowly with the crab to infuse the flavors, and it’s the perfect comfort food on a chilly day.

No visit to Macau is complete without trying the pork floss bun. This unique dish features a fluffy bun filled with a sweet and savory mixture of pork floss and mayonnaise. It may sound unusual, but it’s a local favorite and a true representation of the unique cuisine in Macau.

Macau is a food lover’s paradise with a unique blend of Chinese and Portuguese cuisine. Be sure to try the famous egg tarts and pork chop buns, as well as the delicious seafood dishes and pork floss buns. These foods will give you a taste of the city’s rich cultural history and unique culinary heritage.

Accommodations in Macau

Macau has a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget. Whether you’re looking for luxury or something more affordable, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from.

For those looking to splurge, Macau has some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel is a popular choice, featuring opulent rooms, a massive casino, and an indoor canal complete with gondola rides. The Wynn Macau is another high-end option, with spacious rooms, a grand lobby, and a variety of dining and entertainment options.

For mid-range budgets, there are plenty of options to choose from. The Hotel Lisboa is a classic choice, with spacious rooms and a central location in the heart of the city. The Holiday Inn Macau is another option, offering comfortable rooms and easy access to shopping and dining.

Budget travelers will find a variety of hostels and guesthouses in Macau. The Ole Tai Sam Un Hotel is a popular budget option, located in a traditional Chinese building with simple, clean rooms. The Hou Kong Hotel is another affordable choice, with basic rooms and a convenient location in the city center.

For those looking for a more authentic experience, there are also a variety of homestay options available in Macau. These are usually private apartments or rooms rented out by locals, giving visitors a chance to experience the city like a local. Airbnb is a great resource for finding homestays in Macau.

Macau has accommodations to suit every budget, from luxurious resorts to budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses. Consider your budget and preferences when choosing your accommodation, and be sure to book in advance as rooms can fill up quickly during peak travel seasons.

Day Trips From Macau

Macau is a fascinating city with plenty to see and do, but it’s also a great base for exploring the surrounding area. Here are some of the best day trips from Macau:

  1. Zhuhai: Just across the border from Macau, Zhuhai is a bustling Chinese city with a variety of attractions, including a massive aquarium and a beautiful seaside park. It’s easily accessible by bus or taxi from Macau.
  2. Hong Kong: The vibrant city of Hong Kong is just a short ferry or plane ride away from Macau, making it an easy day trip. Visit the towering skyscrapers, enjoy some delicious dim sum, or take a leisurely stroll along Victoria Harbour.
  3. Coloane Island: Just a short bus ride from the city center, Coloane Island is a quiet, picturesque destination with beautiful beaches and hiking trails. Be sure to try some of the island’s famous Portuguese egg tarts while you’re there.
  4. Taipa Village: Located on the island of Taipa, just a short bus or taxi ride from Macau, Taipa Village is a charming neighborhood with traditional Chinese architecture, narrow streets, and plenty of restaurants and shops.
  5. Hengqin Island: This large island is just a short bridge ride away from Macau and is home to a variety of attractions, including a massive theme park, a golf course, and a nature reserve.
  6. Zhongshan: A historic city with a rich cultural heritage, Zhongshan is just a short ferry ride away from Macau. Visit the ancient temples and gardens, or explore the city’s bustling markets and shops.
  7. Guangzhou: One of China’s largest and most dynamic cities, Guangzhou is just a short train ride from Macau. Visit the historic Canton Tower, explore the city’s many museums and galleries, or sample some of the local cuisine.

Transportation Around Macau

Getting around Macau is relatively easy and affordable, with a variety of transportation options available:

  1. Buses: Macau has an extensive network of bus routes that cover most of the city and surrounding areas. Buses are frequent, reliable, and inexpensive, with fares starting at just 3.2 MOP per ride.
  2. Taxis: Taxis are plentiful in Macau and are a good option for getting around quickly and comfortably. Most taxis are metered, with fares starting at around 19 MOP.
  3. Walking: Macau is a compact city, and many of its attractions are within walking distance of each other. Walking is a great way to explore the city’s historic neighborhoods and narrow streets.
  4. Trams: The Macau Tram, also known as the “Ding Ding” tram, is a fun and affordable way to explore the city’s historic districts. The trams run along two routes and cost just 3.2 MOP per ride.
  5. Ferries: Macau is connected to Hong Kong and mainland China by a network of ferries. The most popular ferry route is between Macau and Hong Kong, with multiple departures per day and fares starting at around 160 MOP.
  6. Private cars and scooters: Renting a car or scooter is possible in Macau, but it can be expensive due to high insurance costs. If you plan to explore the city by car or scooter, be sure to check the local driving regulations and safety precautions beforehand.

Final Thoughts: Macau City Guide

In the city of Macau, A world of wonder awaits, From historic streets to glitzy lights, A mix of old and new, it captivates.

Stroll through the winding alleys, Where East meets West in harmony, Gaze upon the grand facades, Of centuries-old architecture, so majestically.

Take a bite of the egg tarts, A flaky crust with creamy filling, Or savor the savory pork chop buns, A local delicacy that’s oh so thrilling.

Try your luck at the casinos, Where fortunes can be won or lost, Or escape to Coloane Island, For a beach day that won’t be tossed.

In Macau, the past and present merge, Creating a unique blend that’s hard to forget, A city of surprises at every turn, One visit here will leave you with no regret.

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  1. says: Heather

    We visited Macau at Christmas, thinking that it wouldn’t be crowded since the Chinese don’t celebrate the holiday. We couldn’t have been more wrong! It was probably the most crowded place I’ve ever seen, and I lived in Shanghai for two years! There were so many people that it was actually wasn’t enjoyable to walk around. I’d love to go back and experience the old architecture at a different time of year.

  2. says: Maria

    Love the cobblestones, the lanterns, the vistas and the pearl tea… careful with those, they are soooo filling, so split if you’re also eating a meal.

    Great first impressions too.

    Btw, stay hydrated – I live in high heat/humidity and you can dehydrate quickly in that weather without realizing it until you’re sick.

    1. Thanks Maria!

      We’ve had issues with staying hydrated at times. I think we need to carry more water with us as we roam around.

      Those pearl teas are awfully filling! I was wondering why my pants felt a little tight afterwards 😉

      1. says: Maria

        Sam, this is completely selfish advice… Drink more water! I want, no that’s not true, I NEED more updates from you and Audrey. Yes I’m Addicted to the dynamic duo. Admission is the first step