While Macau’s casinos are definitely worth a look, there’s plenty more to do than test your luck at the craps table. Macau was once a Portuguese territory, and while the Portuguese population is quite low these days, you can still see the history in the food, ruins and all the signage in Chinese and Portuguese. Which also makes it slightly easier to figure out where you’re going if you know some Spanish or another Romance language.
One of the main differences between Macau and Hong Kong is that Macau has way more old sites and buildings. On Hong Kong Island, it seems like anything pre-war is considered ancient. Anyway, the ruins of St. Paul’s cathedral is probably one of Macau’s most famous sights. Although it’s just the facade, you can spend quite a long time taking in all the details. The area is unsurprisingly crowded – try to avoid going on weekends. Next door is Macau Museum, which is truly excellent and has well-done interactive displays. I’ve only been once but would totally go back for another go-round. Above the museum is Mount Fortress, which offers a great view and a couple of WWII-era cannons. It’s a wide, open space with plenty of seating, great for a quick chill-out.
Also near the museum is Senado Square, a Portuguese-style town square paved with a traditional mosaic and surrounded by colonial architecture. There’s plenty of shopping on the walk down there; from Colombia outlets to local designers, and most are affordable. And don’t forget to stuff yourself on free food samples during the walk. These include egg tarts and pork chop buns, which should be bought by the dozen. Almond biscuits are a good gift, but don’t eat them without a drink nearby, otherwise you’ll soon feel like you just ate a pile of sandpaper. My personal favorite is the greasy and delicious pork jerky that comes in several different flavors. For a full meal, try Fernando’s, but if the line’s too long, go to Miramar. Both are located on the same beach and are equally delicious.
Another way to spend the day is Guia Hill, a lovely walk (or gondola ride up) to the top of Macau’s highest point for fabulous views and a peek into a beautifully preserved church and lighthouse. If the sun’s out, you can see tons of adorable turtles clambering on top of each other in the ponds.
If you’re into neighborhood wandering, head to Taipa village, a colonial area that almost looks Photo-shopped. The utterly charming space is home to Portuguese and Chinese restaurants and shops and tons of colonial architecture. A visit here can easily take up an entire afternoon. And then stay into the evening to see all the signs light up!
Finally, you can relax here without blowing it all at a spa. Instead, head to Black Sand Beach, a 0.6-mile long beach that used to be all black sand, but the government poured on yellow sand to replace what had been lost to erosion. So Black Sand Beach is not all black sand anymore, but it’s still a chill, lovely place that’s a lot more peaceful than the casino pools.
What do you like to do in Macau?