Macao packs in countless great experiences, from a unique fusion of eastern and western culture to irresistible cuisine – discover a small slice of Europe nestled in East Asia.
Situated on the south coast of mainland China, Macao has a distinctly multicultural history. Its location in the Pearl River estuary made it a prime fishing port during the Ming dynasty and, following the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, it soon became a thriving trade hub between Portugal and India, China and Japan. Now a Special Administrative Region of China, its illustrious history is reflected in Macao’s vibrant present. Read on for the best ways to experience it.
1. Visit the Historic Centre of Macao
On the Macao Peninsula lies the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Historic Centre, featuring such stunning sites as the iconic Ruins of St Paul’s. For the ultimate panoramic view of the city, make the trip up to the Guia Fortress, where you’ll also find a beautiful chapel storing frescos with both Portuguese and Chinese influences. From the beautiful architecture of Senado Square to the Dom Pedro V Theatre, Macau's Historic Centre is bursting with culture.
2. Try the unique fusion cuisine
Macao was awarded UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy status in 2017 thanks to its distinctive culinary heritage that takes in Portuguese and Chinese influences, as well as those from Africa, India and beyond. Popular Macanese dishes include African chicken, Macanese chilli prawns and minchi (spiced minced meat friend fried with potatoes). You’ll also find delicious Portuguese custard tarts and beautifully delicate dim sum.
3. Unwind in Coloane
Further off the beaten track, the island of Coloane offers a more peaceful experience, with a tranquil coastline adorned with beaches and rolling hills dotted with small villages. Coloane also houses the yellow-and-white Chapel of St Francis Xavier alongside countless examples of European architecture.
4. Tower above the city
Get an adrenaline rush atop the 338m-tall Macau Tower. As well as enjoying amazing views of the city and mainland China beyond, you could also try the dizzying mast climb, take the plunge with one of the world’s highest bungee jumps or go for a stroll on the Skywalk.
5. Enjoy the nightlife
As night falls, Macao lights up and knows how to have a good time. Along with a wide choice of nightclubs and bars – from sophisticated international cocktail lounges to relaxed local options offering craft beer – there are spectacular shows such as The House of Dancing Water, with breathtaking acrobatics.
6. Take a walk through Taipa Village
This historic village on Taipa island was made for long strolls along its narrow streets. You’ll find traditional shops and restaurants, as well as eye-catching Portuguese and Chinese architecture. On Rua do Cunha, known as 'food street', you can sample some of Macao’s best local dishes, including almond cookies and egg tarts.
7. Meet China’s famous furry residents
Coloane is home to the Macao Giant Panda Pavilion, where you can meet Kai Kai and Xin Xin and their adorable twin cubs. You’ll also find a pair of red pandas and a range of other exotic animals, including parrots, monkeys and flamingos.
8. Admire the architecture in St Lazarus
With its traditional Portuguese villas and cobbled streets, the picturesque St Lazarus district is the perfect subject for an arty Instagram post. A real highlight is the Albergue SCM courtyard – find19th-century buildings shaded by two beautiful camphor trees.
9. Be inspired by Macao’s art scene
Macao has always been a centre of creativity and there are plenty of opportunities to view impressive artworks, notably at the Macao Museum of Art. You’ll find displays of Macanese and Chinese works, including Ming-dynasty calligraphy, as well as western art depicting scenes from across Asia.
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