Macau is a special administrative region in China, which is called China’s Las Vegas. Macau ranks first in the world in terms of revenues from gambling.
While gambling has come to the forefront, monuments of Christian-colonial culture were declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005. Macau has more than enough of these curious mixes of antiquity and ultramodernity, pomp and poverty, provincial and metropolitan, European and Sino-American today.
Save on your trip to Macau!
Macau consists of a peninsula occupied by the city proper (9 km²) – it can be walked around in 2 hours – and the islands of Taipa and Coloan, which are fused together by earth embankments. Non-Chinese citizens make up only 5% of Macau’s population. The inhabitants are called “Macanese”; but in a narrow sense the word means old-timers of Portuguese or Portuguese-Chinese origin.
Macau was founded in 1557 as a Portuguese trading and missionary settlement. It played an important role in the consolidation of Christianity in the Far East. After the founding of Hong Kong, the city fell into a kind of Sleeping Beauty’s slumber – the shallow waters around it prevented large ships from entering the port. After the Second World War, the gambling industry breathed new life into Macau, at first things were shaky and unsteady, but gradually the dynamics of development in the Zhujiang delta became very strong, and Macau began to acquire a completely new features. Two important milestones were the airport in 1995 and the handing over of Macau to China in 1999. Since then, Macau, like Hong Kong, is a special administrative area of China – with its own currency (and left-hand traffic).
Macau Attractions: Southeast
Fisherman’s Wharf, Sands
The entire southeast – the land south of Guia Hill – is nothing but an artificial embankment. Here, the Porto Exterior is where the ferries dock. The first thing you see on the left when you get off the ferry is a small pleasure village built on the water, with a Chinese Tang fort, an artificial volcano, the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, and houses from Amsterdam, New Orleans, Cape Town, and Lisbon – all built in concrete in 2005 and packed with restaurants, stores, and places to have fun. Outside the town is the Sands Casino, now the largest in Aoma.
Cultural Center and Museum of Art
Slightly enclosed by the building “Sand’s” Cultural Center (Centro Cultural), where international orchestras are on tour. Nearby is an art museum worthy of a visit: there are works by Portuguese and Chinese artists from Macau, Opening hours: Tue-Sun. 10.00-19.00.
Kun-Yam Statue and Docks
On the promenade of Avenida Dr. Sun Yatsen stands a monumental bronze figure of Guanyin (statue of Kun-Yam). Behind the statue in the evening there’s a hustle and bustle of bars and taverns.
Tourism Activities Centre
If you walk from the Guanyin figure down the long square and turn right near the exit onto Rua de Luis Gonzaga Gomes, you will come to the Tourism Activities Center with the “Grand Prix Museum”. The best thing about the museum is the racing car simulator: you can experience what it is like to sit in a Macau Grand Prix racing car. There’s also a wine museum dedicated to the world of Portuguese winemakers where you can taste their products. Opening hours: Wed-Fri. 10.00-18.00.
Macau Historic Center
Senate Square, Old City Hall
Around the central square Largo do Senado is an ensemble of historic buildings. On the south side, along Avenida Almeida Ribeiro rises Leal Senado, the old town hall. The staircase courtyard with its blue and white tiles (azulejos) is beautiful, but you can’t miss the conference room and the senate library. Opening hours: Tues. 9.00-21.00.
Church of St. Augustine and the surrounding area
The street on the right of the old town hall leads to another historic ensemble of buildings: the church of St. Augustine (left), the St.-Josephs Seminary (straight), the Sir Robert Ho-Thun Library (right), and the Don Pedro Theatre (opposite the church). The theater has been used very infrequently since 1860.
St. Dominic’s Church.
From the north end of Largo do Senado, it is only a few steps to the most beautiful baroque church in the city, which has a magnificent altar. Every year on May 13, a procession is held with an image of Fatima in the left side chapel-not the only one of its kind in the city. The bell tower houses a church museum.
Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral
A symbol of Macau, the richly decorated facade of the cathedral at the top of the broad grand staircase burned down in 1835. It was erected in 1620-1627 and had strong missionary features. At the top of the pediment stands a dove, the embodiment of the Holy Spirit. The central pediment depicts Christ as victor over death and Savior, the lower one is dedicated to the Virgin Mary: on the right she humbles the dragon in prayer. On the left is Mary praying and guarding a merchant ship, with the inscription next to it: “The devil inclines men to sin”. Behind the facade you can still recognize the foundations. In the crypt is a small museum of Christian art. There are also the bones of Japanese and Vietnamese martyrs for the faith who fled their homeland to Macau in the 17th century.
“Fortaleza do Monte and the Macau Museum
The castle mountain offers a good view of the northern part of the city and the nearby Chinese mainland. If you take the escalator at the north end of the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, it will take you to the main entrance of the city’s history museum located in the fort. You will see entire facades of houses and benches here, complete with dioramas and audio-visual aids and you can get an idea of old Macau, its history and life in former times. Opening hours: Tue-Sun. 10.00-18.00.
Luis de Camões Garden, Protestant Cemetery
A short walk to the northwest leads to the popular Jardim Luis de Camoes Park, which takes its name from the famous Portuguese poet: from 1558 Camões lived in Macao and praised the Portuguese conquests in his Lusiads. From the square in front of the park, through the right-hand gate, the path leads to a quiet Protestant cemetery. Here one can see the graves of merchants and sailors who traveled to the Far East and died at a strikingly young age.
Sightseeing in Northeast Macau
Jardim de Lou Lim leoc
A certain Chinese merchant in the 19th century decided to lay out this garden in the traditional Chinese style – as a miniature landscape with artificial mountains, bamboo groves and a pond with goldfish. Amateur musicians sometimes perform in the pavilions and gazebos. Estrada Adolfo Correiro. Opening times: Everyday. 6.00-21.00.
The Garden of Flora and Guaya Fort
If you turn left twice from the garden gate, then go straight ahead and pass one more block behind Avenida Horta e Costa on the right, you will find yourself in front of the Flora Garden, a small square with a cable car that leads to the hill of Guia. At the top, go right as far as the end: there, on the largest hill in Macau, Fort Guia, are the lighthouse and a small chapel with ancient paintings on walls and ceilings.
“The Hall of Guanyin, a little north of the Garden of Flora, on the Avenida de Coronel Mesquita, is a lively, relatively large temple. It existed by the time of the first U.S.-Chinese treaty in 1844. Brightly painted high ridges crown the buildings. At the end of the median tract stands the main statue, an image of Guanyin. The eastern annexes are used for funerary celebrations and ancestor veneration. To the very east, the path leads to the temple garden where the Lover’s Tree, an outlandish tree with five trunks, is re-grown after the original was killed in 1994.
Sightseeing in southern Macau
The southern tip of the peninsula is a partly aristocratic residential area; especially starting at the eastern promenade of Avenida de Praia Grande, several imposing buildings are noticeable, including the red former governor’s house, now the residence of the head of the local government. A little further away stands a yellow palace-like building, the Portuguese Consulate.
On an artificial embankment the 338-meter high Macau Tower looks up to the sky. From the top you can eat while enjoying the breathtaking panorama and then take the Bungee-Seil cable car down to the top or go on a “skywalk” with suspended belts. Opening hours: every day. 10.00-21.00.
Temple of A-Ma.
Just one stop on bus 21 and you’re at Largo do Pagode da Barra near the south end. Here, a multi-building temple complex stretches down the hillside of Barra, dedicated to the seafaring patron goddess after whom Macau (her name is A-Ma-Cao) got its name.
Opposite is the new building of the Maritime Museum (Museum Maritimo). Photographs, models, dioramas, utensils, aquariums and nautical charts are displayed there, telling the story of fishing, sea voyages and discoveries, marine biology as well as port techniques and hydrography. Mechanical puppet theater plays the story of A-Ma-Cao. Opening hours: Wed-Fri. 10.00-17.30.
Taipa and Coloan Islands
There are three bridges leading to Taipa Island. Between the university in the north and the racecourse in the southwest are high-rise buildings. To the east, the airport is built over the shoreline. But to the south, there is still the old village of Taipa, famous for its Portuguese restaurants and fresh pastries sold on the pedestrian Rua da Cunha.
To the east of Taipa village, on the other side of the hill on which the church stands, you can walk to the former promenade, where there are five beautifully restored ancient villas, where today the Taipa Houses Museum is open. Here you can explore the former way of life of the well-to-do. Avenida da Praia. Opening Hours: Tue-Sun. 10.00-18.00.
From the Taipa Houses Museum, the view moves on to another world: Kotai, a huge embankment connecting Taipa and Coloan. There, the casino firm Sand’s is building The Venetian, a gigantic complex with hotel rooms, casinos, retail and conference rooms modeled on Las Vegas. Other large-scale projects are to follow. A huge gymnasium on the border of Coloan, on the other side of Main Street, is already ready.
Coloan is a green Macau island with no casinos, but plenty of hiking trails, a golf course, two beaches (small Cheok Van in the south, big Hak Sa in the east) and the idyllic village of Coloan around the San Francisco Xavier Church. A monument on the pretty front grounds commemorates the 1910 victory of the villagers over the pirates who kidnapped their children. 11At the northern edge of the place is a row of old junk yards; some of them are still in operation.
Not on weekends!
On the night of Saturday to Sunday and the eve of the holidays in Macau is sold out – as well as the ferries, especially in the evenings, when the casino guests flock back to Xiangang in droves. For this reason it is essential to plan a visit on a weekday!
How to get there
The international airport receives flights from Chinese cities and Southeast Asia. However, you usually arrive in Macau by high-speed ferry that leaves every quarter hour from Shun Tak Center in Xiangang (travel time 1 hour). You need a valid passport to enter.
The price level in Macau is considerably lower than in Hong Kong. Especially for antiques. You can buy them on Rua de Sao Paulo, the street leading from the south to the cathedral ruins, and at even better prices on the parallel western street.
There are currently seventeen casinos in Macao. Admission is free and there is no dress code. The large casinos are open 24 hours a day. In addition to the world-famous types of program – like roulette, offered and specifically Chinese gambling. The entire gaming industry is designed for the tastes of Chinese guests. No language problems “one-armed bandits”, do not create, for example, in the casino at the “Hotel Lisboa”. The Pharao’s Palace Casino (at the Hotel Landmark, Avenida da Amizade 535) is worth a visit.
Bars and Pubs
Popular bars and taverns in Macau are lined up under the name “Docks” pa Avenida Dr. Sun Yatsen on Avenida Sir Anders Ljungstedt. A favorite of many is the elegant bar at the Nova Guia Hotel in the Mandarin Oriental.
City-country of Macau. Chinese Las Vegas and what to see besides casinos
Macau is a former Portuguese colony, which became part of China, but retains its autonomy. Today we will tell you about the history of this country-city what to see here in one day, how to get there and our review of vacation in Macau.
Macau has a romantic image for many Europeans due to its interesting history, Portuguese heritage, and luxurious casinos. Wealthy middle class people from Hong Kong come here on weekends to plunk down their legally earned money at roulette or cards. Not for nothing is Macau called the Asian Las Vegas.
Macau is visited by the rich by helicopter, by package tourists by bus, and even by humble backpackers like us on our round-the-world trip. The Chinese come with their families and children to discover Europe without going more than 100 km from their homeland. We’ll tell you more about that.
To understand Macau, you need to understand a little bit of history, and learn some facts about this small country, I will try to tell you popularly, so that you do not die of boredom.
Background information on Macau
Aomagne/Macau history fact book
Macau’s second name is Aomyn.
People appeared in Macau as early as 6,000 years ago, about 200 years B.C. Macau became part of China. The Chinese had been living there until Raphael Perestrello, a cousin of the notorious Christopher Columbus, sailed to China in 1513, when the king of Portugal wanted to trade there.
The Chinese believed that the Celestial Empire had everything, and they did not need to trade with the Portuguese very much. So it wasn’t until 1557 that the Portuguese were able to convince the Chinese to allow them to build a colony. In the process of “persuasion,” as is usually the case, many Chinese and Portuguese died.
For 128 years, until 1685, the Portuguese had the exclusive right to trade with China, the same year the Chinese allowed all Europeans to trade. But with the condition that all trade takes place in Macau. The British did not like the latter fact very much, as they believed that the right to free trade wherever and whatever is most important for a person in a bourgeois society, and they tried to get their way in every way they could. The conflict arose when China banned the opium trade. The British companies suffered huge losses, and war broke out. A military base was established, and then a trading base in Hong Kong.
The British won the war and gained privileges in trade, and Hong Kong began to develop rapidly as a port, while Macau was losing its importance.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Macau developed into the biggest center of gambling and entertainment. Today Macau has virtually no industry and the port is little used for cargo handling. Most of the population works in services and tourism.
The Portuguese only left the country in 1999 and handed it over to China, Macau is now a special administrative region of the PRC.
There is a mistake that Macau is on an island. It is not. Macau is a small peninsula and is connected to China by land (just like Hong Kong). But this state also owns two islands: Taipa and Coloan, connected by bridges to each other and to the mainland.
Macau has no capital because it is a city-state.
Aomagne/Macau on the world map
Macau is located in Asia, in southern China. The distance from Hong Kong city center is 60 km, from Lantau island 27 km.
Demographics and language
Wikipedia says that the population of Macau is about 650 thousand people, 95% of them Chinese. They speak a Cantonese dialect of Chinese, just like in Hong Kong. Trying to speak Portuguese makes no sense, they won’t understand you. All street names and inscriptions are duplicated in Portuguese, but this is only a historical legacy.
The country is very rich, with a developed infrastructure. The street lamps do not turn off even during the day It has excellent maritime links with China and Hong Kong, air links with other Asian countries. GDP per capita is $91400, which is steeper than Switzerland, and much steeper than mainland China. You will feel it quickly when you get to this country!
Macau sights: what to see and where to go
Let’s move on to the most important things. We can highlight such interesting places:
1. Of course the first thing that comes to mind is the casinos, and that’s right, they should definitely be seen (and maybe played, no?).
2. The old town in the area of Senado Square (Senado) – you could call it “little Europe”.
3. Colonial architecture on Coloane Island.
4. imitation of old European houses in the Fisherman’s Wharf. A must-see for Chinese tourists!
5. The highest bungee jump in the world.
All this can be easily seen in one day.
See a casino, another casino, another casino.
Our acquaintance with Macau began with the casino, as it should be, because Macau is not called the city of casinos and Las Vegas in China – there are 38, including the largest casinos in the world.
Right from the ferry there are free shuttles that take visitors to these ungodly establishments, which have a lot of expensive hotels and restaurants. That is, visitors can satisfy all their needs without leaving the walls of the gambling establishment.
We expected the casinos to be expensive and luxurious. Nevertheless, we were waiting for a complete breakthrough and a blast of the brain!
The first place we entered was called The Venetian, one of the largest casinos in the world. At first we were surprised by the size of the building and grounds.
The Venetian is a 39-story skyscraper 225 meters tall, the second tallest building in Macau.
When we went up to the second floor, it turned out that there is a simulated piece of the central part of Venice right under the roof and an artificial sky!
In general, everything is cooler than the casino on Mars in “Futurama”
It’s not the street in the picture, it’s everything inside the building!
Actually, this is a logical decision. Casinos usually don’t have windows, so customers don’t realize how much time has passed during the game. And this way they can walk on the wet paving stones of “Venice” where it always dawns and the sun never rises, take a gondola ride, drink coffee with a French bun and go back to the game.
To be honest, I always thought that casinos were exclusively elitist establishments with a dress code so that rich customers would enjoy the luxurious setting and have a sense of celebration and euphoria.
In Macau, on the other hand, local talented businessmen have turned their gambling houses into a mass tourism destination.
Now crowds of Chinese come here with children and large cameras, taking selfies against the background of the sham facades of European houses, eating instant noodles and burgers in many fast food outlets.
And across the wall from the fast food is probably the VIP lounge, where smart guys in tuxedos are surrounded by long-legged beauties, playing blackjack and drinking whiskey.
But we didn’t see them. If only we had an extra million or two.
You could say that Macau is bringing luxury to the masses. But it does it in an exclusively Chinese style. You can see with the naked eye that all the marble, which is in abundance here, is not real. It is a thin sticker with the texture of marble on plaster. All the facades of the “European” houses are also made of plaster and plastic.
The whole time I was in Macau I had a Radiohead song playing in my head:
_She looks like the real thing
She tastes like the real thing
My fake plastic love
But I can’t help the feeling
♪ I could blow through the ceiling ♪
Everything is not real, I was especially horrified by the “Venetian” canals with tiles on the bottom, blue water and half a meter deep. The total lack of taste and focus on the masses impresses no less than the scale.
When we arrived at the MGM Macau Casino, however, with its imitation of a Portuguese square in the main lobby, our memories of that beautiful country flashed back to us as we looked at the paving and facades of the Rossio and Casa dos Bicos.
There, in the center of the lobby, was also a huge aquarium with fish.
The Colonial Quarter on Coloan Island
At first, this neighborhood seemed gray and dull to us. It was a cloudy day and we had walked for a long time, and we saw something that looked like the backside of an average Western European city.
Then we walked around, and we even liked some of it.
You can look at Macau from the other side of the strait.
You can sit on a bench under the library and dream of becoming a millionaire.
You can walk along the waterfront and the narrow streets.
And admire the tropical trees, flowerbeds and tangerines.
Which are amazingly combined with antique lanterns and our favorite Portuguese paving tiles.
An equally stylish combination of azulejo and Chinese characters. The sizzling Portuguese words, the sounds of fado, and the taste of vino verde on the tongue come to mind. But we mustn’t forget we’re in China!
In general, if you like tile and azulejo too, check out our posts about Lisbon, Sintra and other beautiful areas of Portugal, our favorite European country.
Macau Historic Center
The city center is everything as usual in Europe: cobblestones, beautiful buildings, expensive boutiques. On the occasion of the Chinese New Year everything is decorated with lanterns, dragons and tangerines around :). The crowds are huge, mostly Chinese with selfies.
The tiles are really nice. Beautiful patterns, just like in Lisbon.
The nice thing was that in the center there are a lot of stores where they bake and sell delicious Chinese cookies all the time. And they put defective (broken) cookies on sale in large quantities. If you walk through 10 of these stores you can get a lot of cookies
Also in the center of Macau we found a place where they serve cheap traditional pasta soup right on the street. If you don’t mind eating cheap and tasty food either, all you have to do is get off the main street and walk through the narrow alleys.
Macau Tower – the tallest bungee tower in the world
Macau is home to the world’s tallest bungee jumping tower, the Macau Tower, a 223 meter drop from the ground.
The price of the jump from the tower is 468 USD.
Photo: official website of Macau Tower macautower.com.mo
Even if you’re not going to bungee jump, just look at Macau from the 61st floor of the tower. The ticket costs only $14 – much cheaper than similar towers in Santiago, Singapore or Seoul.
In addition, for $300 you can climb to the very top of the Macau Tower.
Booth Europe and Modern Art.
One of the casinos offers a stroll through the reconstructed quarters of European cities.
Contemporary art exhibitions are also often held at the casino. If you’re not afraid of getting your brains blown out, you can take a peek.
The Sea and Beach Vacation in Macau
Macau is not the sort of resort one usually goes to for a beach holiday. There are only two beaches, both near Coloan:
1) Hac Sa black sand beach. Even in high season, it is not crowded.
2) The beach with golden sand Cheoc Van (Bamboo Bay): It is smaller, but cleaner and more beautiful.
Photo of the beaches: Macao Government Tourist Office
Other attractions in Macau
1) Grand Prix Museum.
2) Macau Wine Museum.
3) Macao Giant Panda Pavilion.
4) AquaWorld Water Park, right next to the Eiffel Tower at The Parisian Macao Hotel.
I found only one Russian speaking tour in Macau – departing from Hong Kong.
There are more English-language tours – see the options on Viator and GetYuorGuides.
How to get to Macau
Flights to Macau.
There is an international airport in Aomagne/Macau: Macau International Airport, IATA code: MFM.
There is a free shuttle bus to the city from Macau Airport. You need to go out through the north exit to the parking lot, and there will be all the buses. They leave every 15-20 minutes from 11 am to 9 pm.
There are also regular city buses for 6 patacas. Here are their numbers and schedules:
Alternatively, you can leave by cab, or book a private transfer.
You can also fly to Hong Kong and from there take a ferry to Macau (Hong Kong International Airport, IATA code: HKG).
Read about how to get from Hong Kong airport to Macau in the following sections of this article.
How to buy cheap flight tickets to Macau and Hong Kong
To find cheap airline tickets, I usually compare prices using aggregators. They all have the same principle – they look for tickets from the databases of hundreds of airlines, but their databases may vary, so the price will be better in one and the other – check everything at once.
– unrealistically flexible search, and there is a guarantee of a connection, even if you fly low-cost airlines and the first flight was delayed! – the best ticket prices from Russia and Kazakhstan, and a convenient low-fare calendar.
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