A unique blend of China and Portugal
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005, the historic center of Macau (on the south coast of China), is a cluster of colonial buildings standing witness to the fact that up to a little less than two decades ago, the city was an administrative territory of Portugal. The most iconic (and most photographed) image of Macau – and the best place to start your trip – is the façade of São Paulo. It survived the fire that destroyed the church two centuries ago, and the ruins are all that’s left today. The Mandarin's House, built in the 19th century as a residence for Chinese writer Zheng Guangying, is further evidence of the blend of European influence and Chinese cultural legacy.
When the neons light up
Nightlife in Macau starts with a good dinner: the best of Portuguese cuisine blended with the most exquisite Oriental dishes define Macau's gastronomy. Rice with shellfish, bacalhau a brás (roasted cod) and Alentejo wine—a good restaurant for trying this traditional food, originally from Portugal, is O Santos, on the island of Taipa. A more refined choice is The Eight, the Chinese restaurant in the Grand Lisboa Hotel, with forty kinds of dim sum and three Michelin stars. After dinner, a good place to go to is SKY 21, an elegant bar with fabulous views over Macau.
Second day: traditional architecture
The Leal Senado Building was the seat of the Portuguese government; today it's an example of 16th and 17th century Portuguese architecture. Largo do Senado, the square in which it stands, is surrounded by neoclassic buildings in pastel colours and is regarded as the urban centre of the city. On the way out, walk down to Rua da Felicidade, one of the city’s prettiest streets and a magnet for film buffs, as it appears in one of the Indiana Jones films. Another iconic building is the temple of A-Má (Ma Kok Miu), one of the oldest in the area, and the cathedral (Igreja da Sé). Lit up at night, it's well worth visiting after dark.
Let the show begin
There are around thirty casinos in Macau and even if you're not keen on gambling, they make for an interesting visit. The luxurious City of Dreams complex includes a casino with 500 tables and 740 slot machines as well as ‘The House of Dancing Water,’ a unique combination of aquatic shows, music, ballet and acrobatics. Light displays, sound and water are also the main attractions in the ‘Performance Lake’ show, which fills the fountain at the Wynn Palace – one of Macau's top casinos – with music and colour every 15 minutes.
Third day: trip to the islands
An essential part of any trip to Macau is a tour of its two islands. Coloane is the quieter one, ideal for getting away from the hustle and bustle to explore the footpaths and black sandy beaches such as Hac-Sá. On this island, foodies can visit the legendary Lord Stow’s Bakery, known all over the world for its egg tarts, creamy pastries inspired by the famous Portuguese ‘pastéis de Belém.’ Taipa is a picturesque town, with little houses showcasing what Portuguese life was like during colonialism. Back in Macau, if you’re keen to preserve the sense of calm left by the islands, you can practise tai chi in a Chinese garden such as Lou Lim Leoc, decorated with pavilions, bamboo, a lake and a bridge that imitates a dragon's tail. The tea museum is next door.
A bit of shopping before heading home
Portuguese wines, leather clothing, Chinese antiques, old Macau coins and the famous jade necklaces and bracelets that symbolise good luck...these are just a few of the things commonly bought in Macau. A perfect place for going shopping before your departure are the Shoppes at The Venetian Macau. This luxury shopping mall has canals that seem to have come straight out of Venice. Shoppes at Four Seasons, the city's top luxury shopping mall, and One Central Macau are also great options for lovers of good shopping.
Bye bye Macau, from up high
Dusk is a good time to see the Guia Lighthouse, the first western style modern lighthouse on the Chinese coast, and explore the fort that surrounds it. Wave goodbye to the city from the iconic 338-metre Macau Tower, with stunning 360-degree views from the top floor (223 meters). The more daring can round off their trip by jumping into the thin air. The highest bungee jump in the world is right here.
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- When to visit