Macau

The former Portuguese colony is the world’s top casino hub, but you’ll also find elegant colonial buildings in the UNESCO-listed historic centre.

China's gaming capital is oft misunderstood. While its reputation as the world's top casino hub is well-known, long surpassing Las Vegas in revenue, few think of Macau as an idyllic escape. But once you step away from the Baccarat tables, that's exactly what you can find.

There are two sides to the former Portuguese colony. One is all about the superlatives – the largest, flashiest, most headline-grabbing casinos and resorts attracting professional gamblers. The other is elegant with colonial mansions and churches beautifully preserved in the Unesco-listed historic centre. Add to this the colourful markers of Chinese culture (smoky temples, rowdy festivals, warm hospitality) and you've got a destination that's truly unlike any other in China.


While Macau is waylaid by the main attractions of Hong Kong and the greater Pearl River Delta, those who plan more than just a quick day-trip to the city will find it very rewarding. The best plan of action is to start things off with a bang at the casinos, having a hedonistic night out enjoying the top-notch dining, shows and games, before recovering with a day of sightseeing and shopping. Foodies will want to reserve a third day just for restaurant-hopping, because the fascinating Macanese cuisine is an attraction in itself.

 

When to go

Macau is best in the autumn when the climate is relatively mild. Try October to November for clear skies and an average temperature of 20 degrees Celsius. The months of March to May are also great as the city emerges into spring, but the chances of rain are slightly higher.

Visa requirements

Singapore citizens can stay in Macau for up to 30 days without a visa, provided they have a passport valid for at least six months. To stay beyond 30 days, apply for a visa at your nearest China embassy.

Money

Hong Kong dollars are widely accepted in Macau and are on a par with Macau Patacas, but change will be given in Patacas. Chinese Renminbi is accepted by most businesses, but do take note of the current exchange rate.

Transport

Macau can be reached by ferry or by air. Ferries will dock either at the Macau Ferry Terminal or at Cotai. Almost all major hotels and casinos offer convenient shuttle bus services to and from the ferry terminals; these can be taken advantage of whether you intend to gamble or not. Most visitors travel by taxi around the city as they are plentiful and relatively affordable. Macau can also be reached by Sky Shuttle helicopter. Although it is much pricier than the ferry option, the commute only takes 15 minutes compared with an hour by sea.

Health and safety tips

Macau has high health and sanitation standards with well-stocked pharmacies and good hospitals. Pickpocketing is an infrequent problem in Macau, but otherwise crime rates are surprisingly low for a casino capital.

Emergency details

The nearest consulate is in Hong Kong at Unit 901, 9th floor, Admiralty Centre Tower I, 18 Harcourt Road (tel: (852) 2527 2212).
 

Dial 999 for all emergency services.

Basic greetings
English Cantonese
Hello Neih hou
How are you? Neih hou ma?
Fine, thanks Hou hou do jeh
Goodbye Joi gin
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Ching mahn!
Thank you Do jeh
Yes Haih
No M haih
OK Hou
What's your name? Neih giu mat yeh meng?
My name is… Ngoh giu…
Nice to meet you Hou gou hing gin dou neih
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Neih yauh mouh jyu chaak Facebook/Twitter?
Where’s an internet café? Mohng ba hai bin douh?
Where can I get a taxi? Ngoh hai bin douh ho yih wandou dik si?
Where is the bus/train station? Fo che jaahm/ba si jaahm hai bin douh?
A one-way/return ticket to… Yat jeung heui…ge daan chihng/seung chihng fei
Do you have a room for one/two? Auh mouh yat/leuhng go yahn ge fohnggaan?
When's check out? Gei dim teui fong?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Neih ho m ho yih gaai siuh yat gaan hou ge chaan teng/jau ba?
A table for two, please M goi bei leuhng yahn ge toi ngoh
A menu, please M goi neih bei choi paai ngoh
The bill, please M goi maaih daan
Where's the toilet? Sai sau gaan hai bin douh?
Help! Gau mehng!

  Destination content brought to you by Insight Guides

A-Ma Temple

Halfway up the western slope of Barra Hill, Macau

The A-Ma Temple is Macau's oldest, commemorating Mazu the sea goddess who is worshipped by fishermen. Dating to the early 16th century, the temple has since expanded to include many other deities. A-Ma Temple is a great place to get a taste for a range of Chinese religions, large and small, as it mixes Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and folk religions.

AJ Hackett at Macau Tower

Macau Tower,↵Macau

If the highs and lows at the gaming table aren't enough for you, then get your thrills at the Macau Tower where you can experience the world's highest bungy jump from a commercial building. Leap off 233 metres (764ft) above ground to free fall into the spectacular vista of Macau and its surrounding waters. You can even do it at night when the city lights up in a rainbow of neon. If this doesn't set your heart racing, you're probably dead.

Ruins of St Paul's Cathedral

Calçada de S.Paulo and Rua de São Paulo

The remaining facade of the 16th-century St Paul’s Cathedral is Macau’s most photographed landmark. Once one of Asia’s largest and most important Catholic churches, it was destroyed in a fire during a typhoon in 1835. The ruins are now a protected heritage site with an attached Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt housing valuable religious artefacts. The facade itself can be climbed for a closer look at fascinating carvings of Sino-Jesuit iconography.

Taipa Old Town

Taipa Island. Start at Rua do Cunha and walk along the parallel streets.

On Taipa, Macau’s smallest island, is Taipa Old Town, a quiet residential area of low buildings in East-meets-colonial style, all painted in pastel shades. It’s a quaint, charming neighbourhood that contrasts sharply with the nearby mega-casino developments on the Cotai Strip. Stroll around Taipa Old Town for a nostalgic feel of Macau in days past. There are some touristy streets worth visiting as well, such as Rua do Cunha, an alley lined with popular snack shops and restaurants. The Taipa Houses Museum can also be found here.

Senado Square

Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro

At the heart of Macau’s historic centre is the beautifully preserved area of Senado Square. Colonial architecture surrounds the black-and-white paved plaza with a fountain marking the foci. The Leal Senado, St. Dominic’s Church and the General Post Office can all be seen here. These days, the buildings are filled with chain restaurants and shops and the streets are flooded with tourists, but Senado Square is still the most scenic part of colonial Macau.

House of Dancing Water

City of Dreams, Estrada do Istmo, Cotai, Macau

If there’s only time for one show in Macau, make it the House of Dancing Water. With its own custom-designed theatre, it is the world’s largest and most memorable water-based show. The storyline (something about a princess that needs saving) is secondary to the special effects: moving stages that swiftly transform from dry land to deep pools and back again, breathtaking high dives, acrobatic dancing, and even motorcycle tricks. It promises to have your jaw on the floor for the whole 85 minutes.

Shop

Flea Market

Bombeiros Square, Rua do Regedor & Rua das Gaivotas, Taipa

Every Sunday a small flea market is set up in Taipa, at the end of the Rua do Cunha food street. Booths sell handicrafts, knick knacks, toys, food and clothing. It is a modest attempt at a bazaar, so don't expect to find the best souvenirs here, but stall owners are friendly and chatty, and a stroll around the market is a great way to walk off the calories after visiting the snack stalls along Rua do Cunha.

Budget $$

Grand Canal Shoppes

The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel, Taipa

An 80,000-square-metre shopping mall filled with luxury brands including Fendi, Christian Louboutin and Salvatore Ferragamo, the Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes have become a destination for those with money to burn. The shops surround the hotel's signature replica of Venice's canals, complete with gondola rides and a convincing blue sky painted on the ceiling. The place is a photogenic attraction in its own right even for visitors who don't intend to shop.

Budget $$$

Koi Kei

Multiple locations around Macau, including one at Largo Senado No.7-7A

One of Macau's biggest success stories, Koi Kei started as a little pushcart selling pastries. Now it's a small empire of shops that has spread beyond Macau to Hong Kong and Singapore. Every visitor to Macau leaves with boxes of Koi Kei's almond cakes and walnut cookies, as well as the morish pork and beef jerky. Nearly all the stores have chefs making the cookies fresh, so customers can buy them while still hot.

Budget $

Macau Creations

Rua da Ressurreição Edf., Tsuinga No. 5-A R/C (right-hand side of the ruins of St Paul’s Church)

Macau Creations, a boutique near the St Paul Ruins, designs its own line of T-shirts, accessories and souvenirs, emphasising local aesthetics. Around thirty artists who live and work in Macau have been enlisted to design the memorabilia and other items for sale, including Russian Konstantin Bessmertny and Macanese Carlos Marreiros. The first floor also exhibits art work.

Budget $$

Macau Fashion Gallery

47 Rua de S. Roque

Inside a three-storey heritage building at the Barro de São Lázaro, the Macau Fashion Gallery promotes local creativity with regular exhibitions of costumery and fashion. It also sells designs by Macanese and Portuguese emerging brands such as Maconsef, YoMacau, Half Design, Smiths, and Lineslab. The gallery and shop is a great stop while touring the Unesco-listed São Lázaro neighbourhood.

Budget $$

Red Market

Avenida Almirante Lacerda and Avenida Horta e Costa

A historic market for fresh produce and household goods, the Red Market is a beautiful landmark and a great place to get a feel for the daily life of the residents of Macau. Its name comes from the red brick facade, making the building stand out from the rest of the street. The market opened in the 1930s and the streets around it are also filled with kiosks selling flowers. Come here to escape the overblown glitz of Macau's casinos.

Budget $

Dine

Amagao

25 Rua Ho Lin Vong, Macau

Turn off the rowdy Rua do Cunha into the quiet side alley of Rua Ho Lin Vong to find Amagao right at the end. This little family-run place seats a dozen diners and has a private kitchen feel to it. Amagao is famous for warm hospitality, hard-to-get reservations and generous proportions. The Portuguese chicken is extremely popular and it’s easy to see why. A rich, creamy stew of tender chicken, the dish is a fusion of Portuguese and Asian flavors – a true Macanese original.

Budget $$

Fernando's

9 Praia de Hac Sa, Coloane, Macau

Everyone knows Fernando's at Hac Sa beach in Macau. Tourists, punters and locals who have been regulars for years all flock to the eatery for its rustic setting and dependable Portuguese cooking. Plenty of hearty grilled meat dishes are on the menu, as well as clams, roast suckling pig, bacalao done many ways, and huge bread rolls served piping hot. The red brick walls, red checkered cloths, large overhead fans and lack of air-conditioning give the place a homey, farmhouse feel.

Budget $$

Lord Stow's Bakery

1 Rua da Tassara, Coloane Town Square, Macau

Macau does its own version of a pastel de nata, or Portuguese egg tart, which has become an iconic snack in the SAR. Lord Stowe's Bakery was one of the first to make the tart famous beyond Macau and is now something of a household name. The original branch of the bakery on Coloane is worth a visit for the authentic atmosphere. Best to gobble the tarts while still hot, immediately after buying them.

Budget $

Robuchon au Dome

43/F, Grand Lisboa Hotel

If you have ever wondered what's inside the pineapple-like dome at the top of the original Grand Lisboa Hotel, it's Robuchon au Dome, Joel Robuchon's acclaimed Macau outpost. Chef Robuchon runs a tight ship, and this glittering corner of his restaurant empire has not escaped his attention. If it's gourmet you're after, this three-Michelin-star restaurant will do the trick. The quality of the modern French cuisine is consistently high and service never disappoints. It's the preferred place to splurge in Macau.

Budget $$$

The Eight

2/F, Grand Lisboa Hotel

The Eight is a flamboyant restaurant that redefines Cantonese fine dining with its glam-kitsch decor and surprises on the menu. An overwhelming sensory experience begins with the over-the-top interior design using an auspicious goldfish motif. More than 50 kinds of dim sum are available, with some continuing the auspicious imagery, such as the impossibly detailed goldfish-shaped shrimp dumplings. The hotel's lengthy wine list is digitized and available for pairing with the gourmet Chinese dishes.

Budget $$$

Yee Shun Dairy Company

60 Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro

As Macau is a great place for those who have a sweet tooth, another pit stop for sugar fiends is the Yee Shun Dairy Company. This establishment serves a much sought-after Cantonese dessert known as a "double skin milk pudding". Honeyed and wholesome, the snow-white pudding served hot or cold is such a comfort food that Yee Shun's various branches are marked by long queues of regulars hankering after a bowl of the stuff. Yee Shun also makes milkshakes, fruit shakes and other traditional Chinese desserts.

Budget $

Stay

Banyan Tree

Galaxy Macau Resort, Avenida Marginal Flor de Lotus, Cotai, Macau

The Banyan Tree has created the luxury beachside resort experience right in the middle of urban Macau. The hotel is one of three inside the huge Galaxy Macau casino-resort complex, and it is the most lush. High-rollers book out the individual pool villas that have private outdoor pools and pool houses with a tropical ambience. Several of the suites also have spa pools inside the bedrooms. The adjacent Galaxy Hotel also has a man-made beach, to round out the faux-island experience.

Budget $$$

London Hotel

4–6 Praca de Ponte e Horta, Macau

A convenient hotel located centrally, near the Senado Square, London Hotel offers doubles and standard twin rooms, all equipped with basic amenities. The rooms are in need of a makeover, but considering its location at the heart of the tourist district and its relatively moderate price, London Hotel is a decent place to stay.

Budget $

Pousada de Coloane

Praia de Cheoc-Van, Cheoc-Van Beach,↵Coloane Island, Macau

Have a romantic Portuguese experience at a relatively affordable price at the Pousada de Coloane. A waterfront property decorated in a rustic Portuguese style, the rooms are atmospheric, if a bit stagey. Some rooms have balconies overlooking the beach. There is a Portuguese restaurant in the hotel, as well as a garden terrace that makes a good place to lounge during sunny days.

Budget $$

Pousada de Mong Ha

Colina de Mong-Ha, Macau

One of the training hotels for Macau's Institute for Tourism Studies, the Pousada de Mong Ha has earned a big reputation through word of mouth. Satisfied guests love the relaxed atmosphere of this boutique hotel run by earnest students. Converted from an old military barracks, the building retains an old world charm, with beautiful azulejos (Portuguese hand-painted tiles) everywhere and a garden.

Budget $$

Pousada de São Tiago

Avenida da Republica, Fortaleza de Sao Tiago da Barra, Macau

For an unbeatable Old Macau hotel experience, book a room at the romantic Pousada de São Tiago. The property was converted from an imposing 17th-century Portuguese fortress that defended the colony from pirates. The hotel is now Macau’s most exclusive and a great conservation project. Wedding planners and photographers also love to use the hotel and its Chapel of St. James as a backdrop for fabulous nuptials.

Budget $$$

San Va Hospedaria

65–67 Rua de Felicidade Central Macau

San Va has become famous since Hong Kong film-maker Wong Kar-wai shot several scenes here for "2046". A building typical of old Chinese Macau, with all the original fixtures, this is a place for travelling back to the 1930s. It is undeniably rich with atmosphere but its charm is a double-edged sword. Many of the rooms desperately need renovating and the walls are paper thin. It's definitely for the more adventurous traveller.

Budget $

25th Macau Arts Festival

May

Macau's annual showcase of cultural performances starts on the stage and moves to the streets. A full range of visual and performing arts will be on the programme. Expect to see Shakespeare and Chinese opera in the same month.


61st Macau Grand Prix

13-16 November

Street circuit racing for Formula Three cars and motorcycles, the Macau Grand Prix has been attracting racing heavyweights for the past six decades. Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard have all won before.


Feast of Buddha and Feast of the Drunken Dragon

6-May

A wooden dragon is paraded around town while the procession gets drunk on beer and rice wine in one of Macau's most colourful folk festivals. It stems from a legend about a Buddhist monk who slaughtered a sea serpent to stop a plague.


Macau Food Festival

November

Indulge with local Macanese at this public feast. Stalls line the Sai Van Lake Square offering international delicacies. Games, entertainment, wine and beer add to the celebratory atmosphere.


Macau International Fireworks Display Contest

September 8, 13, 20, 27 and October 1

The explosions of fireworks light up Macau's night sky over a series of weekends for this contest. International teams bring their A-game to the city, competing to be top dog of the light and colour spectacles.


Macau International Music Festival

October

Portuguese and Macanese folk songs, chamber, choral and orchestral compositions, as well as full-length operas can all be experienced in Macau during the International Music Festival.


Foodie

Being the day with a dim sum breakfast fit for champions at The Eight (on the second floor of the Grand Lisboa Hotel). This flamboyant restaurant redefines Cantonese fine dining with its glam-kitsch decor and surprises on the menu. An overwhelming sensory experience begins with the over-the-top interior design using an auspicious goldfish motif. More than 50 kinds of dim sum are available, with some continuing the auspicious imagery, such as impossibly detailed goldfish-shaped shrimp dumplings.

 

Feeling peckish in the afternoon? Grab a taxi from The Eight and head to the original branch of Lord Stowe’s Bakery at 1 Rua da Tassara in Coloane Town Square for a Macanese egg tart. Macau does its own version of a pastel de nata, or Portuguese egg tart, which has become an iconic snack in the SAR. Lord Stowe's was one of the first to make the tart famous beyond Macau and is now something of a household name. Best to gobble the tarts while still hot, immediately after buying them.

 

Make sure you book weeks ahead to secure a dinner table at Amagao. This little family-run place (at 25 Rua Ho Lin Vong in Taipa) seats a dozen diners and has a private kitchen feel to it. Amagao is famous for warm hospitality, hard-to-get reservations, and generous proportions. The Portuguese chicken is extremely popular, and it’s easy to see why. A rich, creamy stew of tender chicken, the dish is a fusion of Portuguese and Asian flavors – a true Macanese original.

 

 

Places to visit:
The Eight, Lord Stow's Bakery, Amagao.

Culture

Dare to stay at the San Va Hospedaria (65–67 Rua de Felicidade) or just visit the hostel for a taste of Old Macau and a brush with cinematic greatness: Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai shot several scenes here for 2046. A typical 1930s Chinese building, with all the original fixtures, it is undeniably rich in atmosphere. However, its charm is a double-edged sword as many of the rooms desperately need renovating and the walls are paper thin.

 

Visit the 16th-century St Paul’s Cathedral in the early afternoon for good light – this is Macau’s most photographed landmark. From the San Va Hospedaria, either head northeast on foot for about 30 minutes, or flag down a cab, as all drivers will know the attraction. Once one of Asia’s largest and most important Catholic churches, it was destroyed in a fire during a typhoon in 1835. The ruins are now a protected heritage site with an attached Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt housing valuable religious artefacts. The facade itself can be climbed for a closer look at carvings of Sino-Jesuit iconography.

 

End a day of sightseeing at the A-Ma Temple, Macau's oldest, commemorating Mazu the sea goddess who is worshipped by fishermen. Located at Rua de Sao Tiago da Barra, it is a short drive from St Paul's. Dating to the early 16th century, the temple has since expanded to include many other deities, making it a great place to get a taste for a range of Chinese religions, as it mixes Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and folk religions.

 

 

Places to visit:
San Va Hospedaria, St Paul's Cathedral, A-Ma Temple.

Romantic Getaway

For a romantic getaway, finding the right hotel can be crucial. Maybe your partner would love the ostentatious luxury of The Banyan Tree (Galaxy Macau Resort, Avenida Marginal Flor de Lotus, Cotai) where the beachside resort experience has been recreated in the middle of urban Macau. High-rollers book out the decadent individual villas with private outdoor pools and pool houses with a tropical ambience. Several of the suites also have spa pools inside the bedrooms for ultimate privacy.

 

Or maybe they would enjoy something more old school, such as the Pousada de São Tiago (Avenida da Republica, Fortaleza de Sao Tiago da Barra). The property was converted from an imposing 17th-century Portuguese fortress that defended the colony from pirates. The hotel is now Macau’s most exclusive and a great conservation project. Wedding planners and photographers love to use the hotel and its Chapel of St. James as a backdrop for fabulous nuptials.

 

Live a little and book a table for two at Robuchon au Dome (43/F, Grand Lisboa Hotel) for a top-notch French dinner. Chef Robuchon runs a tight ship; if it's gourmet you're after, this three-Michelin-star restaurant will do the trick. The quality of the modern French cuisine is consistently high and service never disappoints

 

 For post-dinner entertainment, check out Taboo, the risque cabaret show by Franco Dragone. World-class aerialists, acrobats, dancers, pole artists and singers entertain and tease. There's lots of leather and just the right amount of nudity for a sexy but tasteful date night.

 

 

Places to visit:
The Banyan Tree, Pousada de São Tiago, Robuchon au Dome, Taboo