Macau is a mysterious melding of east and west, a fusion of ancient architecture and high-tech pizazz. It’s a city that has grown explosively into a futuristic entertainment centre while continuing preserve rich Chinese and Portuguese culture and traditions in its beautiful temples, churches, museums and festivals. Named as number 10 on Lonely Planet’s 10 Best Travel Regions of 2015, here’s our own list of 10 iconic places to visit in 2015
1-Ruins of St Paul
You’ve seen it in photos and brochures. Macau’s Ruins of St Paul’s is as famous as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris or Sydney’s Opera House. The 16th-century facade of a former college, with a cathedral in the background, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Portuguese-style cobblestone paving with colourful European buildings is the place to hang out and soak up the Macau vibe. Senado Square is packed with souvenir shops, local food stores and boutiques. Grab an ice cream and sit and watch the crowd go by.
You could easily spend several hours exploring Macau’s most famous temple. A-Ma Temple is sits on a rocky hill. Winding paths connect the temple’s various halls and courtyards. The 15th-century temple is a working temple and lots of people come here to pray. The view from the top is stunning.
4-Museu de Macau
If you’re interested in history and culture, put aside at least a day to explore the Museu de Macau. Mount Fortress, the city’s main military defence fort for three hundred years, now houses this impressive museum. The displays and exhibits offer deep insights and interesting stories about Macau’s history.
Three levels of galleries are packed with information. You’ll find out everything you need to know about Macau including Macau’s history, commerce and culture. There’s an entire floor dedicated to traditions, pop art and festivals. And another floor with displays focused on city life.
5-The Cotai strip
Asia’s version of Las Vegas has its own Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge. The strip of land joining Cotai Island and Taipa Island is the spot for high rollers. But even if you aren’t interested in casinos, the bright lights and spectacular shows are amazing to see. Wynn Macau has a nightly water show with 300 jets of water synchronised to music. The Dragon of Fortune in the Rotunda atrium is also worth seeing. It’s a display of lighting and audio effects as a giant Dragon emerges from a mist.
In a compact city like Macau, there’s nothing more precious than a Chinese garden. The Lou Lim Leoc Garden is a beautiful spot to escape from the bright lights and the crowds. It’s a historic garden with ponds and pagodas.
7-Old Taipa Village
An escape from the glamorous side of Macau into the past, Old Taipa Village is a traditional village. The main attraction is the Taipa Houses Museum, which are restored colonial homes that show how Portuguese families lived in the early 1900s. This serene side of Macau is a step back into history and one of the best places to visit in Macau if you want to escape to the past.
Best place for a bird’s-eye view? Macau Tower’s Outdoor Observation Deck on Level 61 offers a fabulous view with a dash of adrenalin thrown in. Adventure seekers will love climbing the mast, bungy jumping or walking around the outer perimeter of the tower (on a walkway 1.8m wide) and base jumping (leaping off the tower like a stuntman while attached to a wire cable). Is anyone up for the thrill of bungy jumping in Macau?
9-Macau Handover Gifts Museum
The Handover Gifts Museum of Macau commemorates the handover ceremony on 20th December, 1999 when Macao was returned to China. The three-storey museum’s exhibition gallery has floor-to-ceiling cabinets filled with impressive gift from various Chinese regions, including gold horses, giant paintings and other works of art. Some of these works are so grand they would have taken teams of artists months to complete.
Of all the places to visit in Macau, you’ll catch some local colour at the markets. It’s a hub of activity with a variety of local produce. There’s seafood, meat, fish, vegetables and fresh fruit. The atmosphere is vibrant and it’s the spot to capture photographs of local life.
The writer was a guest of Macau Government Tourism Organisation
For more ideas and information on Macau see Best of Macau and Macau Government Tourism Office.