As the last European colony in Asia, Macau is a mesmerising blend of old and new. Of the many interesting places to visit in Macau, exploring its museums will reward you with visual and cultural treasures. These Macau museums are a showcase of the former Portuguese colony’s history.
The cultural offspring of Portugal and China, Macau is a blending of Portuguese and Chinese customs, cuisine, language and architecture that evolved in a distinctive way you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
The Historic Centre of Macau is a collection of 22 well-preserved buildings and public spaces designated as UNESCO World Heritage. Some of the museums on this list are part of the World Heritage listing while others play an important role as the guardians of Macau’s unique history.
- 1 Top 5 Macau Museums
- 2 Macau Museums about Chinese history
- 3 Macau Museums of Religious art
- 4 Macau Museums you probably haven’t heard of
- 5 Discover Macau
Top 5 Macau Museums
1- Macau Museum
One of the most intriguing features about Macau Museum is its location within Mount Fortress next to the Ruins of St. Paul’s.
The 17th-century fort was built by the Jesuits and was Macau’s main military defense for three centuries.
The historic ambience of Mount Fortress Macau provides is the perfect location to convey the might of this former Portuguese stronghold.
Three floors of exhibits take visitors on an absorbing journey through Macau’s intriguing past.
The underground floors have displays that tell stories about Macau’s Portuguese and Chinese melding, right down to traditions and ceremonies, including festivals in Macau.
The contemporary side of Macau is featured on the third floor.
Check the Macau Museum website for exhibitions.
Macau Museum is at 112 Praceta do Museu de Macau.
Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday to Sunday (including public holidays). Closed on Mondays. Admission is free on Tuesdays and the 15th of every month; MOP15 (adults), children under 12 and seniors over 65 (free).
2- Macau Maritime Museum
Portuguese traders arrived in the 16th century to put down stakes at this former Portuguese colony outpost, most notably Portuguese explorer Jorge Alvarez.
Macau thrived and grew to become a significant port and Portugal’s gateway to China.
Operated by Macau’s Marine and Water Bureau, the government organisation in charge of Macau’s maritime affairs, the museum has displays of traditional nautical instruments, navigation technology, caravels, frigates, explorer routes and an aquarium.
Highlights are a model of merchant frigate Nau do Trato, which voyaged between Macau and Japan, and a model of Guia Lighthouse, which was the first lighthouse built on the South China coast.
Macau Maritime Museum is at Calçada da Barra, Edifício da Direcção dos Serviços de Assuntos Marítimos e de Água.
Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm Wednesday to Monday. Closed on Tuesdays. Admission MOP5 (10 to 17 years), MOP 10 (18 to 64) and free for children under 10 and seniors over 65.
3- Taipa Houses Museum
The row of five pastel green Portuguese houses on Avenida Da Praia is one of the most charming places to visit in Macau.
Built in 1921, they were the former homes of senior civil servants and well-known Macanese families.
The museum combines culture and creativity, with a Macanese Living Museum, an Exhibitions Gallery, Creative Casa (for exhibitions and cultural information) and the Nostalgic House (which has special exhibitions on the Macanese way of life).
If you only have time for one, make sure you walk through the Macanese Living Museum, which is set up like a traditional home and a showcase of Macanese roots.
The Macanese are an ethnic group unique to Macau resulting from Portuguese intermarriages with Chinese, Malay and Filipinos from Southeast Asia, and Indians from South Asia, in Macau.
It’s truly astonishing how such a small group of people developed their own dialect and lifestyle, which is a fusion of Western religious beliefs and Chinese traditions.
Taipa Houses Museum is at Avenida da Praia, Taipa.
Opening hours: 10a m to 7 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays. Admission is free.
4- Handover Gifts Museum
On 20 December 1999, after 442 years of Portuguese rule, the sovereignty of Macau was handed back to The People’s Republic of China.
During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Macau was known as Hao Jing and was part of the Xiangshan County.
The Handover Gifts Museum of Macau is a museum that pays homage to this important event in the history of Macau.
The exhibition hall is packed with impressive works of art gifted from rulers and countries all over the world to commemorate this event.
There are floor-to-ceiling paintings, sculptures of all sizes made from bronze, gold, marble and a variety of creative designs.
Handover Gifts Museum of Macau is next to Macau Cultural Centre, Av. Xian Xing Hai.
Opening times: 10 am to 7 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays. Admission is free.
5- Macau Museum of Art
The Macau Museum of Art (MAM) has five levels of art exhibits, from traditional Chinese paintings and calligraphy to ceramics, contemporary art.
The permanent exhibitions include Ming and Qing dynasty painting and calligraphy.
Throughout the year, there’s a rotating roster of excellent international quality exhibitions as well as art workshops, seminars and courses.
Macau Museum of Art is at Av. Xian Xing Hai (next to the Handover Gifts Museum).
Opening hours: 10 am to 7 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays. Free admission.
Macau Museums about Chinese history
6- Mandarin House
Once the home of famous Chinese writer Zheng Guanying, Mandarin House is now part of the Historic Centre of Macau UNESCO World Heritage site.
Shengshi Weiyan (Words of Warning in Times of Prosperity) was written in the house.
Designed as a sprawling Guangdong-style Chinese mansion, which traditionally provided housing for large Chinese families, what makes this building unique is the distinctive western influences in its architecture.
Mandarin House is at 10 Travessa de António da Silva.
Opening times: 10 am to 6 pm Thursday to Tuesday (including public holidays). Closed on Wednesday.
7- Lin Zexu Memorial Museum
Lin Zexu Memorial Museum has photographic displays of one of China’s most fascinating periods in history.
The Opium Wars were two wars during the 19th century that involved conflicts between the Qing Dynasty and the British.
In the late 18th century, the British East India Company started smuggling opium, which was and still is banned as a recreational drug, from India to China.
Before the Opium Wars, foreign trade with China was conducted in Canton (now known as Guangzhou) and Macau was a transit port for opium and slave smugglers.
Lin Zexu was the Qing Dynasty official who was sent to Canton to burn 20,000 chests of opium in 1839. The Opium Wars resulted in Hong Kong being handed over to the British.
Lin Zexu Memorial Museum is at Lin Fong Temple, Av. Almirante Lacerda (at the foot of the Mong Há Hill).
Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm Tuesday to Sunday (closed on public holidays). Admission is MOP5 (adults) and MOP 3 (children under 9 and seniors)
8- Dr Sun Yat Sen Memorial House
This museum pays homage to the charismatic leader of the 1911 revolution to overthrow the Qing Dynasty.
267 years of Manchu rule and 2000 years of imperial rule ended when the last emperor of China, a six-year-old boy, abdicated.
Sun Yat Sen went on to form Kuomintang (Nationalist Party of China) and became the first president of the Republic of China.
He had strong support from family and friends in Macau and had visited several times. He trained to be a doctor in western medicine in Hawaii and was the first Chinese doctor to practice western medicine in Macau.
The Sun Yat Sen Memorial House was the residence of his first wife and children.
Dr Sun Yat Sen Memorial House, 1, Rua Silva Mendes (opposite the police station).
Opening hours: 10 am to 5 pm Wednesday to Monday. Closed on Tuesdays. Admission is free.
9- Tak Seng On Pawnshop museum
In 1917, the Tak Seng On Pawnshop (Virtue and Success Pawnshop) was a thriving business. Back in those days, pawnbrokers were money lenders who provided ordinary folks with cash. Goods were assessed and held for up to three years at the pawnshop.
A visit to the eight-storey Tak Seng On Pawnshop Museum will give you a glimpse into the operations of a traditional Chinese pawnshop and a peek at the traditional tools used.
Tak Seng On Pawnshop Museum is at 396 Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro.
Opening times: 10.30 am to 7 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Monday. Admission is free.
Macau Museums of Religious art
10- Treasure of Sacred Art of St Joseph’s Seminary
The Jesuit missionaries founded St Joseph’s Seminary in 1728 and the Seminary has a collection of religious books, documents, paintings, icons, liturgical vestments and vessels.
Original books include a Chinese Portuguese dictionary published in 1833 by Portuguese missionary Pe. Joaquim Affonso Gonçalves (1781-1841), who taught Chinese to foreigners and Latin to the Chinese.
St Joseph’s Seminary is one is part of Macau’s collection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Treasure of Sacred Art of St Joseph’s Seminary is at Igreja de S. José, Rua do Seminário.
Opening hours: 10 am to 5 pm Thursday to Tuesday (including public holidays). Closed on Wednesday. Admission is free.
11- Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt
Almost everyone who visits Macau will spend some time gazing at the carvings on the stone façade of Macau’s most famous landmark, the Ruins of St Paul’s, but not everyone is aware there’s a museum on the site.
The Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt occupies an area that was once the church of Mater Dei, one of the biggest churches in Asia during the 16th century.
In the Crypt lie the remains of a tomb, possibly of the founder of St. Paul’s College (Father Alexander Valignano).
In the next room, the Macau Museum of Sacred Art has displays of crucifixes, statues and sacred paintings of St Francis.
Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt is at Ruins of St. Paul’s.
Opening hours: 9 am to 6 pm daily except for Tuesdays (the museum closes at 2 pm). Admission is free
12- Treasure of Sacred Art
The Treasure of Sacred Art Museum in Macau is in the bell tower of St Dominic’s Church.
Built by Spanish Dominican priests during the 16th century, St Dominic’s Church is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary.
The museum in this Macau church houses a collection of around 300 objects from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, including gold artefacts, statues, ornamented canonicals, religious paintings and liturgical vessels.
Treasure of Sacred Art is at S. Domingos Square (next to Senado Square).
13- Holy House of Mercy Museum
The Holy House of Mercy Museum in Macau has a comprehensive collection of Macau’s Catholic relics, many dating back to the 16th Century.
Among the items on display is the original manuscript of the Commitment of the Macau Holy House of Mercy, which was handwritten in 1662, a bronze bell from the Rafael Hospital, a collection of beautiful 19th-century statues and the skull of Belchior Carneiro (the first bishop of Macau) along with the cross he was buried.
Holy House of Mercy Museum is at 2 Travessa da Misericordia (Senado Square).
Opening hours: 10 am to 1 pm and 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm (open on public holidays) from Tuesday to Sunday. Admission is MOP5 (adult) and free for students and seniors 65.
Macau Museums you probably haven’t heard of
14- Fire Services Museum
The 1920’s Fire Services Museum houses a collection of over 700 exhibits. Two halls display everything you need to know about the history of fire services in Macau.
There are Chinese and British pumps, antique British fire engines, displays of photos, shields, badges and uniforms.
Fire Services Museum is at 2 to 6 Estrada de Coelho do Amaral.
Opening hours: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm (open on public holidays). Free admission
15- Communications Museum
Operated by the Macau Post and Telecommunications Bureau’s Communications Museum documents the history of communications in Macau, from Morse code to the Pointer Telegraph to telephone services, postal services and Broadcasting.
There are three floors of exhibits, an outdoor terrace and a shop.
Macau’s Communication Museum is at 7 Estrada de D. Maria II.
Opening hours: 9 am to 530 pm (closed on public holidays). Admission is MOP10 (adults) free for children under 3 and seniors.
16- Macau Tea Culture House Museum
Throughout history, tea has played a key part in traditional Chinese culture and Macau was the gateway for the tea trade between China and the rest of the world.
Tea was also the means of spreading Chinese to Europe and the Americas.
Find out about the history of tea and the art of drinking tea at the Macau Tea Culture House as you listen to original music composed by local musicians, EvonneLei and Ip Kim Kuok.
The Macau Tea Culture House is in Lou Lim Ioc Garden, on Avenida do Conselheiro Ferreira de Almeida.
Opening Times: 9 am to 7 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Monday. Admission is free. Guided tours are conducted on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Saturday of the month from 3 pm to 4 pm.
Where and what to eat in Macau
In Macau, new hotels go up every year and the newest luxury hotels are impressive to see, even you choose not to book a room there.