When it comes to beautiful and memorable places in Macau, images of Senado Square, the Ruins of St. Paul and Taipa Village quickly come to mind. However, it is St Lazarus district that I find to best exemplify Macau’s charm and beauty.
St Lazarus is the smallest of the five parishes on the Macau Peninsula. It is located north east of the popular tourist area between Senado Square and the Ruins of St. Paul and can be reached from both locations in 10 to 15 minutes by foot.
Like Macau’s famous tourist spots, St. Lazarus offers a picturesque setting, colourful colonial buildings, narrow streets lined with Portuguese-style pavements and endless photo ops. Yet, by and large, it has been left off the main Macau tourism trail and remains mostly unknown to those outside of Macau.
Lacking the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds regularly encountered at Macau’s top tourist sights, those who manage to find St Lazarus often have the streets to themselves. This is great if you want to capture unobstructed photos of some of Macau’s prettiest streets.
Why have I not heard of St. Lazarus before?
This has much to do with the high number of daytrip and short stay (one night) visitors who tend to concentrate their sightseeing efforts in the area around Senado Square and the Ruins of St. Paul.
What to see and how to visit?
First and foremost, the streets around St Lazarus Church should not be missed. This is a delightful side of Macau that will have you clicking away with your camera nonstop. In particular, you won’t want to miss the Portuguese-style cobblestone pavements which make up these streets; they are some of the finest Macau has to offer.
A must-see in St. Lazarus is Albergue SCM (Albergue da Santa Casa da Misericórdia). This cluster of attractive mustard-coloured 19th-century buildings has a gorgeous courtyard, anchored by two old camphor trees covered with green vines and with leafy branches spreading over the cobbled open space. No place in Macau creates a more authentic European feel than here.
Within the walls of Albergue SCM, visitors will discover a small exhibition hall as well as a quaint local shop called Mercearia Portuguesa, which specializes in Portuguese products. There is also a popular local restaurant called Albergue 1601, which serves a notable African Chicken dish, a local specialty food in Macau.
Next door, visitors can explore the rooms of another old colonial building, presently occupied by 10 Fantasia (see main image). This is a local art incubator, where the works of local artists are showcased to the public. It is a good stop for those keen to discover the thriving local art scene in Macau.
Nearby, several minor attractions have opened to the public in recent years. These include the Macau Fashion Gallery, G32 Gallery (a refurbished 1960’s era residency), the historic Chui Lok Chi Mansion (for special exhibitions) and the Macau Story House (communal collection of history, heritage and cultural books).
Where to next in St. Lazarus?
Heading northeast towards Tap Seac Square, visitors will encounter a landscaped Catholic cemetery, filled with attractive tombs, religious statues and crosses that surround a delightful St. Michael’s Chapel.
Considering the rarity of historic Catholic cemeteries in Asia, this can make an intriguing place to explore prior to continuing your way to Tap Seac Square, just a couple minutes down the street.
Tap Seac Square is lined with colonial period buildings and serves as a focal point for holiday and festive celebrations, events and fairs regularly held throughout the year. It is a must-see location during Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year, when you can catch numerous lion dance and cultural performances.
Situated at the far end of the square is Tap Seac Gallery, the best public art gallery in Macau. Impressive international art exhibitions, mostly contemporary in nature, are regularly held at the Tap Seac Gallery, making yet another great stop for art lovers.
Moving along in St. Lazarus District!
Strolling beyond Tap Seac Square along Avenida do Conselheiro Ferreira de Almeida, visitors will then find a row of red and yellow colonial buildings extending all the way to your eventual next stop, the Lou Lim Ieok Garden.
Lou Lim Ieok is a restored Suzhou style garden, featuring a traditional Chinese Moon Gate, winding footbridge and lovely pavilion situated amidst a lily-covered pond. This is the most beautiful garden in Macau and a top choice for regular visitors, especially during the annual Lotus Festival (June).
Further afield in the St. Lazarus District
Guia Hill is another place nearby that can be a really nice place to visit. The UNESCO World Heritage – Guia Fortress is situated here, as is the iconic Guia Lighthouse, which is commonly featured in Macau tourism publications.
Additionally, at the Guia Fortress there is a small chapel with late 19th century frescos, depicting both Portuguese and Chinese religious themes. These peculiar works of art demonstrate the unique blend of culture and heritage that have long existed in Macau. Visitors are also treated to sweeping views of the city from the elevated position upon Guia Hill.
An enjoyable way to visit Guia Hill is by way of Guia Cable Car (MOP2 per ride, MOP3 return journey), found at the entrance for Flora Garden. This short and inexpensive ride up the hill is one of the best family-friendly activities in the city.
Coffee Culture making its mark in St. Lazarus
A recent development in Macau has been the emergence of a coffee culture and in no place has this been more evident than within St. Lazarus, which boasts two of the best specialty coffee shops in Macau, Single Origin and Blooom Coffee House.
Nowadays, visitors can take a break from sightseeing and enjoy serious coffee in this area of Macau, something that wasn’t possible until recent times.
As you can see, there is quite a bit on offer around the beautiful St. Lazarus District. It is a lovely area of the city to see and you’ll never have to worry about crowds. This is why I love spending time here and recommend this district to fellow travellers looking to get off the beaten track in Macau.
Brad Reynolds lives and works in Hong Kong but spends much of his free time in Macau enjoying the quieter places like the St. Lazarus District.
If you’re wondering where to eat in Macao, Taipa has some authentic Chinese and Portuguese restaurants.