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The Las Vegas of the East already makes more money than its American rival – yet behind the mega-casinos is a distinctly non-Vegas sense of heritage. The Portuguese ruled Macau from 1557 to 1999, creating a Chinese city with more than a touch of southern Europe.

See
Built by Jesuits between 1582 and 1602, the former Cathedral of St Paul was one of Christianity’s greatest monuments in Asia until 1835 when a fire struck, leaving just a façade and a stairway. (macautouristguide.com; Rua de São Paulo; free).

Behind the 17th-century ramparts of the Monte Fort, Macau Museum does an excellent job of introducing the island’s history and culture, including a re-created firecracker factory (00 853 2835 7911; macaumuseum.gov.mo; Fortaleza do Monte; closed Mondays; £1, free on the 15th of each month).

Built in traditional style and possibly even predating the arrival of the Portuguese, the Unesco World Heritage Site A-Ma Temple is dedicated to Macau’s incarnation of the Chinese sea goddess Tin Hau, or Mazu (macautourism.gov.mo; Rua de São Tiago de Barra; 7am-6pm).

The streets between the square of Largo de São Domingos and the Ruins of St Paul are great for browsing, specifically on Rua dos Ervanários and Rua de Nossa Senhora do Amparo. There are shops selling jade and incense, and when the afternoon arrives, flea-market vendors spread their wares on the ground.

In the world’s most densely populated territory, the island of Coloane provides some welcome green space. Coloane Village still has a sleepy feel, while the coast leads on to Hac Sa Beach and Cheoc Van Bay.

Eat and drink
The cosy Lord Stow’s Café serves baked goodies from the well-known bakery around the corner. It’s best known for its pastéis de nata, scrumptious egg custard tarts with a flaky crust (00 853 2888 2174; lordstow.com; 9 Largo do Matadouro, Coloane; 10am-6pm; desserts from 80p).

Lung Wah Tea House is a place of old Cantonese tradition. There is no English menu – you can just grab what you like the look of from the dim sum cart (00 853 2857 4456; lungwahteahouse.com; 3 Av do Almirante Lacerda; 7am-2pm; dim sum from £1).

If you only visit one Portuguese restaurant in Macau, make it António. Try the goat’s cheese with acacia honey and olive oil, or a lavish seafood stew for two (00 853 2899 9998; antoniomacau.com; 3 Rua dos Negociantes, Taipa; lunch and dinner; mains from £12).

Litoral is renowned for its solid Macanese and Portuguese cooking, in particular its baked duck rice and a shrimp soup served in a bowl made from bread (00 853 2896 7878; restaurante-litoral.com; 216a Rua do Almirante Sérgio; lunch and dinner; mains from £15).

If you hit a lucky streak, consider the Michelin-starred restaurant, Robuchon a Galera. Dishes include sea urchin with fennel mousse and black cod, Provençal-style (00 853 8803 7878; hotelisboa.com/dining; Lisboa Hotel, 2-4 Avenida de Lisboa; lunch and dinner; set lunch £30, dinner-tasting menus from £110).

Sleep
Sitting atop Mong-Há hill near a ruined nineteenth-century fort is the Pousada de Mong-Há, a traditional Portuguese inn run by local tourism students. Rooms are well-appointed and service is attentive (00 853 2851 5222; ift.edu.mo/pousada; Colina de Mong-Há; from £45).

The 30-room Pousada de Coloane is excellent value in an often-pricey city, and a good choice if you want to be based somewhere a bit quieter. All rooms have balconies and sea views overlooking Cheoc-Van beach (00 853 2888 2143; hotelpcoloane.com.mo; Praia de Cheoc-Van, Coloane; from £60).

Like its Las Vegas parent, The Venetian recreates the city of gondolas in its own brand of loud, kitschy excess. You’ll need a map to find your way around this vast complex of suites, casinos, shops and restaurants. See the website for packages that often come with complementary ferry tickets (00 853 2882 8888; venetian.com.mo; Estrada da Baìa de Nossa Senhora da Esperança; from £130).

The Wynn Macau is a more restrained Vegas-inspired casino hotel. Rooms and suites have high ceilings and almost everything is automated. Bonuses include the superb outdoor swimming pool and seriously good restaurants (00 853 2888 9966; wynnmacau.com; Rua Cidade de Sintra; from £140).

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