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.
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
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
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).
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).
Built into the ruins of the 17th-century Barra Fort, the landmark
Pousada de São Tiago is Macau’s most romantic place to stay. All 12 rooms are
recently renovated and elegantly furnished, and the hotel still has an
old-world glamour (00 853 2837 8111; saotiago.com.mo;
Avenida da República; from £240).
Central Macau is walkable. Buses
cost around 30p. You can download route details at macautourism.gov.mo. The big-name
casinos run free shuttle services which you can still use if you’re not a
guest, but only if you’re over 18.
When to go
Summer (June-August) in this subtropical climate can be unbearably humid,
making October, November and December the most temperate months to visit.
How to go
Hong Kong International is the closest airport connecting Macau to Europe:
Air New Zealand (from £750; airnewzealand.co.uk)
and BA (from £619; ba.com)
fly from Heathrow airport. Macau is an hour from Hong Kong by catamaran (from
£11; turbo jet.com.hk,
The article 'Mini guide to Macau, China' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.