Macau is just a hop, jump and a skip away from Hong Kong and visiting both will give you a decent sense of Chinese culture without having to undergo the hassle of getting a Chinese visa. Additionally a larger number of people in Macau and Hong Kong speak English than in the mainland, so the former British and Portuguese colony is a great place to visit if you want to experience China but are hesitant of the full culture shock of China.
Macau is similar to Hong Kong in that it’s not really part of China but not really its own country under the “one country, two systems” policy that allows Macau and Hong Kong to have their own government despite the reunification in the early 1980s. A lot of people have argued whether Macau counts as its own country or just a different region of China but it’s not communist, I can still get on Facebook there and U.S. citizens don’t need a visa to get in to the country, so for tourist purposes it’s not really China.
Macau is a great place to jump to for the day if you’re staying in Hong Kong or visiting Shenzhen, China. Here’s some ideas to get you started on planning an epic day trip to Macau.
Walking through the streets of Macau you can feel the combination of Chinese and Portuguese influence. The streets still hold their Portuguese names and the architecture of the city has influence from both cultures.
The Ruins of St Paul’s Church
Make sure to stop at the Ruins of St Paul’s church. The church was built in the 17th-century and currently serves as a part of the Historical Centre of Macau, a UNESCO world heritage site. Most of the church was destroyed in a fire in 1835 but the beautiful stone carvings still survive. Japanese Christians in exile because of their faith carved the stunning stone façade under the direction of an Italian Jesuit. The church was abandoned in 1762 after the exile of the Jesuits from the area. The crypt under the church is still accessible and holds the remains of Japanese of Vietnamese martyrs as well as a small museum.
Steps away from the Ruins of St Paul’s is the Macau Museum showcasing the rich history of Macau. While I didn’t have time to visit during my trip, from what I’ve heard it’s the best place to go if you want to learn more about Macau’s past. Entrance costs about 2 USD.
Na Tcha Temple
On the other side of the ruins is Na Tcha Temple, a small building dedicated to Chinese folk religion and a symbol of the diversity of religion in Macau. The temple’s Chinese architect contrasts with that of the ruin’s just meters away. Na Tcha Temple, was built in dedication to the child god of war in hopes of stopping the plague.
St. Dominic’s Church
Saint Dominic’s Church’s immense bright yellow façade shocks you into thinking you’re walking the streets of Portugal or Spain. The church was built by three Spanish priests and dates back to the 16th century. The interior of the church is open to the public and has stunning statues.
Go to the top of the Macau tower or better yet, jump off the top of it
It seems like every big city has their tower: New York has the One World Trade Center, Berlin has the Television Tower and Dubai has the Burj Khalifa Macau is no different and its tower stands out among the Macau skyline. But what is unique about Macau’s tower is the adrenaline rushing activities you can do at the top of it. Whether it’s the open ledge skywalk or bungee jumping off the top, Macau has no shortage of extreme activities. Jumps start at 440 USD and the open ledge skywalk costs about 100 USD. Check out the other activities you can do on the top of the Macau tower on their website.
Gamble at some high class casinos
You can’t take a trip to Macau without stepping into the huge casinos. My advice is to find the ten cent slot machines, grab 10 MOP and play one line until you run out. Don’t believe the waitresses if they tell you the machines only take Hong Kong Dollars. Since HKD are worth slightly more than MOP, locals will often try to get you to pay in HKD and then charge you the same amount, helping them earn a bit more per dollar. Also the women next to us told us we had to play all the lines on the machines, making the minimum bet 10 MOP instead of 10 cents. (So rude!)
Food in Macau has become this interesting combination of Chinese and Portuguese foods. Try a pork chop bun, a Chinese style cut of pork on a deliciously soft Portuguese roll. Don’t pass up the Portuguese egg tarts. Make sure to step into Pastelaria Koi Kei to try some amazing traditional almond cookies. Pastelaria Koi Kei and other similar bakeries will allow you to try pretty much every style of cookie they have in their shop- I think we tried at least 20 of them, including seaweed wrapped sweets. A lot of these shops sell dried pork, which they will also let you try.
Macau is home to all of the top brands in the world. Placed right next to the casinos, the high class stores entice guests to spend all their winnings before they can even leave the building. There’s also a ton of smaller shops on R. de Sao Paulo as you walk from the Ruins of St. Paul to St Dominic’s church.
Have you been to Macau what did you love about it? Comment below!