Although small in geographical size, Macau is one of the most fascinating destinations in China and an especially unique neighbor to Hong Kong.
The main things to do in Macau are to gamble (or at least enter and explore some of the most elaborate casinos in the world, even if you don’t play), eat (pretty much the only place you can try the unparalleled fusion of Portuguese-Chinese cuisine), and step back in history (Macau’s Portuguese colonial history is particularly fascinating).
Below is our ultimate organized list of recommendations for places to see and things to do in Macau if you only have a short time available, compiled to give you the best ideas on how to really take advantage of your time there. This itinerary is perfect, for example, as a weekend trip from Hong Kong. Of course, these ideas are only suggestions and given your specific interests, China Highlights will be able to arrange a custom Macau trip for you.
Early morning: Arrive in Macau
Macau is very well connected to other hubs in China and getting a visa is quite easy. The majority of visitors arrive through Hong Kong, where there are convenient ferries departing from the Macau Ferry Terminal. The lovely boat ride takes about 1 hour and a visit to Macau is easy to plan from Hong Kong.
There are also flights to Macau International Airport that is served by various regional low cost carriers that link the city nationally as well as internationally.
Here is more information on how to get to Macau. We suggest getting in no later than 10:30am.
If you are able, consider spending the previous night in Macau that way you can wake up prepared to discover!
Late Morning: Wine Tasting
This day will be spent on the principle Macau peninsula, where the main ferry port is located, to see the main highlights of this former Portuguese colony.
An off-the-beaten-track destination nearby, and a distinct way to begin your Macau trip, is the unexpected Macau Wine Museum. Learn about the history of wine production, techniques for selection, and a showcase of some top wines. The Portuguese brought over many new styles of production. Some of the more than 1,000 brands of vintages are for sale, and the other are part of the permanent exhibit. Of course, try some wine during your tour!
From the Macau Ferry Terminal, take bus 1A, 3, 10B, or 32. If you don’t have many things with you, you can also walk about 15 minutes to the museum. See our Macau map for more information, and get some basic information about transportation in Macau.
Lunch: Finding the West in the East
By this time, you’ll have gained a deep understanding of Macau’s past and how it was one of the last European colonies to be relinquished to this day. This is reflected in the region’s gastronomy, where you will find dishes with identity crises.
One example is called galinha à portuguesa (Portuguese-style chicken) which, contrary to its name, is an endemic dish to Macau. Minchi is another local favorite, made with minced meat and served with fried potato cubes and white rice. Here is our list of top restaurants in Macau.
Afternoon: History Today
Walk off your meal a bit by walking to Monte Fort. In the past, this strategic military point was used to protect Jesuit properties in Macau. Many of the original cannons still lay on the perimeters. Oh, and the views of the harbors are fantastic from up here!
Today on Monte Fort, you can also find the well-kept Museum of Macau which is one of the best museums around. Insightful exhibits include topic such as toys and other home relics, information about old marriage customs, and explanations on how Macau became the East-West melting pot it is today. Allow at least 2 hours.
Late afternoon: Macau Must-Sees
In the Historic Center, you’ll find one of the most photographed spots on the island: the ruins of the Church of St. Paul. Built in 1580, the building has suffered many fires throughout the centuries and today, you can just see the front of the church and 66 stone steps that lead up to it. The site is unlike any other, and you can also visit the St Paul’s Museum on the site to see the original city walls.
The ruins are just down the hill from Monte Fort and Museum of Macau.
Later, head to Senado Square in the historical center of Macau is where all the action is; it is also a picturesque area with colorful Victorian architectural facades that remind of a European city. This is the most visited location in Macau and a top shopping area.
To arrive at Senado Square, simply walk down Rue de Sao Paulo and then Largo do Senado. This area is well populated and it is easy to navigate.
Dinner: Largo do Senado
The street Largo do Senado is chock full of hundreds of shops, restaurants, boutiques, and tasty snack shops to serve whatever your cravings may be. You can easily lose hours exploring (and eating!) here. See our best Macau restaurants.
For something sweet, be sure to try the sweet milk egg tarts that are iconic to Macau!
Nighttime: Gambling on the Cotai Strip
Whether you are a gambling nut or not, Macau is the place in all of Asia to patron a casino or two. The best part, however, is that you can play or you can just explore the grounds. Take a bus back to Taipa Village, this stop getting off at the Cotai Strip.
Buses 21A, 26A, and N3 run every 15 minutes from near the corner of Almeida Ribeiro aka Rua Mercadores, about 3 blocks from Senado Square. The journey is about 45 minutes and you can get off when you see the casino you want to explore first.
The casinos here, such as the world-famous Venetian Macau (the largest of them all), City of Dreams Macau (don’t forget the free nightly House of the Dancing Water show, perfect for kids!), and Galaxy Macau, among many others. Feel free to try your luck at the machines or tables inside, or simply explore the public shopping and lobby areas of these casinos for a taste what could be! At the Venetian Macau , meander the canals as if you were in Venice, Italy itself!
To be sure, the interiors of these top class casinos are often very impressive and shouldn’t be missed.
Other nightlight ideas in Macau.
Morning: Life & Worship
After breakfast, visit Mandarin’s House, the old family mansion of Zheng Guanying from the Qing Dynasty. The home has been restored and well reflects very traditional Chinese construction techniques as well as Western architectural styles, making the home a place well worth visiting. Within more than 60 rooms, the complex is home to artifacts such as ancient furniture, tablets with scripts, and clothing from the era. About 1 hour makes for a nice visit.
A 5 minute walk down Rue/Calcada da Barra is the sacred A-Ma Temple where religious locals still come to light incense, pray for luck and fortune, and leave offerings such as fresh fruit and flowers.
If you prefer, you can also easily access the Macau Maritime Museum by pedestrian street Rue de Sao Tiago da Barra (about 5 minutes walk) which features the traditions and techniques of the area’s time-honored fishermen and their culture. Portuguese and Chinese maritime history is also covered in various exhibits for those who enjoy learning about the past.
Lunch: Pork Chop Buns
Take a bus to Taipa island which hosts a town of the same name.
In Hong Kong and mainland China, you will often find sweet, white buns stuffed with different mixtures of meat and vegetables. In Macau, this traditional favorite comes at a twist, in sandwich form.
Inspired by its Portuguese holding eras, the pork bun sandwich is a pure fusion of Western customs and Chinese flavors. The bread comes golden and crispy, and the piping hot pork chop is enveloped inside, together offering a succulent and flawless example of culinary synthesis. Our favorite spot in Taipa town is the famous Tai Lei Kok Kei shop (18, Largo Governador Tamagnini Barbosa, Taipa).
From the area of the Macau Maritime Museum, take bus MT4, taking about 40 minutes. Get off at Av. Cidade Nova and walk inside the Venetian Casino & Hotel.
Rua da Cunha is also a place you can't miss if you love local food. Instead of sitting down for a meal here, we recommend snacking at various points! Chinese almond cakes, seaweed wafers, sweet egg roll biscuits, and peanut candies are some of the items you won't want to pass up. Items here tend to be cheaper than in the more touristy areas of Macau such as the shops in Senado Square. Walk about 15 minutes north on Av. Cidade Nova.
If you prefer something different, however, we recommend O'Manuel Cozinha Portuguesa (90, R. Femao Mendes Pinto, Taipa) for an authentic taste of Portuguese food, or Seng Cheong Restaurant (28-30 Rua Do Cunha, Taipa) for the popular Crab Congee and other Chinese favorites.
Afternoon: Taipa Town
Dive deep and get to know Macau beyond the surface at the Museum of Taipa and Coloane History. This small museum was once a public administration building and today holds artifacts from various archaeological excavations from Coloane Island between 1973 and 2006. Not only will you get a sense of Macau in prehistoric times, there are also interesting exhibits about life here in the 20th century.
Access the museum by walking north on Av. Cidade Nova then turning left on Rue Correiia da Silva about 15 minutes.
Just a few blocks away is the very pretty Jardim Da Cidade Das Flores, or Municipal Garden. This is a fine example of a classical Chinese garden, complete with a large pond, small pavilions, and lovely bridges. Take bus 22, 30, 33, or 34 for about 5 blocks, or walk up Rue do Regedor about 15 minutes.
Return to the Macau Peninsula and get one last look of Macau from overhead and try to point out all the places you’ve been! Guia Lighthouse, built around the year 1865 and is the highest point in Macau, is close to the ferry port. It is very peaceful up here, and the church with vintage murals inside is very elegant. This spot is a favorite for brides and grooms as well as history lovers; sunsets are also marvelous from here and make for greatMacau photo memories!
From the Municipal Garden or Museum of Taipa and Coloane History, take bus 25 or 25X about 35 minutes to reach Guia Lighthouse, then walk up the hill.
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