From enchanting cultural experiences to glittering nightlife and entertainment, there is much waiting to be discovered in Macao
Located on the south coast of China, just 40 miles from Hong Kong, Macao retains an old-world charm, with a unique Chinese and Portuguese heritage. Comprising the Macao Peninsula, the two islands Taipa and Coloane, and the reclaimed area of Cotai, Macao is also a destination buzzing with excitement.
With the Portuguese arrival in the 1500s, Macao quickly became a significant trading post on routes between Europe and Asia. In 1999, Macao – like Hong Kong – became a Special Administrative Region of China but today, the Portuguese influence can still be seen in everything from the stunning architecture to the legendary food.
One of the fastest growing and most vibrant destinations in Asia, Macao makes a perfect two- or three-night addition to a Far East holiday or stopover en route Down Under. And reaching the region couldn’t be easier – fly into Macao’s international airport or arrive via Hong Kong and take the one-hour fast ferry ride from the airport or downtown.
Among Macao’s greatest treasures is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, ‘The Historic Centre of Macao’. Made up of 30 buildings and monuments of both Portuguese and Chinese origin, the area boasts impressive architecture and temples, colourful streetscapes and mansions. Taking pride of place is the iconic Ruins of St Paul’s – the façade of what was originally the Church of Mater Dei, destroyed by fire in 1835 – the crimson A-Ma Temple, and the elegant Senado Square – Macao’s urban centre surrounded by traditional Portuguese cobblestones and pastel-coloured neo-classical buildings.
Head on to Taipa Island, joined to downtown Macao by three bridges and discover a village with an exotic fusion of East and West. With classic villas and old-style Chinese shops, stroll along Rua do Cunha, also known as ‘Food Street’ and sample delicious treats such as almond cookies and beef jerky. While modern Macao dazzles with impressive architecture and luxury resorts, Taipa Village offers a more traditional experience.
Approximately 10 minutes’ drive from Senado Square rests the 338-metre Macau Tower, where visitors can not only enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of Macao from the Observation Lounge or revolving restaurant, but also those with an adventurous side can bungee jump or test their mettle and ‘walk in the sky’ instead, on the outer perimeter that encircles the tower. It’s not one for the faint-hearted!
Away from the glitter of Macao’s resorts, nestled against a hill in Coloane, is one of the destination’s most popular attractions, the Macao Giant Panda Pavillion at Seac Pai Van Park. Home to two giant pandas, Kai Kai and Xin Xin, the attraction made headlines last June when Xin Xin gave birth to twins – the first pandas to be born in the destination. The pavilion is a 3,000-square-metre state-of-the-art facility where visitors can watch the fluffy creatures playing, eating and bathing. For those who want to relax and unwind, Coloane also has more to offer – beautiful walking trails, leafy squares and tranquil beaches.
Macao has plenty to attract shoppers, from designer malls to traditional street markets. Within The Historic Centre of Macao, the streets are lined with antique shops and you’ll find a host of delicious cakes and pastries here. The Taipa Flea Market is held every Sunday in Taipa Village if you want a taste of true Macao tradition. With stalls selling handicraft and boutique items against a backdrop of live performances such as Portuguese folk dance, lion dance, magicians and street paintings, it’s a shopping/entertainment scene that does not disappoint.
Shaped by its Portuguese and Asian heritage, Macao has a diverse and incredible array of culinary experiences. Along with Portuguese, Chinese and all kinds of international cuisines, is the local Macanese food, which combines influences from both China and Portugal as well as South America, Africa and India. Signature Macanese dishes worth a try include 'Galinha à Africana' (African chicken made with coconut and spices) and Macanese Chilli Shrimps.
Whether at a sizzling side-street wok or in a traditional pastelaria (pastry shop) on the well-known Rua do Cunha (‘Food Street’), there is much of Macao’s mouth-watering cuisine to savour. Some must-try items found on street stalls are ‘pork chop buns’, while other treats include Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese egg tarts).
No trip is complete without a visit to the bright lights of Cotai. Here, you’ll find some of Macao’s world-class theatrical and musical productions, with ‘The House of Dancing Water’ high on the must-see list. Featuring 90 minutes of spectacular high-dive acrobatics, high-wire stunts and fountain effects, it’s an awe-inspiring show sure to take your breath away! Macao has also welcomed many major artists over the years. Recent visits include the Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi.
Batman fans behold – prepare yourself for a pulsating adventure on ‘Studio City’s Batman Dark Flight 4D Experience’. This action-packed ride includes the best in audio design, visual graphics and simulation technology as you combat the villains of Gotham. Or, ride the Golden Reel, the world’s highest figure-8 Ferris wheel, where you can admire the views from 130 metres up in the air. Operating hours are from 11am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 9pm on Saturday and Sunday, so why not take in the views during the day and romanticise amongst the lights at night?
Looking for a stylish restaurant? Macao has many, including 19 Michelin-Starred restaurants, with three restaurants receiving Michelin Stars for the first time last year. Retaining their three-star status are Robuchon au Dôme, serving French cuisine with a choice of 7,000 wines, while The Eight offers over 50 varieties of dim sum. Macao is not only a destination for luxury travellers, but also for food lovers in general, with twelve restaurants and cafes awarded the Bib Gourmand award, given to restaurants offering a three-course menu for no more than 300HKD (approx €36).
With neon lights of impressive hotel architecture and glitzy casinos, cocktails aplenty and pulsing beats pumped out by world-renowned DJs, Macao really is the place of dreams! High-end hotels and resorts mean there’s no shortage of stylish bars and clubs. Visit Sky 21, a sleek club in the AIA Tower, with terrace views, or Club Cubic, which has a laser-lit dance pool. For a laidback drink, some live music and an atmosphere that feels a little close to home, visit the Old Taipa Tavern in Taipa Village. For a chic and eclectic feel, try Bar Azul, where you can enjoy a selection of premium liqueurs and champagne.
Macao boasts a unique festival culture – plan ahead and make sure you arrive in time to see it for yourself.
The Dragon Boat Festival in May commemorates the heroic poet Wat Yuen, who protested against corruption by drowning himself. Today, the celebrations revolve around the popular International Dragon Boat Races contested on Nam Van Lake. Many local and foreign teams participate and it has become one of the destination’s favourite outdoor events as crowds gather to watch races to the sound of beating drums.
Macao International Fireworks Display Contest
Taking place on the Macau Tower Shorefront in September/October, the annual Macao International Fireworks Display Contest bursts with colour. Over the years, international teams from China, Thailand, Japan, the UK, Portugal and many other countries have participated. What’s more, it’s the perfect time of year for travellers to visit – experience an exotic holiday illuminated by spectacular displays in the night sky which can be enjoyed from many vantage points on the Macao Peninsula and Taipa Island.
Macau Grand Prix
For ardent fans of car racing, what better way to spend a trip than at one of the most internationally prestigious events on the motoring calendar, the legendary Macau Grand Prix. Combining the best Formula 3 racers in the world, the roars of crowds and an adrenalin-filled atmosphere, it’s four days of non-stop headturning excitement on one of the most challenging street circuits in the world. From 16th-19th November 2017.
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