The sprawling city of Macau is famous for its glitzy casinos and for being a frenetic gambling hotbed. Indeed, this Chinese Special Administrative Region is the world’s biggest earner when it comes to gambling revenue! Don’t worry if you don’t want to risk heaps of cash though – Macau is also home to a terrific selection of sights and activities that often surprise many visitors who are expecting to find mainly roulette wheels, slot machines, and gaming tables. Plan to spend most of your time around the Old Town if you are more into culture and history. Located on the Peninsula, many of the sights are within easy walking distance.
Here are some top things to do in marvellous Macau:
1. Feast your eyes on the flashing lights and neon fabulousness of the casinos
More spectacular at night time in all their illuminated glory, the casinos present an impressive and dazzling sight. Even if you have no inkling at all to set foot inside and chance Lady Luck, admiring the opulence and decadence from outside is totally risk and cost free. Amongst the most captivating on the peninsula are the Grand Lisboa and MGM Macau. Close to the waterfront, their lights dance enchantingly on the water’s surface. Cotai Strip is also jam-packed with both the brash and the elegant, with the stunning and enormous Venetian and the superb City of Dreams leading the way when it comes to external appeal and razzamatazz.
2. Soak up the intriguing fusion of Chinese and European
A former Portuguese colony, Macau seamlessly combines a charming European colonial atmosphere with a traditionally Chinese-like vibe. Grand and elegant architecture from the colonial period sits alongside quaint shop houses that sell goods like herbal remedies, tasty noodles, gleaming gold, and a vast assortment of teas.
Traditional Chinese characters and Portuguese names occupy the road signs and you can visit glorious churches and vibrant temples.
Take time to explore the narrow and sometimes steep lanes for the feeling that you have been transported to the heart of China and then feel the contrast as you stand in one of the large squares. Flanked by pastel-coloured buildings with columns, archways, balconies, and balustrades, you may be momentarily confused upon hearing Mandarin voices all around!
3. Admire the heavenly façade of the Ruins of St. Paul’s
A former church and college, St. Paul’s dates back to the early 1600s. The beautiful front wall features some highly detailed stone carvings of biblical characters and leading members of the Jesuit Order. Interestingly, many of the carvings also incorporate elements from Chinese mythology and theology. Statues sit protected in recesses and the top tier is home to a large dove – the bird of peace.
Behind the wall is a steel staircase, allowing visitors to climb to the top to enjoy sweeping views of nearby areas.
A shrine and remnants of pillars are all else that remain above-ground of this once spectacular site. Descend underground, however, into the dark depths of the Crypt and you can see a collection of historical religious items, tombs, artwork, and even more statues.
4. Enjoy beautiful historical churches
Catholicism arrived in Macau with the Portuguese. As a result, numerous churches, monasteries, and convents were built, many of which still stand proudly today.
Macau’s spiritual delights include the churches of St. Lazarus, St. Dominic, St. Augustine, St. Lawrence, St. Joseph, and St. Anthony, as well as the Chapel of Our Lady of Penha.
Macau Cathedral (Igreja da Se / Church of the Nativity of Our Lady) is another good place for fans of religious attractions. It is, however, rather a modern and dull building when compared to many of the city’s other churches. Sitting on the site of an older church, the cathedral was constructed in the late 1930s.
5. Visit sacred and spiritual Chinese temples
Macau also boasts a number of fascinating Chinese temples where you can see elements of Buddhism and Hinduism merged with Gods and Goddesses from Chinese animist beliefs.
The striking A-Ma Temple is one of the city’s most famous temples, home to decorative shrines, beautifully sculpted plants, aromatic flowers, intricate statues, and interesting rocks. People come here to pray and leave offerings to the Goddess of the Sea and the fragrance of sweet incense permeates the air.
Other fascinating temples include the luxuriously embellished Kun Iam Temple, which honours the Goddess of Mercy, and Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple, which houses a large and formidable statue of Kwan Yu, the God of War and Justice. The golden statue, with its long black beard, sits fearsomely on a throne, surrounded by the attention-grabbing colours of blood-red and gleaming gold.
What else does Macau offer?
For thrills and a high octane adrenalin rush, check out Macau Tower. As well as being able to enjoy the panoramic views from the top of this prominent landmark, you can also test your mettle on the sheer glass Skywalk, lose your head for heights with the SkyJump, or, for the ultimate rush, brave the second tallest bungee jump in the world!
Shop till you drop and indulge yourself in high-end mega malls. Poke around in the small stores and street stalls of the atmospheric Rue de Tercena. Visit Macao Museum within the old fortress of Fortaleza Do Monte, take a cycle rickshaw tour, go racing mad at the Grand Prix Museum, sink your teeth into an egg custard, be awestruck by brilliant shows, and see why Macau really shouldn’t be overlooked! Plan your trip to Macau … what’s stopping you?!
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