Macau is a small autonomous region on China’s south coast. It was a Portuguese colony for over 300 years, but has now become a tourist hotspot, helping to make the Chinese economy the powerhouse it is today.
This area of 12.7 square miles blends Portuguese and Chinese culture seamlessly and manages to straddle the centre ground between a place of historical significance and a modern tourist hotspot like no other place in the world.
With that in mind, let’s look at the must-see places to visit while you’re exploring Macau.
The Venetian Macau
Many have dubbed it the ‘Vegas of China’, and it’s easy to see why. Macau’s annual gambling revenues of $24 billion dwarf those of actual Las Vegas, which pulls in seven-times less than that figure. Alongside this, their tourist attractions and landmarks have seen tourist arrivals reach 3.43 million in 2019. So perhaps Vegas should be called the ‘Macau of America’?
Just a short walk away from Taipa Village is the luxury hotel and casino, The Venetian Macau. It was opened in 2007 by American gambling company Las Vegas Sands, who are responsible for the venue of the same name in Vegas.
The 3,000 luxury rooms regularly house some of the wealthiest visitors to Macau, which is no wonder considering the average nightly rate for a room is around £276.
If you can’t afford to shell out on one of the sought after rooms, worry not. The venue’s big attraction is the casino. It covers an impressive 550,000 square foot and is divided into four rooms: The Golden Fish, The Imperial House, The Red Dragon and The Phoenix.
Between them, they house over 2,000 slot machines and 500 table games, including baccarat, blackjack and even ancient Chinese games like Sic Bo. This game is played with three dice in a container and players must predict the numbers after it has been shaken.
However, the biggest crowds always flock to the roulette tables. Many of the visitors who visit the tables are from China, neighbouring Russia, or from the UK or US, where the laws around gambling are much different to the Far East. In fact, many players in Western nations can play online anytime, anywhere and on any device.
With high-end graphics and a glitzy, glamorous, decadent theme modelled on 1950s Vegas, 777 has a unique theme and quality games which help it stand out from the crowd. That’s why, for many gamers, it’s one of the best online roulette operators out there. In fact, you might even prefer gambling there to the real thing, as so many players do.
When you’re visiting the Venetian, remember, you must be 21 or over to enter and gamble in the casino. Dress smart to fit in with the casino’s regular clientele and always gamble responsibly.
Another place you should check out in Macau is the quaint and historic Taipa Village. Macau’s past Portuguese connection makes it one of the world’s first East/West city collaborations, giving it a unique character you’ll struggle to find anywhere else.
Taipa village is a perfect representation of this. Its rich mix of Portuguese and Chinese culture is clear to see with every step that you take down the village’s winding paths.
After staring in awe at a dazzling Chinese temple, you’ll be struck by the reverie of a colonial building, Our Lady of Carmel Church, in a matter of minutes – such is the contrast in this part of Macau.
You can further explore the rich tapestry of this area by visiting the Taipa Houses Museum. These green and white colonial houses were built in 1921 to accommodate the Portuguese governor of the island and his trusted advisors.
One year before the millennium they were restored by the Macanese government and turned into museums of colonial artefacts. Entering the museum, you’ll view a series of artefacts and treasures that provide a glimpse into what colonial times were really like for the upper classes.
Pak Tai Temple
The inhabitants of Macau have traditionally looked to the sea surrounding the island as their main source of income. In 1844, Pak Tai Temple opened in tribute to the deity, Pak Tai, who is thought to have the divine power to withstand floods and fire.
Every year, residents flock to the temple to offer tributes that they hope will guarantee calm seas and plentiful hauls for the local fishermen and women. It’s one of the few temples in this area of south China that still regularly receives tributes from the local population.
On the third day of the third month of the Lunar Calendar, a Chinese Opera is held on the mat-shed in front of the temple, praising the protection brought to the area from Pak Tai. Inside the temple, you’ll discover a wonderful example of Chinese architecture that will blow you away. Pay particular attention to the tiny engravings that adorn the many sculptures and statues, the detail is striking.
Where to eat
Whatever your reason for visiting Macau, you simply must sample some of the traditional restaurants. Macanese and Portuguese culture are expressed through food in the city and there are two restaurants that do this better than anywhere else.
Fook Lam Moon
In English, the name of the restaurant translates as ‘Tycoons Canteen’ and the food is befitting of that moniker. The lavish setting, combined with the succulent marine delicacies, have helped the restaurant claim several Michelin-recommended status.
With signature dishes like their sautéed mantis shrimp with fish roe and kale, it’s Cantonese cuisine at its finest. You won’t find a better, or tastier Cantonese restaurant anywhere else in Macau.
Tapas de Portugal
Michelin star recipient, Chef Antonio, has owned and run this restaurant for years and his attention to detail is what makes this place phenomenal. He has decorated the restaurant himself, with the aim of immersing diners in Portuguese culture.
Here you’ll be lost in your surroundings, feeling as though you’re eating in a quaint restaurant in the back streets of Porto. There are over 40 tailored Tapas dishes to choose from, but by far the best is the lamb tenderloin bruschetta, which should be enjoyed with a nice glass of Portuguese red.
Macau truly is a treasure trove of culture, landmarks and entertainment. Whether you’re sampling the local surroundings or hitting the gaming tables, make sure you experience the best this wonderful part of the world has to offer.