Macau’s proximity to Hong Kong means many people spend just a day in the former Portuguese colony, before heading back to their Hong Kong hotel in the evening. This day trip tour of Macau will introduce you to the best bits of its Portuguese heritage and the trademark casinos in just a few hours. Although, if you're more interested in walking the cobblestones than spinning the roulette wheel, you might prefer this dedicated Portuguese Macau Tour.
Cobbled together by the Portuguese centuries ago, a map is a must, thanks to the warren-like structure of Macau’s streets. Luckily streets are well signposted, in the Roman alphabet, and most sights are within walking distance. You will need to hop on a bus or take a taxi out to the Cotai Strip, where most major casinos are found.
Also, be sure to check the Macau weather as one of the stopping off points is a beach—obviously less fun in the rain.
Macau’s main square, Largo do Senado, is a slice of the Mediterranean. Cobblestone streets and beautiful colonial buildings line the square and give it a lazy, laid back charm.
The buildings that were once the source of Portuguese power have been wonderfully preserved. Most, including the former senate and the oldest western library in Asia, are in near pristine condition. Today, the square is a prime people-watching spot as hundreds of people soak up the sun in these picturesque surroundings. Bafflingly, there are almost no cafes on the square, although Starbucks has managed to find a good spot.
Just up the road are the ruins of the Sao Paulo Church. All that remains of the church is an ornate façade - the rest of the cathedral burnt down during a kitchen mishap in the 1800s. Despite this, the building remains a powerful statement of the power the Portuguese once wielded in Asia and is as impressive as the cathedrals in Europe’s old capitals.
For a bite to eat, make your way back down to the main square, or the streets that surround it, and try one of the many Dai Pai Dongs, small stalls with plastic seating that offer Chinese snacks that are low in price, but high in quality. Or try Macanese food, the local cuisine.
Best Beach and Fernando's
Made up of three islands, Macau is blessed with a collection of beaches. One of the best, on the furthest Island of Coloane, is Hac Sa Beach—meaning black sand beach. The beach is around four kilometers long, meaning you won’t find your nose in someone else’s swimsuit, and comes with beach bars, picnic spots and hire facilities for water-skis and other water-bound activities.
Another reason for the popularity of Hac Sa is the chance to pop into seafront legend Fernando’s. Serving some of the best Portuguese food outside of the home-country, Fernando’s has garnered an excellent reputation for its laidback nature, friendliness, and outstanding food. Remember, Fernando’s has a policy of no reservations, so be prepared to wait, albeit with a jug of Sangria, before eating.
To reach Fernando's and Hac Sa you’ll need to take a bone-rattling bus journey from Rua do Campo.
Bright Lights of the City
After both seeing and tasting colonial Macau, it’s time to get a feel for modern Macau, and nothing says Macau these days more than Casinos. The city is experiencing an unprecedented boom in both casinos and tourists and has already overtaken Las Vegas in gambling revenue.
The Casino that started the boom is the Sands, although it's been eclipsed by bigger and brasher casinos, such as the City of Dreams, Studio City, and The Venetian (the biggest casino in the world). The Sands is still well placed if you don't fancy the trek out of town to Cotai. There are live bands, free drinks, and a Las Vegas atmosphere.
Just across the road from the Sands is Macau’s largest tourist development, Fishermans Wharf. This 'theme park' is short on both rides and ideas, but it is worth a walk around if only to see the tacky recreations of Old England, Rome, and other period architecture. It also has a handful of decent places for a bite to eat or a pint.
Once you’ve made your fortune at the Sands, the Hong Kong Ferry Pier is just a ten-minute walk away (although the Sands provides shuttle buses). Read this Macau travel guide for more on how to travel between Hong Kong and Macau.