A Weekend Away: What to Do in Macau
Macau may be called the “Las Vegas of the East” but the former Portuguese colony has more to offer than just casinos. Colonial architecture and Michelin-rated street food make an overnight in the autonomous territory well worth the trip.
The Short List
- Explore Macau’s Historic Centre
- Taste what Michelin is raving about
- Retreat to the Village of Taipa
- Dine on Macanese
- Hit the water
- See how Asia does Vegas
Explore Macau’s Historic Centre
Gather your bearings – WikiTravel summarizes Macau’s geography nicely – and head to the pedestrian-friendly Macau (Penha) Peninsula. Colorful Portuguese promenades, historical monuments and popular street food spots are primarily concentrated in this area, as are Macau’s oldest and most iconic hotels and casinos. Frommers has two fairly detailed (and still relevant) self-guided walking routes that cover more than half of Macau’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. High on the must-see lists: the ruins of St. Paul, St. Dominic’s Church, Largo de Senado, Lou Kau and Mandarin mansions, and the Temple of A-Ma (near the southwestern tip).
If you have more time, hit the southern and eastern portions of the peninsula. Open Saturdays and Sundays, shopping enthusiasts should plan to visit the Nam Van Lake Craft Market – in addition to the Macau Design Centre in the Historic Centre – while adrenaline junkies can bungee jump, sky walk or tower climb the Macau Tower. The slightly less fearless can enjoy the tower’s panoramic view from the comfort of an enclosed observation deck or shop for Macanese pop culture art in Macau Creations.
Taste what Michelin is raving about
It’s street food. Yep, street food. The Michelin Guide to Hong Kong and Macau included street food in 2016 and travelers to Macau began to taste what the Macanese long knew… Where to find delicious (and cheap) street-side eats. In Macau’s Historic Centre the parallel alleys between to Rua de São Domingos and Travessa do Meio are street food heaven, with savory bites like curry beef offal from Kam Wai and Tai Lei Loi Kei’s pork chop buns. Pastelarias selling sweet pork jerky and shops with durian and black garlic ice cream line the Rua de São Paulo and da Palha en route to the ruins of St. Paul’s. Traveller Australia boils down their top 6 Macau street food recommendations, CNN Travel suggests their top 10 while the Culture Trip recommends the best street food stalls in Macau.
Not sure what to try? Then follow the crowds. Not all street food is created equal and the locals know what to eat where. Follow the lines, look at what everyone else is ordering and do exactly the same.
Retreat to the Village of Taipa
A quick jaunt south across the bridge, Taipa Village (the historic area of Taipa) is significantly smaller and far less crowded than Macau’s Historic Centre. Also known for its colonial architecture and Buddhist temples, the most famous part of the village is Rua do Cunha, affectionately known as “food street.” Among the must try street eats are serradura (sawdust pudding) – a creamy dessert of condensed milk, vanilla and layers of crushed biscuits – and just about anything from one of Macau’s most well-known bakeries, Fong Kei Pastelaria.
Dine on Macanese
Unique to Macau, Macanese is a fusion of Portuguese and Chinese cuisines, with Afro-Brazilian influences. Seafood dishes dominate the menu and it would be criminal to leave Macau without trying Macanese stuffed crab or clams. A Lorcha, Miramar and Albergue 1601 consistently top the list of the best Macanese restaurants. The Telegraph and CNN and TripSavvy have more recommendations on where to dine in Macau.
Hit the water
Bypass the city crowds entirely and head to one of Macau’s beaches on Coloane Island. Hac Sa Beach (Black Sand Bay) is the best known but not the only option. The Culture Trip breaks down the beach options in Macau.
See how Asia does Vegas
From the Wynn and MGM to singing gandoliers in The Venetian Macau, even the non-gambler should take a peek at the Macanese take on Las Vegas casinos. If you do want to try your luck at a hand of black jack keep in mind the minimum buy-ins are high and the iconic casino floor cocktail waitress may be pushing a tea cart instead.
Entertainment options are limited. The House of Dancing Water continues to be most famous show in Macau.
… And a few more tips
Off the beaten path
Do veer off from the crowds to explore the narrow alleys and small ruas (streets) in Macau’s Historic Centre. You may just find hidden gems like antiques, and the Beer Temple, along Rua de Nossa Sra.
An available taxi is not always easy to find in Macau, nor is it cheap. Many hotels provide free shuttle service to the center and sister hotels. Ask your hotel upfront about shuttle routes and schedules. Also keep an eye out for Cotai Connection buses. The service provides free shuttles between Cotai’s major hotels.
- Keep up-to-date with Macanese events, lifestyle and entertainment with Macau Lifestyle and City Guide and Sassy Hong Kong.
- Macau’s Cultural Institute and Tourism Board have more information about food festivals and other activities throughout the regions.
- For more annual events see TripSavvy’s listing of Festivals in Macau.
- The Independent UK offers its own itinerary for how to spend 48 hours in Macau, TripSavvy suggests things to do beyond the casinos and the Expat-focused Honeycombers Hong Kong has their rundown of best restaurants, cafés and more in Macau.
A big thank you to H. Falconer for pointing us in all the right directions in Macau.