48 hours in... Macau
Discover Macau, only 60kms from Hong Kong on the southern coast of China, which was settled by the Portuguese over 400 years ago. The destination retains a certain charm, with a Portuguese-Chinese heritage and is famed for its food scene. The combination of colourful Portuguese tiles and architecture and ancient Chinese temples adds to its intrigue.
Why go in 2018?
Every year, Macau hosts a number of events attracting both locals and visitors, starting with the elaborate Chinese New Year festivities, this year in mid-February. In spring, discover a variety of performances at the Macao Arts Festival and watch the energetic spectacle of the Macao International Dragon Boat races. Alternatively, if you visit in September, see the sky lit up with fireworks at the Macao International Fireworks Display Contest and luminous lanterns at the Mid-Autumn Festival, or enjoy the Macao International Music Festival in October that draws together a wide variety of music genres. To end the year, there is the Macau Grand Prix in November, where the notorious Guia circuit winds through the city’s streets, while the Macao Light Festival illuminates the best-known streets and buildings in December.
Chinese New Year
Get your bearings
Macau is one of China’s two special administrative regions, the other being Hong Kong, 60kms to the east. It lies south of the city of Guangzhou and is accessible via Macau International airport or an hour’s crossing by ferry from Hong Kong’s airport or downtown. Macau – at just 29 sq kms – consists of the mainland peninsula and two islands: Taipa and Coloane. Head up the 338-metre-high Macau Tower, which provides views across Macau, China and, on a clear day, to Hong Kong.
Situated on Macau’s picturesque waterfront, Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16 is also close to the Unesco-listed Historic Centre of Macao. Other luxury hotel options include the Banyan Tree, Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons, with entertainment complexes either inside or a short walk away. If you’re looking for somewhere with local character, check into Pousada de Mong-Ha or Pousada de Coloane, offering traditional Portuguese hospitality.
Four Seasons pool
Did you know?
Often known for its casinos, there’s much more to Macau than the glitz and the glamour. Over 400 years of Portuguese influence can be seen in everything from the architecture to Macau’s most celebrated snack, the delicious pastel de nata – an egg custard tart.
Portuguese architecture in The Historic Centre of Macao
Take one of the tourist office’s “Step Out Macao” self-guided walking tours through The Historic Centre of Macao – a Unesco world heritage site – Taipa and Coloane. Don’t miss the A-Ma Temple, one of Macau’s oldest buildings, built in 1488 by the Cantonese. Senado Square is flanked by colourful, colonnaded, neo-classical buildings, cobbled with black and white stones and a grand fountain in its centre.
A fusion of flavours
Macanese food is a culinary melting pot, taking its influences not just from Portugal and China but South America, Africa and India too. Fresh seafood, duck and chicken are at the core of the menu; they are stewed or baked for long periods of time to ensure flavourful dishes. Delicacies include Galinha à Portuguesa (chicken baked with potatoes, onions, egg and saffron, spiced with turmeric) and Linguado Macau (fried sole served with green salad).
The arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century had a lasting effect on Macau and created a distinct blend of east and west that remains today. European churches have been built close to Taoist temples and traditional Chinese homes sit alongside historic palaces. The most iconic building is the Ruins of St Paul’s and its imposing facade, originally the Church of Mater Dei built from 1602-1640, and the ruins of St. Paul’s College, the first western-style university in the Far East, which stood adjacent to the church.
Ruins of St. Paul’s
The Macau skyline sets the scene at the stylish rooftop 38 Lounge Bar at the Altira Hotel, or opt for Sky 21 on the 21st floor of the AIA Tower, featuring a chic lounge bar and deck-set dance floor offering incredible views of the Macau Tower and Nam Van lake. Meanwhile, a spot for whisky lovers is the Macallan Whisky Bar at Galaxy Macau.
Dressing for dinner
With Macau’s designation as a Unesco Creative City of Gastronomy and 18 Michelin-starred restaurants, you won’t be short of places to dine. Restaurant highlights include Robuchon au Dôme run by Joël Robuchon, with three Michelin stars. Set atop the Grand Lisboa Hotel, both the views and cuisine make this a real treat. Also at the Grand Lisboa Hotel is The Eight, serving Cantonese and Huaiyang cuisine and featuring more than 50 varieties of dim sum. What’s more, it’s the first and only Chinese restaurant in Macau to be awarded three Michelin stars. António is a vibrant eatery in Taipa Village, run by renowned Portuguese chef António Coelho.
Dim sum at The Eight
Night out on the town
Watch the extravagant House of Dancing Water show at the City of Dreams. Created by the man behind many of Cirque du Soleil’s spectacular productions, it features breathtaking high-dive acrobatics as well as high-wire stunts, fountain effects and even somersaulting motorcycle stunts. End the night by taking in the lights of the casinos on the bustling Cotai Strip; it’s quite a dazzling sight.
The House of Dancing Water show
The picturesque hills, valleys and beaches of Macau’s southern countryside, with their smattering of rural villages, are the perfect setting for outdoor activities as well as a place to relax and recharge. Marques Square in Coloane village features an array of cafes and restaurants and the colourful Chapel of St. Francis Xavier. The bays of Hac Sa and Cheoc Van, popular with locals and visitors alike, are lapped by safe, warm waters, ideal for swimming and water sports.
From bustling markets to glitzy malls filled with designer brands, Macau’s shopping specialities include antiques, porcelain, furniture and jewellery. There’s also Portuguese wine, as well as traditional Chinese teas and medicine.
Shoppes at Four Seasons shopping mall
…biscuits and jerky! Rua do Cunha ‘Food Street’ in Taipa Village and the narrow streets leading up to the Ruins of St Paul’s are lined with shops specialising in an interesting selection of dried jerky meats and delicate almond cookies. The ubiquitous Koi Kei Bakery is a popular shop offering both. You’ll notice Chinese visitors buying more of the snacks than they can carry!
Rua do Cunha or ‘Food street’ in Taipa Village