48 hours in... Macau
Katie Parsons discovers a vibrant city that blends the best of its past with a thriving food scene and lively nightlife.
1. WHY GO NOW?
Two of Macau’s biggest annual events, the Macau Grand Prix and Macau International Fireworks Display Contest, have anniversaries this autumn. The fireworks festival (September/ October) marks its 25th birthday while the Grand Prix, featuring both car and motorbike racing on one of the hardest street circuits in the world, turns 60 in November.
2. GET YOUR BEARINGS
Macau is one of China’s two special administrative regions, the other being Hong Kong, 60km to the east. It lies south of the city of Guangzhou and an hour’s crossing by ferry from Hong Kong. Macau is tiny – just 29sq km – consisting of the mainland peninsula and two islands: Taipa and Coloane. Head up the Macau Tower, which at 338 metres is one of the world’s tallest, for views across Macau, China and, on a clear day, Hong Kong.
3. CHECK IN
Situated on Macau’s picturesque waterfront, Sofitel Macau At Ponte 16 is close to the historical quarter. Other luxury hotel options include the Banyan Tree, Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons, with entertainment complexes either inside or a short walk away.
4. YOU MAY NOT KNOW...
Although known for its glamorous casinos, there’s much more to Macau. Over 450 years of Portuguese influence can be seen in everything from the architecture to Macau’s most famous snack, the delicious pastel de nata, or egg custard tart.
5. WORTH WALKING
Take the tourist office’s self-guided walk through the historic centre of Macau, a UNESCO world heritage site. Macau’s oldest building is the A-Ma Temple, built by the Cantonese in the early 16th century and featuring characteristic Chinese architecture. Senado Square is flanked by colourful, colonnaded 19th-century buildings, cobbled with black and white stones and a grand fountain in its centre.
6. QUICK LUNCH
Macanese food is a culinary melting pot, taking its influences not just from Portugal and China, but South America, Africa and India too. 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.
7. CULTURAL AFTERNOON
The arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century had a lasting effect on Macau and created a unique 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. A particular surprise is the Ruins of St Paul’s, the imposing facade of the old Church of Mater Dei – itself part of St Paul’s College, founded in 1594 by the Portuguese, one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia at the time.
8. COCKTAIL HOUR
The Macau skyline sets the scene at the stylish rooftop 38 Lounge Bar at the Altira Hotel, or at Macau’s newest rooftop bar, Sky 21, on the 21st floor of the AIA Tower. Sky 21 features a chic lounge bar and deck-set dance floor offering incredible views of the Macau Tower and Nam Van Lake. Meanwhile, The Lion’s Bar at MGM Macau is the spot for killer cocktails and live music.
9. DRESSING FOR DINNER
Restaurant highlights include Restaurante Litoral run by Manuela Ferreira, who serves delicious Macanese cuisine in the Barra district. António is a vibrant eatery in Taipa Village, run by renowned Portuguese chef Antonio Coelho. The Eight is a Michelin-starred restaurant set in the Grand Lisboa hotel, serving Cantonese and Huaiyang cuisine and featuring more than 50 varieties of dim sum.
10. NIGHT ON THE TOWN
Take in a show at the City of Dreams complex. The spectacular House of Dancing Water, by the man behind many of Cirque du Soleil’s spectacular productions, features breathtaking high-dive acrobatics, as well as high-wire stunts, fountain effects and even somersaulting motorcycle stunts. End the night in one of the casinos on the bustling Cotai Strip. Bet or don’t bet, either way it’s an astonishing sight.
11. EASY LIKE…
The picturesque hills, valleys and beaches of Macau’s southern countryside, with their smattering of rural villages, are the perfect setting for both outdoor activities and a place to relax and recharge. Marques Square in Coloane Village features an array of cafes, restaurants and traditional houses built over the water. Hac Sa and Cheoc Van Bays, popular with locals and visitors, are lapped by safe, warm waters ideal for swimming and water sports.
12. WINDOW SHOPPING
From thronging markets to glitzy malls filled with designer brands, Macau’s shopping specialities include antiques, porcelain, furniture, cashmere and silk clothing. There’s also Portuguese wine, as well as traditional Chinese teas and medicine.
13. DON’T MISS
Biscuits and dried meat. 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 biscuits. The ubiquitous Koi Kei is a popular shop offering both. Chinese visitors buy more of the snacks than they can carry.
14. OUT OF TOWN
Hong Kong is only an hour by ferry, so is an easy trip from Macau. A direct ferry also links to the airport.