The very first time I learned of all the incredible things to do in Macau, I was accompanied by an overwhelming assumption that the name was synonymous to gambling and casinos.
Several years ago, we had been traveling through China and arrived in Hong Kong, when we planned to take a day trip to check out all the things to do in Macau.
The weather had other plans for us when a large storm blew in and all the ferries were canceled.
Fast forward 4 years and we were given the opportunity to visit Macau. It was this trip that made us realize our previous assumptions were way off.
Yes, Macau has casinos and is the gambling capital of the world, but it also has an amazing history, beautiful culture, food and architecture that tells its heritage of Portuguese and Chinese influences.
Our words to you, don’t underestimate Macau. It’s an incredible destination to visit with so many wonders around every turn. We spent 3 days leaving no rock unturned, discovering its best sights, secrets and everything in between.
Everything you need to plan your own Macau itinerary can be found in this article. Are you ready?
Don’t leave home without: Pocket Rough Guide Hong Kong & Macau (Travel Guide)
Day 1: Things to do in Macau
After arriving and checking into our hotel the night before, we woke up ready to hit the ground running and find the best Macau attractions that have made this destination a must-visit. Naturally, we headed straight for the cultural heart of the city, the Historic District of Macau.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, the whole of this district is full of beautiful European style buildings, temples, and market streets. Ducking down side streets while out exploring is part of the fun as you make your way between the iconic sites.
You could easily spend two to three full days just exploring this area and not get bored, however, we’re going to share the highlights and some of our favorite places to visit in the Macau Old Town.
1. Senado Square
The heartbeat of Old Town Macau, Senado Square is an architectural wonder. I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on the street tiles laid in wave formations of white and black that lead you through the center of the square.
Used from the 16th to 18th centuries as a meeting place for the Chinese and Portuguese, the square presents a blend between Asian and European influences. The best time to visit is at night when the lights illuminate off the ground and buildings giving it an addicting vibe. It’s also a haven for night photography.
2. Ruins of St. Paul’s
The most recognized of all the sites in Macau is the Ruins of St. Paul’s cathedral. Dating back to the 17th century, all that remains of the complex that once housed a cathedral and college is the façade of the entrance against a modern-day backdrop.
While it is essentially a ruin with not much to look at beyond the standing front, it is worth taking the time to admire the intricate details on the building that still stands. If you are into history and like to see crypts, you can purchase an admission ticket in the back and enter the excavated area under the church.
3. Fortaleza do Monte
This ended up being one of our favorite spots in Old Town Macau for the simple fact that it gives epic views of the surrounding area. Occupying 8,000 square meters adjacent to the Ruins of St. Paul the fort features 32 muzzle-loading canons pointed out over Macau.
It is free to enter the fort and once you reach the top you can enjoy panoramic views of Macau below you. Be sure to pay a visit both during the day and at night to get the perfect contrast of the city.
It is a sight to behold when you can see all the casinos lit up at night from the fort.
4. Macau Museum
Housed on the inside of the Fortaleza de Monte, the Macau Museum is a must-visit place that walks you through the entire history of the city of Macau, the territory of the former Portuguese colony of Macau and now the Special Administrative Region of China.
It’s a fascinating journey to take and gives some incredible insight into the influences that have graced this tiny area. There are several displays of authentic artifacts and plaques in both Chinese and English to accompany them.
5. A-Ma Temple
Thought to be the island’s namesake, the A-Ma Temple was built in 1488 and is one of the oldest temples in Macau. As far as temples in Macau go, this one is massive, featuring several worship areas and staircases that weave throughout the complex.
It’s free to enter and open to the public. It is an active place of worship, so be sure to be respectful during a visit. If you’re traveling independently of a tour group, I highly recommend a late morning visit to avoid big groups.
Day 2: Macau Itinerary
With the first day a wrap, it’s a good time to move on to some other areas of Macau. This is the part where I prove to you that Macau is a destination that is deserving of more time than a 7-hour day trip from Hong Kong will offer. It’s a wonderous place with much to discover and experience.
6. Fisherman’s Wharf
One of the most fun areas you can visit in Macau is Fisherman’s Wharf. While we went there expecting a stinky fish market and traditional practices, we were pretty shocked to arrive and find a theme park.
The massive complex features more than 70 stores and restaurants built in a world tour style experience that takes you from Africa to Europe and everywhere in between along Legend Boulevard. Of course, you cannot miss the Roman Amphitheatre either.
7. Macau Tower
This one is hard to miss and is definitely one of the top things to do in Macau. With a space needle construction, the Macau Tower features a revolving restaurant that offers panoramic views of Macau, as well as both indoor and outdoor observation levels.
It is also the place for all things adrenaline in Macau including the world’s highest commercial Bungy jump, where you can jump from the top of the Macau Tower at 233 meters. If you’re looking for something softer, they also offer a SkyJump, Skywalk and Tower Climb.
If none of that interests you (no judgment here!) then I highly recommend you set aside time to have lunch and enjoy the views. The buffet features a variety of global and local cuisine with a fantastic view.
8. Taipa Village
A hop, skip and a jump from the Cotai Strip is the Old Taipa Village. A hidden gem that is often overlooked in favor of the historic area and the casinos, this area blends many of the very things you came to experience in Macau.
The village area features a seamless blend of Portuguese and Chinese architecture lining the streets with intermittent sprinklings of trendy, new places just across the street.
Taking the time to wander this area will reward you with small temples, colorful buildings, traditional food opportunities and a feel of the Macau of old. It’s a gem and it was virtually empty of tourists during our visit. Don’t miss it.
Lastly, if you’re looking to get into the nitty-gritty of Macau than we recommend a visit to the more overlooked than Taipa Village, Coloane.
Located far south of the Cotai Strip, this area features the modest Tam Kung Temple, colorful Chapel of St. Frances Xavier and the only beach in Macau, Hac Sa Park.
The streets here are quieter than any other you’ll find in the city and it’s a beautiful place to connect with the local life.
The most popular place to visit in Coloane is the Lord Stow’s Bakery, the very site that the first Macau-style egg tart was invented. This area is no stranger to the foodies that seek out the bakery stop, but if you continue to wander you will be highly rewarded.
You can visit the area independently by taking the local bus or hiring a taxi to the area. It is also possible to visit Coloane on a tour.
Day 3: More Things to Do in Macau
10. Casino Hopping in Cotai: Resembling the Las Vegas Strip, a rite of passage in Macau is a wander along the main street in Cotai. Take your time, enjoy the massive complexes and don’t forget to pop into a few of them along the way. Each one represents a massive complex with fine dining options and great shopping.
11. Visit the Grand Lisboa: Officially the oldest casino resort in Macau, this place is an icon and it would be remiss if you stroll through the iconic hotel on your visit. You’ll also notice the building from just about every vantage point in Macau as it also holds the title of the tallest building in the city.
12. Relax at the Pool of your Resort: Don’t spend all your time on the streets! Be sure to take some time to yourself and enjoy the lavish facilities on offer. Part of the fun in visiting Macau is indulging in luxury. You’ll find that no matter what resort you choose, you’ll be treated to a massive pool area.
13. Hike up Guia Hill: The perfect place to feed your outdoor adventure needs in the city. Enjoy some of the green space on offer while being rewarded with some fantastic views at the top.
14. Go Shopping: If it’s high-end fashion and designers you seek, then Macau is your answer. You’ll be hard-pressed to wander anywhere without labels like Gucci and Tiffany peering at you from the storefronts. All the stores feature authentic merchandise with Macau being the hot spot in Asia to obtain such brands.
Things You MUST Eat in Macau
15. Macanese Egg Tarts: no trip to Macau would be complete without trying one of its highly praised egg tarts. An icon to the city, you haven’t truly visited until you have tasted the rewards that this tart can offer you. While they are literally available everywhere, we would recommend a visit to Lord Stow’s Bakery in Coloane, a place that sells more than 13,000 egg tarts a day.
16. Pork Chop Buns: consisting of a massive bone-in pork chop marinated in five-spice powder, garlic, sugar, salt, soy, white and black pepper fried then served on a buttered Portuguese bun, the Macau Pork Chop Bun is a must-try during your visit. While they can be found in a few different places, the best is found at Tai Lei Loi Kei in Taipa Village.
17. Almond Cookies: tender and crumbly, Macau-style almond cookies are produced from almond and mung bean flour making them both sweet and savory. Second, to egg tarts, these almond cookies are one of the most purchased items on Macau by visitors and you’ll easily find a Koi Kei shop on the streets to purchase them during your visit. Not sure if you like them? No worries! Every shop offers tastings, of all their offerings, so be sure to stop in for samples.
18. Macanese Minchi: a blend of ground beef and pork, flavored with molasses and soy sauce, this dish is served with a fried egg on top and always served with white rice on the side. Depending on where you order it, you may also find potatoes and vegetables mixed into it. A staple of Macau since it was first settled, every family has their own recipe. We gave the iconic dish a try at the Litoral Restaurant, located near the A-Ma Temple. It’s a small place but one of the best to eat Minchi in Macau.
If you’re a foodie and want to plan your visit around food, check out this guide to explore more about the unique cuisine options available in Macau.
Macau Travel Tips
One of the things that are overlooked is how to get around once you arrive in Macau. If you’re not visiting on a tour, you will need to figure out transportation. Something that surprised us about Macau is how big it actually is.
It is an easy assumption that you can walk everywhere, but this is not the case.
Getting Around in Macau
Free Shuttle Transport: if you are staying on the Cotai Strip in one of the lavish casino resorts like we did, you won’t be able to walk to most of the best sites in Macau. However, the upside is that the resorts offer an impressive schedule of free shuttle services to various drop points in Macau. Each resort has a different timetable and different drop points but will cover most of the areas that we’ve mentioned or at least drop you close to them. While we did utilize this a couple of times, we ultimately found the schedules to limiting and sought transportation in other ways.
Taxis: we ended up mostly using taxis during our three days in Macau. They are everywhere and regulated. Every cab has a meter and can offer a receipt. The only thing we struggled with was that not all drivers spoke English or knew the English names to places we wanted to go. As we had cellular service, we were able to use Google Maps to enter the destination and it would automatically translate for us, which was very helpful. Otherwise, taxis, albeit the most expensive option, are safe and a great way to get around Macau.
Public Bus: if you’re visiting on a budget than the public bus is a great option. There are hundreds of stops all-around Macau that will get you where you need to go. The challenge comes in the navigation of the bus routes, which is not easily done. We used the bus twice and despite ‘clear’ instructions from the hotel on where to get off, missed our stops. If you can find a bus stop map, this will help immensely, we were never able to locate one, as all the bus stops are labeled with a name and number.
Walking: once you arrive in the areas you want to explore, by foot is your best option. This allows you to experience Macao from the street level. We found all the areas very walkable and safe once we were in the area we wanted to explore.
Accommodation in Macau
While there are hotels and resort complexes all throughout Macau, there are two main areas that people stay during a visit. Both offer their advantages so it really comes down to budget and personal preference.
Cotai Strip: the ‘new’ Macau and home to the most luxurious Macau casino hotels, this is where we stayed during our visit. It is an area with impressive buildings that take you around the world in a 20-minute stroll. Our room at Studio City was on the 18th floor and overlooked the impressive Parisian next door. Yes, our room had a view of the Eiffel Tower de Macau.
Cotai offers resort-style, mega-complex accommodation options for the ultimate vacation experience. Each resort has a built-in casino, pool area, shopping and dining at your fingertips.
Old Macau Strip: if you want to be closer to Old Town and get a more vintage feel for Macau than this area might be the perfect fit. The casino resorts on this site are also impressive buildings that offer a great vacation experience. It’s an opportunity to stay in places like the Grand Lisboa and original Sands properties.
Budget accommodation: it IS possible to stay in Macau on a budget and the destination offers a wide variety of hotels, and even some hostels, if you look at your options beyond the casino resorts. Don’t let the price of accommodation deter you from giving Macau the time it deserves, at least 3 nights.
Arriving in Macau from Hong Kong by Ferry
While Macau does have an international airport, flights typically cost significantly more than if you fly into Hong Kong, so chances are pretty high that you are visiting Macau from Hong Kong and the best way to do this is by taking the ferry.
Macau has two ferry terminals, the Macau Taipa Ferry Terminal and the Macau Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal. Both terminals are used regularly and which one you buy your ticket for depends solely on where your accommodation is located.
If you’re staying in Cotai, you’ll want to book to the Taipa Ferry Terminal and all of the resorts offer a free shuttle from there to the resort.
The Hong Kong to Macau Ferries operate throughout the day, every day, from the two main terminals Hong Kong Sheung Wan and Kowloon China. The one you leave from will again depend on where you are staying in Hong Kong.
While we arrived at the Macau International Airport, we departed from the Hong Kong Airport after our trip. We had no issues booking and using the Turbo Jet Ferry from the Macau Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal directly to the Hong Kong Airport.
Travel Tips for First Time Visitors
- While Macau is technically part of China, you do not require a China Visa to visit. Many countries are offered visa-free or visa on arrival when traveling to Macau. As Americans, we were issued a 30-day visa-free entry. Be sure to check the Macau visa conditions that apply to your passport before traveling.
- You need a passport to travel from Hong Kong to Macau and will pass through immigration on both sides.
- Macau has its own currency, the Macau Pataca, although Hong Kong Dollars and US dollars are widely accepted.
- Macau casinos operate all gambling in Hong Kong Dollars only. Macau currency is not accepted at any casino.
- When using the ATM in any casino, you are only able to dispense money in Hong Kong Dollars. If you wish to withdraw Macau Pataca, you have to look for ATM’s outside of the casinos.
- If possible, travel to Macau during the week and avoid weekends. Many people travel from China to Macau on the weekends making the city chaotic and very busy.
Disclosure: This post was made possible in partnership with Expedia and iAmbassador. For more information on planning your Perfect Blend trip to Macao, be sure to check out the Expedia Macao microsite for useful information. All opinions are 100% mine, as always.
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