Honestly saying, when I first got the invitation for a five days trip in Macau, I was like – Okay, what can I do in Macau for such a long time? What to see in Macau? Isn’t it a place for gambling? All these questions popped up in my head. Turns out there are a lot of fun things to do here in Macau.
Maybe it was me who didn’t do enough research and had no clue about Macau. But as soon as I started my first day exploring the Historic Centre of Macau, I was taken aback. This is not what I expected from Macau, the classic European-style buildings, antique shops hidden in a small laneways, old charming apartments, I was in love at first sight.
Macau – Las Vegas of the East. For sure this title doesn’t come up without any reason. With so much cash flowing into this small city from the casino business, more and more luxurious estate are developed to accommodate visitors.
Expect to see flashy shopping malls, high-end hotels, and mind-blowing entertainments that would elevate your travel experiences in Macau. I’ve summed up a list of 15 fun things to do in Macau besides gambling, let’s get started!
Facts of Macau
Let’s take a quick look about Macau itself. At least, you’ll have some ideas before we jump into the attractions in Macau. Here are some interesting facts about Macau:
The name of Macau
The name of Macau is derived from a misunderstanding between locals and Portugese when the Portugese first arrived near A-Ma Temple and asked about the land’s name. The locals answered A-Ma-Gao, meaning “Bay of A-Ma”. In Cantonese, it is called Ou Mun which means “Gateway of the Bay”.
Macau is colonized by Portugese
Macau is colonized by Portugese for more than 400 years. In 1999, Macao was handed over to China, becoming a Special Administrative Region (SAR) which benefits from the principle of “one country, two systems”.
Macau consists of three main area
Macau consists of three main area; Macau Peninsula, Taipa Island, and Coloane Island. The two islands are now connected after the land reclamation and a new town called Cotai has been built, home to several casinos.
Macau is the only legal place for casinos and gambling
Macau is the only legal place for casinos and gambling in China. The numbers of casino in Macau is 40 and the gambling revenue has surpassed Las Vegas.
Things to do in Macau
Macau is probably the only place in China where you can still find European architectural legacy standing today. As a result of unique-cultural blending between the East and the West, UNESCO inscribed The Historic Centre of Macao as a World Heritage Site on 2005, spanning eight major squares and 22 historic buildings. In addition, most of the buildings are predominantly close to each other, meaning easily-accessible by foot, make it a pleasant destination to eyewitness the bond from two different cultures in the past.
1. Ruins of St. Paul’s
Probably, many of you have seen this building from your friends’ profile pictures and guess what, you made a huge mistakes if you think this place is in Europe. I was fooled, thinking how cool my friends were traveling to Europe, in fact this church which is dubbed as the Ruins of St. Paul’s stands in the heart of Macau Old City.
The compelling story behind how the church and the college was burnt in the fire, leaving only the great carved stone facade. The Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt was installed and contains some altar pieces. Little tips for you, come earlier to avoid tour groups.
2. Na Tcha Temple
Right behind the Ruins of St. Paul’s, a small temple was built to worship Na Tcha, a legendary young hero in Chinese Folk Stories. Na Tcha Temple is linked with the Section of Old Walls and has become a part of the historic centre. This modest-looking temple has only a single chamber with little ornaments where spirally-incense sticks are hanged on the ceiling.
3. St. Dominic’s Church
Flanked between Ruins of St. Paul’s and “Leal Senado” Building, the yellow-painted wall church which was founded by three Spanish Dominician Priests automatically become a famous layover in between.
Stomp inside to see a huge collection of the Catholic artifacts. St. Domimic’s Square which lies in front of the church, still surrounded by European-style buildings though some of them are used for commercial space.
4. Senado Square
Macas’s main square, always busy with pedestrians enjoying the fineness of the buildings around. The wavy pattern stone is the trademark of Senado Square. Some other buildings around this square; Holy House of Mercy, the General Post Office and the “Leal Senado” Building.
5. A-Ma Temple
Existed even before the city of Macao came into being, A-Ma Temple is the oldest temple constructed to worship Mazu, the sacred sea goddess. It consists of several prayer pavilions in different levels.
Some giant boulders are painted with Chinese character, sitting along the way. Try to test your luck by rubbing your palm on the both handle of a bronze bowl filled with coins and water. If the water vibrates and bursts out, you succeed.
6. Mandarin House
A great example of a traditional Chinese style house. Associated with a famous Chinese thinker Zheng Guanying, the two-storey house looks impressed me with the structure – or I would say the elements and details especially the doors and the windows. The house consists several courtyards and small gardens, furnished with a few of old wooden chairs and tables.
7. St. Augustine’s Square
Mostly yellow or green colored Portugese-style building surrounding this little square where some renowned monuments are inch-away one to another. The square embraces St. Augustine’s Church, the Dom Pedro V Theatre, St. Joseph’s Seminary and Church, and the Sir Robert Ho Tung Library.
8. Guia Fortress
A short nail-bitting ride of local cable car (cheap as chips! Only 2 MOP/person) from Flora Garden will take you up to the hill, then you just have to hike a bit to the highest point in Macao, Guia Fortress.
A fully white lighthouse perched on the top – the oldest western style lighthouse on the China Coast. It offers a panoramic view of the whole city. A small chapel situated next to the lighthouse has its wall painted with colorful mural makes it unique yet beautiful.
9. Chong Sai Pharmacy
Recently opened in 2016, the old Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s pharmacy which is located at no.80 of Rua das Estalagens was transformed to a small museum – exhibits various historical objects such as boulders and ceramics. It is a place not only learning about Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s life during his time in Macao but also the look of Old Macau as a famous port back then.
10. The alleys
Seriously, strolling along the streets and alleys in Macau can’t be more appealing in order to see different shapes of buildings – both Chinese and Western style. The charm of old apartments, vintage housings, lots of interesting stuffs. My favorite: Rua da Felicidade and Rua dos Ervanarious, you might bump into street vendors and don’t miss the chance to sample them.
If you have a queue of credit cards in your wallet and don’t mind to spend extra bucks in exchange of a pinch of fancy experience, then you shouldn’t miss these activities.
11. Walk or Dine in the Sky at Macau Tower
Could be the best place for truth or dare game, or maybe worst? Macau’s most famous landmark, the Macau Tower is the place for you to claim a prestigious record for doing the highest commercial bungee-jumping in the world! Not ready for the challenge yet? Test how far you can go by going up to the observatory deck on the 58th Floor and step on the transparent floor. Look down, don’t close your eyes.
If it’s still too much for you to handle, I hope 360′ Cafe can soothe you a bit – of course it will, you’ll be busy digging the unlimited food served fresh on the bar, from Baked Mushroom Bread Pudding to Roasted Beef Tenderloin. The restaurant rotates slowly, sit down and relax while munching the dumplings with the 360 panoramic view above Macau City.
*Price for tower admission MOP 145, Buffet starts from MOP 278, and Skywalk starts from MOP 788. Click here for more information.
12. Ride the Eight-shaped Golden Reel, Studio City
Another fun things to do in Macau besides gambling is riding ferris wheel. Ferris wheel doesn’t always have to be round, it can come in shape too such as the eight-shaped Golden Reel. The ride will take you up 130 meters from the ground, clear enough for you to see the whole Cotai Strip before descending down. If you’re a big fan of superhero and fantasizing about saving the world from the bad guy, save a bundle on the tickets with Batman Dark Flight, a 4D flight simulation.
*Ticket Price: MOP 100. Click here for more information.
13. Enjoy Sunset while Sipping Cocktail, Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Take drinking to the next level by sipping your favorite cocktail in Vida Rica Bar, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Macau. The cocktails are presented in both unique and elegant ways, such as Legend of Kremlin – a glass of Absolute Pear Vodka mixed with Legend of Kremlin Vodka, pineapple, calamansi, and lemon juice – a perfect start for a boozy night out. Check out the incredible skyline during sunset overlooking Nam Van Lake and Macau Tower.
*Click here for the best deals and book your hotel in Macau.
14. Watch the Glittering Lights of Parisian from Macao Eiffel Tower
The sophisticated Eiffel Tower was cloned at the prominent gambling district in Cotai. The half-scaled replica of the real Eiffel Tower joins the club for premium attractions happening in Macau. Head up to the 37th floor and enjoy the spellbinding view of Parisian, a luxurious hotel resort featuring shopping malls and water park, as well as the sparkling lights from other high buildings.
*Price: MOP 100. Click here for more information.
15. Swan Boat-Pedaling around Nam Van Lake
Classic and old-fashion, nonetheless it’s always fun to unwind and spend some time with friends or family sitting and pedaling the swan boat. Another lovey-dovey way to enjoy the tower especially in a sunny day. Plus, it’s cheap and cheerful way to enjoy things to do in Macau besides gambling.
*Price: MOP 20 per person (30 minutes)
16. Sharpen Your Creativity at One Creative Arts Department
Crave for something different? Throw yourself to One Creative Arts Department where you can join their workshop classes and learn something new, or bring your creative side to the table. I did try the soy wax aromatherapy and learn a few process from melting the wax, choosing the scent, and design the wax with cute flowers on top. Out of three attempt I managed to create one descent bar (which is not in the picture below, haha). They do some other workshops as well such as preserved flower workshop, butter cream flower cake workshop, and many more.
*Price for this workshop was MOP 250. Click here for more information.
17. Beer Sampling at Beer Temple
Just next to One Creative Arts Department is a restaurant named Beer Temple. You can tell from its name that this the place for beer worshiper! Haha, just kidding. It’s a nice cozy restaurant with many collections of beer from all around the globe. If you’re not sure which one to get, talk to the expert and explain what flavors you like, if it’s sweet or dry, strong or less, then he’ll pick one from the chiller, and congrats, you get your beer! The food, was to die for so..pray for yourself.
18. Movie Time at Cinematheque Passion
Not a place to watch the latest Hollywood movie but for sure they play a good quality movies. Born from the passion to introduce indie or local film-makers, Cinematheque is the place for you to trace the story behind filming industry in Macau. The colorful seats are pretty instagramable, aren’t they?
*Ticket Price MOP 60. Click here for more information.
19. Live Version of Famous Chinese Folklore, the Monkey King Show, Sands Cotai
Journey to the West is one of the most famous Chinese Folklore about a monk who travels with his disciples to the west in order to bring the holy scriptures back to China. Based on that story, this show is highlighting one of his disciples, the mischievous and playful Monkey King. Like any other show, it’s compiled with acrobatic moves and dance, not forget to mention the 3D effects throughout the show.
*Price starts from MOP 380 – 1280 depending on the seat. Click here for more information.
20. Be Amazed with the House of Dancing Water, City of Dreams
This show is no joke! From the very beginning this show will leave you speechless with its electrifying acrobatic stunt. I’m not gonna be a spoiler but basically the story is about a gentleman fighting a cruel devil queen to save his lover. It’s a complete package of thrill, romance, and a bit of humor. The quick changing of the set from wet to dry is bewildering, the props, the effects, and top class performers, dance, everything about this show deserves standing ovation. Best show I’ve watched so far!
*Price starts from MOP 580 to 1480 depending on the seat. Click here for more information.
21. Check Out the Golden Tree of Prosperity, Wynn Macao
Can you believe that this tree is embellished with 24 karat golds?! It’s hard for me to believe it. We’re talking about technology and luxury now. The dome overhead will open up and a massive shimmering chandelier will slowly come down. Soon after, the lower dome will also open up and the golden trees are up, changing its color based on the season. Impressive things to do in Macau.
22. Dance with the Dancing Fountain, Wynn Macau
It can get very exciting just to watch the flashy water swayed to the beat and creating arcs. The water splash alternately from one side to another until they all jump high to the climax, before you realized that the show just ended.
23. Name the Fish in a Giant Aquarium, MGM Macau
It seems like all these resorts are trying their best to entertain the guests. A neon-blue giant aquarium was installed in the middle of lobby area of MGM. I bet kids would love this!
24. Enter Wynn Palace with the Cable Car
The best comfort you can get just to enter a shopping mall, by a cable car! Hop to the cabin and it will transfer you across the lake to Wynn Palace. Super easy! One of the fun things to do in Macau.
25. Flirt with the Gondola’s Boatman, Venetian
I’m not really a fan of this kind of thing but hey, if a handsome guy taking me on a gondola and sing his heart out with his lovely voice, no second thought, I’m in. Turns out I have to bite my finger because he’s married to someone!
*Price MOP 128 for shared ride and MOP 512 for private. Click here for more information.
Suggested Itinerary for Self-Guided Walking Tour in Macau
Walking is the best way to expeience Macau since the landmark is not far from each other. I would suggest at least three days staying in Macau to fully explore and experience the historic sites and the luxuriness of the shopping malls and casios as well. If you have:
One full day self-guided walking tour in Macau
Start from the South of Peninsula by taking bus to A-Ma Temple. Then continue by walking to Moorish Barracks – Mandarin House – Lilau Square – St. Lawrence’s Church – St. Augustine’s Square.
Take a break around Nam Van Lake to take few photos of the lake and Macao Tower. Once you feel refreshed then continue by foot to Senado Square – St. Dominic’s Church – Ruins of St. Paul’s – Na Tcha Temple. For the night, walk around Grand Lisboa, Wynn for the “Tree of Prosperity” and the fountain show. and MGM for the aquarium.
Two full days self-guided walking tour in Macau
On the first day, visit the Ruins of St. Pauls – Na Tcha Temple – Sections of the Old City Walls. Walk to Flora Garden and take the cable car ride to the hill and visit Guia Fortress. Walk down to Senado Square and explore more around the buildings such as General Post Office and “Leal Senado” Buldings, St. Dominic’s Church.
Walk around the alleys to Rua Dos Ervanarious. If you still have time do the St. Augustine’s Square and explore more the buildings around all the way down to A-Ma Temple and take the bus back.
On the second day, take the bus to Taipa Island, visit Taipa Houses Museum and walk around Taipa. You’ll find cute alleys, street full of restaurants for lunch. After having lunch, walk to the Venetian, Parisian, and City of Dreams then back to the Peninsula.
Three full days self-guided walking tour in Macau
Still following the same route or itinerary from above but I might split the Historical Centre or the Peninsula in two days to spend more time in each places to learn more without rushing. On the third day, I would add extra trip to Coloane.
Must Eat Food in Macau
- Lord Stow’s Portugese Egg Tart
- Nan Peng Sandwich
- Koi Kei Bakery Almond Cookie and Sea Weed Pork Floss Roll
- Tapas de Portugal by Antonio for Tapas and Serradura
- A Porta de Arte, try the drink with coffee and tea mixed together
- Litoral Restaurant
- Beer Temple
Getting in and out Macau
Getting in and out Macau by air
There are some direct flights to Macao from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Taipei, and Beijing, otherwise connecting flights are available for other regions. Macau International Airport is located in Taipa.
To Macau from Hongkong by Ferry
Taking ferry from Hongkong to Macau is the most common way. There are two big operators; TurboJet and Cotai Water Jet. The ride takes about 40-60 minutes with ticket fare starting from HKD 165. Click here for more information about the ferry ride from Hongkong to Macau and vice versa.
Traveled in 8-13 April 2018
Thanks to Macao Government Tourism Office to organize this trip. Please check their website for more information about Macao. If you think this post is useful, kindly share this information by clicking the logo below. You’ll be directed to your facebook or twitter.