Although most people come to Macau to gamble and take in a show, there is actually more to this former Portuguese colony than meets the eye. The historic center has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to some architecturally stunning colonial and Chinese buildings. Macau also has plenty of museums, events and attractions to keep the whole family entertained.
St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral was built between 1602 and 1640 and destroyed in a fire in 1835. Today, only the frontal façade remains, but it showcases the beauty of Portuguese architecture and is a symbol of Macau. The cathedral was an integral part of a building complex, which included St Paul’s College and Mount Fortress, all constructed by the Jesuits. St Paul’s College was the first Western university to be established in Asia; but only its ruins can be seen today.
Historic Center of Macau
In 2005, the historic center of Macau was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The area is divided into three zones, the historic settlements along Rua Direita into the Chinese harbor; Barra Square, beautiful examples of Chinese culture and architecture like the A-Ma Temple; and the Guia Fortress, including the Guia Chapel and Guia Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in the South China Sea.
Website: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1110 http://www.macautourism.gov.mo/en/discovering/sightseeing_detail.php?catid=54
Located on the southwestern tip of Macau is the A-Ma Temple, also of UNESCO World Heritage designation. It is one of the oldest Taoist temples in the world and dates back to 1488 during the Ming Dynasty. The temple is dedicated to the goddess of fishermen and its name is presumed to be a derivation of Macau. Rich in heritage, a plethora of inscriptions and the statue of Mazu are highlights.
To see something unusual, head over to the Moorish Barracks on Barra Hill. Dating back to 1874, they were built to house an Indian regiment from Goa. The Portuguese had initially gone to Goa prior to settling Macau and the structure is another reminder of the country's rich trade history. The Moorish architecture is strikingly different from anything else on Macau and was built to provide cool housing for the humid climate.
Address: near Barra Hill, Macau
If you're only planning to visit one museum in Macau, then it should be the Macau Museum. Located in Mount Fortress, the building was constructed by the Jesuits in the 17th century. It was formerly the home of the Meteorological Services and is made up of two underground levels and one above-ground level. The museum showcases Macau’s history and culture, as well as art and religion.
Address: 112 Praseta do Museu de Macau, Macau
IFisherman’s Wharf is a modern attraction near the ferry terminal. There are three areas to explore: the Tang Dynasty, a replica castle from the period, the Underground Amusement Center and Legend Boulevard. The Amusement Center is the largest of its kind in Macau and has hundreds of video games, rides and a F1 simulator, while above ground you'll find replicas of famous port cities such as New Orleans and Amsterdam, all part of a themed-restaurant. There is a hotel and casino on site, as well as numerous shops.
Address: Avenida de Amizade e Avenida Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, Macau
Lilau Square was home to the first settlement of the Portuguese in Macau and has the feel of a typical Mediterranean village. The buildings with white-washed walls and red tile roofs are a stark contrast from the Chinese-style architecture surrounding the square and are best explored on foot. The Portuguese probably chose Lilau because it was the main source of water in Macau.
Completed in 2001, the Macau Tower was a pet project of billionaire Stanley Ho and is modeled after the Auckland Sky Tower. The tower not only boasts the best views of Macau, but is also home to shops, restaurants, slot machines, cinemas, and cafés. The observation decks are a must and depending on the smog you can sometimes see all the way to Hong Kong. Portions of the floor are made of glass (like in Auckland) and make you feel like you’re floating on air! If you're brave, you can scale the tower or bungee jump from it.
Address: Largo da Torre de Macau, Macau