Ultimate 3-day itinerary in the ‘East Meets West’ melting pot brimming with gastronomical, historical and cultural treasures
Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. While it might not seem like a big place, there are enough things to do, see and eat, during a three-day visit.
The historical city is rich in history and culture with many heritage European-style buildings and monuments, churches and Chinese temples. Macau is also famous for its glitzy hotels, casinos and culinary fares.
The Portuguese first settled in Macau in 1557 after they helped the Chinese government defeat pirates around the area. In 1783, Portugal declared sovereignty over Macau and ruled the city until it was handed back to China in 1999.
Both ‘Macau’ and ‘Macao’ are acceptable spellings for the city although the government and local authorities tend to prefer the use of ‘Macao’. Today, as an SAR, the city has its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs and immigration policies.
Here’s how to enjoy Macau with our ULTIMATE 3-DAY ITINERARY!
Day 1 – Historic Macau
On your first day in the city, experience the unique history and culture that only Macau can offer. There’s no better way to start off than by taking a heritage walk around the historic commercial centre. Head straight to the ruins of St Paul’s at the break of dawn before the tourists start to arrive. St Paul’s is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but it has grown to become a symbol of Macau. Within a short walking distance from the ruins, you can explore the Travessa da Paixão, a small lane lined with colourful European-style architecture and a hot favourite among Instagram fans. Other nearby attractions include Na Tcha Temple and the Museu de Macau or Macao Museum (www.macaumuseum.gov.mo) where you can learn about Macau’s history, commerce and culture.
After St Paul’s, walk 400 metres south to St Dominic’s, a late 16th century Baroque-style church painted in distinctive yellow and was built by Dominican friars from Spain.
From St Dominic’s, it’s a 300-metre walk to Senado Square, also known as Senate Square, a paved town square surrounded by pastel-coloured European-style neo-classical buildings. Attractions around the Square include the Rua de Felicidade or Happiness Street; Kuan Tai Temple or Sam Kai Vui Kun; Holy House of Mercy that was established in 1569; and Lou Kau Mansion, the former residence of the rich businessman that fuses Portuguese with Chinese architecture.
Rua de Felicidade, formerly a red-light district, is now a tourist attraction famous for its quaint shophouses and restaurants with doors painted in a bright red colour. Kuan Tai Temple is an old Chinese temple dedicated to Guan Yu, a famous general during the Three Kingdoms period in China.
From Senado Square, you can walk 850 metres south-west to the Mandarin’s House, the 150-year- old former residence of a famous Chinese writer. You can take a breather there before continuing 550 metres to the famous A-Ma Temple. Built in 1488 by local fishermen to honour a sea goddess, it is said to be Macau’s oldest temple.
Do note that the ruins of St Paul’s and Senado Square are getting so popular that the local authorities are suggesting that tourists should go elsewhere. So, you’d want to avoid the peak hours.
From A-Ma Temple, it’s just a two-kilometre taxi ride to Macau Tower, where you can get a good bird’s eye view of the city from the Outdoor Observation Deck on Level 61. Bungee jumping is also available for adrenaline-seekers.
At the end of the day, take a three-kilometre taxi ride from Macau Tower back to the hotel and casino district east of Nam Van Lake. Interesting hotels around the area include Lisboa, Wynn Macau, MGM Macau and Sands Macau, among many others.
If you feel like a local seafood dinner instead of a posh dinner inside a hotel, Wo Fat Pier Food (97 Av de Demetrio Cinatti) will not disappoint. The restaurant is located at Pier 22 beside Sofitel Macau and along a waterfront overlooking China’s Zhuhai city.
Day 2 – The Traditional Taipa Village
On day two, visit Macau’s Taipa Village (www.taipavillagemacau.com) where you can easily spend the entire day sightseeing, shopping and dining. A recommended heritage trail starts with breakfast at the traditional Cafe Tai Lei Loi Kei (www.taileiloi.com.mo), famous for its signature crispy pork chop bun. After breakfast, you can do a quick tour of Vila Da Taipa, a popular tourist spot, before heading to the 234-year-old Tin Hau Temple. For history buffs, a visit to the Museum of Taipa and Coloane History would be interesting. If you have time for just one temple in Macau, Pak Tai Temple is a must for its 160-year history and plenty of photo opportunities.
If you have not experienced traditional Macanese food, make a lunch stopover at the 94-year-old Portugalia or The Portuguese Beerhouse (www.facebook.com/PortugaliaMacau). Other places of interest at Taipa Village include Our Lady of Carmo Church; Taipa Houses Museum; I Leng Temple; Sam Po Temple; Kuan Iam Temple; Pou Tai Temple; and the vibrant Cunha Street, lined with local restaurants and shops. Sei Kee Cafe (www.facebook.com/seikeecafe) is also worth a visit for its traditional claypot coffee, tea and toasts. If you find it tiring to walk, a quicker way to explore Taipa would be by cycling. You can rent a bicycle from one of the many bike shops in the area.
Day 3 – The Rustic Coloane Village & The Glitzy Cotai Strip
Formerly a hideout for pirates, Coloane is now a popular getaway for Macanese to unwind and relax. The area is mostly wooded hills with hiking trails, small villages and quaint shops. Main attractions in Coloane include the baroque St Francis Xavier Church at the Eduardo Marques Square; the Coloane Library; Coloane Pier; and Cheoc Van Beach (Bamboo Bay), said to be one of Macau’s best beaches. Coloane’s other attraction is the Macao Giant Panda Pavilion (www.macaupanda.org.mo), a zoo in Seac Pai Van Park.
For nature hikes, there are about a dozen well-marked trails, including the Long Chao Kok Coastal Trail, which starts from the popular Hac Sa (Black Beach) and takes about 45 minutes to complete, providing views of both the mountains and the sea. Hac Sa is also where you will find the famous Fernando’s Restaurant (fernando-restaurant.com) which serves Portuguese fare.
Foodies should also check out Nga Tim Cafe which offers Portuguese and Chinese fares in an outdoor setting or Lord Stow’s Bakery (www.lordstow.com), famous for its Portuguese egg tarts. If you are looking for a traditional tea house (cha chan teng), Hon Kee Coffee (Estrada de Lai Chi Vun) is possibly one of the best in the area.
When you are done exploring Coloane, head back to the glitzy Cotai strip for evening entertainment. The House of Dancing Water (www.thehouseofdancingwater.com/en/the-show) is a mesmerising water-based acrobatic show at the City of Dreams. Other options include visits to Studio City, Wynn Palace, The St Regis Macao, The Venetian and The Parisian, among others. Even if you are not a high roller, these hotels and casinos provide evening entertainment for all ages, including free audio- visual performances. Wynn Macau has a nightly fountain display that plays in synch with music, The Venetian offers gondola rides, while The Parisian has its own version of the Eiffel Tower and its own Observatory Deck.
The best shopping districts in Macau are Senado Square and the Red Market. Most of the shops around the Square sell clothes while the Red Market (corner of Avenida Almirante Lacerda and Avenida Horta e Costa) is a bustling food market. Avenida Horta e Costa is a long stretch lined with shops selling clothes, shoes, electronics and cameras, among others. The historic ‘Three Lamps’ (Rotunda Carlos da Maia) and the surrounding streets are also worth exploring for items at bargain prices. If you happen to be in Taipa on a Sunday, schedue a visit to the Taipa Flea Market for souvenirs, food and knick knacks.
It takes less than four hours from Kuala Lumpur to Macau by air, and AirAsia flies direct to Macau International Airport three times daily.
Some of the big hotels and casinos provide free shuttle service either from the airport or to places of interest around the city. You may want to check out the bus routes and schedules of these free bus shuttles and the best of all, you do not need to be a hotel guest to hop onto the buses.
Macau uses its own Macanese Patacas (MOP) but you can also use Hong Kong dollars which is on par with the MOP.
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