Must-see Macau

  • Travel
  • Saturday, 25 Nov 2006

THEY say big things come in small packages, and so it is with Macau, which, though tiny, offers a lot to see. 

This Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China comprises the Macau Peninsula (8.9 sq km), the islands of Taipa (6.5 sq km) and Coloane (7.6 sq km) and reclaimed area Cotai (5.2 sq km), which collectively cover only 28.2 sq km (about a tenth of the size of Penang island). 

But crammed into this small space is a World Heritage Site, the world’s 10th tallest freestanding tower, at least 17 museums, about 20 churches and more than 20 casinos. 

Senado Square.

Macau has a population of about 488,000, of whom 95% are Chinese with the rest made up of Portuguese and other Europeans. The predominant Chinese dialect is Cantonese. Portuguese and English are also spoken. 

The Macau currency is the Pataca (MOP$) and MOP$1 is slightly less than 50 sen. The Hong Kong dollar, which is of slightly higher value, is accepted.  

Getting around is easy as there are lots of taxis (the flag fare is MOP$11 for the first 1.5km, and MOP$1 for every subsequent 180m) and public buses. The buses charge a flat rate of MOP$2.50 within the peninsula.  

But the best way to see most of Macau is on foot, so bring along a pair of walking shoes, cap and sunglasses. While many visitors congregate on the peninsula, it is a good idea to take a bus out to Taipa and Coloane.  

The historic centre  

Designated a World Heritage Site in July 2005, the Historic Centre showcases 25 sights, most of which can be covered by foot. They include Senado Square, St Dominic’s Church, St Anthony’s Church, Casa Garden, Monte Fort, Leal Senado, Lou Kau Mansion and the ruins of St Paul.  

The Senado Square, with its beautifully restored buildings, is great for photographs. But probably the most photographed structure is the nearby ruins of St Paul, where we saw hordes of tourists.  

St Paul’s ruins.

It is the facade of what was originally the Church of Mater Dei (built in 1602-1640 and destroyed by fire in 1835) and the ruins of St Paul’s College which stood next to the church. From there, you can walk or take the escalator up to the 17th-century Monte Fort (Mount Fortress) where you can get nice views of the city.  

Many visitors posed for photos with the numerous cannons at the fortress. The 18th-century neo-classical Leal Senado (Loyal Senate), which faces Senado Square, was Macau’s first municipal chamber and still maintains this function. The Lou Kau Mansion, which was built in 1889 as the home of a prominent Chinese merchant, is still being restored.  

You can spend hours strolling around this part of the Historic Centre, as there is a lot of eating and shopping to do. Near the Lou Kau Mansion, we stumbled upon a building with three beautiful pieces of tiled art on one of its outer walls.  

Further away is the A-Ma Temple, dedicated to A-Ma (Goddess of Seafarers), from whom Macau got its name. Then there is the 17th-century Guia Fortress on the highest point of Macau. The fortress can also be reached by cable car from the Flora Garden. 


The Handover Gifts Museum, built on the site of the handover of Macau back to China in 1999, exhibits the elaborately made gifts presented by China’s 56 provinces and regions to celebrate the establishment of the Macau SAR.  

The Museum of Macau, located at Monte Fort, has exhibits that illustrate the life of Macau and its people over the past four centuries. At the ruins of St Paul’s is the Museum of Sacred Art, which contains silver altar pieces, gilded statues and paintings of 17th century Japanese artists showing the crucified martyrs of Nagasaki and the Archangel Michael as a samurai.  

View from Macau Tower.

If you are interested in wine, there is a Wine Museum at Rua Luis Gonzaga Gomes which houses 1,115 types of wine. 

Penha Hill 

The Bishop’s Palace and Chapel of Our Lady of Penha are located on this hill which has nice views of Macau, Praia Bay and Taipa Island. 

Macau Tower 

At 338m high, Macau Tower is the 10th tallest freestanding tower in the world.  

There are many things to do here. We tried the Skywalk X, which is a walk around the main outer rim of the tower at 233m above ground. It is thrilling, but don’t look down if you are afraid of heights!  

The biggest challenge is the SkyJump, where you jump off the outer rim while strapped to a winch that eases you to the ground.  

For dining, there are six restaurants to choose from including the revolving 360° Café where we got superb views of the city. 

Kuan Yin statue.

Kuan Yin Statue 

You won’t miss this 20m bronze statue of the Goddess of Mercy as it stands on a prominent spot by the sea on Avenida Dr Sun Yat Sen. One of the newer landmarks in Macau, the 50-tonne figure was sculpted by a Portuguese and cast in China. Inside the lotus-shaped base is a quiet place to stop for a rest on your walking tour. 


Macau’s International Airport is located on this island linked to the peninsula by three bridges. Take a walk around Taipa Village where the Our Lady of Carmel Church and Food Street is located.  

Visit the Taipa Houses Museum, which is a row of five green-and-white villas built by wealthy Macanese families in the early 20th century. They later fell vacant and were bought by the government and restored to their former elegance.  

Among others, the museum showcases reproduction period furniture in Chinese and European styles, a collection of maps, pictures and memorabilia from Taipa and Coloane, and costumes and musical instruments from Portugal. 


This island is Macau’s countryside with green hills and beaches. The Hac Sa (Black Sand) Beach is a popular bathing spot. It reminded me of Pantai Pasir Hitam in Langkawi, as both places have natural black sand on the beach.  

On top of Coloane Hill stands a 19.99m-tall white marble statue of goddess A-Ma. At the bottom of the hill is the 20ha Seac Pai Van Park where there are ponds, waterfalls, gardens, a mini zoo, an aviary and insect display. Take a stroll in Coloane Village to see the Chapel of St Francis Xavier, which once enshrined a relic bone of the saint. 


At night, Macau city is lit by the colourful neon lights of its many casinos. An Oct 26 news report in The Star stated that Macau has overtaken Las Vegas as the world’s top gambling destination.  

There are more than 20 casinos in Macau, including one which opened during our visit. And more are being built. There does not seem to be any dress code here, and you will find many mainland Chinese trying their luck. Be prepared to smell like an ashtray after a visit here. W 

For details and information on other sights, visit the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) website at, e-mail: or call its representative in Malaysia at (03) 2144 2500. 

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