Arriving early to downtown Macau gives you a
chance to explore some of its finest landmarks
before the crowds of tour groups descend. St. Paul’s
Church, also known as the Church of the Mother of
God (Mater Dei, in Portuguese), was originally built
of wood by Jesuit priests in the 1600s. It remained
the largest church in East Asia for many years but
burned down after a storm in 1835, leaving just its
stone facade. The site was designated a heritage site,
became a museum in 1995 and is now better known
as the Ruins of St. Paul’s.
Just next to the ruins stands the Monte Fort
(Fortaleza do Monte), also built by the Jesuits in the
1600s. This European-style stone fort was designed
to hold off sieges from the Dutch and offers views
over the Macau skyline from its highest point.
The fort also houses the Macau Museum, which
documents the region’s colonial history. Take a walk
through the narrow pedestrian streets to Largo do
Senado, a 3,700-square-meter town square with colorfully restored buildings and traditional Portuguese
paving. Here you will find your fill of Portuguese
egg tarts — the region’s must-try snack— and other
former Portuguese outpost is a rich mixture of East-meets-West
entertainment, heritage and culinary delights. We’ve pieced together some of the
essentials, as well as a few lesser-known highlights. Enjoy!
Arriving in Macau
Your route to Macau presents a wide range of options, whether arriving
internationally or from elsewhere in the region. From nearby Hong Kong,
you can fly, sail or drive to the city in less than an hour. A new superbridge
stretches the 55 kilometers from Hong Kong International Airport to Macau
and neighboring Zhuhai. Shuttle buses run 24 hours across the bridge and
take about 45 minutes.
High-speed hydrofoil ferry services go between Macau and both central
Hong Kong and the Hong Kong airport, each taking about an hour. These
dock at terminals in either Macau’s old town location on the northern peninsula or Taipa to the south. Hotel buses offer free transfers to the resorts, while
taxis are lined up outside and private limos can be arranged in advance. Guests
can also take a ferry from Kowloon and Tuen Mun to Macau.
For those who want to arrive fast and in style, there is also a regular heli-
copter service from central Hong Kong to Macau, which takes just 15 minutes.
And for visitors coming from elsewhere in the region, or by private plane,
Macau’s own international airport is located in the Taipa area.
To experience Macau’s finest Portuguese cuisine, grab a taxi to the far south of the region.
Fernando’s in Coloane is something of an
institution, both for locals and for visitors. The
restaurant is a no-frills establishment — a rustic beachside building that only accepts cash
payment. The signs proudly state that there’s
no air conditioning, ketchup or highchairs, but
the ceiling fans keep temperatures at bay and
the food — some of which is cooked on the
outdoor grill — is certainly worth the journey.
You’ll find a range of traditional Portuguese
dishes on the menu, from suckling pig and
African chicken to fried squid and homemade
bread. And of course, cold jugs of sangria.
The neighboring Taipa village is a sample of
old Macau that sits largely untouched in the
shadows of the area’s huge resorts, a relative
oasis among its surroundings. Portuguese
and Chinese influences merge on pedestrian
streets, with snack shops and restaurants
alongside art galleries and historical buildings.
Pass through Rua do Cunha (food street) onto the narrow but picturesque Rua dos Clérigos, where you’ll find the Taipa Village Art Space,
a champion of the cultural and creative industries in Macau that hosts
regular exhibitions and showcases. Nearby is Rooftop Macau, a boutique coffee shop and lifestyle store, which sells a range of homeware,
fashion and accessories and has an open-air terrace on which to sit
and relax with a freshly brewed cappuccino. If you’re after something
a little stronger, PREM1ER Bar & Tasting Room is a genuine Irish
bar, serving Irish craft brews and a wide selection of gins and whiskies
from across the globe. Leaving the village, wind your way up the hill
to Our Lady of Carmel, a beautiful European-style church built in
the late 19th century. A little farther down the path, you will discover
the colorful buildings that make up the Taipa Houses Museum. These
fully restored, pastel-colored classic structures were built in 1921. They
house a range of artifacts and exhibits from Macau’s colonial past and
look out across a small lake and beautifully manicured garden.
A world of dining options
There are many hotels on Taipa’s Cotai Strip, including the JW Marriott
(at right), plus hundreds of food outlets, shopping malls and even a
roof-top white-sand beach — as well as numerous restaurants, ranging
from casual fast food to Michelin-starred fine dining. [