Long gone are the quiet, sleepy days of Macao’s fishing village origins. Since the first Sands casino opened in 2004, Macao’s reputation as the Las Vegas of the Orient has usurped most other associations.
But this former Portuguese enclave has much more to offer than winning and losing around a roulette table.
Macao’s food scene has come on apace and is one of the main reasons for a visit. Local tea house Long Wah Tea House guarantees refreshing tea and traditional dim sum if you can get there early enough, while Cafe Nam Ping puts together a mean egg sandwich complete with fluffy omelettes and chunky slices of ham.
For street food favourites, don’t miss out Taipa Village’s famed Pork Chop Bun at Cafe Tai Lei Lok Kei. Then go for some sweet Serradura (sawdust pudding) at Mok Yi Kei and almond cakes at Koi Kee Bakery – the traditional Macanese snack producer that started its selling from a street cart. If you can clamber your way out of this foodie haven, head to Lord Stow’s for one of the flakiest Portuguese egg tarts on the island.
For those who like a Michelin star or three with the dinner, Antonio offers a hearty and authentic meal that mixes Macanese and Portuguese flavours, while Guincho a Galera offers a more refined experience in Portuguese cuisine as the first overseas branch of Portugal’s own Fortaleza do Guincho.
Restaurante Litoral serves some of the best Macanese cuisine around – their African chicken dish is worth a booking alone. Just make sure you book early.
Sightseers can start a tour of the city with the St. Paul Ruins for an insight into the city’s influences. Iconic yellow and white churches – St. Dominic and Guia Chapel – dot the city and are reminiscent of churches in Portugal, while A Ma Temple, Macao’s oldest temple, offers some Eastern representation. It might not be ola Portugal! at Senado Square, but with brightly coloured buildings, Portuguese decor and heaps of good food, it’s about as ‘Little Portugal’ as it gets.
The underground art scene is also newly thriving. At its heart is Ox Warehouse – home to local and visiting artists with exhibitions and performances. Live Music Association is the hottest venue for alternative music while for bright lights and headline acts reminiscent of Vegas, try an evening at the House of the Dancing Water . Yueju Opera provides a more traditional evening’s entertainment. The dialect may be difficult to understand but the acts are always artfully delivered.
Got little ones in tow? The Macao Science Center is perfect for curious kids, or check out Kid’s City : a 17,000 square foot indoor playground where big imaginations, and little bodies, can run wild.
There’s more fun outdoors at the Nam Van Lakeside Plaza , with pedal-boating, workshops and a graffiti wall for little ones to scribble on. The Seac Pai Van Park has a small zoo and aviary, with cuddly animals including the giant panda for families to coo over.
Macao may not be the first city that comes to mind when you’re after some quality time with your partner, but there are several romantic photo spots worthy of a look. Macau Tower’s 360° Cafe gets a revolving view of Macao’s skyline served alongside a seafood buffet and the Golden Reel at Studio City is a unique Ferris wheel experience in the shape of a figure ‘8’.
For something away from the glitz, head for a rickshaw tour around Macao’s old town. If that’s not romantic enough for you, a replica gondola ride in a replica Venice in the Venetian hotel might hit the spot. The gondoliers belt out old Italian songs as you drift through the canals.
Adrenaline seekers can try Go-kart racing . Or take a bungee plunge 764 feet down the Macau Tower – touted as the world’s highest bungee platform. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can do it at night for an alternative way to admire the Macao skyline. The Skywalk and Tower Climb offer other ways to get your kicks from this skyscraper.
For something a bit different and less universally explored, Three Lamps District, otherwise known as Little Myanmar, brings to life some of the tastiest Burmese-Macanese experiences. The fish noodle soup is especially worthy of a try.
For something artistic, the Chinnery Murals at Cathedral Square depict a snapshot of Macao in early 19th century and are some of the best outdoor artworks in the city.
For something cultural, the stilt houses of Coloane offer a glimpse of Macao’s heyday as an idyllic fishing village. While the fishing boats have left, it’s still one of the most untouched areas in the ever-flourishing Macao.
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