Macau became a home to Portuguese traders in the 16th century and remained under Portuguese influence until it was handed back to China in 1999. Over the years, Portuguese and Chinese cultures blended, giving rise to interesting cuisine, architecture and cultural practices. Today Macau has a definite Cantonese flair but it maintains its own identity distinct from both China and Hong Kong.
Wander the streets of the World Heritage-listed Historic Centre to see some gorgeous colonial architecture. The bright colors and neoclassical designs on Senate Square, the heart of the old town, could leave you thinking that you’re in Portugal.
One of the city’s best-known landmarks is the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral. You’ll see statues and immaculate gardens as you approach its intricate façade which, along with the stone stairs, is the only remaining part of the building.
Just near the cathedral ruins is Monte Fort, which the Jesuits started building in 1617 for protection against attacks from the sea. It was later adopted as Macau’s main defense structure. You can still see old cannons and fortified walls. Inside, at the Museum of Macau, you’ll find detailed exhibits and an excellent bookstore.
More examples of colonial architecture are over at the Guia Fortress. This historical fort, chapel and lighthouse sits on the highest point of the Macau Peninsula and has excellent views.
For classical Chinese architecture, visit the A-Ma Temple, the oldest temple in Macau. History buffs don’t need to stop there, though. Macau is home to dozens more historical buildings and institutions that range from old Chinese libraries to the Maritime Museum. See the more modern structures of the city as you take in the views from Macau Tower.
In the evenings, check out the Cotai Strip, home to some of the biggest and most impressive casinos in the world. Be sure to see a show at one of many in-house theaters of the casinos, or shop in the upmarket boutiques. When you get hungry, sample some of the local cuisine. Macanese food is some of the most delicious and interesting in Asia.
Macau is one of China’s most unique cities. Its colonial history has left a fascinating legacy around which modern casinos have flourished.