How to do Macau in One Day

24 February 2015

Macau is definitely one of those places I would have never heard of had I not had to take a Geography of East Asia course for my degree requirements. A small peninsula in southern China that would have been otherwise unremarkable had it not been for some Portuguese intervention. In the 1550's the Portuguese explorers landed here making for an amazing blend of Eastern and Western architecture, food, and life.

Plus, it's a way to experience China without getting an expensive visa! That alone was enough to make me want to dedicate a day of my time in Hong Kong to catching the 40-minute ferry over to Macau.

When you first get of the ferry you will be smacked in the face for what Macau is most known for on mainland China: casinos. Here's one of the few places in Asia where gambling is allowed and tourists flock in for this activity alone. 

This first impression of Macau may drive you off but continue just past the hotels for the beginning of a beautiful walking tour. Here are some of my favorite highlights of the city:

Chapel of St Michael

The ferry port is on the eastern side of the peninsula so walk due west and you'll come to my favorite little church, the Chapel of St Michael. This mint green facade looks like an adorable little cake and marks the beginning of Macau's historical city center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

The Ruins of Saint Paul

The most iconic site in Macau is the ruins of this church. The only thing that remains after a fire is the stoic facade that sits atop a hill over a strikingly European plaza. Here's a good place to try some Portuguese egg tarts (delicious!) and get free samples of food all along the main street.

Pretend you're in Europe

The Portuguese left a profound mark on this city. Several times while walking down the streets I could have sworn I was back in Europe. Enjoy a leisurely lunch in one of the plazas (my favorite being Largo do Lilau) and check out the architecture of historical government buildings.

But remember you're in China

Right next to the markedly Western Ruins of Saint Paul is the tiny Na Tcha Temple, a traditional folk temple dedicated to the god of war. As you continue the tourist circuit you'll come to a preserved Chinese neighborhood just to the south with tiny alleyways.

At the end of the  peninsula you can light some incense and pray at the taoist A Ma Temple.

Step into a Traditional Home

The Mandarin House just next to Lago do Lilau is a great opportunity to tour a traditional Chinese home. This complex was built in the 1800's by a wealthy Chinese family and still has so many ornate details preserved. I loved walking the shadowy halls and imagining the decadent lifestyle the inhabitants must have lived.

What would you do with a day in Macau?

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