Amazing Macau is an autonomous region on the south coast of China, across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong. It has been given the nickname of “Las Vegas of Asia”. For over 300 years it was a Portuguese colony. Here you can see many amazing things like ancient Chinese temples and buildings with a mix of impressive architecture. The Macau Peninsula includes the old city center and further south are the conjoined islands of Taipa, Cotai and Coloane. Visitors can find preserved Macanese architecture in Taipa, the new megacasinos in Cotai and colonial villages and lovely beaches in Coloane.
The most treasured icon in Macau with a towering facade and stairway are all that remain of the Church of St. Paul, a 17th century Jesuit church. It was designed by an Italian Jesuit and completed by early Japanese Christian exiles and Chinese craftsmen in 1602. It was a fire in 1835 that destroyed most everything. There are many interesting and spiritual carvings on the facade. Behind it is a steel staircase which visitors can climb to the top.
The Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt is a small museum found behind the ruins of St. Paul. There are carved wooden statues, silver chalices, monstrances and oil paintings on display. Among the oil paintings is a 17th century painting that depicts the martrydom of 26 Japanese Christians by crucifixion at Nagasaki in 1597. The adjoining crypt holds the remains of Asian Christian martyrs and includes the tomb of Alessandro Valignano, the Jesuit who founded the College of the Mother of God and helped establish Christianity in Japan.
For awesome views of the city and surroundings head for the highest point on the peninsula, Guia Fort. At the top visitors will find the amazing Chapel of Our Lady of Guia, built in 1622 and still retaining most of the original features like some of Asia’s most valuable frescoes. Next to it is the oldest modern lighthouse on the China coast dating from 1865. The lighthouse is a 15m tall structure which is closed to the public. If you prefer you can take the Guia cable car to the top. It runs from the entrance of Macau’s largest public park, Flora Garden.
Spread out at the base of Guia Hill is Floral Garden, a European-style garden. At one time these were the grounds of the Flora Palace, an aristocratic Portuguese mansion. The stone gateway at the entrance was once the palace guardhouse. There is a straight pedestrian avenue that is lined with tall palms and flowering shrubs. Within the gardens is an aviary, a small zoo and a tree-shaded refreshment patio. You’ll see formal flowerbeds and a stone pathway, winding upward past small waterfalls and belvederes to the top of Guia Hill where you can get spectacular views.
Macau Museum of Art is a wonderful five-story museum with displays of art created in Macau and China. Among the paintings are the artwork of Western artists like George Chinnery. Some of the other highlights include ceramics and stoneware that were excavated in Macau. The museum also features 19th century Western historical paintings from all over Asia as well as contemporary Macanese art.
Sir Robert Ho Tung Library is housed in a lovely building that was founded in the 19th century. It was once the country retreat of the late tycoon Robert Ho Tung, who purchased the house in 1918. The building has a dome, an arcaded facade, Ionic columns and Chinese-style gardens. It was given a modern extension by architect Joy Choi Tin Tin and the new four-story structure is all in glass and steel with Piranesi-inspired bridges connecting to the old house and a glass roof.
St. Joseph’s Seminary and Church is one of Macau’s most impressive models of tropic style Baroque architecture. The church was consecrated in 1758 as part of the Jesuit seminary (not open to the public) and features a white-and-yellow facade, a scalloped entrance canopy and the oldest dome ever built in China.
Mandarin House was built around 1869 and has more than 60 rooms. It was the ancestral home of Zheng Guanying, an influential author-merchant whose readers included emperors, Dr. Sun Yatsen and Chairman Mao. At the compound is a moon gate, tranquil courtyards, lovely rooms and a main hall with French windows. The windows have all been arranged in the labyrinthine-style that was typical of certain Chinese period buildings. Guided tours in Cantonese are offered on weekend afternoons.
Take a visit to the beautiful neighborhood of St. Lazarus Church District. Here you’ll see colonial-style houses and cobbled streets.
Lou Kau Mansion was built around 1889. This is a Cantonese-style mansion with southern European elements that once belonged to merchant Lou Kau. There is a flower-and-bird motif on the roof. On weekends free guided tours in Chinese are offered.
Lou Lim Ieoc Garden is the most Chinese of all of Macau’s gardens. It was built in the 19th century by wealthy Chinese merchant Lou Kau. The gardens were restored and opened to the public in 1974. This garden was modeled on those of Suzhou, the most famous of all Chinese classical gardens. It is enclosed by a high wall and has narrow paths winding through groves of bamboo and flowering bushes. There is a large pond full of golden carp and lotus flowers. Across the pond a nine-turn bridge zigzags. According to legend, evil spirits can only move in straight lines. The bridge comes to a large pavilion where you can find art and craft exhibitions and hear recitals during the annual International Music Festival.
Take a walk in Macau’s oldest Portuguese quarter along the Avenida da Republica. Here you can see some grand colonial villas, the Residence of the Portuguese Consul General and the Santa Sancha Palace that was once residence to Macau’s Portuguese governors. Today it accommodates state guests. In the area are also some lovely, abandoned art-deco buildings.
High above the villas of Avenida da Republica rises Penha Hill. It offers visitors fantastic views and a tranquil place to relax. On top of the hill is the Bishop’s Palace, built in 1837 and a residence for bishops (not open to the public) and the Chapel of Our Lady of Penha, once a place of pilgrimage for sailors.
In the very heart of the Macau’s historic center you’ll find the Church of St. Dominic. This is a yellow Baroque church with a lovely altar and a timber roof. It was founded by three Spanish Dominican priests from Acapulco, Mexico in the 16th century. Its former bell tower is now home to the Treasury of Sacred Art. It displays ecclesiastical art and liturgical objects on three floors.
A-Ma Temple dates back to the 16th century. A-Ma aka Tin Hau, is the goddess of the sea. Fishermen would come here to replenish supplies and pray for fair weather.
Rising high above Macau is the 336 m Macau Tower. Observation decks are on the 56th and 61st floors. If you are into some real excitement you can try the climbing wall, a bungee platform that is supposedly the highest commercial bungee jump in the world, a sky walk around the rim of the tower and more daredevil stuff.
The Macau Wine Museum has more than 1100 kinds of wine on display. It is the only museum in Macau that allows beverages. Around 90% of the wine are Portuguese, including the oldest bottle – the Porto 1815. For MOP $15 you can have a taste from selected bottles. They also offer a rundown of Portugal’s various wine regions and you can see a display of wine racks. barrels, presses and tools.