Asia China Destinations travel guide

Macau for first-timers: The city beyond casinos

girl standing in front of a colourful fountain inside galaxy hotel

Many Filipinos take a short ferry ride from Hong Kong to visit Macao. Usually, this would be an overnight treat that will give them an exact overview of the city before immediately docking the first ferry back to Hong Kong the next day.

At eight years old, this wasn’t the case for mine. In fact, we’ve returned to the Las Vegas of Asia every New Year’s since then. Fun fact: I’m 22 right now.

And the thing is, what many people don’t understand, there’s more to see in Macao than meets the eye. It’s full of glamour, and wealth while also a great teacher of Asian history with European influence.

Let me introduce you to 10 of my favourite places to go or things to do in Macao! They’re not exactly for all tourists, and many of these places are best experienced by foot.


St. Paul's Ruins Macao China Asia

First stop: Senado Square & St. Paul’s Ruins

Our family usually stays in the Old Town part of Macau where you’ll find Senado Square and the famous St. Paul’s ruins. In particular, I think every first-timer here will be pleased to explore the entire square, that’s usually decorated with a thousand local shops, high-end items, food, and the famous egg tarts.

There’s also a street lined with various “street food”, as well as ice cream, coffee shops, and a Starbucks Cafe. Walking further into the square, you’ll find little alleyways locals love going to as you’ll end up in another part of the city altogether.

I like to think of Senado Square as the centre of Old Town, Macau with architecture that’s heavily inspired by the Portugese. Obviously, you’re going to have a blast trying out the egg tarts!

At the end of this square, you’ll find St. Paul’s ruins with a museum right behind it. If you find yourself going further than that, you’ll also be able to find Aberque road and little picturesque European houses.

overlooking old town macau from the tower


Second stop: Have dinner at the 360-degree restaurant at Macau Tower

Although it’s a little pricey, having dinner at the Macau Tower’s 360-degree restaurant gives you a full view of the entire city on top of the already-great food!

But let me warn you, you will definitely get lost trying to look for your table when you’ve been gone for too long! I’ve only eaten here twice: one for dinner and one for high tea. The latter, however, isn’t as great as the dinner or lunch.

Beyond the restaurant, there are shops at the bottom of Macau Tower, and a big Toys R Us for kids. You’ll also get a stunning view of the bridge that connects Old and New Town.

smoke coming out of sticks a traditional chinese prayer at ahua temple macao

Third stop: Visit temples and eat some nougat on the way

I haven’t met many people who like visiting old temples, except my grandmother. And so, for last new year’s, she decided to bring us to the popular Ah-Ma temple. This temple is special in Macau as you’ll be able to pray for both good luck and a good family here.

Also, you can go up its tall hill and see a statue of Buda at the top. There are certain provisions though, and so I don’t advice going here without a guide.

Oh, and in case you were wondering — there’s a small nougat store over here that’s great. We buy a pack of it every year and some more to bring home. It’s just a few steps away from the temple!

fisherman's wharf in macau by archiephotowalks

Fifth stop: Have lunch at Macau’s Fisherman Wharf

(image source)

Damn, I haven’t been here in a year or so! This place used to be my family’s favourite hang-out since there’s a small amusement park and tons of great restaurants to try.

You’ll also get to have a few drinks here at night, and locals love walking around this area. It’s still part of Old Town in Macau, but more of the…umm, “newer” establishments.

Fisherman’s wharf is really great for kids too. And since it’s an amusement park, you’ll find many of them running around, having a great time.

pastries by gerald parisenne for breakfast including blueberry danish


Sixth Stop: Give pastries at Macau, a go.

When you find yourself in Macau, it’s a sin not to try their egg tarts. Although you can probably buy them anywhere in the city, the best ones are always at shops that don’t sell in boxes. Meaning, you’ll find them in little corners or alleyways.

Lord Stow’s has become a signature place for tourists to buy egg tarts. And even though it’s great, it can become overrated too. The best one, in my opinion, would have to be at Margaret Cafe e Nata. It’s tucked in a small street, a block away from Sintra Hotel.

You actually have to go inside many streets before you find it. But believe me, it’s completely worth every penny!

Beyond egg tarts, Macau loves their pastries. You’ll have French, Italian, and Portugese bakeries in almost every street. You’ll even find them in many of the hotels!

macao festival of lights at senado square

Seventh Stop: If you get the chance on New Years, follow the festival of lights

One of my favourite things about going to Macau on New Year would be to follow the festival of lights!

It’s where you roam the entire city by foot to follow the festival. There will be different points to follow, which all leads up to St. Paul’s cathedral. The lights are also a show of Macau’s own history with puppets, light shows, and music.

kiara mijares bianca ros with penguins of madagascar at sands resort 2015 macau

Eight Stop: Explore the hotels at Cotai Strip

The final stop for many first timers! The hotels at Cotai Strip are grand yet beautiful. I never thought I’d be saying that about any hotel but it’s true!

There are tons of hotels you can explore in Macau and they have new ones popping out every year. Trust me, I know. That’s why I think it would be fantastic to spend at least two days exploring them, as each hotel has a different feel to it too.

The one above was taken at the Venetian Hotel, which is my preferred hotel from them all. And I mean that in the sense, beyond tourists, the hotel staff is so accommodating while their regular rooms look like penthouses. Yep.

Bonus: Watch House of Dancing Water at the City of Dreams

Admittedly, one of the best activities you can do while in Macau would be to watch a show. One of the best shows to watch would be the House of Dancing Water. I had the pleasure of watching the show and stunts again this year, and find that it’s still tons better than any magic or gymnastics show.

You’ll have to book your tickets in advance for this. But since it’s been running for a few years already, you won’t have to worry about the line!

one person standing by the lake with purple lights and clouds in macao



Your turn! What are your thoughts about Macau so far?

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