Macau is only 11.39 sq. mi. in area, which is slightly smaller than my hometown. Macau might be small, but that just means you can do and see a lot in a short amount of time. So what to do in Macau in one day?
When most people think of Macau, they think of the Las Vegas of Asia. Which don’t get me wrong, it’s hard not to be with 33 casinos in such a small area, but there are also many things to do besides gambling.
Macau was Europe’s first and last colony. Although today it’s another SAR of China along with Hong Kong, you can still find many Portuguese and Macanese residing there. There are plenty of historical and cultural sites to see that’ll fill up a whole day of sightseeing. Places that’ll make you forget you’re in Asia and feel as though you’re walking down the streets of Europe, as well as plenty of delicious Macanese food to eat.
With never traveling to Vegas myself, I wanted the best of both worlds. It was a pretty easy decision to try to spend the first half of my trip seeing cultural sites and then trying to get lucky at the casinos afterwards.
After a bit of hassle, we finally arrived at Macau via ferry from Hong Kong. The first stop on our trip was visiting Largo do Senado, or Senado Square.
Senado Square is the old town center of the Portuguese colony. The whole area is paved with traditional Portuguese pavement and surrounded by beautiful European architecture from the 1500-1800s. The square is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it is filled with Macanese history.
Following the path of black and white pavement, we were led to Igreja de São Domingos, or St. Dominic’s Church, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its bright pastel yellow walls, white trim and giant green doors, St. Dominic’s is one of the best examples of original Portuguese architecture in Macau. Built in 1587, it was one of the first Catholic churches in Asia and still runs service most days of the week.
Continuing down side alleys reminiscent of Hong Kong, we arrived at Ruínas de São Paulo, the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Macau.
Built in 1580 by the Jesuits, it was the largest church in Asia, but unfortunately caught fire during a typhoon in 1835. The ruins now consist of only the southern façade– but it is still a stunning sight. With intricate oriental and Catholic designs, it is today acknowledged as the “perfect fusion” of eastern and western culture and is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Next to the Ruins of St. Paul is Monte Fort, Fortaleza do Monte, the oldest fort in Macau. It originally protected the cathedral from pirate attacks. Up on a platform; be prepared to climb some stairs. However, being located strategically in the center of Macau Peninsula, you can get great panoramic views.
At the top of the fort was Museu de Macau, a museum preserving Macanese history and culture, which opened in 1998.
We thought about stopping in for a bit, but the museum was not free. It was 15 patacas, which is less than 2 USD, but we decided we probably didn’t have time to wander the museum –after all, I wanted to get to the Vegas part of the trip soon.