Visiting Macau - A day trip from Hong Kong!
Macau was one of the first few European colonies in Asia and was the last to be relinquished (in 1999). Visibly, there are many cultural architectures in Macau that reminds one of Europe, especially Portugal. Macau is now part of the People's Republic of China as a Special Admininstrative Region (SAR) and is located about an hour by ferry from Hong Kong.
Besides the Portuguese influence, Macau is also home to a plethora of casinos and resorts. Its revenue from gambling far surpasses anywhere in the world, including the Las Vegas strip! Should Europe or Las Vegas be too far for you to travel to, visit Macau for a taste of both worlds!
How to get from Hong Kong to Macau?
Even though Hong Kong is also a Special Administrative Region (SAR) that is part of the People's Republic of China, it is governed under the one country, two systems which also means you will need to bring along your PASSPORT when travelling from Hong Kong to Macau. Also, should you be visiting the casinos, you may also need to show your passport for entry.
Read our previous article on: How to get to Macau from Hong Kong? where we cover the Hong Kong and Macau ferry terminals and operators to choose from to get to Macau!
Do I need to exchange currency when I visit Macau from Hong Kong?
Macau uses the Macanese Pataca (MOP) but many restaurants, cafes, hotels, and attractions do accept Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) as well. Being so close to Hong Kong, many Hong Kong-ers often visit Macau and they have long grew accustomed to receiving HKD and returning you HKD in change.
The currency exchange for MOP to HKD is almost 1 is to 1. If you are just visiting Macau for a day, it may be wiser to use HKD throughout so that you won't have to worry about what to do with those leftover MOP.
How to get around Macau?
1. Hotel's Shuttle Buses
Upon arrival in Macau's Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal, you will experience a flurry of hotel staff touting their casinos / hotels with FREE shuttle buses that take you straight to these hotels and casinos. For adventurous souls, hop on to anyone of these buses and see where it takes you! X) You also don't have to worry as there is usually shuttle buses that would bring you back to the ferry terminal!
To get to the attractions, check out where the nearest hotels are and you can literally travel around Macau without having to fork out a single cent! One complimentary bus to take note is the one that brings you to Grand Lisboa. From there, you can take a 10-minute walk to Senado Square, and most of the attractions can be found close by!
2. Public Buses
There are many public buses in Macau. They run regularly and helps you get to many of the various attractions and hotels! However, the hotels are often extremely crowded.
The main public buses that you will want to know are the buses 3, 3A, 10, and 10A that takes you from the Macau Ferry Terminal to Senado. The small bus stop is located just outside the terminal and costs about 3 MOP.
Since the hotel's shuttle buses can get you to many of the attractions (via Grand Lisboa), we suggest just utilising the shuttle buses!
3. Open Top Bus Tour
Another of our favourite way to explore a brand new city is to take the Hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Macau also has one and you can book your tickets online for 21.50 SGD. The pass is valid for you to take multiple trips in one day and it stops at most of the tourist attractions.
What to do in Macau?
We will first cover Macau's attractions and sights, the food, and then a sample one-day itinerary for travellers!
1. Ruins of St Paul's
The Ruins of St Paul's is THE attraction that is featured on most of the magazines and articles about Macau. Unlike the beautiful photographs that you see, it is actually really difficult to get a good shot of this marvellous architecture without having someone photo-bombing (see pictures below)!
The Ruins of St Paul's was originally St Paul's College and the Church of St Paul's. Originally known as the Mater Dei, the Church was one of the largest in Asia in the mid-16th century. It became a ruin due to a fire in 1835 which burnt down all its wooden structures, leaving behind the granite facade we see today, and the 68 stone steps. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Amidst squeezing in the crowds, take a closer look at the architecture. The church itself is an example of Macau - where East meets West.
There are five levels in the facade. The top features a dove which symbolises the Holy Spirit. The other motifs that are sculpted into the structure included Chinese characters, 6 Chinese lions, biblical images, several mythological representations, and bronze statues.
Below the dove, it is a sculpture of Jesus with stone carvings that represents the elements of the crucification.
The third tier stands Virgin Mary and with statues of angels around her. They are also surrounded by peonies (representing China) and chrysanthemums (representing Japan).
Statues of four Jesuit doctors are carved onto the second tier.
Even though the Ruins of St Paul's is extremely crowded, it is still a must-see and must-visit when heading to Macau (especially if you are going to Macau for the first time!).
Furthermore, there are so many shops (though touristy) around the Ruins where you can stop to have a bite, or shop for souvenirs!
2. Monte Fort
Credits: Kallerna, Wikimedia Commons
Close to the Ruins, you could take a long walk to Monte Fort. The Monte Fort is almost 400 years old that presents an excellent view of the surrounding areas as well as the casinos. Along with the Macau Museum, the Monte Fort is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Like Singapore's Fort Canning Park, the cannons are still displayed at the Fort and is a place to go for history buffs wanting to learn more about Macau's past.
3. Senado Square
Credits: Tomoaki Inaba, Flickr
Strolling in Senado Square transports one to Europe. Besides the interesting wave patterns on the floor, the buildings around the square certainly look more European than Asian. The square is also the centre of Macau, with all the other major attractions just a walk away.
4. St Dominic's Church
Credits: Nekotank, Flickr
This yellow building really reminds me so much of Lisbon, Portugal! The St Dominic's Church is located right in the heart of Senado Square. The interior is nothing fancy, but it is named as the World Heritage Site of China. Now, many concerts are held in the church and it is the venue for the Macau International Music Festival.
St Dominic's Church
Tv. de São Domingos & Largo de São Domingos, Macau
5. Walk on the streets to take in the Eastern Las Vegas
We took a panoramic shot of the entire area and it is majestic isn't it?
The interestingly-shaped building is the Grand Lisboa. Take the complimentary hotel shuttle to this hotel as it is one of the closest to Senado Square. When heading back, it is not too difficult to miss this building!
6. Be Transported to Venice at The Venetian Macao
The Venetian Macao was truly an eye-opener. The vast shopping mall that is filled with intricate details like the murals on the ceiling and the multitude of carvings on the walls.
They even have a venetian canal that ferries passengers on a boat around the mall (almost like the one we have in Marina Bay Sands). Even if you do not like gambling, it is still good to visit this place to see what it is like, or take instagram-worthy photographs!
The Venetian Macao
s/n Estrada da Baia de Nossa Senhora da Esperanca, Macau
7. Go Casino Hopping!
We didn't take photographs of the inside of the casinos but it is worth a visit, especially if you are travelling in a group without children! We have heard people grabbing free food and drinks there!
Plus, the many free shuttle allows you to just hop from one casino to the next!
8. Head on top of the Puente Gobernador Nobre de Carvalho Bridge
Credits: Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA
Yes, the name is such a mouthful but you definitely will have to use this bridge as it is one of the two bridges that connects downtown Macau to the Taipa region.
9. Macau Tower
The Macau Tower has been featured in many international television shows and variety shows. Many of stars and celebrities have tried bungee jumping, or a more controlled sky jump, or even just walking around the tower.
For the faint-hearted, perhaps it is enough just to head up to the observatory deck to take a look at the casinos from the top! Get discounted tickets online at Klook for 18.70 SGD!
10. Fisherman's Wharf
This place was surprisingly quiet, where there was only really just one or two families while we were walking along the harbour. The Fisherman's Wharf is located just outside the Ferry Terminal and it is a good place to visit on your way back. There are several restaurants, and an amphitheatre, but really nothing much to see. Should you be waiting for your ferry back, you may want to stroll around here. Otherwise, even if you have a later ferry, you can still try your luck to get on an earlier one to get back to Hong Kong!
What to eat in Macau?
After all that walking and looking around, one may be hungry, and here are the must-eat items in Macau!
1. Pork Chop Bun
The Pork Chop is seasoned before it is fried and served in a hot baguette-inspired bun. There are many stalls that sell this Macau Pork Chop Bun in Macau and you can literally get them anywhere! A popular one is from 大利來記 Tai Lei Loi Kei. They have many outlets but the easiest one to get to is the one at The Venetian Macao.
They have also recently opened two stores in Singapore - One at Vivocity and the other at NEX.
Have you tried them yet? Let us know what you think!
2. Portuguese Egg Tarts