So you’re heading to Macau for a day, a night, or a weekend, and aren’t quite sure what to do or what to expect. The only things you’ve probably heard about Macau is that it’s the “Las Vegas of Asia” and that it still retains much of its Portuguese influence throughout the city. This influence is seen in Old Macau and is quite the change from the densely populated city life you would experience in Hong Kong. As for the casinos: yup, they’re literally everywhere.
When in Old Macau, you’ll inevitably end up in Senado Square; a large open space with a modest water fountain as its center piece, surrounded by colorful Portuguese-inspired buildings. Senado Square offers tourists plenty of photo opportunities, shopping, and a handful of local food shops in neighboring alleyways.
Senado Square is home to Santa Casa da Misericórdia (also known as The Holy House of Mercy of Macau). The building initially housed various social welfare services and was later converted to an orphanage and a refuge for widows of sailors lost at sea.
The oldest church in Macau is located in -you guessed it- Senado Square; St. Dominic’s Church stands is a historic 16th century Baroque-style yellow church that currently houses the Treasure of Sacred Art Museum in its bell tower.
If you keep following the tiled floor, you’ll eventually head down an overcrowded narrow walkway that will lead you to the Ruins of St. Paul’s, one of Macau’s most iconic structures. These ruins are hard to miss (what’s also hard to miss is the glorious sight of a Dairy Queen just before the ruins. This is an expat who’s been away from home for too long’s dream come true. Just get in the queue. It’s totally worth it) as you can see them clearly while you’re still making your way through the alley.
The Ruins of St. Paul’s are located upon a small hill with a set of stairs leading up. The stairs will be littered with tourists (read: Mainlanders) vying to get a photograph of themselves with this landmark. You should join in on the fun and don’t forget to make the peace sign in every photo you’re in.
Just behind the Ruins lies the mysterious, yet utterly boring, “Crypt”. I wouldn’t bother going down there – all you’ll see is a small room with some stones and a cross.
Just to the right of the ruins there are a few signs pointing to some other tourist spots. If you’re up for a bit of an uphill walk, you should go to Fortaleza do Monte, where the combination of history and city views makes it a worthwhile stop. Fortaleza do Monte was the military center of the former Portuguese colony and many of its structures have been preserved. This is also where you’ll find the Macau Museum.
Your visit to Old Macau wouldn’t be complete unless you tried the “famous” local Macanese food: fried chicken on a bun, and a traditional Portuguese egg tart!