Skylines and views      
From Fortaleza do Monte, St Paul's, Taipa, harbour, bridges and more, Zhuhai  
Old Town
- Portugese Quarters
  Nam Van casino district
-East city center
Largo do Senado
Ruins of St Paul's
Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro
Largo de Sao Domingos
Lisboa, Grand Lisboa, Wynn, StarWorld, Arc
Kun lam statue, Science Center, Alameda Dr Carlos D'Assumpcao

TAIPA ISLAND (by night):
Cotai Strip
-new casino area, Taipa
Venetian, Galaxy, City of Dreams      

City center - Old Town
and Casino Quarters
  City center - Old Town
and Casino Quarters
Outer Harbour
(Porto Exterior)
Largo do Senado
Ruins of St Paul's
  Grand Lisboa, Lisboa  


Population: 636 000
China (Macao)
Tallest building:
Grand Lisboa (261m, 52 floors)
Tallest tower: Macau Tower (338m)
Region: MACAU (Portugese colony until 1998)
Founded year (Portugese colony): 1557
30.3 km²
Year visited:

After five days in Hong Kong, we caught a hovercraft ferry to the former Portugese colony that lately has beaten Las Vegas as the world’s gambling capital: Macau! Macau, or Macao, has about 636 000 inhabitants (so pretty small by Chinese standards) on only 30km2 and was handed over from Portugal to China in 1999, but still partly functions as an own country. It is situated 64km to the West of Hong Kong, and is bordering the much larger mainland Chinese city Zhuhai in the North, that has a booming skyline that can be seen from Macau. The weather was mostly sunny, a large contrast to foggy Hong Kong.

It was important to bring the passports, we learned so at the ferry terminal. So we had to take the tram back to the hotel and bring them. Luckily our hotel was not far from the ferry terminal in Central, that is part of the Shun Tak Centre, that includes two red/glass office towers and a mall. After an expensive, 1.5 hour long journey from Hong Kong (360HK$ return trip), we reached the port of Macau. As soon as we arrived, people gave us free maps and tried to sell city tours, but we wanted to explore the city on our own. Instead of spending money on transport, we took one of the free shuttle buses to the 52-storey Grand Lisboa Hotel in the city center (most casinos have free buses), a highrise hotel/casino that looks like a golden tulip in blossom. It was built in 2008 and is situated next to the smaller and older Lisboa, the first and for a long time only casino hotel in Macau, built in 1970. We started to explore the modern area on Macau Peninsula around the port, where most of the huge casino hotels have been built, mostly during the 21st century. (The rest, the largest and newest, are on Taipa Island, more about that later) Wynn with its bronze glass towers, the modern Galaxy Starworld, Le Royal Arc with its roman columns and MGM with its different coloured glass curves are especially impressive in the city center. We went inside some of them. We also visited a small but beautiful park with many palms, where it was hard to find the exit.

The casino quarters are immediately bordering typical Chinese neighbourhoods, that are much less fashionable with grey apartment buildings, many of them pretty rundown. Even though many of the street names are in Portugese, and it is obligatory to Speak Portugese and English for tourist staff, very few native Macau inhabitants speak something else then Chinese. The huge majority of Macau’s population is Chinese, and we saw very few Europeans in Macau, only some tourists. After looking at the impressive golden Kun lam statue next to the sea, we had diner in a very simple Chinese restaurant, where we were served by a girl who didn’t speak a single world English. Somehow she managed to mess all things up, and we got some other persons diner. After the owner discovered that, he immediately replaced their diner by ours, despite we had begun eating! After that we walked towards the old Portugese quarters through a large avenue, where they built a park in the middle, Alameda Dr Carlos D’Assumpcao. We also passed Avenida de Amizade and Avenida Almeida Ribeiro, avenue with Portugese names. We even passed an avenue with a Swedish name, Avenida Sir Anders Ljungstedt! After we passed typical Chinese quarters, suddenly the Portugese colonial buildings start to appear.

After a while walking on Avenida Ribeiro (Macau is a very walkable city), the square Largo del Senado appears. This is the heart of the old city center and the Portugese colonial quarters, that is an UNESCO site. The square is very beautiful with colourful colonial buildings, striped ground and a nice fountain in the middle. Here you will also find the city hall. We walked along a gritty but nice pedestrian street that starts at Senado and has several local food stores and tourist shops and visited the yellow St Dominic’s Church along the way to St Paul’s Ruins, one of the most famous symbols of Macau. This is the ruins of a former 16th-century church (only the front wall is left) that stands on a high hill that can be reached by stairs, very popular among tourists. Next to St Paul’s, you will find the old Portugese fortress Fortaleza de Monte (Big Fortress), that was used for defense since the 1600s, first to protect the Jesuits and later the Portugese. It stands on a hill with a park, the Garden of the Surrounding of Montefort. It offers amazing views over the city, and here you will also find the Macau Museum. We spent some time in the park and waited for sunset; we wanted to see the illuminated casinos at dark! After it turned dark, we returned to the old city center that looked amazing at dark (had a dinner at McDonald’s since we were tired of Chinese food for the moment and wanted to eat fast), then headed to the newer parts of the city center where casinos dazzled in splendid colours, and Grand Lisboa, the building that looked like a flower blossomed in all its glory!

From there we caught a taxi to Taipa Island, where we wanted to visit Venetian, the world’s largest hotel and casino. After a crazy driving in the taxi that lacked seatbelts over the beautiful Pte. Gov. Nobre de Carvalho bridge, one of 3 bridges that connects the central city and Macau Peninsula with the island, we reached the Venetian – still alive! Taipa Island is the island south of the city center, where the newest casino development is taking place. The huge City of Dreams complex (consisting of several large hotels, Hard Rock Hotel is one of them) as well as the even huger Galaxy Hotel, that is like a city in itself, are both smaller then Venetian, that is so large that it would be really hard to navigate inside, if it wasn’t for the signs. Venetian was built in 2007 (the original in Las Vegas was built in 1999). The theme for this casino hotel is of course Venice in Italy, and inside there is a very long canal, complete with gondolas where tourists can take a ride. Along the canal, you will find everything from Gucci and H&M to McDonald’s, despite the luxurious approach. Everything is located in huge buildings, the tallest one 224m tall and has 39 floors. The lobby looks extremely luxorious, and is so large, that it had been divided into different parts. Only the west part is like an own building itself, and reminds of the Grand Hall in a European castle. And the casino is really huge, it is the world’s largest after all! After the feet were aching after all walking inside, we finally found a way out to see the plaza outdoors that resembles St Mark’s Square in Venice, complete with the Campanile, a lake, even more canals and beautifully illuminated Venetian bridges.

At this spot we watched a very cool show, where 3 guys where standing and made electrical flashes to loud electronic music, all finalized by great fireworks! After that a Portugese acrobat performed, but we got enough and caught the free shuttle bus back to the hovercraft. The fast hovercraft ferry brought us back to Hong Kong just before midnight.

Notable sights that we didn’t have time to visit, are Fisherman’s Wharf (some blocks of full-scale copies of quarters in European cities, Tibet, Egypt etc), Macau Tower ( the tallest structure in Macau, it has an observation deck), Macau Museum (on Monte Fort), Gaia Fort and Ligthouse (that we saw from afar), A-Ma Temple, Luis de Camoes Garden and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Park, just to mention the most important ones. The day after Macau, we passed the border to China and the city of Shenzhen, a megacity that borders Hong Kong. Macau is a very walkable city, but scooters are the most popular way to transport on the narrow streets of the city.