Originally a quiet place inhabited by farmers from Guangdong Province and fishermen from Fujian, Macau became a stopping point on the Silk Road, with ships bound for Rome loading up with silk in the port. It began to be administered by the Portuguese in roughly 1550, when they established a city here with the permission of the mandarins of Guangdong Province; their sway over the place was only released in 1999. Because of this lengthy history of Portuguese predominance, Macau is a melting pot of East and West that displays many more signs of Western influence than nearby Hong-Kong.
Macau is a fantastic fusion of Portuguese charm and ancient Chinese tradition; as well as being the gambling capital of the world, the city holds many often-forgotten sights and experiences that are well worth a look. From UNESCO Heritage Sites, world renowned cuisine, and busy shopping malls, to sun-splashed beaches, adventure sports, and hiking on the unspoiled islands nearby, there is something for everyone in this rich array.
The A-Ma Temple was built in 1488 during the Ming Dynasty which lasted from 1368 to 1644, making it one of the oldest Taoist temples in Macau. It is dedicated to Matsu, the goddess of seafarers and fishermen. The temple was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2005 and became one of the designated sites of the Historic Centre of Macau.
Penha Hill is one of the highest points of the Macanese peninsula; as you climb the hill you’ll see the houses of Macau’s most prosperous lining the road, with views west over the inner harbour to Zhu Hai on the Chinese mainland, and East to Hong Kong and the islands in between.
Known as Bishop’s Hill, Penha Hill is home to forts, impressive buildings, and the renowned Penha church which was built in 1622. The church is topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary who looks out upon the sea as a token of blessing for sailors and other seafarers.
Ruins of Saint Paul
St. Paul’s church, also known as the ‘Mater Dei’ was completed by the Portuguese in the early 17th century and was dedicated to Saint Paul the Apostle; this, along with St. Paul’s college, were mostly burnt down in 1853 in a great fire. The façade that still stands is a reminder of the site’s former glory and is referred to the as ‘The Ruins of Saint Paul’s’; it is an indication of the cultural and religious importance of Macau.
The Monte Fort is the oldest of all the forts in Macau, having been built in 1616 to defend St. Paul’s church from marauding pirates. Lying directly to the east of the church it was designed to protect, it has a perimeter of around 100 metres and is cornered by bastions and topped with cannons which are still standing. The buildings were used for barracks, cisterns, and storehouses; an ancient tower once situated here was one of the sites of the Society of Jesus.
The grounds of the fort afford visitors a relaxing walk in pleasant surroundings, and the sweeping view from the walls across Macau is well worth a look, as is the Macau Museum which was converted from the Macau Meteorological Bureau in 1998.
The Senado square forms the heart of Macau, with its beautiful pastel-painted buildings and striking geometric floor tiles. Used as a parade ground during the era of Portuguese control, the square is often host to many of Macau’s most important festivities and occasions. One of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, the buildings are protected from alteration.
This slender spire stands at 338 metres and is a striking focal point in the Macau skyline. It is best known for its Outdoor Observation Deck on level 61 of the tower, where from a height of 223 metres visitors can survey all of Macau and its surrounds in a 360 degree viewing experience. Some of the sights to be seen from the tower include: the Pearl River Delta, the Macau Peninsula, the Taipa and Coloane Islands, Mangyang Hill, Casino Lisboa, and on a clear day even the outlying islands of Hong Kong.
Commence your tour in Macau by a scenic drive by the uniquely leisurely, romantic and airy tricycle rickshaw on a section of Macau Grand Prix circuit followed by the waterfront area with views of the fishermen’s wharf, science museum, cultural center, international hotels and casinos prior to visit the tallest building in Macau, the Macau Tower.
Adventure on Macau Tower
If you’re an adrenaline junky looking for your next fix, or even if you just want to challenge yourself and try something new and exciting, the range of activities available on offer at the top of the Macau Tower are a thrilling way of seeing the city. Why not try the heart-thumping experience that is the Skywalk. At 188 metres high, and lacking a handrail the Skywalk will make you steel yourself to put your most courageous foot forward!
If this isn’t enough of a rush for you, try a bungee jump from the deck. As you step off, the ground will rush up to meet you at a staggering 200 km/h, only to jerk you back up in an exhilarating blast of speed. Or you could opt for the Skyjump, a 17 second safe and controlled flight at 75 km/h over the spectacular Macau cityscape.
If you’d rather not go down, the Tower Climb may be the mission for you; safely strapped in a harness, you have the chance to climb the antenna mast on the top of one of the world’s tallest towers.
Macau iPad Discovery
Try a treasure hunt with a twist in this modern take on an age-old activity. Participants will be split into groups, and each one will be given an iPad with the first clue displayed. You’ll take in some of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Historic Centre of Macau, as well as many other renowned landmarks, and discover some of the hidden gems of Macau too.
This activity can be used in a corporate setting as a great way of creating synergy within a team; use the treasure hunt as a way of thanking or rewarding the team for their hard work and high performance, or re-energise them with a fast-paced, stimulating challenge.
House of Dancing Water
The House of Dancing Water Show took five years to develop; the talented performers took two years of rehearsal to prepare for it. From amazing feats of acrobatics and gravity defying stunts to sensational dancing, this water-based performance is not to be missed. The entire show is accompanied by a fantastic lighting set and musical soundtrack.
It was created for the City of Dreams by renowned artist Franco Dragone whose shows have been seen by more than 65 million spectators worldwide; he is widely lauded as one of the best in his business on a global scale.
The show boasts a production investment of over HK$2 billion, a staggering US$250 million, and this massive outlay can clearly be seen in its no-holds-barred formulation.
It is housed in a purpose built theatre which features some of the latest breakthroughs in theatre design.
Perhaps the most impressive of these is the stage pool holding a volume of water equivalent to the contents of five Olympic swimming pools, an amazing 3.7 million gallons. 239 water jets are built into the stage lifts that can shoot water 19 metres into the air, and the entire stage is operated by 11 hydraulic lifts that can transform the pool into a massive stage in less than a minute.
With breath taking costumes and a multitude of props and scenery, this show is fast gaining a well-deserved reputation as one of the most imaginative and awe-inspiring productions anywhere in the world.