Similar to Hong Kong, Macau is a region as part of the People’s Republic of China and has a rich colonial history. As a former colony of Portugal (until 1999), Macau has a multicultural heritage that is evident in its traditions, its architecture, and of course, in its world-famous casinos.
But beyond its amazing casinos, Macau has dozens of incredible and fascinating tourist attractions that are worth a visit by themselves. Here are just a few that are must-sees when taking a break from gaming.
1– A-Ma Temple
No trip to Macau would be complete without a trip to the purported namesake of the city, A-Ma Temple. It is likely the oldest temple in the city (built in the 1400s) and is dedicated to Mazu, a goddess for whom the city itself may be named.
This Buddhist temple is a UNESCO world heritage site and has impressive and gorgeous artwork, statues, and architecture. You’ll also find statues of the goddess Mazu herself. The temple is fairly quiet and peaceful. If you find yourself a little burned out from the hustle and bustle of the casinos, this can be a welcome distraction and a place to get yourself re-centered before returning to the games.
2 – The Ruins of St. Paul’s
No trip to Macau would be complete without visiting what is arguably their most iconic landmark, the Ruins of St. Paul’s. Although all that is left of this incredible Jesuit church is the facade, this landmark is still known as one of the Seven Wonders of Portuguese Origin in the World. In fact, back in 2005, it was officially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built in the 1600s, the structure served as a major religious center, many referring to it as the “Vatican of the Far East.” It was destroyed in the 1800s by a typhoon and never rebuilt. It stands now as a major tourist attraction, with steel stairs leading to the top. You can get a great view of the city when you climb (St. Paul’s is located on a hill), and you might even consider participating in the tradition of throwing coins off the top for good luck.
3 – Fortaleza do Monte
If you’ve already made it out to the Ruins of St. Paul’s, you’ll probably want to skip right over to Fortaleza do Monte. This fort was built in the 1600s and served as the seat of Portugal’s military might in the area for over a century, eventually becoming the governor’s residence.
While the Ruins of St. Paul’s are certainly iconic, seeing them takes little time and is over fairly quickly, but the Fortaleza do Monte houses the Macau Museum, home to detailed explanations of the history of the city, the colonization of the Macanese by various conquerors, and how the city has come to be one of the world’s richest and most well known gaming cities ever.
4 – Maritime Museum and Fisherman’s Wharf
If you’re turning your sightseeing excursion into an all-day affair, consider next visiting the Maritime Museum and Fisherman’s Wharf. Because of Macau’s history as one of the major trade cities in the region, the sea and the harbor are a deep and important component of the city’s history.
The beautiful Maritime Museum looks like an old-timey sailing ship and is home to dozens of displays and collections that explore the storied history of maritime travel and commerce over the centuries of Macau’s existence.
One of the more interesting exhibits centers on the development of ancient instruments used by mariners to explore the oceans and predict the weather while on long sailing voyages.
Once you’re done perusing history and are feeling hungry, walk down to the Fisherman’s Wharf, where you’ll find tons of restaurants serving fresh seafood. There’s plenty of shopping to be done here, and the theme-park atmosphere of the place is complemented by numerous rides that are fun for all ages.
5 – AJ Hackett Macau Tower
Although you may not know AJ Hackett by name, you certainly know bungee jumping—a sport he practically invented and that has reached perfection in his namesake tower. The Macau Tower is massive (well over 300 meters) and is home to some of the world’s most fun (or maybe most frightening?) bungee jumps.
Not for the faint of heart, this tower includes far more than just scenic views. There’s a skywalk, tandem sky-jumping, tower climbing, and of course bungee jumping. All of these activities take place hundreds of meters in the air.
If you’ve got a stomach of iron and want to boast that you’ve done the craziest bungee jump in the world, this is the place to go. But if you’re a bit more grounded in your thinking and prefer your thrills to take place at the tables, it’s still worth going to the top to take a look at the scenery. The views are as out of this world as the people who run the place.
6 – The House of Dancing Water
Nothing in the world can really stand up to some of the insane entertainment that you’ll find in Macau, and The House of Dancing Water is no exception. This 90-minute show takes place in a massive, custom-built theatre that can go from flooded with water to completely dry in minutes as the stage transforms between acts.
The multimillion-gallon pool includes a series of specialized lifts that allow performers to leap and dive into the water. You’ll find acrobats, dancers, and even motorcyclists in the show.
If you’ve ever wondered what Cirque Du Soleil would look like with an unlimited budget and an edge of insanity—underwater—this is it. It’s a must-see show for anyone visiting Macau.
7 – Taipa Village
If the idea of jumping from insane heights or watching acrobats swim through giant pools is a little too much excitement for you, especially after spending a few days playing table games or slots, then consider taking a stroll to Taipa Village.
What makes Taipa Village so unique is that, unlike A-Ma Temple, this village is still very much alive and thriving in the present day. You’ll find plenty of places to eat and drink right alongside an amalgamation of Portuguse- and Chinese-influenced architecture.
Taipa Village is close to the strip and boasts a variety of gorgeous colonial-era churches and temples. You’ll also find plenty of museums, art galleries, and souvenir shops. If you’re thinking about bringing some knick-nacks home but want to avoid the often-cheap stuff found in casino gift shops, this is the perfect place to stroll down to and pick up something authentic.
Of all the places to visit in Taipa Village, Taipa House Museum should be top of your list. The gorgeous lime green and cream houses used to be home to the Portuguese governor (and anyone else serving under him). It’s filled now will a wide variety of artifacts and exhibits exploring the colonization of the Macanese people, exploring what life was like for the colonists.
8 – Grand Resort Deck
Okay, this is technically part of a casino, but I thought I’d include it because not everyone wants to walk around all day after the exhaustion of gaming for multiple days in a row. Some of us like to relax, take it easy, grab a drink, and sit around the pool all day, especially if you’re visiting during the summer heat.
The Grand Resort Deck is a massive expanse of water attractions and pools for water lovers of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Whether you want to lay out by the pool and read a good book, surf the artificial white water rapids, fly down the waterslides, surf the Skytop Wave Pool, let the kids splash around in the kid’s aquatic zone, or chill all day in one of the beach lagoons, this is the place for laid-back fun.
9 – The Giant Panda Pavilion
No visit to Macau would be complete without a visit to the Giant Panda Pavilion. This sprawling enclosure is designed to mimic the natural habitats of these lazy, fun-loving creatures. Though you’ll certainly be able to get an up-close and personal view of these magnificent pandas, the pavilion also includes a variety of other animal species, including gorillas and flamingos.
The pavilion itself is also a beautiful nature park in its own right, housing many trees and plants that can soothe your nerves after a day at the table. Your small admission fee goes toward preserving the pavilion and providing for the continuation of the rare giant pandas.
Macau is a thriving city with more attractions per square foot that just about anywhere on Earth. While the land-based casinos do tend to be the top attraction, there’s plenty to do for the entire family. The rich cultural heritage, the incredible sites, and the world-class shows and attractions make Macau a destination that everyone should visit at some point in their lives.
Have you visited Macau before? Tell us about your favorite attraction and why you loved it so much.