Macau had been a Portuguese colony since the 16th century. Now the Macau Special Autonomous Region, you can still feel the influence of Portugal, intermixed with Asian cultural traditions and even a bit of a Las Vegas feel. The melting pot of cultures had me intrigued, so I spent 24 hours in Macau to find out what it was all about.

Macau was under Portuguese domination from the 16th century until 1999. As a result, it’s one of the most European places in Asia. You can see Portuguese street names, beautiful European-style buildings and hear the Portuguese language spoken.

Macau is also one of the richest regions in the world thanks to legal gambling, which generates 50% of the national income. The light show at night is something that will hold its own place in your memory for years to come.

How to get to Macau

Macau has a small airport that you can fly into. You can also get there by driving, but the most popular way is to take the ferry from Hong Kong. There is a Turbo Jet or Cotai Water Jet service from Sheung Wan, Kowloon, New Territories and Hong Kong International Airport. It takes about 50 minutes.

I jumped on the ferry after landing at the airport. I picked up my ticket there, but you can also buy them online. The only downside of that approach is that you risk missing your ferry if your flight is delayed. Everything is pretty clear and easy to find with English signs.

Where to stay in Macau

Just like Las Vegas, there are many famous hotels here that look almost the same as they do in Vegas. We stayed in the Venetian (you can read about my experience here). Every hotel is a huge resort with many attractions, huge pools and casinos – there are tons of things to do in Macau before you even leave the hotel.

Here are some of the most popular and most spectacular resorts to inspire you:

  • Studio City Hotel – a Hollywood-themed hotel with a ride outside
  • The Parisian Macao – Parisian style with the Eiffel Tower
  • Wynn – one of the most luxurious complexes
  • Sofitel – French-themed waterfront resort
  • Morpheus Macau – designed by Zaha Hadid, known as the “world’s first free-form, high-rise exoskeleton” building
  • Grand Lisboa – the tallest hotel in Macau, shaped in a Macau symbol, the white lotus flower
  • Grand Hyatt – a resort with two modern towers

Things to do in Macau

Ruínas de São Paulo

Decorated with beautiful reliefs, only the façade survived a big fire in 1835. This cathedral was once the largest Christian building in Asia and is visited by many tourists every day.

Senado Square

One of the top attractions in Macau. This is the main square of the old town, packed with charming cafes, pastel buildings and old churches. It has a distinctively European feeling atmosphere.

Estr. do Istmo

Being the main street, a bit like the Strip in Las Vegas, Estr. do Istmo is a must visit. If you’ve visited both, you’ll be pleased to find this street much cleaner and calmer than the Vegas equivalent.

Macau Tower

The best view in the city! The Macau Tower is 338m high and home to a host of entertainment options. For the bravest, there are attractions like bungee jumping, skywalks, sky jumps or even the tower climb.

A-Ma Cultural Village

This is a large temple complex with a statue to A-Ma, located on a hilltop in Coloane. You can get there by shuttle bus from the bottom near Macau Giant Panda Pavilion.

Macau Giant Panda Pavilion

This park is home to two rare giant pandas, Kai Kai and Xin Xin. There’s also a small zoo and beautiful gardens to discover.

What to eat in Macau

  • Chinese food, of course! We ordered dumplings, fried rice, sweet and sour chicken and orange chicken.
  • Almond cookies. These small shortbread cookies are super popular and a must-buy item.

There are so many things to do in Macau. It was great to walk without a plan in the old town, seeing cute cafes right next to typical Chinese houses with rustic walls, and then seeing some of the craziest casinos in the world! You’ll be amazed at just how many contrasting experiences can be found in one, relatively small, place.

Whether you visit on a day trip from Hong Kong or spend a few days at a stunning resort, Macau is definitely worth visiting. It’s a place with the perfect blend of Asia and Europe, adding up to one awesome experience.

If you’re planning to visit, tap into my trip planning services to tick off all your must-see spots. And if you’ve got time to explore more of Asia too, check out my guide to where to go in Southeast Asia.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. We were in Macau in 2011 and we were there even less then 24 hours. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see a lot but still had this crazy experience and memories from the place. Next time when we have more time we will definitely visit all the places you mention on your list! I love how you managed to capture the life on the street of Macau!

  2. I went to Macau many years ago and I absolutely loved it. I loved the Portuguese influence that it still has. Even though Ruínas de São Paulo was overcrowded with people, I enjoyed sitting on those steps and watching the beautiful church.

  3. I should have gone to Macau when i went to Hongkong last year. I didn’t know how easy it is to get there. Would love to try the bungee jump from the Macau tower. Hope this pandemic ends so we can go back to traveling

  4. Having visited Las Vegas I have somewhat associated Macau as the Las Vegas of Asia, definitely on my bucket-list though. Vegas is so much fun so can only imagine how interesting Macau would be. Love the European vibe mixed in too, I think that is what makes it unique and gets me curious to experience the vibe of this place. Resemblance to Las vegas, mixed with European architecture and in Asia what an exciting mix.

  5. It’s true that gambling and the legalization of Macau makes the place vibrant and more richer .. the tourist are drawn to the city for its vibrant culture .. but apart from that I like the coastline it is so well defined. true that it has a own European feel in the heart of Asia and the food there is also amazing

  6. I have been to Vegas and find it funny that a replica is in Macau. I did want to visit while I was in Hong Kong but just ran out of time. I enjoyed reading your blog to find out what I missed. It does sound like a fun place to visit – maybe another time.

  7. I was always under the impression that Macau is nothing but the playground for the rich But I realised after reading this that theres a lot more than meets the eyes. There’s so much of stuff to do from the cultural point of view, which amazes me.

  8. Senado square is where perhaps spend a lot of time walking through the old town and visiting the churches. The place reminds me of Lisbon with the similar architecture. The cathedral must have been a masterpiece in its earlier days and the steps going up so inviting. Although I am not the casino type yet would try my luck probably at the hotel where we put up. Love the streets and the colorful ambience.

  9. The skyline of Macau is absolutely stunning especially with the contrast of buildings and nature. I didn’t realize it had so many similarities to Las Vegas. And I love these types of areas where there are blends of cultures like European and Asian leading to its own unique combination.

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