Macau in 48 Hours: Tiny But with Something for Everyone

From the Vegas-style Cotai strip to the east-meets-west history of old Macau

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One of the great things about Macau is that despite its tiny size (just 29.9 sq.km, or 11/5 sq. miles), it really does offer something for everyone. Its size also makes it easy to zip from one end of the other, meaning you can see quite a bit in just two days. This itinerary takes in the highlights old Macau, where the influences of four centuries of dual Portuguese and Chinese influences are still evident today, the laid-back Taipa and Colôane villages and the excitement of Cotai with its casinos, malls and entertainment.

Day 1 – Old Macau

Start your day early with a visit to Lou Lim Ieoc Garden (it opens at 6am for all you early risers) to see locals going through their daily Tai Chi movements, practicing musical instruments or meeting friends. From there you can walk or take a taxi to nearby Kun Iam Tong Temple, one of Macau’s most important temples for local Chinese due to its dedication to the goddess of mercy and to its funeral halls for the newly deceased. Also nearby is Red Market, an indoor food hall busy with locals purchasing that day’s meal; a local flea market extends from there into the Three Lamps District.

Next it’s on to the Ruins of St. Paul’s, Macau’s most iconic landmark, even though a fire in 1835 destroyed all but its famous façade. Next door is the Macao Museum with displays relating the former Portuguese enclave’s five centuries of fascinating history and culture. Ensconced within the walls of the Mount Fortress, the museum also provides grand city views from its rooftop ramparts. From there it’s a short downhill, past shops selling souvenirs, local foods like barbecued beef jerky and reproduction Chinese furniture, to handsome Senado Square, the heart of the city and always lively with families and
international visitors.

From Senado Square, it’s a long (about 30 minutes) walk or short bus or taxi ride to A-Ma Temple, Macau’s oldest building and always lively with visitors lighting incense and climbing the stairs to the temple’s many levels with views of the Inner Harbour. End your sightseeing by walking about 15 minutes to the Mandarin’s House, a restored 19th-century traditional mansion that I consider one of the highlights of the the Historic Centre of Macau World Heritage Site.

Of course, you’ll want to sample traditional Macanese cuisine, quite possibly the world’s first fusion food, as well as Portuguese specialties. Clube Militar de Macau is a downtown favorite, built in 1870 as a private club for military officers and open to the public since 1995. Or, near A-Ma Temple, are Restaurante Litoral and A Lorcha. For drinks, head to Sky 21, which serves Asian fusion cuisine but also has an upstairs outdoor deck with great views of Macau’s multi-hued evening lights; the Lion’s Bar in the MGM Macau with live music and a dance floor; or the Docks, a row of low-key sidewalk cafes and bars lining Avenida Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

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 Day 2 – Modern Macau

Macau Tower and its observatory will launch you into today’s itinerary, especially if you choose to partake in what the Guinness World Records verifies as the “highest commercial bungy jump” or to stroll the tower’s outside perimeter on the SkyWalk. The tower has the best views of Macau and neighboring China, which you can enjoy also from its 360 Café revolving café offering buffet lunches and dinners.

Next it’s on to Taipa Village, famous also for its restaurants (Antonio, O Manuel and Old Taipa Taverna are good bets) and Sunday market, as well as its Taipa Houses-Museum showing how Macanese families used to live in the restored early 1900s homes. A taxi or bus can take you to the Giant Panda Pavilion in Seac Pai Van Park, and then onward to Coloane Village with its quaint square, Chapel of St. Francis, open-air restaurants and Lord Stow’s Bakery, famous throughout Asia for its egg tarts.

End the day in Cotai, where there’s plenty to do and see, whether it’s strolling through shopping malls, trying your luck in a casino or enjoying the Batman simulator ride or Golden Reel Ferris Wheel in Studio City. One thing you won’t want to miss is The House of  Dancing Water, a spectacular water-based show like nothing you’ve seen before.

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