Holy Macau! A tour of Old Town Macau

I was taken aback by the beauty of the architecture in the old town of Macau. It is a former Portuguese colony so there remains churches, libraries and theatres which are very gorgeous.

I was also taken aback by the sweltering heat! I thought i was going to pass out. After a short walk we had to take refuge in a McDonald’s to have a very necessary ice cream sundae and take advantage of their air conditioning! The good thing is that many of the main sights are concentrated in a relatively small area so if you are in a rush (or about to pass out!) you can see them without walking too far. 

The obvious place to start is in Senado Square with its distinctive floor pattern!

Directly behind this square is the pretty St Dominic’s Church. This was also somewhat of a refuge from the sun, with its stone walls.

We also made our way through some of the busy alleyways filled with shops and cafes.

We then made our way to the most iconic landmark in Macau; the ruin of St Pauls. We saw several wedding photos being taken outside.

This is just a facade of a church so you can’t go “in” as such, but It is possible to go down into the crypt underneath the back of the church. This was a bit creepy to me and I was worried about getting locked in!

Behind St Pauls is a small cute temple with incense burning outside.

We then visited the large fort on the hill next to St Pauls. By this time I was flagging again due to the heat so i was relieved to find a series of escalators taking you up to the top of the fort – thank god! Honestly I couldn’t have walked it. At the top was a park with a great view over Macau in all directions. You can even see Mainland China on the other side of the river!

Again this reminded me of Panama – fairly equatorial, very hot and humid, tall skyscrapers, and some slightly run down housing.

After this we walked up to the Ho Tung Library, which was another architectural gem with a lovely outdoor reading area in the garden with a cold water machine – yes!! This was a couple of doors down from the Dom Pedro Theatre which was another stunner built in 1860. We poked our noses in and saw an art exhibition of clothes made from recycled materials. This whole area of Macau was very pretty, with cobbled streets and Victorian-style lamps. We also saw a building covered in scaffolding… made of bamboo! I have seen this before in Hong Gai, Vietnam but that was in a small town in a poorer country, so I was surprised that Macau chose to use Bamboo instead of metal for scaffolding.

As it went dark we headed back to Central Macau to spent the evening in the casinos.

Overall, we found the old town of Macau very “gritty” and real compared to the sanitised luxury of the casinos. Even with the relative beauty of the architecture, the crowded alleyways, stifling heat, and mosquitoes felt very much like we were in “real China”.

Travel Tips:

  • Free shuttle buses go from some hotels to other hotels, and to/from the airport or ferry terminal. There is a free shuttle bus from City of Dreams in Cotai to outside the Grand Emperor in Macau central. Just remember to find out the time of the last bus home!
  • If you land at Hong Kong Airport and want to take a ferry straight to Macau, don’t go to the baggage carousel, and don’t leave the airport – instead follow signs for the ferry terminal within the airport. When you book a ferry ticket they will ask if you have bags. Give your bag ticket stub to the ticket person (we took a photo of ours first, just in case!) and they will collect your bags and put them on the ferry. Therefore, you won’t see your bag until after you get off the ferry in Macau, and it will be on a baggage carousel in Macau. I’m not normally comfortable with allowing other people to collect my bags, but I had to accept this is how it works there, and it worked fine for us. (Word of Warning – I understand that if you decide to leave Hong Kong Airport to collect your own bag, you can’t then re-enter the airport to use this ferry terminal – you would have to take the train into central Hong Kong to get to another ferry terminal to get that ferry to Macau.) This is just based on the online research we did beforehand – google it for more info on this!
  • Check online for health advice – the mosquitoes in the daytime had the risk of carrying Dengue fever so we followed the health advice of wearing long-sleeves and long-trousers. This was a pain, and especially frustrating when you are hot and see others wearing shorts and cropped tops, but I’d rather be safe than spend the rest of the trip in hospital.

next blog: Food in Macau

previous blog: Casinos in Macau


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