Macau Dash: 48 Hours In Asia’s Gambling Mecca
Macau, despite its relatively small geographical size, is without a doubt one of the most fascinating places to visit in China. Known as the gambling capital of Asia, Macau is, after all, home to some of the biggest and most lavish casinos in the world. Believe it or not, this buzzing city has overtaken Sin City – Las Vegas – as the highest revenue gambling destination in the world in 2008. And even if you play cards, slots and dices, Macau’s casinos can still delight your senses with its glamorous designs, sweet scents and world-class restaurants.
But, make no mistake about it – there’s more to Macau than its ritzy gambling dens. As the Orient’s oldest European settlement, the city boasts awesome touches and glimpses of Mediterranean Europe with its majestic churches, narrow cobblestone streets and pastel-colored colonial buildings. Furthermore, some of the top casinos in Macau have breath-snatching replicas of some of Europe’s most beloved landmarks, such as the renowned Eiffel Tower and the Venetian lagoon. To top it all off, it has a mouthwatering cuisine that fuses Chinese flavors with Portuguese influences.
Headed to Hong Kong’s wondrous neighbor? Looking for incredible things to do in Macau in 48 hours or less? We’ve listed some of the best Macau tourist spots and other travel tips, to help you experience this exciting Chinese hub in a couple of days or less. Whether you’re a gambling junkie or a typical sightseer, you’ll love the tip-offs and suggestions shared in this Macau travel guide.
Day 1 in Macau
Arrive in Macau early
The city is well connected to other hubs and cities in China. What’s more, getting a visa is as easy as ABC for most travelers. As a matter of fact, it is visa-free to foreign nationals in the European Union member states as well as in other countries, like the United States, Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore, and many more.
For the most part, visitors arrive in this Chinese hub through its neighbor Hong Kong, where there are tons of ferries that depart from the Macau Ferry Terminal. Convenient and lovely, this boat ride only takes an hour or less from “Asia’s World City”. Alternatively, there are regional low-cost carriers that offer flights to Macau International Airport, linking the city nationally and internationally.
- Make sure to get in the city before 10:30 AM.
- For the first day, you’ll be spending most of your time on the Macau peninsula – the part of the city, where its main ferry port is nestled.
Hit the Macau Wine Museum
A great way to start your trip in Macao on the right foot is to pay a visit to the Macau Wine Museum – one of the city’s most underrated gems. Not only does it feature a showcase of premium wines, but it will also let your learn more about the wine production’s history as well as the techniques for picking the best varieties. Permanent exhibits aside, there are over a thousand vintage wine brands that are up for grabs in this museum too. Of course, a visit here will offer you a chance to sample plenty of wines as well.
- To get there, take bus 32, 10B, 3 or 1A, upon arriving at the Macau Ferry Terminal. If, however, you’re not carrying a lot of stuff, you may also take a quick 15-minute walk to the museum.
- Spend at least an hour there.
Having a grumbling stomach? Treat your palate to a wide array of tasty culinary specialties, including the Portuguese-style chicken (galinha à portuguesa), minchi and crab stir-fried with curry.
A dose of history at Monte Fort
After enjoying a hearty and tasty meal, head to the historic Monte Fort, and take a walk down memory lane. Drenched in history, the fort not only houses old real-life cannons, but it also has fantastic overlooking views of the harbor. Plus, it is home to the well-preserved Museum of Macau, which houses a medley of insightful displays, including home relics, toys as well as information about the city’s old marriage customs and history.
- Spend 2 hours in this military fort.
Hit the must-see sights in Macau
Make your way to the Historic Center, and get a glimpse of one of the island’s most photographed spots – the ruins of Saint Paul’s Church.
Afterwards, move your feet to Macau’s historical center – Senado Square. One of the island’s most visited spots, the Senado Square dazzles with colorful colonial Victorian buildings that will remind you of the cities in Europe. Furthermore, it is one of the top spots in the city to get your shopping fix, offering great finds and amazing bargains.
Eat dinner at Largo de Senado
Largo do Senado is a bustling street lined with dozens of boutiques, shops, restaurants and snacks stalls serving treats that will appease your cravings. You can easily spend house exploring the area, and eating tasty goodies. A must-try here is the iconic and luscious milk egg tart.
Hit the Cotai Strip
Not a big fan of gambling? Gambling junkie or not, the Cotai Strip is an electric place that you can’t afford to miss in Macau. Even if you don’t splurge or gamble, you can still have a blast at the Cotai Strip, thanks to the fabulous landmarks and shows offered by big-time hotels, like the Galaxy Macau, City of Dreams Macau, and the newly-opened Parisian. Not to mention, it is the location of the world renowned Venetian Macau, where you can meander the canals as if you were in Italy’s ultimate romantic honeymoon destination – Venice.
- There are buses like N3, 26A, and 21A that run every 15 minutes or so from the near corner of Rua Mercadores (Almeida Riberio) – 3 blocks from Senado Square. The bus ride takes around 40 minutes, and you may get off to the casino that you want to see first.
Day 2 in Macau
Visit Mandarin’s House
Once you’ve finished your breakfast, swing by Mandarin’s House – the old mansion of Qing Dynasty’s Zheng Guanying. Deemed as one of the most underrated tourist spots in Macau, this family mansion has been restored wonderfully, and flaunts a fine mix of Western architectural designs and traditional Chinese building techniques. With over 50 spacious rooms, the mansion is home to a ton of exhibits and artifacts, including clothing from the bygone era, tablets with manuscripts, and ancient furniture.
- Spend an hour exploring the area.
Pray at A-Ma Temple
From there, take a quick 5-minute walk down to the sacred A-Ma Temple. Afterwards, light a few incense sticks, offer flowers and fresh fruits, and pray for good fortune and luck.
Drop Macau Maritime Museum
Take another 5-minute walk via Rue se Sao Tiago da Barra, and make a stopover at the Macau Maritime Museum. Once there, admire the displays and features that epitomize the maritime history and culture of Macau. Trust me, it’s one of the best ways to learn more about Chinese and Portuguese maritime history.
Eat Pork Chop Buns
In mainland China and Hong Kong, you’ll very often find white and sweet buns stuffed with a variety of vegetables and meat. But in Macau, this flavorsome treat comes with a twist – it’s formed like a quintessential sandwich. Inspired by the Portuguese, this unique delicacy is truly a tasty fusion of Oriental flavors and Western customs. Stuffed with piping hot chops of pork, Macau’s variety comes with crispy and golden bread that adds more flavor to this gastronomic treat.
There are a lot of places in the city to enjoy this Chinese treat, but our best bet is the renowned Tai Lei Kok Kei restaurant in Taipa. To get there, you may hop on bus MT4, from Macau Maritime Museum (travel time is 45 minutes or less). Then, get off at Avenida Cidade Nova, and head inside the gleaming Venetian Casino and Hotel.
Another great place to eat in this part of Asia is Rua da Cunha, which has tons of stalls offering tasty snacks like peanut candies, egg roll biscuits, seaweed wafers and almond cakes. As for the location, it’s just a 15-minute walk north from Avenida Cidade Nova.
Delve deeper into the history of the island with a visit to the Museum of Taipa and Coloane History. A former public administration building, this small treasure trove now houses archaeological artifacts from the Colane Island excavations from 1973 to 2006. With a visit to this museum, you’ll get to know a bit more about the island in prehistoric times, as well as catch intriguing exhibits that depict the life and culture in Macau during the 20th century.
With the Museum of Taipa and Coloane History in the books, walk a few blocks, and drop by the Municipal Garden, or also known as Jardim Da Cidade Das Flores. Epitomizing a stunning classic Chinese garden, Jardim Da Cidade Das Flores is complete with lovely bridges, small pavilions and a large pond.
Take a final look of Macau from a bird’s perspective
What’s the best way to end a perfect trip in Macau? As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to end your trip on a high note in this Chinese destination than a visit to Guia Lighthouse. Not only is the place serene, but it also houses a church adorned with elegant vintage murals. Furthermore, the sunsets here are nothing short of amazing, making it an ideal place to visit in Macau for photography connoisseurs.
And as one of the highest points on the island, it also offers awe-inspiring overlooking views of Macau.
- To get there, make your way back to Museum of Taipa and Coloane History, and take bus 25x or 25 (travel time is 35 minutes.