When I’ve decided to visit Hong Kong, I already knew that I had to take a day trip to Macau as well. Just by reading about the region’s past and present, Macau fascinated me and I had to see everything for myself. The casinos, the bridge, the ruins, the streets, the food, the Gran Lisboa – everything.
Not all travellers venture into Macau when visiting Hong Kong even if it’s just an hour away by ferry. But make no mistake, Macau is a popular destination, especially with Chinese tourists and mostly on weekends. I chose to visit Macau on a Tuesday. It was one of those weekdays when Macau is less crowded and that was exactly what I was looking for.
Macau was administered by the Portuguese Empire and it was the last remaining European colony in Asia, until 1999. Right now, Macau is the most densely populated region in the world, a tax haven and is also known as the ‘Las Vegas of Asia’. I have also been to Las Vegas for a week, not long ago and I have to say that Macau is not at that level yet, but definitely on its way.
How to get there?
The easiest way to get to Macau from Hong Kong is by ferry.
There are two main companies that you can pick from; Cotai Water Jet and Turbo Jet. I have tested them both and there is no significant difference between them in matters of pricing or service, the only difference is in the terminals that they are using. Cotai Water Jet will take you to and from the Macau Taipa Terminal and Turbo Jet will take you to and from the Outer Harbour Terminal.
While travelling by ferry, I could not help but notice the long bridge that was stretching all the way from Hong Kong to Macau. Apparently, this is an ongoing project to connect the two regions and is called the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and it looks impressive
How to explore around?
If your destination is Taipa, getting to the Casinos is quite easy (and free). There are many buses waiting at the Taipa Terminal, and you can jump into any of them, depending on the casino which you want to get to. Start exploring them by walking from casino to casino, as you would do in Vegas.
Once you had enough of the casino life and you feel like it’s time for a chance, cross the bridge to the peninsula. The Macao peninsula is well connected with Taipa, Cotai, and Coloane so all you have to do is to look for buses or a taxi.
Taxis are pretty cheap in Macau as well, so I went with that option. It was totally worth it, and I got to the Grand Lisboa in 10 minutes from the Venitian.
Language and currency
As in Hong Kong, most people speak Cantonese but understand (some) English. If you want to go to a specific place, it’s best to have an image of that place with you. Having a photo of the Grand Lisboa really helped, as the taxi driver, who spoke no English knew exactly where we wanted to go.
The currency in Macau is Macanese Pataca (MOP) but most people will take HKD as well. I was able to use HKD for the cab, the casinos and some shops. I did have about 40£ exchanged into MOP, which I’ve used for street food and drinks.
Here is what to do and see on a day trip to Macau:
Travelling from Hong Kong to Macau by ferry is such a lovely experience and you should totally do it if you enjoy travelling by water. The trip takes around 45 minutes, the views are stunning and guess what – it’s really affordable.
1. Explore The Cotai Strip & Casinos
Okay, so if you want to see the luxury side of Macau, this is THE place to go. The Cotai strip is the home to most casinos and everything looks like it’s been taken out of a movie.
I am not a gambler and I don’t really enjoy spending money like that so initially, I thought I will not have many things to see and experience on the Cotai Stip. And how wrong I was!
There is so much to see. Some of the casinos are simply impressive (and I’ve been to Vegas as well). The view from the ‘Eiffel Tower’ in Macau is totally worth the money.
2. Ride a cab & cross the bridge
You must ride a cab while in Macau – it’s cheap, it’s so much fun and the views are simply beautiful. Plus it’s the fastest and easiest and way to cross the bridge and get from Cotai and Taipa to Macau.
Tip: Before getting into a cab, make sure that you have a way to show your destination to the cab driver, as not everyone understands or speaks English in Macau.
3. Visit The Gran Lisboa Hotel & Casino
Located in the Sé district, the Gran Lisboa Hotel and Casino, owned by none else than Stanley Ho is by far the tallest and most impressive building on this side of Macau. Even if you are in Macau for one day, you must add this one to your itinerary. Don’t only admire it from the outside, but go in as well. They usually have different types of art on display all year round, that you can admire for free.
Tip: Use their bathrooms. You will not regret it (chuckles).
4. Roam the streets of the old city and discover hidden gems
The historic Centre of Macau is on the Unesco World Heritage list and you need to explore it in order to understand why. There are so many things to discover, both old and new and some things that you will see and learn are truly fascinating. When you are in the old city, explore every small yet charming street and visit points of interest like Lou Kau Mansion, Largo do Senado, Saint Dominic’s Church and Domingos Road.
Senado Square or the Senate Square is a square and got its name from Leal Senado, which used to be a meeting place for both the Portuguese and Chinese back in the days. Most buildings in the square are European-style buildings, have their own little stories to tell and are currently protected, because of their history.
Many events that happen in Macau are either in the Square or start from the square. Keep an eye on the Macau events calendar if you would like to witness a local event while visiting Macau.
6. Visit The Ruin of St Paul’s
One of Macau’s best-known landmarks is the Ruins of Saint Paul’s. It was built by the Jesuits in the early 1600s and many people think it used to be a cathedral but in fact, the Ruins of Saint Paul’s used to be a Portuguese church and before that a college. Today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a beautiful, iconic ruin.
Tip: Behind the facade, you can still see the original pillars and the shrine.
7. Walk up to Fortaleza do Monte for great views
Fortaleza do Monte is the historical military centre of Macau. It is part of the historical centre of Macau and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From up here, you can see the new and the old areas and buildings of Macau. The panoramic views will give you a great understanding of how diverse Macau is and how different Macanese people live.
The fort was also built in the early 1600s and it was a restricted military area until 1966 when it was finally opened to the public. What used to be the barracks is now the Museum of Macau.
8. Try the local food
Needless to say – trying the local food in any destination is a must. I always try the local food in every country and every city I am visiting – yes, I’m that kind of traveller, haha. I might not always end up liking everything but I have to try anything that comes my way, at least once. The food in Macau is a blend of Cantonese and Portuguese cuisines. the Portuguese style egg tart is famous for good reason.
I really liked the food in Macau. It is an interesting blend of Cantonese and Portuguese cuisines. In Macau, you can jump from noodles to European-style pastries in a second and everything tastes delicious!
Tip: the Portuguese-style egg tart is famous for good reason – you must try it in Macau!
How would you spend one day in Macau?
Which is the first place that you would visit or the first activity that you would like to do first when visiting Macau?
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