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Visit Macau, the most Portuguese of Chinese cities

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Martí Micolau
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It was on December 20, 1999 that the city of Macao was officially surrendered by the Portuguese government to the People's Republic of China, a little over two years after the surrender of Hong Kong by the United Kingdom. Rather than a “simple” city, we should also speak of the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, according to the official name! More four centuries of Portuguese occupation tolerated, of course, gave it a very European and Mediterranean face ...





Discover all our tips for visiting Macau!

Where is Macau located?

Macau is located on the southeast coast of China. An ideal position for rich portuguese merchants who obtained the authorization of the Chinese emperor to settle there in the middle of the XNUMXth century and to manage this territory in almost total autonomy. Macao today consists of a small peninsula, two main islands (Taipa and Coloane) and land reclaimed from the sea. Its current surface area is 30,5 km² (against barely 11,6 km² in 1912). The take-off and landing runways of its international airport, which opened in 1995, are themselves on a very large artificial island - which makes take-offs and landings very spectacular!

Macau Airport

What to visit in Macau?

The historic center of Macao was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. Its streets and houses are indeed a perfect synthesis of Portuguese and Chinese architectures. Here you can see a fortress and the oldest lighthouse in China. A timeless stroll at the crossroads of two cultures!





Admire the facade of Saint-Paul church 

The ruins of Saint Paul's Church (early 1835th century, ravaged by a terrible fire in 1835) are among the must-see places in Macau. Dating from the XNUMXth century, the church was destroyed by a terrible fire in XNUMX. Today it is the most emblematic place in the city for tourists.whether they are Christians or not. Impossible not to bring back a photo of this incredible facade, illuminated at sunset.

The facade of Saint-Paul

Discover the Macao lighthouse

The lighthouse was built in 1865 at the top of the hill of Guia, the highest point of the peninsula. It is one of the main attractions of the city. Indeed, it was one of the first of its kind to have been installed in China. 91 meters high, it adjoins a chapel, built around 1622. This set is part of a military fortress, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Macao lighthouse

Climb into the Macau Tower

The most emblematic and unusual monument of Macau is certainly the Macau Tower, which dominates the region from the top of its 338 meters. Its construction began in 1998 and was completed at the end of 2001. The site is known to all fans of bungee jumping, its commercial diving board being the second highest on the planet, just behind that of the Stratosphere hotel in Las Vegas - there are also no more casinos and unusual hotels in the two cities. The tower also houses many shops, as well as a large panoramic terrace. And it is even possible to climb it thanks to the routes that have been placed there!





Macau Tower

Stroll around Senado Square

Senate Square, or Senado Square, is a pretty cobbled square in Macau's historic center. The very Portuguese architecture is very colorful, which makes it a pleasant place to stroll. Many parties and shows take place in this square throughout the year. Do not miss its flea market, picturesque and colorful.

Senado square

Push open the door of Mandarin's house

This house, built in 1869, was the home of reformist Qing Zheng Guanying. Occupying a land of 4 square meters, it is one of the most beautiful and ancient traditional houses in Macao. You can enter through its round door and discover all of its buildings and courtyards, which have been renovated over time. A nice treasure in the heart of Macao, whose entry is free!

Mandarin’s house

Meditate at the Temple of A-ma

This Chinese temple will take you to the distant past. Indeed, its construction is estimated even before the creation of the city of Macao! Chinese fishermen would have laid the first stone, wanting to pay homage to the goddess "A-ma", protector of sailors and fishermen. You can visit the temple and with a bit of luck witness the lion dances which sometimes take place on weekends.



The A-ma temple

When is the best time to travel to Macau?

Located at the mouth of the Pearl River, the administrative region of Macao enjoys an ideal geographical location, which allows tourists strolling to stroll in its arteries throughout the year. Temperatures very rarely drop below 15 ° C. and the sun shines there almost permanently from May to September. Be aware that its oceanic climate gives it a high level of humidity during this period when rainfall is frequent and sometimes heavy. To those who can, we recommend rather late autumn and the beginning of winter, which present a good climatic compromise with temperatures around 20 ° C and less precipitation.



Macau Fireworks Festival

The festive side of Macao is particularly expressed during various events which add to the bustling activity of the city, draining on these occasions many Chinese and foreign visitors. The Chinese new year, at the end of January, is one of the most popular. During this period, the city is adorned with the typical attire of the Middle Kingdom, which likes to recall its administrative presence there. We could also cite the Feast of the Drunken Dragon, end of April, the ancestors festival in October or again the international fireworks competition in early fall. To visit Macao and take advantage of its hyperactivity, there is nothing like planning your schedule for the various festive events that are organized there!

What budget should you plan for your stay?

For Westerners who wish to visit Macao, the prices charged on the spot return, more or less, to the average costs of living in their countries of origin, with the exception of hotel accommodation which displays prices around 60% more expensive than those charged in France! The area is clearly not ideal for budget backpackers, who will cost around 40 euros for two per night for accommodation. Youth hostels are indeed very rare and much more expensive than their European equivalents. The more fortunate will be able to largely indulge themselves with a number of high standing establishments.

Macau

Food is much cheaper. From breakfast to dinner, the prices are much lower than those in France. We can for example eat on the go for less than 6 euros in one of the many street stalls that dot the region and, for less than 30 euros, treat yourself to a real full meal worthy of very good restaurants in Paris. Transport is just as accessible. Less than 70 cents for a bus ticket and 50 cents per kilometer by taxi. Finally, shopping here is elevated to the rank of art of living and the stores are teeming with good tax-free deals, pushing tourists to fill their bags with clothes, cigarettes and other luxury products, at a lower cost.

How to get to Macao from France?

Macau is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and, as such, benefits from an efficient and well-connected international airport. Located on Dangzai Island, it is connected with many Chinese tourist cities, but also with the major Asian regional capitals. From France and Paris, the flight time is approximately 18 hours with a mandatory stopover, most of the time in Beijing. Prices vary greatly depending on the season but start at around 550 euros to fly sometimes to more than 1600 euros. Know how to organize yourself in advance, as always when it comes to reaching a large tourist center.

Macau architecture

From the airport, you can then take the AP1 shuttle which connects with the Zhuhai crossing station to China. Also note that taxis can reach the city center in less than 20 minutes and this for a sum of between 40 and 50 MOP (or approximately 4,5 to 5,5 euros). This solution is the easiest and fastest way to reach the heart of the city and will give you the opportunity to rub shoulders with urban traffic, an excellent introduction for those who wish to visit Macao at human height!

How to get around on site?

Public transport in the region is very accessible and benefits from a very extensive network. The bus is a very practical solution, but there are also rickshaws pulled by locals who usually offer their services as experienced guides. This means is perfect for discovering the city at a human pace while benefiting from precise and referenced comments. Taxi is also popular with travelers because it is inexpensive and fairly efficient. Be careful though at rush hour when the traffic can be daunting on the main arteries. Free shuttles, public or private, connect the various points of interest of the city, very practical to save on your budget!

The streets of Macau

In addition, Macao is a city of water and therefore has the specificity of havinga vast network of ferries, joining the different islands that make up the administrative region, but also mainland China and Hong Kong. The latter destination is the most popular with tourists. From the Macau Ferry Terminal, the crossing to HK takes just over an hour. By catamaran or hydrofoil, crossing the bay is a unique experience that reminds you of how much the region is a tangle of human constructions punctuated with bright and colorful lights, giving the impression, very real, of a megalopolis in perpetual awakening. Visiting Macao without making the detour to Hong Kong would certainly be a shame, but you can also easily reach Shenzen, Shekou or Zhuhai. Feel free to explore while sailing the waters of the China Sea!

What to eat and drink in Macau?

If the architecture of certain districts is the most obvious testimony of the old Portuguese presence on the Chinese coasts, its gastronomy leaves no doubt about the successful marriage of the two cultures. In Macao, many restaurants still serve popular and typical Portuguese dishes under a Lusitanian name such as squid, Polvo, vegetable soup, Caldo verde or grilled sardines, Sardinhas assadas. Despite the invasion of the streets and restaurants by junk food and a globalist and soulless cuisine, do not give in to the easy way and you will be won over by this multicultural food which is the true reflection of Macao's culture.

Pastel de nata à Macao

These multiple influences are Indian, Malay and of course Chinese and Portuguese. We thus find the famous Bacalhau, the traditional Lusitanian dried cod, but here accompanied by cinnamon and coconut milk. The Galinha africana picante brings together all the flavors of the world on a chicken. Garlic, coconut, tomato, chili and peanuts, a real Macanese delight not to be missed! As for drinks, the most popular wines are imported and naturally Portuguese. Tinto, branco or verde, the choice is yours! To find all these treasures of local cuisine, flee the main arteries and play areas. We recommend you in particular the islands of Taipai or Coloane. Here you will find typical, more village and family stalls, another point of view on the region and a good way to visit Macao in a different way!

In which neighborhood to stay?

Accommodation in Macao requires a certain budget, especially on the Peninsula. This zone includes the oldest districts of the city in which the prices of accommodation are high, even very high. We think in particular of the Legend Palace Hotel, in the immediate vicinity of the Outer Harbor terminal or the Grand Hyatt which enjoys an ideal geographical position less than 5 minutes from the international airport. Do not count less than 150 euros per night in a double room, but know that you will enjoy an exceptional setting and service, worthy of the greatest Parisian palaces!

Taipa

Prefer to go off-center on the islands adjacent to the center. Taipa is particularly appreciated, because it knew how to preserve a certain village spirit which allows to breathe a little after having trudged in the crowded and overcrowded arteries of the city. L’Altira Macau is perfectly placed next to the island's museums and not far from its golf course. Here again the prices do not go below 150 euros, prepare your credit card! Finally, for those who wish visit Macau while making the most of the luxuries that anoint the city, allow yourself a little madness and book a room at Wynn Palace. Unprecedented experience guaranteed, but the night will cost you at least 250 euros! In Macau, nothing is too good!

Find a hotel or rental in Macau:

Useful information

These few information will allow you to prepare your stay and visit Macao quietly:

  • Formalities: A valid passport is required to travel to Macau.
  • Health : No vaccine is mandatory, but be up to date with your vaccination record as a precaution.
  • Cash : The local currency is Pataca (MOP)
  • Tourist Office : The official website of the Macau tourism office will give you information on upcoming events and the city in general.

Experience luxury in Macau!

Are you going to Macau soon? Do not hesitate to share your experiences in the comments!

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