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Best Places to Visit in Macau - Top Historical Places in Macau

Updated on September 22, 2018
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Lady Rain is a daytime stock trader in Australia who likes to travel and has worked in Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.

Macau
Macau | Source

Macau is the first European settlement in the Far East. It was colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century, during the great era of Portuguese exploration initiated by Prince Henry the Navigator.

The Portuguese used Macau as a staging port and as a base for introducing Christianity to China and Japan. Other European countries plotted to seize Macau from Portugal, the Dutch tried to invade the city in 1622 but failed. The Portuguese ruled for over 400 years before Macau was returned to China as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on December 20, 1999. The official languages of Macau are Chinese and Portuguese.

When the Portuguese settled in Macau to spread Christianity, the first priests immediately started to build Catholic churches. The early churches were made of wood and matting. By the mid 17th century, plaster and stone were used in the construction of these buildings. Aside from the famous Ruins of St Paul's, many churches, squares and religious buildings constructed by the Portuguese are still standing throughout the city and are listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Macau.

The Historic Center of Macau has a concentrated collection of Asian and Western style buildings in the downtown area. These buildings showcase a great combination of Chinese and Western styles which is a result of over 400 years of cultural exchanges between the Chinese and the Western world. Different religions from Catholicism, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and Matsu coexist up to the present day.

Interesting Fact ...

Macau is the first and last European colony in Asia.

The Portuguese arrived in Macau in the 16th century and Macau was returned to China in 1999.

Top Historical Places to See in Macau

 
 
 
 
A-Ma Temple
Moorish Barracks
Lilau Square
Mandarin's House
St Joseph's Seminary and Church
Dom Pedro Theatre
Sir Robert Ho Tung Library
Leal Senado Building
Holy House of Mercy
The Cathedral
Lou Kau Mansion
St Lawrence's Church
St Augustine's Church
Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple
St Dominic's Church
Ruins of St Paul's Cathedral
Na Tcha Chinese Temple
The Old City Walls
Guia Chapel
St Anthony's Church
The Mount Fortress
Camoes Garden and Grotto
Guia Fortress and Lighthouse
 
A-Ma Temple
A-Ma Temple | Source

A-Ma (Mazu) Temple

A-Ma Temple existed before the city of Macau came into being. It consists of the Gate Pavilion, the Memorial Arch, the Prayer Hall, the Hall of Benevolence, the Hall of Guanyin and Zhengjiao Chanlin. This temple is dedicated to the seafarers' goddess which dates back to the 15th century. The legend tells of a poor girl named A-Ma who wanted to go Canton but was turned away by wealthy junk owners. A lowly fisherman offered to take her on board. A huge storm destroyed all at sea except the little boat that was carrying the poor girl. When they arrived in Macau, the girl was nowhere to be seen but she reappeared as a goddess. The fishermen built a temple at the place where the goddess was sighted.

Also known as Barra Temple, A-Ma temple is a short distance away from the city centre. It is the oldest temple in Macau and existed before the city of Macao came into being. Built in the 1488, it consists of prayer halls, pavilions and courtyards with winding paths that lead to moon gates and tiny gardens. There is a large rock at the entrance of the temple that displays an engraved traditional sailing junk.

Large spiral coils of incence at the temple
Large spiral coils of incence at the temple | Source

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Macau has over 30 million visitors every year, 90% of the visitors are from China.

Moorish Barracks
Moorish Barracks | Source

Moorish Barracks

This Moorish inspired building was designed in 1871 by the Italian architect Cassuto to accommodate about 200 Indian policemen from Goa who were sent to Macau by the Portuguese. It was built in 1874. The building is now used by the Maritime Authorities in Macau.

Lilau Square

The ground water of Lilau used to be the main source of natural spring water in Macau. Locals here expresses their nostalgic attachment to Lilau Square with the phrase "One who drnks from Lilau never forgets Macau". The Square is one of the first Portuguese residential quarters in Macau.

Mandarin's House

Mandarin's House was built before 1869. The owner of this large multi-room complex was Zheng Guanying who was a renaissance man, a merchant, politician, philosopher and writer. The Mandarin House resembles a typical Chinese housing in the 19th century but it has some Western conveniences included in parts of the building. The building boasts grey bricks with arched ornamentations, Chinese timber lattice windows and mother-of-pearl window panels of Indian origins.

Inside St Joseph's Church
Inside St Joseph's Church | Source

St Joseph's Seminary and Church

Established in 1728, this beautiful church was opened in 1758 as part of the Jesuit seminary of St. Joseph and is a popular subject for artists. The Seminary, together with St Paul's College, was the principal base for missionary work around the Chinese and Japanese regions. It was also used as an academic venue offering curriculum at the level of a university. In 1800, the Portuguese Queen Dona Maria I conferred on it the royal title of "House of the Mission Congregation".

It is often used as a venue for concerts because of its fine acoustics. The church has a cruciform shape with high domed ceilings. There is an ancient well and plant nursery outside the church.

Dom Pedro Theatre

The Dom Pedro Theater was built in 1860 and named after the Portuguese King Pedro V. This pastel green building was designed by Pedro Marques in 1858, which included an auditorium, a bar, a restaurant and a pool room. It was built to provide entertainment for the Portuguese population. With a capacity of 350 seats, it is believed to be one of the oldest western style theatres in Asia. It remains a venue for important public events and other celebrations.

Sir Robert Ho Tung Library
Sir Robert Ho Tung Library | Source

Sir Robert Ho Tung Library

This public library located at St Augustine's Square is the biggest library in Macau. The library was constructed in 1894 and was originally the residence of Dona Carolina Cunha. A businessman from Hong Kong named Sir Robert Ho Tung bought over the building in 1918 and used it as a private residence between 1941 to 1945. After his death in 1955, the government converted the building into a public library which was officially opened in 1958.

Leal Senado (Loyal Senate) Building

The Leal Senado building was built in 1784 and later reconstructed in 1876 in neoclassical style. There is also an inner courtyard and a garden within the building. The name "Leal Senado" derives from the title "City of Our Name of God Macau, There is None More Royal". The title was bestowed by the Portuguese King Dom John IV in 1654.The building still retains all of its original master walls and primary layout, that includes the courtyard garden at the back.

It is now used by the Instituto para os Assuntos Cívicos e Municipais (Institute of Civic & Municipal Affairs). There is a Grand Hall, chapel, conference room, cultural affairs library and gallery for cultural events.

Inside Leal Senado Building.
Inside Leal Senado Building. | Source
The Holy House of Mercy
The Holy House of Mercy | Source

Holy House of Mercy (Santa Casa da Misericordia)

The Holy House of Mercy is a neoclassical white building in Senado Square that was established in 1569 on the orders of the first Bishop of Macau. It was a charitable organisation and has provided charitable assistance to the community including refuge for prostitutes. It also sold the first lottery ticket for charity in Macau. It is now a home to a small museum showcasing the society's charitable works, including the skull of its founder, Dorn Belchior Carneiro.

The Cathedral

Built in 1622, the Cathedral was originally constructed with taipa which is compound materials consisting of soil and straw. The facade of the building is characterized by pilasters and the twin belfries that stand out on the streetscape. The exterior is clad in Shanghai plaster. The Cathedral was restored in 1780.

Lou Kau Mansion interior.
Lou Kau Mansion interior. | Source

Lou Kau Mansion

Like the Mandarin House, the Lau Kau Mansion is a typical Chinese house with influence of Western designs in the interiors.This mansion is believed to be built in 1889 and was the home of a Chinese merchant named Lou Kau. Another interesting feature of this two-storey grey brick mansion is that it has symmetrical designs. There are two courtyards separating three main halls of the building.

St Lawrence's Church

St. Lawrence's Church was built of wood in the 1560's by the Jesuits. It is one of the three oldest churches in Macau. It was later replaced by Taipa in 1618 and finally reconstructed in stone in 1801-1803. It was painted in cream and white colours. There are two towers, one of the towers was once an ecclesiastic prison. The interior of the church is well decorated with ornamental pillars and chandeliers hanging from the turquoise ceiling. The beams are painted in gold and white colours.

Families of Portuguese sailors used to gather on the steps of St Lawrence's Church to pray for their safe return. Hence it was given the name " Feng Shun Tang" which means Hall of the Soothing Winds.

St Augustine's Church
St Augustine's Church | Source

St Augustine's Church

St Augustine's Church was built by Spanish Augustinians in 1591, originally of Baroque style. The main entrance of the church has two pairs of Doric granite columns and the windows are of simple white relief plasterwork. However, the interior has elaborate decorations.

In the past, priests used to reinforce the rooftop of St Augustine's Church with fan palm leaves to protect it during heavy rain. These leaves looked like dragon's whiskers floating in the wind when seen from afar. The locals named it "Long Song Miu" which means Temple of the Long Whiskered Dragon.

The church maintains the tradition of organizing the Easter procession which is the most popular processions in Macau.

Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple

Located on the site of the old Macao bazaar Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple was originally a guild house of the Sam Kai (Three Streets) Association established between 1723 and 1795. This temple was a meeting place for merchants and the surrounding area was used as a centre of trading for the Chinese community. The temple remains an important place of worship even after the decline of the old bazaar.

Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple
Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple | Source
Ruins of St Paul's Cathedral
Ruins of St Paul's Cathedral | Source

Ruins of St Paul's Cathedral

These ruins attract the most number of tourists who visit Macau and is Macau's most famous landmark. Dedicated to Saint Paul, the church was originally the Church of Mater Dei that was built in 1602-1640 with spectacular facade and intricate carvings.

As a whole, the old Church of Mater Dei, St Paul's College and Mount Fortress were perceived as the Macau's "acropolis". During that time, it was the largest Christian church in Asia. The church was destroyed by a fire in 1835. There are 66 stone steps leading up to the facade which functions symbolically as an altar to the city.

St Dominic's Church

This yellow and green church standing in the middle of Leal Senado Plaza is one of the most beautiful churches in Macau. At the back of the building is the bell tower that has been modified into a Museum of Sacred Art where there is an exhibit of around 300 artifacts.

The church was built in 1587 by three Spanish Dominican priests who came from Acapulco in Mexico. St Dominic's Church is also connected to the Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary.

A Abelha da China or "The China Bee" was the first Portuguese newspaper that was published on Chinese soil. It was published here on September 12, 1822.

Na Tcha Temple
Na Tcha Temple | Source

Na Tcha Chinese Temple

The Na Tcha Temple is a small building built with simple materials in 1888. It was constructed in an attempt to halt the plague that was rampaging at that time. This tiny building is located near the Ruins of St Paul. The temple was dedicated to Na Cha who was a child god and patron of children.

Section of the Old City Walls

A couple of feet away from Na Tcha Temple is the old city walls which was built to help defend the city. Built as early as 1569, there is only a tiny section of the wall remaining. The old city walls bear testimony to the incorporation of materials that were used especially a compound named chunambo, an elaborate mixture of clay, soil, sand, rice straw, crushed rocks and oyster shells that were compacted in successive layers.

A section of the Old City Walls.
A section of the Old City Walls. | Source
Old Protestant Cemetery
Old Protestant Cemetery | Source

Old Protestant Cemetery

Prior to 1821, Macau authorities did not allow the burial of Protestants or foreigners within its city walls. This cemetery was established by the British East India Company in 1821 to resolve the issue. The cemetery was closed in 1858.

St Anthony's Church

The first church of Macau is said to be St Anthony's Church. It was originally built of bamboo and wood before 1560. This is where the Jesuits set up their earliest headquarters in Macau. It was later reconstructed in stone several times but the present appearance was reconstructed in 1930. Wedding ceremonies would be held here by the Portuguese community and the church is also known as Fa Vong Tong which means Church of Flowers.

Mount Fortress
Mount Fortress | Source

The Mount Fortress

Mount Fortress was constructed by the Jesuits in 1617 and completed in 1626. It covers an area of 10,000 square metres in the shape of a trapezoid. It is located near the Ruins of St Paul's Church and was used as a principal military facility which also included a college. The fortress was equipped with cannons, military barracks, wells and supplies of ammunition. The cannons on Mount Fortress were used only once, during the invasion of the Dutch in 1622.

Camoes Garden and Grotto

Next to St Anthony's Church and the Protestant Cemetery is the Camoes Garden and Grotto. It is named after a famous Portuguese poet who was banished to Macau in 1557. The bust of the poet has been installed in a rocky grotto with some of his poems inscribed on stone slabs.

Entrance to Camoes Garden.
Entrance to Camoes Garden. | Source
Guia Chapel and Lighthouse
Guia Chapel and Lighthouse | Source

Guia Fortress and Lighthouse

The Guia Fortress was built between 1622 to 1638 on Guia Hill which is the highest point in Macau. Inside the fortress is the Guia Chapel originally established by Clarist nuns who were residing there before they established the Convent of St Clare. The chapel has an image of the Virgin Mary and a painting of St. John the Baptist. This chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of the Snow.

The fortress overlooks the city and was designed to defend Macau from attacks from the sea. It is equipped with sentry posts, ammunition depots and watchtowers.The most prominent feature of this fortress is the Guia Lighthouse, built in 1865, which stands 15 metres high and its light can be seen for miles in fine weather.

The fortress, chapel and lighthouse are symbols of Macau's maritime, military and missionary history.

Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady

The Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady (or Macau Cathedral) was built in 1576 of a wooden structure. It was reconstructed in 1849 and was the first cathedral to be built in stone. It was destroyed in a typhoon 24 years later. The existing structure was rebuilt in 1937.

Macau Cathedral Square
Macau Cathedral Square | Source

Did You Know?

Visitors can travel from Macau to Hong Kong by hydrofoils, ferries and helicopters from the Macau Ferry Terminal.

St Francis Xavier's Church
St Francis Xavier's Church | Source

St Francis Xavier in Coloane

Painted in cream and white colours, this small chapel was built in 1928 in the small village of Coloane. It features classical oval windows and a bell tower. Some of the most sacred relics of Christian Asia is housed in this small chapel. A bone from the arm of St Francis Xavier is stored in a silver reliquary here. This relic which was initially destined for Japan, was kept at St Paul's, and then moved to St Joseph's and finally to this chapel in 1978.

Penha Church

This chapel was constructed in 1622 by the crew and passengers of a ship which escaped from the Dutch pirates and finally settled in Macau. Located at the southern end of Macau on Penha Hill, the small chapel is the final stop for the Procession of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13th.

St Domingo's Church

St Domingo's Church is also known as Igreja de São Domingos in Portuguese. It is situated near the Senado Square in the city centre. The church was originally constructed with wood and established in 1587 by Dominican priests from Acapulco in Mexico. The Chinese name for the church is "Pan Cheong Tong" which means "Wooden Planks Church".

St Domingo's
St Domingo's | Source

Your Travel Tip

What are your favorite places to visit in Macau?

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Preview of Macau

Museum of Taipa and Coloane History
Museum of Taipa and Coloane History | Source

Museums

Macau on its own is already a living museum that hardly needs to build them. But of course, there are many museums that you will not experience anywhere else in the world. More information on Macau's rich cultural and historical past can be viewed at these museums:

Natural and Agrarian Museum
Grand Prix Museum
Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt
Museum of the Holy House of Mercy
Heritage Exhibition of a Traditional Pawnshop Business
Fire Services Museum
Maritime Museum
Communications Museum
Museum of Taipa and Coloane History
Wine Museum
Treasure of Sacred Art
Handover Gifts Museum of Macau
Lin Zexu Memorial Museum of Macao
Museum of the Macao Security Forces
Macao Science Center
Macau Tea Culture House
Dr. Sun Iat Sen Memorial House in Macau
Macao Museum
Macau Museum of Art
The Taipa Houses Museum
Sound of the Century - Museum of Vintage Sound Machines
Macao Science Center
Macao Science Center | Source
University of Macau
University of Macau | Source

More Places to See in Macau

Sun Yat-Sen Municipal Park
Canidrome
Lin Fong Temple
Kun Iam Temple
Mong Ha Pousada and Park
Red Market
Hotel Lisboa & Casino
Military Club
St Francisco Garden
Avenida Almeida Ribeiro
Macau Ferry Terminal
Macau Fisherman's Wharf
Lou Lim Ieoc Garden
Macau Tea Culture House
Tap Seac Square
Avenida Sidonio Pais
Rua Ferreira do Amaral
St Lazarus District
Statue of Xian Xinghai
Dr Carlos de Assumpcao Park
Comendador Ho Yin Garden
Arts Garden
Kun Iam Statue
Av Dr Sun Yat-Sen
Berra Square
Praia Grande
Macau Tower
University of Macau
Macau University of Science & Technology
Macau International Airport
Macau Stadium
Olympic Aquatic Centre
Macau Raceway (Macau Jockey Club)
Four Faces Buddha
Po Tai Un Buddhist Monastery
Avenida da Praia
Tin Hau Temple
Seac Pai Van Park
Macau Giant Panda Pavillion
Hac-Sa & Cheoc Van Beaches
Hac-Sa Reservoir BBQ Park
Coloane Hill Park
Coloane Village
Taipa Flea Market
 

Popular places for shopping in Macau are the Leal Senado Square and the Red Market, where clothings and fashion items are available. The Rua De Felicidade used to be a red-light district. The Rua De Felicidade is a few minutes' walk from Senado Square. It has been rejuvenated with traditional shops selling local flavours and delicacies.

Tourists can find a number of restaurants, bubble tea shops and stores selling meat jerkies, cookies, cakes, pastries and beverages. Taipa Island is famous for its traditional cookies that is being made for many generations. Macanese food is a combination of Portuguese and Chinese cuisines. Authentic Portuguese cuisine is also widely available in Macau. Chinese food is deliciously different.

Some of the local signature dishes are found in the streets. They include the Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese egg tarts) and Pork Chop Buns. An Englishman by the name of Andrew Stow is behind Macau's famous egg tarts. Lord Stow’s tiny Macau bakery on Coloane Island and in the city have the tastiest egg tarts in the world. Also on Coloane Island is Fernando's Restaurant which serves classic Portuguese cuisines.

Did You Know?

20,000 egg tarts are being made daily at Lord Stow's Bakeries in Macau.

Macau is famous for its delicious Portuguese egg tarts.
Macau is famous for its delicious Portuguese egg tarts. | Source
Lord Stow's Bakery sells Portuguese egg tarts.
Lord Stow's Bakery sells Portuguese egg tarts. | Source
Interesting local cuisines worth trying in Macau.
Interesting local cuisines worth trying in Macau. | Source

The Taipa Flea Market opens on Sunday. Visitors can find booths selling traditional crafts and souvenirs, food, beverages, clothings, toys, antiques and other local products. The Red Market sells food of all kinds.

The Macau Tower (Convention & Entertainment Centre) is a free-standing tower with a height of 338 meters at its highest point. The tower has an observation deck with panoramic views, restaurants, theaters and shopping malls. For the more adventurous visitors, the tower offers a thrilling walking tour around the outer rim of the tower at a height of 233 meters above the ground.

The nightlife in Macau are the restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs and casinos. A vast number of visitors come to Macau to try their luck at the casinos which stay open for 24 hours a day. The Portuguese government had legalised gambling activities since 1847. At present there are 33 casinos in Macau, with 23 of them situated on the Macau Peninsula and the rest on Taipa Island. The largest casino is at the Venetian Macau.

Fun Fact ...

Macau's casino revenue is four times more than Las Vegas!

Venetian Macau Resort
Venetian Macau Resort | Source
Visitors can see pandas at the Giant Panda Pavilion.
Visitors can see pandas at the Giant Panda Pavilion. | Source

Visitors can see pandas at the Macau Giant Panda Pavilion in Seac Pai Van Park on Coloane Island. There are also other exotic animals on display at the park which includes an information centre, kiosk and picnic area.

A preview of Macau's nightlife

Where is Macau

© 2012 lady rain

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • lady rain profile imageAUTHOR

    lady rain 

    5 years ago from Australia

    vibz, thank you for your lovely comment :)

  • vibz profile image

    vibz 

    5 years ago from India

    thanks again for the great hub. Also enjoyed your hub - visiting Singapore.

  • lady rain profile imageAUTHOR

    lady rain 

    6 years ago from Australia

    Michael, I am glad to hear you have been to Macau before. Thank you for mentioning the town square. There are a few other squares which I might include in this hub when I do a review later. There is so much information about this small place, it is truly amazing. The Indiana Jones movie was filmed along the Travessa da Felicidade which is nearby the Rua De Felicidade. I hope you will get to spend more time in Macau on your next trip. Thank you for sharing your holiday experience.

  • charmike4 profile image

    Michael Kromwyk 

    6 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

    Thanks lady rain for an interesting article. I went to Macau a couple of years ago on a day trip and enjoyed visited the St Pauls ruins, the fortifications and a couple of museums. Another highlight was the town square, especially the Portuguese style cobblestones. We also went down the street with the red blinds, it was in one of the Indiana Jones movies. I really enjoyed this city and plan to spend a few says in the future exploring it in more detail, now with your guide in hand!

    Cheers Michael

  • lady rain profile imageAUTHOR

    lady rain 

    6 years ago from Australia

    Nell, there are still about a dozen churches and temples in Macau that I did not mention here. They are not listed as heritage sites but they are still amazing. Thank you for voting and sharing :)

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    6 years ago from England

    What an amazing place to visit. I love the temples and so many churches, its not somewhere I had thought of before, but this was so interesting, I particularly love the Venetian resort, great hub! and voted up and shared, nell

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