By Kris Hartrum
There are few destinations in the world that are as unique as the once Portuguese colony turned special administrative region of China known as Macau. With a population of only 590,000, this gem of a city boasts one of the most memorable experiences in the world, offering everything from ancient history to upscale nightlife.
Best to wake as early as possible, which is not early considering the wonderful night you drank away in Hong Kong, but be sure to but buy a jet-foil ticket from Hong Kong Island (or Kowloon city) to Macau for roughly 20-50 USD. The trip is fast and unsettling for those of us cursed with sea-sickness, but the trip’s convenience easily makes up it. For jet-setters wanting to travel in style, private helicopter rides depart every 30 minutes from Hong Kong to Macau between 9am and 11pm. The average ride runs about 15 minutes at a cost of 3,900 HKD or roughly $500 USD.
Where to Start
Attacking the day requires nothing more than a comfortable afternoon walk through a relatively small city-center. Head to Macau’s most popular historical icon in the Ruins of St. Paul. Probably the most visited attraction in Macau, this facade of the 17th century Portuguese Cathedral and college is beautiful, intricate and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re pressed for time on sightseeing and have to choose, choose this.
From here walk towards Senado Square to witness masterfully restored Portuguese architecture splashed in peach and yellow pastels. With an extravagantly tiled floor of spiraling black and white, this town square is home to cultural events, excellent shopping and local eateries. Do not hesitate to pop into the 16th century Baroque-style St. Dominics’s Church, located just near the beating heart of Senado Square. After witnessing the main hall’s unusually high altar and striking statue of Madonna and Child, head upstairs to the bell tower for a short jaunt through The Treasure of The Sacred Art Museum to see old Catholic sculpture, paintings and other treasures of the city’s tumultuous religious past.
Now that you have finished fulfilling the obligatory cultural and historical part of your vacation, it’s time to hit up the unrivaled excitement of Macau’s nightlife, because that’s why you’re really here.
Nightlife in Macau
When we think of Macau we really think of one thing: gambling. And this city’s got some of the best in the world, if not the best. But before you’re ready to go all night, you’ll need to fill up to keep you going all night.
Fernando’s Portuguese restaurant is one of the best places to start in Macau. Opened in 1986, Fernando’s has been frequented and praised by Anthony Bourdain as one of the best eateries in the city. Located a short taxi ride from the hustle and bustle, this Portuguese classic is loud, fun and serves homemade fries with all of its dishes including jumbo shrimp, charcoal grilled quail and suckling pig.
Post-feast take a taxi back towards the bright-lights of the Casino district. Be sure to start with the classics. Although the original Casino Lisboa is old-school, its architecture alone is enough reason to visit. Built in the 1960s, Casino Lisboa is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. Next-door you’ll find the recent sequel in The Grand Lisboa. It is the tallest building in Macau and the first in Macau to offer Texas hold-em poker rings.
Next, try The Venetian Macau. As an enlarged replica of Vegas’s own Venetian, this luxury hotel casino and resort boasts 40 stories and is home to the world’s largest casino floor.Though the destination is known for its swanky all-night party/gambling hot-spots, The Venetian is also a family oriented hotel with all the trimmings, which even included its own private Cirque du Soleil up until 2012.
24-hour Spa Service
After a night of casinos do not hesitate to unwind in one of Macau’s many all night spas for total comfort and relaxation. Everything from manicures, vitchy showers, ice baths, aromatherapy, massages and 5-star dining, these operations house some of the best VIP treatments on the planet, and will no doubt top off any long night on the town. Exploring this small, but endlessly rewarding city of wonder called Macau will always be an unforgettable experience. Plan your own.