Macau Travel Guide | Casinos & Pastel de Nata

While visiting a friend in Macau, one of the two Special  Administrative Regions of China (the other one being Hong Kong). Of course, we had to check out the sights in this eye-catching city. With a mix of modern and traditional, there’s no wonder thousands of tourists flock here on the daily! Though we only spent a day or two in the main tourist drags on Taipa, most of our slow travel Macau downtime was spent lazying around and recovering from the initial jetlag. Nevertheless, we’ve gathered some tips for those who may be considering a trip to this bustling region and are traveling on a budget. Read through our Macau travel guide for more info on the sights, food, and highlights!

The main square in Macau
At the main square in Macau

What Makes Macau Special?

Macau is a former Portuguese colony that gained independence in 1999. As a result, it is an interesting mix of cultures. Pretty much everything (buildings, institutions, random signs, etc) bears both a Chinese and Portuguese name. The locals supposedly don’t speak any Portuguese (and, from our experience, the English is more of a hit-or-miss kinda thing; it’s definitely more useful to talk with your hands :D). Apart from the language thing, you will see Catholic churches next to temples, and the cuisine inherited some Portuguese elements as well – especially the cookies; EVERYBODY is crazy about the Portuguese cookies.

A busy street in Macau

In case you didn’t know – Macau is the only place in China where gambling is legal, so it is like Vegas… just on two islands…and bigger…and more intense. The world’s biggest Venetian casino is in Macau, and (according to Wikipedia) the SAR of Macau has the world’s 4th highest GDP per capita – pretty much due to the casino and retail profits. Thanks to this, business development and real estate prices have skyrocketed in the recent years, making Macau more expensive in terms of rent per square meter than Hong Kong.

Macau Food: Snack Heaven

Anyhow, back to the food. You can get some free samples at many shops, so I recommend trying random things, like this very popular pressed meat (kind of like jerky, but juicier). Tourists from China come over to literally buy this by the kilo, meaning you’ll seeamilies or groups of friends where every single person had two full bags of this stuff. As I mentioned before, there are also many shops that sell traditional Portuguese cookies, as well as the super delicious pastel de nata.

Various flavors of pressed meat at a store in Macau
Various flavors of pressed meat

If you explore further into the busy side streets, you will come accross countless hole-in-the-wall shops and carts selling a variety of steamed dumplings, including the most delicious pork bao I have had up to date! No picture because I ate them too fast.

Macau Architechture – One of a Kind

St. Paul's Cathedral facade, including a sea of parasols
St. Paul’s Cathedral facade, including a sea of parasols

The main attraction that I absolutely must point out in this Macau travel guide is the facade of St. Paul’s Cathedral, sitting on top of a small hill. The facade is the only thing left after the church burned THREE TIMES (!!!). So, next time you’re feeling like failure, just think of the Portuguese who just couldn’t get it right with this church…

There is also a crypt with the remains of the Jesuit monks, and next to the cathedral there is a museum and an old fortress, which provides some great views of Macau, as well as of mainland China just across the river.

The skyline of Macau

The good thing is, a lot of tourist attractions are free, and, if you’re more of a off-the-beaten path kind of traveler, you’ll find Macau even less anxiety-inducing when it comes to budgeting. Simply exploring the cities and parks is a wonderful (and much less hectic) alternative to visiting the Macau Tower, for instance. On most days, we only spent money on snacks/water and cabs/buses (which are really cheap here – around 4 euro to get from the neighboring Island Taipa to Macau). The aforementioned Macau Tower will set you back about 13 euro; you’ll be treated to an amazing view of the Pearl River delta (we did that today; pictures coming soon), and you can also bungee jump off the tower with the world’s longest bungee drop!

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