If you’ve followed me on my previous trips to Macau you’ll know I have a lot of love for this special place. Macau is one of those destinations that’s perfect to take a vacation in, providing visitors with ample entertainment, dining and sightseeing – and that’s to say nothing of the beautiful hotel resorts that have sprung up here in recent years.
Positioned as it is, it forms a sort of gateway between both the East and the West, making Macau a place that deserves to be visited time and time again. It really is the only place on earth where you’ll experience such a diverse melting pot of Asian and European cultures, due to the region’s former status as a Portuguese colony.
If you’re planning to take a trip to Macau and are looking for inspiration for the best areas to visit, read on for my guide to Downtown Macau, Cotai and more.
The Hub of Activity – Downtown Macau
Downtown Macau is the place to be if you love being immersed in the hustle and bustle of a city centre. The largest area in Macau, the downtown district encompass that fantastic blend of Mediterranean and Asian culture that the region is famous for. Taking a walk down its cobbled streets will uncover a variety of traditional and modern buildings, selling Chinese delicacies, fusion cuisine, clothes, crafts, antiques – the list goes on!
Downtown Macau is also where you’ll find the majority of the region’s 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the captivating Senado Square, the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral – itself one of the largest Catholic buildings in Asia – and the fascinating Lou Kau Mansion.
Macau’s Answer to Vegas – Cotai
When you first step onto the neon-drenched Cotai Strip you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in Las Vegas. One of the newest areas of Macau, Cotai is very much the region’s answer to the self-proclaimed ‘entertainment capital of the world’. In fact, Macau has now overtaken Sin City as the biggest casino gaming city in the world, and it’s mostly down to the monolithic pleasure palaces that line the strip in Cotai.
If downtown Macau represents the region’s historical culture, Cotai pays homage to its love affair with gaming and entertainment. Alongside mega-casinos like Venetian Macao and the Wynn Palace, you’ll also find jaw-dropping entertainment extravaganzas like The House of Dancing Water.
But, of course, it’s the casinos that are the biggest draw of Cotai. All of the casinos on the Cotai Strip are beginner-friendly, but if you want to make the most of your time here it’s wise to swot up on gaming strategies beforehand – and no, you don’t need to hire a gaming coach either! The internet is one of the most useful tools when it comes to picking up the rules and strategies of casino games. Online casino platforms such as PokerStars Casino, for example, are great places to try out games in the virtual environment, while resource websites like How Stuff Works offer plenty of tutorials that will get you navigating your way around the roulette wheel or blackjack table in no time.
Escape to the Countryside – Coloane and Taipa
Once you’ve had your fill of the tourist hotspots in downtown Macau, head to Coloane and Taipa to escape to the countryside. Both areas were originally separate islands but were joined up with mainland Macau using excess silt from the Pearl River. Both Coloane and Taipa are easily accessible on foot via the Estrada do Istmo Bridge, and if you’re staying in Cotai, there are plenty of buses that will take you there and back for some R&R.
Coloane Island, to give it its full name, really does retain a special essence of the past. This is the place to visit if you want to get back to nature as climbing spectacular hills and relaxing in private sandy bays is the order of the day here. Coloane is also home to several important historical attractions, such as the A-Ma Cultural Village, close to Sea Pai Van Park.
In 1998, a new landmark was built to commemorate the sea goddess for which Macau was named. Beneath the landmark itself, which stands on top of Alto de Coloane, you’ll discover more historical points of interest such as a palatial Tian Hou Temple and a museum dedicated to A-Ma.
Equally charming, Taipa is a small and peaceful village peppered with narrow cobbled streets and picturesque local markets. Pastel coloured colonial villas stand alongside ancient temples and modern European office blocks, but there’s a real sense of harmony here. Exploring further afield in Taipa will bring you face to face with some important Taoist and Buddhist landmarks. Meanwhile, the Rua da Cunha, or Food Street as it’s colloquially known, will have you working up an appetite in seconds.