Published: 02 November 2015 by: Windsor Dobbin

Views of the Macau Tower from the Mandarin Oriental

Every day, Macau changes a little bit. It might be a new entertainment complex, a shopping mall or a five-star hotel opening, but the former Portuguese colony is moving ahead at a fast pace. 

Macau has, for the past 60 years, hosted the Macau Grand Prix, a series of spectacular Formula Three and motorcycle street races that are held each November. Winners in the past have included Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher and their heroics are also celebrated at one of Macau’s many fascinating museums (this one is next door to an equally fun wine museum where you can savour different Portuguese ports and still wines).

The museums are probably the only things in this Chinese special economic zone that are not fast-paced, and Macau is certainly the only destination on the planet that keeps getting bigger. They are literally moving mountains from the Chinese side of the Pearl River as part of ongoing land reclamation projects, and the size of Macau has doubled since the 1970s to 30 square kilometres.

Facade of St Paul's church ruins

Today they call Macau the Monte Carlo of the Orient; a small place with major drawing power. New high-rises are springing up on an almost weekly basis, but they sit side-by-side with tradition and ancient Chinese culture.

A Portuguese overseas territory until 1999, this gourmet hotspot draws on a beguiling mix of Portuguese and Chinese influences, with an added dash of glitz and glamour. It has its own unique Macanese cuisine and is home to one hotel, the Grand Lisboa, with no fewer than four Michelin starred restaurants under the same roof.

Related article: Macau Insider's Guide: 8 Things to Know

Views of Nam Van from Macau Tower

Macau is also home to the 338-metre-high Macau Tower, one of the ten tallest buildings in the world. Its observation deck offers sweeping city views, and one of the world’s most challenging bungee jumps for those brave enough to try it. While much of Macau is shiny and new, its old quarter, which includes some 25 historic locations, is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. It is engrossing to stroll among the old Chinese shop-houses and visit traditional herbalist shops and markets.

Macau is a great destination for discovering on foot. Make sure to check out the dramatic edifice of the ruined St Paul’s Church on Senado Square (it was burned down in 1835) and the nearby Monte Fort and Museum of Macau.

Galaxy complex with Banyan Tree Pool Villas

You’ll also discover traditional temples not far from the main shopping strip of Avenue Almeida Ribeiro, while just a short stroll from the glitzy Galaxy complex is centuries-old Taipa Village, home to a “food street” featuring different Asian cuisines and Buddhist shrines.

One “must see” is the spectacular Dancing Water Show at the City of Dreams complex. This extravaganza combines acrobatics, water stunts, sound and light effects and dancing to impressive effect. Also visit the Macau Wynn complex to enjoy the free musical fountain shows each night, while for pampering, the spa facilities at hotels like the Banyan Tree and Mandarin Oriental are world class.

Both addresses are among the finest in Macau while the recently opened Harbourview Hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf offers more affordable luxury accommodation.

The spa at Mandarin Oriental

Need to know

Getting there: Cathay Pacific has over 70 flights a week to Hong Kong from six major Australian cities, with direct high-speed ferry links to Macau taking less than an hour. 

Related articles: 72 Hours in Macau, How to Honeymoon in Macau

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