10 things you need to know about Macau

China's sin city may be all about the cards, but there's another side to this gambling giant, one of colonial manisons, cobble streets and tranquil parks where European and Chinese meet in perfect harmony. 

Commonly known as 'the Vegas of the East', Macau doesn't have the reputation for being China's second city, but it should. Due to a combination of Chinese and Portuguese influences, Macau has become a meeting point for western and eastern cultures alike. Though the Chinese government has made advances to increase the presence of Chinese culture in Macau, its heavy volume of tourists has kept it a melting pot, its uniqueness continuing to attract visitors.

1. Gamble
Since the first casinos opened in 2004, Macau has grown to be one of the world's most popular gambling destinations drawing millions of tourists in each year. Surpassing those of Las Vegas, Macau's 30+ casinos generated $45 billion USD in 2013 alone. Macau's government strictly regulates gambling and cheating is viewed as a very serious crime. As long as you're 21 years of age and respect the rules, you can expect to have an enjoyable and safe experience.

2. Don't gamble
For those of us with little use for the gambling adrenaline rush, there are plenty of alternatives. Get out and see the city, from the ancient ruins and churches to cultural theatrical events, there is plenty of old-Macau beauty to charm the culture vultures.

Read more: A betting-haters' guide to Macau

A-Ma-Temple00032

A Ma Temple, Macau

3. Architecture
Despite Macau's fast transition into a popular tourist destination, the city has retained its unique cultural charm, especially within its architecture. Explore the Macau Peninsula where the squares and streets are dotted with famous world heritage sites. Exposed brick, beautiful tile work and hidden courtyards are only some of the many characteristics.

Related: The locals' guide to old Macau

4. Car racing
The Macau Grand Prix is yet another example of Macau's diverse and multifaceted culture. This high-speed race winds through the narrow streets of downtown Macau creating a challenging course even for the most advanced international racers. With an impressive list of global sponsors including Ford, Mazda, Air Macau and more, this event is something you don't want to miss if you're visiting in November.

Related: Macau Grand prix

5. Concerts, shows and festivals
Macau's pop concerts and shows are popular, and every year features events such as international music and arts festivals. Macau's residents are always busy with a packed calendar ranging from national holidays to different concerts. Depending on the time of year, check a local event listing for a myriad of different opportunities.

Tam-Kong-Festival-00054

Tam Kong Festival

6. Resorts

Hot on the heels of super-developers in the UAE, Macau has seen a huge surge in its resort business, built to accommodate the overwhelming volume of tourists coming in from mainland China. These hotels and complexes are some of the most luxurious in the world and have been planned by the world-famous designers.

Related: Zaha Hadid's Macau hotel

7. Unique cuisine
Most restaurants and bars in Macau tend to be very 'local', the more sophisticated ones are within hotels, where there are also champagne bars, Michelin-starred, international gastronomy and specialist eateries.

8. Macau does coffee
Once overlooked and forgotten, coffee is becoming more popular among Macau's residents. Always second to tea, coffee was viewed merely as a caffeine fix and not a personalised experience. However in recent years, coffee culture is gaining a bigger following with small cafes popping up around the city. The best coffee in the city can be found at Terra Coffee House, offering a unique selection along with a coffee tasting experience.

she3120ls.69453-feast-druken-dragon

The Feast of the Druken Dragon Festival

9. Hit the green
In recent years, Macau has become an increasingly popular destination for golfers. With several world-class golf courses, this is a great escape from buzzing casinos and the crowded city. Macau's golf courses are located conveniently outside the city with views of rolling mountains and green fields for miles.

Related: Teeing-off in Hong Kong and Macau

Macau by libpcap

© lipbcab/Flickr Macau Tower and harbour

10. Take a day trip
Take advantage of Macau's location, close in proximity to Hong Kong, China and other destinations, Macau is only a short ferry ride away. Do your research and jet set for the day but be weary of customs and other border related transactions in neighbouring nations.