While Macau hasn't quite reached the zenith of entertainment of its alter ego Las Vegas, there are plenty of show-stopping activities that offer an alternative to the casinos.
A Portuguese colony between the mid-16th century right up until the handover back to China in 1999, several of the streets and squares on the Macau, Taipa and Coloane islands epitomise an attractive architectural and cultural fusion of east and west and are recognised on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Most visitors’ first stop is the beautifully cobbled Lean Senado Square, and the charming garden within the Leal Senado Building. Stroll past Macau’s Cathedral, St Dominic’s Church and along the narrow streets of the old market area towards the Ruins of St Paul, the façade of the former Church of Mater Dei and symbol of Macau.
High above is the Gaia Fortress, home to the South China Sea’s oldest lighthouse, while nearby are the European Camoes Garden and its neighbour the Protestant Cemetery. Lou Loc Lim Garden is beautifully landscaped in typical Chinese style, while on the coast the ancient A-Ma Temple is inspired by Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and folklore.
Taipa Village is a pleasure to explore, with narrow lanes running between the colonial homes. For cafes and shops selling typical Macanese, Portuguese and Chinese pastries and snacks, make a bee-line for Rua de Cunha and the central square. On the third island, Coloane Village’s quiet streets and cobbled squares are home to the Chapel of St Francis Xavier, local seafood restaurants and dried fish stalls. Follow your nose to Lord Stow’s Bakery and its famous egg tarts.
Top of the list has to be The House of Dancing Water, a HK$2 billion Franco Dragone production that traces the story of a local fisherman through spectacular scenes with a huge cast that performs acrobatics, dance and death-defying diving.
The opposite side of the Cotai Strip, the Venetian-Macao-Resort-Hotel is home to the Cotai Arena and the Venetian Theatre where singers and bands regularly show, with notable former performers including The Beach Boys and the Shaolin Monks.
No matter what your age, pandas Kai Kai and Xin Xin from Chengdu, gifts from China a decade after the handover, make for an adorable visit at the Macao Giant Panda Pavilion at Seac Pai Van Park in Coloane.
Activities get fast and furious at the Macau Motorsports Club with go-carting and an action-packed afternoon, and the gravity-defying Bungy Jump, Sky Walk and Tower Climb from the Macau Tower on the main island. Bringing the pace down a little, golfers can indulge at the Macau Golf & Country Club or at Caesar’s Golf.