30 Places to See @ Macau’s Historic Center

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Macau’s Historic Center was gazetted as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, comprising of 30 significant architectures and squares that pretty much define Macau the way it is today – a diverse culture of East meets West, and a co-existence of the Portuguese and the Chinese.  Macau Historic Center 1
The Macau Tourism Office has a really nifty map that illustrates the positions of each place precisely and all you need to do is follow the map and embark on a hassle-free walking trail. You may download the PDF map here.  All the places look really close on the map and I decided to test out if I could walk this trail in one day.  The answer is yes, provided that you start early in the morning and end late at night.  We only managed to walk through the trail as some of the galleries/museum were closed on our visit; we didn’t get to go in and merely passed by.  If you really want to understand everything on this trail spending some time to visit the galleries and museums, plan a good two days at least and make sure you have good walking shoes !  Let’s check out the 30 architectures in Macau’s Historic Center below :

1.  A-Ma Temple 


The A-Ma Temple was built in 1488, enshrining Matsu – the Goddess of the sea.  With more than 500 years of history, it is one of the oldest temples in Macau.  When the Portuguese first arrived, they landed near the temple.  When they inquired about where they were, the locals gave them the name of the temple, pronounced as “A Ma Gau” in Chinese.  The accidental misunderstanding eventually gave rise to the name “Macau”.  The temple is very popular and seems to be perpetually full of devotees and tourists so be prepared to squeeze through them.

More Info on macauheritage.net, macautourism.gov.mo
Address : Barra Square
Opening Hours : 7 am – 6 pm.

2.  Barra Square

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The square in front of A-Ma Temple with tiles mimicking undulating waves is known as Barra Square. The Maritime Museum is located there as well.

3.  Moorish Barracks

Besides Chinese and Portuguese architectures, the Mughal-influenced yellow building with accents in white  was once the barracks of Indian policemen from Goa.  It is currently the Marine & Water Bureau and only the veranda is open for visits.

More Info on macauheritage.net, macautourism.gov.mo
Address : Calçada da Barra
Opening Hours (veranda only) : 9 am – 6 pm.

4.  The Mandarin House

Built in 1881, Mandarin’s House was the former residence of Chinese scholar Zheng Guan Ying.  The main entrance into the house may not look that big but in fact the house spans over 4000 m2 with more than 60 rooms, making this the biggest Chinese traditional housing in Macau.  Mandarin’s House is unique for its Chinese architecture with Western influences.

More Info : Mandarin’s House Official Website
Address : No. 10 Travessa de Antonio de Silva.
Opening Hours : 10 am – 6 pm.  Closed on Wednesdays.

5.  Lilau Square

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Lilau Square is located net to the Mandrain House.  Lilau means “mountain spring” in Portuguese and story has it that an old lady during the Ming Dynasty built a well here to provide water for the villagers in the vicinity.  With the availability of water source, Lilau Square was one of the earliest settlement places for the Portuguese.  From a popular Portuguese saying “One who drinks from Lilau will never forget about Macau”, it is obvious that the Portuguese were very fond of Lilau Square with sentimental values.

The square was hardly crowded, and there were only a few passersby, perhaps also trying to complete the full historic center trail on foot with the map.  The square is simple with modest ,pastel-colored buildings.  While the squres doesn’t give you the wow factor compared to others surrounded by much more grandiose buildings, it exudes tranquility subtly and it’s the kind of place you want to sit down for a while to soak up the atmosphere.

6.  St Lawrence’s Church

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St Lawrence Church is among one of the oldest churches in Macau.  Originally built in wood in the 1600’s, it was rebuilt in 1864.  The church’s Chinese name is called “Shun Feng Tang”, meaning “Church of Smooth Sailing Wind”, so that’s kinda like the Western equivalent of the Matsu temple, providing moral support for the seafarers.  The family members of the seafarers used to wait at the church for the husbands or fathers to come home.  The small garden outside the church adds a sense of serenity.

More Info on macauheritage.net, macutourism.gov.mo
Address : Rua de Sao Louranco
Opening Hours : 10 am – 5pm

7.  St Joseph’s Seminary & Church

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The construction of St Joseph’s Seminary & Church took 12 years and was completed in 1758.  It shares a resemblance to St Paul’s Ruins as both are Baroque architectures.  An important piece of religious relic – the right-hand bone of Saint Francis Xavier is housed in the church.

More Info on macauheritage.net , macautourism.gov.mo
Address : Rua do Seminario
Opening Hours : 10 am – 5 pm  (Seminary not open to the public)

8.  St Augustine’s Church (圣奥斯定堂,龙须庙)

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St Augustine’s Church has an amusing Chinese name – “long song miu”, meaning “Temple of Dragon’s Whiskers”.  During the olden days, the priests used to use Chinese fan palms to cover the roof when it rained.  With the wind blowing and everything, the fan palms looked like dragon’s whiskers and hence the nickname.   Every year in Feburary, St Augustine’s Church is also the starting point of the religious event, Procession of Our Lord, the God Jesus, where a statue of Jesus carrying a cross is transported in a procession to the Cathedral for an overnight vigil, then transported back the next morning.  The event is celebrated in Macau since the 16th century.

More Info: macuheritage.net, maucautourism.gov.mo; double check on Macau Tourism’s Official Webpage for the exact dates for the yearly event as the date varies.
Address : No. 2 Santo Agostinho Square
Opening Hours : 10 am – 6 pm.

9.  Dom Pedro V Theatre

Dom Pedro V Theatre is one of the “younger” architectures being built in 1860.  The neo-classical building in pastel-green accentuated with white frames is timeless and even as I see it today, it really doesn’t look like more than 100 years old.  The functioning theatre looks quite similar to a modern-day theatre and shouldn’t take you too long to walk about the premise.

More Info : macauheritage.net, macautourism.gov.mo
Address : Largo de Santo Agostinho
Opening Hours : Theatre 10 am – 6 pm, closed on Tuesdays.  Garden 10 am – 11 pm.

10.  St Augustine’s Square

St Augustine’s Square has St Augustine’s Church, Dom Pedro V Theatre, St Joseph’s Seminary & Church and Sir Robert Ho Tung Library in its vicinity.

Opening Hours : 24 Hours.

11. Sir Robert Ho Tung Library

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Sir Robert Tung Ho was a prominent business man in Hong Kong who bought over the mansion in 1918 and it was originally used as his retreat.  During 1941, when the Japanese invaded Hong Kong, he moved to Macau and stayed at the mansion permanently.  The mansion was donated to the Macau Government and converted into a library.  The library is the largest library in Macau after an expansion of the new wing, merging the new and the old, housing contemporary books and also a rare collection of antique books from the imperial dynasties.

More Info: macauheritage.net, macutourism.gov.mo
Address : No. 3 Santo Agostinho Square
Opening Hours : Mon – Sat 10 am – 7 pm, Sun 11 am – 7 pm.

12.  Leal Senado Building

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I never got to see the Leal Senado Building properly when I was in Macau because it was under renovation and veiled with a green net.  This picture credit goes to wikipedia.org.  The building served its original purpose as a municipal building when it was built in 1784 and remains so today.

More Info: macauheritage.net, macutourism.gov.mo
Address : 163 Av Almeida Ribeiro (San Ma Lo)
Opening Hours : Gallery 9 am – 9 pm Closed on Mondays, Garden 9 am – 9 pm.

13.  Senado Square

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Senado Square has got to be the most popular square in Macau.  It’s very strategic with many hotels within walking distances, making it a prominent meeting place.  It’s right next to the main road “San Ma Lo” with many retail stores, souvenir shops and historical buildings it’s got something for everyone – for the hungry, for the shopaholic and for the history buffs.   With the continuous stream of people, it is guaranteed that you will never be able to take a proper picture without people blocking you.  It’s either you take it very early or very late at night. I don’t know how early because I’ve never been on the square early enough, but if it’s at about 11.30 pm at night, you’ll be able to get a decent shot like the one above.

More Info : macauheritage.net, macautourism.gov.mo
Opening Hours : 24 Hours

14.  Holy House of Mercy

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The Holy House of Mercy was first established in 1569 as a social welfare institution to care for the sick, the orphaned, the hungry and the ones in need.  Today, the Holy House of Mercy still carries on its original mission, establishing a day care center, a home for the elderly, a rehabilitation center for the blind and also a museum centre.

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By the time you’ve got here, it’s probably lunch time if you started the trail in the morning.  There are a few prominent (but touristy) eateries around the square that you may choose to eat at, or head over to Sao Domingos Market to get some super affordable and scrumptious local eats.

More Info : http://www.scmm.mo
Museum Opening Hours : 10 am – 5.30 pm.  Closed on Mondays.

15.  Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple (Kuan Tai Temple)

The temple was originally a gathering place for the merchants in Macau known as “Sam Kai Vui Kun’; or “Meeting Place at Three Streets”.  For the merchants, they worshiped “Kuan Tai” God, whom was of particular importance to them because Kuan Tai God holds the virtues of loyalty and justice.  Eventually, the meeting place became less of use and evolved into Kuan Tai Temple for everyone to worship.

An interesting feature to note at the temple is that there is an inner door as you enter through the main entrance.  The inner door is only open during festivals and celebrations.


More Info : macautourism.gov.mo
Opening Hours : 8 am – 6 pm.

16. The  Cathedral

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The magnificent Cathedral was built in 1622.  During the annual religious event, Procession of Our Lord, the God Jesus, a statue of Jesus carrying a cross is transported in a procession to the Cathedral for an overnight vigil, then transported back to St Augustine’s Church the next morning.  The event is celebrated in Macau since the 16th century.

More Info : maucautourism.gov.mo
Opening Hours : 7.30 am – 6.30 pm.

17.  Cathedral Square


The square in front of the Cathedral is known as the Cathedral Square.

Opening Hours : 24 hours. 

18. Lou kau Mansion

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Lou Kau Mansion was once the residence of Chinese merchant, Lou Kau.  The mansion amalgamated the architectural styles of both East and West, and has also incorporated feng shui considerations into the design.  The indentation of the entrance on the facade is classic Chinese style, while the windows are of Western influences.

More Info : macautourism.gov.mo
Opening Hours : 10 am – 6 pm.  Closed on Mondays.

19.  St Dominic’s Square

St Dominic’s Square is not too far away from Leal Senado Square and it is one of the places you will pass by if you are enroute to St Paul’s ruin.  With many local eateries and retails shops nearby, Needless to say, Dominic Square is another popular spot for hanging about.

Opening Hours : 24 Hours.

20.  St Dominic’s Church

Built in 1587, the Dominic’s Church with its ornate facade has incorporated both Baroque elements and Macanese features into its architectural style.  The Church is much more peaceful at night minus all the people; but this is at about 11.30 pm at night so you’ll have to stay up late to catch this glorious scene.

Opening Hours : 10 am – 6 pm.

21.  St Paul’s Ruin

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Ruins of St Paul’s is Macau’s most iconic heritage building.  The amazingly preserved facade with intricate sculptures is an unforgettable sight.  A visit to Macau is incomplete without visiting the Ruins of St Paul’s.

Having seen the facade many many times, I’ve always wondered what’s behind the facade. There was not much left behind, except for the remains for a few columns, covered and protected by glass panels.

The Sacred Art Museum is housed beneath the ruins, exhibiting sacred arts from the 16th to 20th century.  Some artifacts from St Paul’s Ruins are found here here as well.

More Info : macauheritage.net
Opening Hours of the Museum : 9 am to 6 pm.

22.  Company of Jesus’ Square

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The square in front of St Paul’s Ruins is known as Company of Jesus’ Square.

Opening Hours : 24 hours.

23.  Section of the Old Walls (next to St Paul’s Ruins)

The city wall dates back to 1569 when it was built by the Portuguese as a maritime routine to circumference Macau.  Similar defensive walls are also found in Africa and India.  The wall is unique is its composition because local materials known as “chunambo”  which consisted a mixture of clay, rice straws sand, rocks and oyster shells were used.  Today only a small section of the wall of 18.5 meters is left.

Opening Hours : 24 Hours.

24.  Na Tcha Temple (Next to St Paul’s Ruins)
The tiny Na Tcha Temple was built in 1888 during the time of epidemics.  The residents built the temple, hoping Na Tcha would be able to protect them from the plague .  A small Na Tcha Museum is located next to the temple.

More Info : macautourism.gov.mo
Opening Hours : 8 am to 5 pm.  Closed on Wednesdays.

25.  Mount Fortress

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Built in the 1617, Mount Fortress is located centrally on the Macau Peninsular, making it a strategic defense mechanism with an excellent vantage point. It fended off not only the pirates, but also the invasion of the Dutch in 1622.

The Museum of Macau was built in 1999 and situated in the same vicinity as Mount Fortress.

More Info: macauheritage.net
Opening Hours (Fortress & Garden) : 7 am to 7 pm.
Opening Hours (Museum) : 10 am to 6 pm.  Closed on Mondays.

26.  Camoes Sqaure / Camoes Garden

If you are around Camoes Square, take a stroll in Camoes Garden, the largest park in Macau, named after the Portuguese poet Luis des Camoes.  The bronze statue on Camoes Square is titled “Embrace”, which signifies China and Portugal’s relationship.

More Info : macautourism.gov.mo
Opening Hours : 6 am – 10 pm
(Camoes Square, Casa Garden and Protestant Cemetery are all located next to each other)

27.  Casa Garden

In soothing colors of pink, white and greenn, Casa Garden was considered one of the most exquisite mansion in Macau, once belonging to a Portuguese merchant.  Today, it is the home of Oriental Foundation.

More Info:  macauheritage.net
Opening Hours : 9.30 am – 6 pm.
(Camoes Square, Casa Garden and Protestant Cemetery are all located next to each other)

28.  Protestant Cemetery

The cemetery was the first Protestant Cemetery in Macau.  It is the final resting place for many renowned people such as Robert Morrsion, the author of the first Chinese-English dictionary and George Chinnery, a British artist.

More Info :
Opening Hours : 8.30 am – 5. 30 pm
(Camos Square, Casa Garden and Protestant Cemetery are all located next to each other)

29. St Anthony’s Church

St Anthony Church is one of the earliest churches in Macau built in 1560.  The present form of the church was renovated in 1930.  The church has a wonderful Chinese nickname – Fa Vong Tong, or “Flower Church” because many Portuguese weddings were held at this church.

More Info: macauheritage.net
Opening Hours : 5.30 am – 5.30 pm

30.  Guia Fortress

Guia Fortress  (Image Credit : macautourism.gov.mo)
We actually didn’t get to visit this fortress because it was past its opening hours and we got hungry.  (I’m sorry Guia Fortress.  We went for pork chop bun instead).  Shame.  I was really hoping to see the white chapel and the white light house by the sea.

More Info : macautourism.gov.mo
Opening Hours : 9 am to 6 pm.



1 comment

  1. Choi Yen

    There is ticket promotion recently on Macau, so tempting to buy but the 2016 school holiday list not yet out so I can’t plan anything 🙁 (my daughter will be in Standard 1 next year, cannot simply ponteng dy :P)

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