A former Portuguese colony, Macau has become the gambling capital of Asia. Its contrasting old-world charm and urban atmosphere make for a unique visit.
Macau (or Macao) was a colony of the Portuguese Empire for several hundred years. Like Hong Kong, after being handed back to China in 1999, the city became a Special Administrative Region with separate economic and governing systems to the mainland. This has allowed it to become a top destination for gambling tourism.
What to see in Macau?
If you're planning to spend a day or two in Macau, you'll have enough time to explore the historic centre, visit some casinos and stop by these main landmarks:
- Largo do Senado: this town plaza - "Senate Square" in Portuguese - marks the historic centre of the city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and defines Portugal's heritage in Macau. Here you'll find colonial buildings such as the Macau General Post Office and the Holy House of Mercy. This area is reminiscent of cities like Lisbon.
- Ruins of Saint Paul's: going up the Rua de São Paulo, you'll reach the ruins of a 17th century Catholic complex. Nowadays, only the façade remains, but it's one of Macau's most emblematic landmarks.
- Fortaleza do Monte: not far from the ruins of Saint Paul's is this 17th century fortress built to defend the city. These days, it houses the Museum of Macau and offers panoramic views of the city from its hilltop vantage point.
- Fisherman's Wharf: a waterfront leisure complex where you can find shops, restaurants, attractions and entertainment for all ages.
- Macau Tower: this 338-metre-tall tower, which recalls the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas, offers the best panoramic views of the whole city from its observation deck. Thrill-seekers can enjoy a range of extreme activities here, including bungee jumping from its highest point.
Casinos & gambling
Macau is known as the "Las Vegas of the East" - despite its gambling industry being seven times bigger than the US city - as it's the only place in China where gambling is legal. More than 50% of the region's economy depends on the industry.
The city's casinos are legendary. As of 2016, there were 38, the biggest of which is The Venetian Macau. If you can afford it, staying in this luxury resort will be well worth it. Don't miss a visit to the Venetian and the Sands Casinos.
The legal age to gamble in Macau is 21 years old.
How to get to Macau?
There are several ferry companies that operate from Hong Kong to Macau. Boats depart from Central and from Tsim Sha Tsui, leaving every 15 minutes or so between 7 am and midnight. The journey takes between 60 and 75 minutes and costs between 115 HKD (US$ 14.70) and 175 HKD (US$ 22.30).
If you'd rather not worry about finding the right ferry, you can book an organised tour to Macau instead. Our Hong Kong to Macau Ferry & Guided Tour includes hotel pick up and drop off, ferry tickets, a guided tour of Macau and lunch.
Top tips for Macau
- Don't forget to bring your passport to enter Macau. Entry requirements for the city are the same as for Hong Kong.
- While the official currency of Macau is the Macanese pataca (MOP), Hong Kong Dollars are widely accepted in the city. They have a fixed exchange rate of 1MOP to 1.03 HKD (US$ 0.10).