Downtown Macau Attractions
What to See in Downtown Macau
Arguably the most visually pleasing quarter of the island, Downtown Macau juxtaposes the neon flashing lights and gleaming skyscrapers with its collection of religious affiliated architecture and colonial markings. The awe-inspiring sights are set closely together, so moving around on foot is easily done.
Much of Macau’s inherent charm can be found within this area. Here the islands historical background is put into context. The opposing face of the gambling culture that has driven its prosperity since the 1960’s is Downtown Macau, an architectural display of the fusion between eastern and western cultures and the consequential lifestyle lead by Macau’s dwellers.
All Attractions in Downtown Macau
Cemetery of St. Michael
Known as the largest Catholic cemetery in Macau, the Cemetery of St Michael was established by the East British India Company due to the lack of burial sites for Protestants in Macau. The burial ground contains tombs and sepulchers of many important people, for example, George Chinnery, the famous artist. Robert Morrison and Reverend Samuel Dyer, the Protestant missionaries, were also laid to rest here.
Situated near the entrance is a colourful chapel, built in 1875. This small chapel features beautiful stained glass windows with simple but exquisite decoration within it. In 2005, the cemetery of St Michael officially became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Centre of Macau. The cemetery is opposite Casa Garden on Estrada do Cemiterio and open daily from 08:00 until 18:00.
Fire Service Museum
Built to pay tribute to the volunteers who risk their lives to save others, the Fire Service Museum is located at the Headquarters of the Macau Fire Service. This gorgeous European-style building displays over 700 fire-fighting relics from the 1940s until present, including: British fire trucks, a manual pump, traditional Chinese hoses and nozzles, old-style fire alarms, helmets, boots, historic pictures and shields, medals and badges of the Services, firefighters' uniforms, and more.
Located on Estrada de Coelho do Amaral, the museum opens daily from 10:00 until 18:00, and admission is free.
- Location: Downtown Macau
Holy House of Mercy
Holding claim to being the oldest social institution in Macau, the house was established in 1569 by Macau’s first Bishop whose skull remains inside. Serving as a refuge for orphans and prostitutes during the 18th century, the two roomed Museum features religious artifacts and interestingly a portrait of Martha Merop a former orphan who went on to become a tycoon and patron on the house.
Food can be obtained from within at a reasonable price; this is an interesting place to stop largely for being an initiating charitable institution that looked after the medical, social and general welfare needs of the people of Macau.
Largo do Senado
The heart of Macau is enclosed by the buildings of the Leal Senado that stand tall as a reminder of the islands Portuguese heritage. A UINESCO world heritage sight, the eye catching tiles that form as swirling waves unveil a distinct charm, accumulating around the central fountain where from every angle colonial architecture surrounds.
This is a good starting point to your exploration of Macau; the adjoining lanes leading away are peppered with markets and shops, offering an insight into the daily lifestyle of the Macanese.
Meaning Loyal Senate in Portuguese Leal Senado is situated at the end of Senado Square and was the seat of Macau’s government during its colonisation. It became a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sight Historic Centre in 2005, after being erected in 1784 the building marks a fusion of eastern and western values.
The neoclassical architecture is a distinct reminder of Portugal’s influence on Macau; it measures in as being 44 meters wide and the main façade 14.5 metres high. The ceramic tiling is a rare site in Macau and probably the buildings most distinctive feature. The Leal Senado now houses the municipal government offices but is still adorned with cool stone walls, historic plaque and momentums, behaving as an elegant reminder of Macau’s Portuguese legacy.
Lou Kau Mansion
Built in 1889, this traditional Cantonese style mansion belonged to Lou Wa Sio and is an interesting fusion of eastern and western architecture, still retaining its complex brick work the mansion has been well maintained and surprisingly does not feature a kitchen.
Macau Catholic Cathedral
Originally a small wooden structure that was first built in 1576; local Catholic parishioners rebuilt the church after gathering significant donations for it only to be destroyed 24 years later in a typhoon. Rebuilt in 1937 in concrete, the building stands proud in Cathedral Square – often referred to as an open air living room for Macau’s residence.
Featuring the only classical fountain in Macau, the European charm of this area acts as a great pull to both locals and visitors alike. Many people retreat to the square to collect their thoughts or perhaps eat lunch, the underlying essence of tranquility and beauty make it a prime spot to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the company of friends or a book.
Mount Fortress (Fortaleza do Monte) and Macau Museum
The oldest of all Macau’s Forts, the sprawling view of the island and the surrounding landscape is inherently charming. The 17th century structure is quadrilateral with bastions at each corner and about 100 meters (328 feet) in circumference. Barracks, cisterns and storehouses were the main buildings of the fort.
An ancient tower situated here was one of the sites of the Society of Jesus. With cannons on the four sides, the fort was strongly fortified. Though the cannons have lost their military function, they still remain. The fort like St Paul’s was badly burnt by the fire 1838.
Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt
Situated behind the ruins of St Paul’s, the museum tells the story of the missions in this region, tourists can view the names of the Japanese and Vietnamese martyrs inscribed on its outer wall. The surrounding serene environment invites tourists on their travels to Macau for a great meditation. A visit to this most spiritual among the museums in Macau reminds visitors of the history of missionary activities in China and Japan.
A Traditional Pawnshop Exhibition, this museum seeks to explain how pawnshops were originally run and operated; illustrating the prominence business and trade has played in Chinese civilization, even prior to any western influence. Both locals and tourists can have a glimpse, into the glory days of the pawn business in Macau and see how this helped shape the growing economy of the island. The museum offers an intriguing insight into the pawning business, ultimately displaying what an important role business plays in the life of the Chinese.
Ruins of St. Paul's
Once the largest Catholic church in the entire of Asia – St Paul’s Church is now a façade of what was originally the Cathedral of St Paul, one of Macau’s most famous landmarks due to its role as a UNESCO World Heritage Sight and its significance as a piece of baroque architecture.
Built in the 17th century by the Jesuits the Cathedral was burnt down in a fire during the 19th century and now remains as an intricately carved façade – this has long been acknowledged as being a perfect fusion between eastern and western cultures in an architectural display. Adjacent to Mount Fortress and the Macau Museum, visitors are in close proximity to other attractions.
St. Augustine Church and Square
The Spanish Augustinians built this imposing structure in 1591, this church maintains the tradition of organization of the Easter Procession around the city and resides amongst quaint European architecture.
Nearby is the Dom Pedro V Theatre that has been built in a neo classical Grecian style, well worth popping your head through the door to appreciate the first western style theatre in China and its striking architecture that is still a venue for public meetings and events.
St. Lawrence Church
One of Macau’s oldest churches, this was the site where the families of Portuguese sailors would come and pray for the imminent and safe return of their sons. Built in the 16th century, originally in wood until being reconstructed in the mid 19th century in stone, the church is distinctive for its spectacularly painted ceiling.