The A-Ma Temple not only predates the city of Macau, but it might also have given the place its name! According to legend, Portuguese sailors misheard "A-Ma-Gau", or bay of A-Ma, goddess of seafarers and fishermen, as "Macau", and history was made. Built in 1488, during the Ming Dynasty, it is the oldest and most famous temple in the city, with pavilions for the worship of Taoist, Buddhist, and folk deities.
CHAPEL OF OUR LADY OF PENHA
Founded in 1622 by Portuguese sailors that had escaped capture during a Dutch invasion attempt in Macau, the Chapel of Our Lady of Penha came to serve as a shrine for mariners about to embark on dangerous voyages. The entire structure was rebuilt in 1837, complete with its distinctive bell tower, which can be seen from anywhere in the harbor, and from which visitors can see all the way across the Pearl River into China.
CHAPEL OF ST. FRANCIS XAVIER
The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier is named for the accomplished missionary who brought Christianity to India, Japan, and other parts of the East. Within its colorful walls, visitors can find a distinctly Chinese take on Mary and the Christ child, as well as some of Asia's most sacred relics, including the remains of martyred Japanese and Vietnamese Christians. It also once held a bone from St. Francis Xavier himself, who tragically died 50 miles from Macau without realizing his dream of extending his missionary work to China.
GRAND PRIX MUSEUM
Launched in 1954, the Macau Grand Prix is now an international phenomenon, attracting thousands of tourists and racing fans to the city. In 1993, in anticipation of the Grand Prix's 40th anniversary, the Macau government opened a museum to showcase the incredible cars and motorbikes that captivated spectators over the years, and honor those men and women that made the event such a success.
Located on the highest spot in Macau, Guia Fortress is three structures in one: a fortress constructed (1622 – 1638) to defend the city against Dutch invasion; a chapel established by Clarist nuns in 1622 for the fortress's soldiers, and China's first modern lighthouse, built in 1865. Though the lighthouse is not open to the public, the chapel's restoration work in the 1990s uncovered well-preserved frescoes that are a must-visit for those interested in art history.
KUN IAM ECUMENICAL CENTRE
On a man-made island in the outer harbor, a 66-foot (20-meter) tall stylized bronze statue of Kun Iam, goddess of mercy, stands atop a lotus-shaped dome, marking the location of the Kun Iam Ecumenical Centre. Inside, the center offers information on the religions of Asia, including Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, access to a multimedia research library with books on religion and philosophy, and a quiet contemplation space for those who need it.
KUN LAM TONG
In one of Macau's biggest temples, the goddess of mercy, Kun Iam, is celebrated with art and poetry, and has been for 800 years: though the current structures date to 1627, the original temple was dedicated in the 13th century. Fittingly, the site also honors the Buddha of Longevity! For history buffs, a stroll through the temple's terraced gardens will lead visitors to the historic stone table where the first Sino-American treaty was signed in 1844.
The natural spring that feeds the Lilau once served as the city's primary water supply, and bordered one of its first Portuguese-style residential quarters. Visitors with sharp eyes will spot classic examples of the region's seamless fusion of Mediterranean ambiance and traditional Chinese architecture, particularly at landmarks such as Mandarin's House. Lilau Square is part of the Historic Centre of Macau, which in 2005 was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Macau Museum is a testament to the city's rich and multicultural heritage, preserving artifacts from its earliest days, sharing the history and traditions of its various communities, and highlighting the best of its current culture, all under one roof.
Soaring above the city at 338 meters, the elegant spire of Macau Tower offers unparalleled panoramic views of the city, the coast and the Pearl River Delta. For the adventurous, there's the opportunity to take the Skywalk X – a stroll outside along the tower's outer rim. Those seeking more down-to-earth entertainment will enjoy the four floors of shops, movie theaters and restaurants, including a revolving restaurant 223 meters above the city.
Through his writings on economics, renowned author Zheng Guanying influenced Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Mao Tse Tung, and thus the course of Chinese history. In his home, a traditional Chinese-style compound (1869), visitors can see the influences of Macau's role as a global port and European colony on local life and traditional aesthetics, in details like Chinese latticed windows, Indian mother-of-pearl inlays, large French windows and Portuguese cobblestones.
According to local legend, the first Portuguese sailors to set foot in Macau landed at the temple of A-Ma, goddess of the sea and protector of fishermen. It's fitting, then, that the Maritime Museum now sits at that very spot, offering visitors a look at the traditional fishing village lifestyle along China's southern coast, a history of China and Portugal's oceanic adventures, and examples of ships and maritime technologies from the East and the West.
Built between 1617 and 1626, Mount Fortress was once Macau's primary defense against pirates and attack from the sea, even saving the city from an attempted Dutch invasion. Construction was begun by the Jesuits, with military barracks, wells and a large enough arsenal to withstand up to two years under siege, before being seized by the governor of Macau. Since the 1960s, it has served as a weather observatory and, more recently, as the home of the Macau Museum.
RUA DA FELICIDADE
Once the city's main red-light district, this colorful street used to be painted in blue and green. Nowadays the traditional red louvers draw shoppers in search of the authentic and exotic, and serve as striking backdrops for films such as "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". It is also an ideal spot for adventurous tourists seeking to explore some authentic local delicacies. Whatever the era, visitors have always found happiness here.
RUA DO CUNHA
Rua do Cunha might have been named for a Portuguese explorer, but its true claim to fame can be seen in its nickname: "Food Street". Renowned far and wide by foodies, this tiny street in Vila da Taipa offers the snack-happy explorer a delicious trip through Macanese culture, from its authentic Portuguese restaurants to its beloved Chinese cookie and jerky shops. As locals and frequent visitors happily attest, you'll know when you're close – just follow your nose!
RUINS OF ST. PAUL'S
In the 16th century, Macau was home to the first Western-style university in eastern Asia, St. Paul's College. In 1835, the school and the neighboring Church of Mater Dei burned, leaving what is collectively known as the Ruins of St. Paul's, though the most notable feature is the church's towering facade and its graceful fusion of Eastern art and Western architecture. This symbol of the city's multicultural character and heritage is open to the public daily.
SANTA CASA DA MISERICÓRDIA
The three-building complex of the Albergue da Santa Casa da Misericórdia (Holy House of Mercy rest home) came to be known as a refuge for the poor and downtrodden during World War II, as well as a sanctuary for elderly women. These days, its 100-year-old Portuguese buildings house galleries showcasing local art and creativity.
Strolling past the historic neo-classical buildings that line Senado Square, one could easily imagine it as a sunny Mediterranean plaza – though the Kuan Tai Temple firmly puts the Chinese community's stamp on the square! Named for the nearby Senate building that was once the seat of Macau's government, Senado Square is still the city's “town center”, playing host to most public events, festivals and markets.
ST. DOMINIC'S CHURCH
This bright and cheerful church has a colorful history! Founded by three Dominican priests from Mexico, it was itself in 1822 the birthplace of A Abelha da China ("The China Bee"), the first foreign newspaper to published on Chinese soil. The church still plays an active role in local culture, with its bell tower modified to serve as home to the Museum of Sacred Art. The church is also included in the list of monuments in the Historic Centre of Macau, as inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
THE TAIPA HOUSES-MUSEUM
The Taipa Houses-Museum consists of five former colonial residences constructed in 1921, now renovated to serve as event venues and exhibition spaces. While Macanese House showcases colonial-style living spaces and House of the Portugal Regions focuses on regional Portuguese traditional costumes and crafts, House of the Islands offers a rare glimpse into the history of Taipa and Coloane Islands, art exhibitions from around the world are displayed at Exhibition Gallery, and official receptions and cultural events hosted at the House of Reception.