If you’re looking for budget Macau sights, you won’t have to look very far. This is a city that has done a fantastic job of preserving its heritage, both Chinese and Portuguese, and while Macau has very few world class sights, besides a UNESCO World Heritage old town, the attractions that it does have are well maintained and almost unfailingly free
Most of Macau’s best sightseeing is free and while the list below may seem short keep in mind that Macau is a small city. There are only a handful of attractions that charge and entry and none of them are better than the collection of six assembled below.
Macau’s main tourist pull is the ruins of the city’s Catholic cathedral, St Paul’s. Built in the 16th century by Portuguese settlers this was, in its heyday, the most important centre of Christian worship in all of Asia. A devastating fire destroyed much of the church in the mid 1800’s but the remains, which include the impressive front façade, still make a statement of power.
While St Paul’s might be the blockbuster building, Largo do Senado and the Leal Sendao are the backbone of colonial, Portuguese Macau. The Largo do Senado is Macau’s main square and it’s absolutely stunning. Banked by grand pastel buildings of the forgotten empire the cobblestone mosaic square could fool you into thinking this is the Med not Macau. The grandest building on the square is the Leal Senado, meaning loyal senate, complete with picture postcard wrought iron balconies and, in the interior, Portuguese mosaic designs.
3. Have an egg tart at Lord Stow'sMuch of Macau’s Macaense food is relatively cheap but for a true piece of event dining set your sights on Lord Stow’s egg tarts. Designed by the Portuguese, perfected by the Macanese and tweaked in a bakery run by a Brit, these custard egg tarts are a quintessential Macanese take on the classic Portuguese dessert and locals both here and in Hong Kong can’t get enough of them. They cost little more than pocket change.
You don’t need to be in the market for a bag of apples to enjoy the Red Market – this place is as much about the experience as it about the shopping. Set inside a distinctive colonial building dating from the 30’s and amidst the fresh fruit, food and meat market absolute chaos reins with butchers hauling chickens out of their cages onto the slab, bargain hunters bartering a deal on a kumquat tree and stall holders throwing out freshly squeezed juices to cool frayed tempers. (Address: Avenida Almirante Lacerda)
In a region notoriously overlooked for its fine beaches, and rightly overlooked for its dishwater sea, one of Macau’s best stretches of sand is Hac Sa beach. This 4km stretch of black sand offers a roomy respite from the bright lights and flashing dollar signs of the city’s casinos. There are plenty of beach shacks nearby to pick up a cheap beer and a snack. (Address: Hac Sa Beach, Coloane Island)
6. A-Ma TempleThere are a couple of temples in Macau that are worth a visit if you have time to hang around in the city; if not, head to the A-Ma temples. Older than the city itself, the A-Ma temples was built in 1488 and is dedicated to the goddess of the sea. Easily the most celebrated of Macau’s temples during festivals A-ma attracts thousands of worshippers. Set across a sprawling complex of buildings, the atmospheric halls are dimly lit, swirling with the smoke from smouldering incense coils and packed with richly decorated deities. Everybody is welcome and there is no admission charge. (Address: Barra Square)